Bargaining is not acceptable anywhere at any time in Germany's south.
Dangers & Annoyances
Bavaria has a very low crime rate and is a remarkably safe place to live and travel in.
- Take all the usual precautions, such as locking hotel rooms and cars, not leaving valuables unattended, and keeping an eye out for pickpockets in crowds.
- Bavaria has been hit by Islamic terrorism in recent years, and while your chances of becoming a victim are low, vigilance is advised.
- In Munich and the Bavarian Alps, the Föhn (a warm, dry wind) is a local weather-related annoyance most common in autumn. It makes some cranky but also brings exquisitely clear views of the mountains.
Embassies & Consulates
Most foreign embassies are in Berlin but many countries have consular offices in Munich (only Australia and New Zealand in the list below don't). For other foreign missions in Germany as well as German missions around the world, see www.auswaertiges-amt.de.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Omit the area code if you are inside that area. Drop the initial 0 if calling from abroad.
|International access code||00|
|Emergency (police, fire, ambulance, mountain rescue)||112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Germany is normally a straightforward procedure. Citizens of most Western countries don’t need a visa, but even if you do, you'll be through checks swiftly.
When arriving in Germany from any of the Schengen countries (all Germany's neighbours), you no longer have to go through passport and customs checks, regardless of your nationality.
Most articles that you take into Germany for your personal use may be imported free of duty and tax. The following allowances apply to duty-free goods purchased in a non-EU country. In addition, you can bring in other products up to a value of €430, including tea, coffee and perfume. Bringing meat and milk, as well as products made from them, into the EU is prohibited.
- Alcohol 1L of strong liquor or 2L of less than 22% alcohol by volume and 4L of wine
- Tobacco 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of loose tobacco
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days; some nationalities will need a Schengen visa.
Most EU nationals only need their national identity card or passport to enter, stay and work in Germany. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the US are among those countries that need only a valid passport (no visa) if entering as tourists for up to three months within a six-month period. Passports should be valid for at least another four months from the planned date of departure from Germany.
Nationals from other countries need a so-called Schengen Visa, named after the 1995 Schengen Agreement that enables passport controls between most countries in the EU to be abolished (all except the UK and Ireland have signed up). For full details, see www.auswaertiges-amt.de or check with a German consulate in your country.
Southern Germans are a pretty rigid bunch, with elderly people in particular expecting lots of set behaviour and stock phrases. It's easy to make a mistake, but the following should help you avoid red-faced moments.
- Greetings Until noon say ‘Guten Morgen'; from noon until early evening this becomes ‘Grüss Gott’. ‘Guten Abend’ is used from around 6pm onwards until it's time to say ‘Gute Nacht’. Use the formal 'Sie' with strangers, and the informal ‘du’ and first names if invited to. If in doubt, use ‘Sie’.
- At the table Tucking in before the ‘Guten Appetit’ starting gun is fired is regarded as bad manners. When drinking wine, the toast is ‘Zum Wohl’, with beer it's ‘Prost’.
- When meeting up Punctuality is appreciated – never arrive more than 15 minutes late.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Homosexuality is legal in Bavaria and the Black Forest, but the scene, even in Munich, is tiny compared to, say, Berlin or Cologne. Nuremberg, Regensburg and Freiburg are a little more relaxed as well, but in rural areas gays and lesbians tend to keep a low profile. There are websites aplenty but most are in German only. Try www.gay-web.de or, for women, www.lesarion.de.
No matter how long or short your trip, make sure you have adequate travel insurance covering you for medical expenses, luggage theft or loss, and against cancellations or delays of your travel arrangements. Check your existing insurance policies at home (medical, homeowners etc), since some policies may already provide worldwide coverage.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Getting online is fairly easy in Germany's south, though as is the case across Europe internet cafes are almost a thing of the past, with perhaps the odd survivor hanging on in some big cities.
- Public libraries offer free terminals and sometimes wi-fi access, but downsides may include time limits, reservation requirements and queues.
- Some tourist information centres have free web access.
- Internet access is sometimes available at slightly seedy telephone call shops, which cluster near train stations in big cities.
- Hotels and hostels often have high-speed access and wi-fi (W-LAN in German – the word wi-fi is not generally understood), which is usually free. At some business hotels you can pay for faster internet speed. The lower down the hotel food chain you go, the less likely it is that wi-fi will actually work or that signal will reach everywhere. Hostels, however, often have excellent wi-fi.
- Many cafes and pubs offer wi-fi access, often at no charge with purchase.
- There are some free hotspots in Germany's south but these often require pre-registration. Airports offer a limited number of free minutes – for example at Nuremberg Airport you have quarter of an hour free to check e-mails. After that charges are steep.
By law, you must, in theory, carry photo identification such as your passport or national identity card (a driving licence may or may not be acceptable to the police). If you are arrested, you have the right to make a phone call and are presumed innocent until proven guilty. If you don’t know a lawyer, contact your nearest consulate for a referral.
Most tourist offices distribute free (but often very basic) city maps, but for driving around you’ll need a detailed road map or atlas such as those published by Falkplan, Freytag & Berndt, RV Verlag or ADAC. Look for them at bookshops, tourist offices, newsagents and petrol stations. Find downloadable maps and driving directions at www.viamichelin.com and www.stadtplandienst.de. For hiking maps Kompass and Fritsch print excellent and very detailed regional maps.
- Germany is one of the 17 countries in the EU that uses the euro as its national currency. No other currency is accepted.
- Euros come in seven notes (five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight coins (one and two euro coins, and one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins). You're unlikely ever to set eyes on a 200 or 500 euro note.
- Exchange money at airports, some banks and currency exchange offices, such as Reisebank, American Express and TravelEx. In rural areas, such facilities are rare, so make sure you have plenty of cash.
ATMs widely available. Credit and debit cards accepted at most hotels and shops but not all restaurants.
ATMs are ubiquitous, accessible 24/7 and the easiest and quickest way to obtain cash. However not all machines take all cards. Check with your bank or credit-card company about fees.
Bavaria is still very much a cash culture and making sure you have ample supply of the stuff will avoid embarrassing situations, such as trying to pay for a beer in a pub or a sausage at the railway station with your credit card. Even at the supermarket, cashiers (and the queue behind you) can still get a bit huffy if you don't have readies, especially when spending small sums.
- When to tip You could get through an entire trip around southern Germany without giving a single tip. Few service industry employees expect them these days, though most still appreciate a little extra when it comes their way.
- Hotels Generally €1 per bag.
- Pubs Leave a little small change for the bar staff.
- Restaurants Round up the bill to the nearest €5 (or €10) if you were satisfied with service.
- Taxis Round up to the nearest €5 so the driver doesn't have to hunt for change.
- Toilet attendants €0.50 usually keeps these guys happy unless a price list states exact rates.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com
A piece of plastic can be vital in emergencies and occasionally also useful for phone or internet bookings. Avoid getting cash on your credit card via ATMs since fees are steep and you’ll be charged interest immediately (in other words, there’s no grace period as with purchases). Report lost or stolen cards to the following:
American Express 069 9797 1000
MasterCard 0800 819 1040
Visa 0800 814 9100
Opening hours don't vary much across the year.
- Banks 8.30am–4pm Mon–Fri, limited opening Sat
- Restaurants 11am–11pm
- Cafes 7.30am–7pm
- Bars and clubs 6pm–1am minimum
- Shops 9.30am–8pm Mon–Sat
Museums usually take Monday off but stay open late one evening a week. Many eateries observe a Ruhetag (day of rest), usually Monday or Tuesday. All supermarkets close on Sundays, a real headache if you are self-catering.
Banks 8.30am-4pm Mon-Wed & Fri, 8.30am-5.30pm or 6pm Thu
Bars around 6pm-1am minimum
Clubs around 11pm-early morning hours
Post offices 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat
Restaurants 11am-11pm (varies widely)
Major stores and supermarkets 9.30am-8pm Mon-Sat (varies)
- The postal service in Germany is operated by Deutsche Post (www.deutschepost.de) and is very reliable.
- Main post offices are often near train stations.
- Busy offices often have a dedicated desk/window for letters and postcards, avoiding the need to stand in lengthy queues with locals paying bills etc.
Businesses and offices are closed on the following public holidays:
Neujahrstag (New Year’s Day) 1 January
Heilige Drei Könige (Epiphany) 6 January
Ostern (Easter) March/April; Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday
Maifeiertag (Labour Day) 1 May
Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) 40 days after Easter
Pfingsten (Whitsun/Pentecost) mid-May to mid-June – Whit Sunday and Whit Monday
Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) 10 days after Pentecost
Mariä Himmelfahrt (Assumption Day, Bavaria only) 15 August
Tag der Deutschen Einheit (Day of German Unity) 3 October
Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day) 25 December
Sankt Stephanstag (Boxing/St Stephen’s Day) 26 December
Both Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have a ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces. However, rules are slightly more relaxed than in, say, the UK.
The public health message about smoking doesn't quite seem to have sunk in across Bavaria and the smell of cigarette smoke is still a common one. Smoking areas right next to non-smoking areas are common.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is a 19% sales tax levied on most goods and services. It’s possible for non-EU visitors to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods on departure.
Clocks in Germany are set to central European time (GMT/UTC plus one hour). Daylight-saving time kicks in at 2am on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. The use of the 24-hour clock (eg where 6.30pm is 18.30) is common.
- Men's toilets are marked 'Herren' (or just 'H'), the ladies' 'Damen' (or just 'D').
- Public toilets in southern Germany's city centres are almost non-existent. Instead use facilities in department stores, railway stations, markets, beer halls and other public places.
- Toilets are rarely free and those at large railway stations can charge a silly €1 to spend a penny. At some facilities payment is by donation, thus you pay as much as you like. At others there's a price list.
- Sanifair toilets charge €0.70 but you receive a €0.50 voucher to spend in the establishment in which it is located. Annoyingly this type of facility has spread in recent years from motorway service stations to other places such as department stores and railway stations. Many jump the low barriers.
- Toilets are normally clean, well maintained and not of the squat variety, though some are of the slightly off-putting 'reverse bowl design', not common in the UK or US.
Every reasonable-sized town in southern Germany (even those with no tourists) has a municipally funded tourist information centre, some of which are stand-alone operations, while others are twinned with a kind of local residents' information point. Only very occasionally will you come across staff who don't speak English and the vast majority of those charged with aiding tourists on their way are knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. Websites operated by tourist boards vary wildly in quality.
Good websites for your pre-trip research are www.bayern.by and www.germany-tourism.de.
Each region/product/Land also has its own dedicated website:
Baden-Württemberg Tourist Association (www.tourism-bw.com)
Black Forest Tourism Association (www.schwarzwald-tourismus.info)
Eastern Bavarian Tourism Association (www.ostbayern-tourismus.de)
Romantic Road Tourism Association (www.romantischestrasse.de)
Franconian Tourism Association (www.frankentourismus.org)
Tourism Association Allgäu-Bavarian Swabia (www.bavarian-alps.info)
Upper Bavarian Tourism Association (www.oberbayern-tourismus.de)
Travel with Children
With its tradition of lager, beer halls, Lederhosen and tipsy oompah ensembles, you'd be excused for thinking southern Germany is a wholly unsuitable place to bring the little'uns. But you'd be wrong. Germany's south, especially its larger cities, lays on lots of tot-focused activities. In fact, having kids on board can make your holiday a more enjoyable experience and bring you closer to the locals than a few tankards of ale ever could.
Best Places for Kids
Bavaria's most child-friendly city with attractions as diverse as the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a school museum and a zoo.
Plenty of hands-on and high-octane diversions as well as a classic toy museum and fantastic trams to ride all day.
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Edible snowballs and Christmas tree lights in the heat of the summer holidays – pure magic if you're six.
Europe in miniature and Welt der Kinder (Children's World) at Germany's biggest theme park.
Most kids love Lego and most adults love the fact Legoland keeps them occupied for a few hours.
Some kids will burst into tears at the sight of a titchy bird lurching out of a clock, others will go cuckoo at the very thought.
- Playground of the Senses, Nuremberg Education by stealth at this large open-air experiment park.
- Englischer Garten, Munich Large playground, ice creams, boat rides and acres of grass.
- Steinwasen Park, Black Forest Alpine animals, rides and a huge hanging bridge.
- Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich Themed playgrounds, a cafe, feeding sessions and a special children's zoo.
- Deutsches Museum, Munich The Kinderreich at Munich's science museum is hands-on fun.
- Deutsche Bahn Museum, Nuremberg Germany's top railway museum has a huge interactive section for choo-choo enthusiasts.
- Children & Young People's Museum, Nuremberg Heaps of hands-on experiments.
- Weihnachtsdorf, Rothenburg ob der Tauber This Romantic Road institution houses a hands-off museum meaning kids are usually more interested in the adjacent Yuletide superstore.
- Spielzeugmuseum, Munich An 'I had that in 1974' kinda museum, so not just for kids.
- Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Nördlingen Retired locos to clamber around on and seasonal steam-train rides.
- Spielzeugmuseum, Salzburg Classic toy museum with Punch and Judy shows and free tea for the adults.
Rainy Day Sights
- Playmobil, Nuremberg Headquartered in Zindorf just outside Nuremberg, the adjoining fun park is one of the city's best family attractions.
- Münchner Marionettentheater, Munich Bavaria's top puppet theatre.
- BMW Welt, Munich Kids can grip the wheel of BMW's latest models and wish they were old enough to have a driver's licence.
On the Ground
City centres can be a headache for parents of nappy-wearing children – your best bet is to pop into a department store, though these usually position their toilets as far away from the entrance as possible, on the very top floor, and some now charge (thanks, Sanifair!). Things are better at places of interest, and at child-centric attractions nappy-changing amenities are first-rate. In emergencies you can go into the nearest pub or restaurant – staff rarely object.
Family tickets are available at the vast majority of sights. It's always worth asking if there's a discount, even if none is advertised.
When it comes to feeding the pack, Germany's south is one of Europe's easier destinations. Most restaurants welcome young diners with smaller portions, special menus and perhaps even a free balloon.
Youngsters under 16 are allowed into pubs and bars at any time, as long as they are accompanied by a parent. This includes beer halls and gardens, the latter being particularly popular with families who can bring their own picnics. Thanks to the region's smoking ban, fume-filled premises are a thing of the past.
Breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable.
Trains are preferable to buses when travelling with toddlers as they can leave their seats and wander around quite safely. All trains have at least half a carriage dedicated to carrying prams (and bikes and wheelchairs) and copious amounts of luggage.
Most forms of city transport – such as Munich's trams, trains and underground – are pram-friendly and lifts are ubiquitous. Various discounts are available for families.
Most car hire companies provide child booster and baby seats. They are often free but must be reserved in advance.
Overseen by the Bavarian tourist board, the Kinderland Bavaria (www.bavaria.by) program guarantees the good standard of children's facilities as well as rating amenities used by holidaying families. Businesses sporting the Kinderland Bavaria logo have been checked for everything from toy safety to availability of pram storage.
The majority of hotels and guesthouses are pretty kid-friendly and the higher up the hotel food chain you ascend, the more facilities (babysitting, laundry) there are likely to be. Small-hotel and guesthouse owners are generally willing to supply extra beds and even cots for babies. Of course campsites are the most entertaining places to stay; some have playgrounds and kids' clubs.
When to Go
The best times to visit are spring and early autumn. Summer temperatures see the niggle factor climb and central Europe's sub-zero winters are no fun.
Kids & Oktoberfest
Fancy a few days at Oktoberfest but can't find a babysitter? Well, grandma may raise an eyebrow when you inform her you're taking the darlings to the world's biggest booze-up, but Oktoberfest lays on quite a bit to keep kids happy. Having parked the pram in the dedicated pram garage, the fun fair is obviously the biggest draw. There are also special games arranged by the Oktoberfest organisers, kids are welcome in all beer tents until 8pm and the two Tuesday afternoons are dedicated family times. Gingerbread, roasted almonds and candy floss are toothrotting attractions that push the pester factor high and when it all gets too much there are quiet areas and changing facilities aplenty. Special family Wiesn maps show all the facilities and child-friendly businesses and attractions.
Travellers with Disabilities
Generally speaking, southern Germany caters well for people with disabilities, especially wheelchair users.
- You’ll find access ramps and/or lifts in many public buildings, including train stations, museums, theatres and cinemas.
- New hotels and some renovated establishments have lifts and rooms with extra-wide doors and spacious, accessible bathrooms.
- Nearly all trains are accessible, and local buses and U-Bahns are becoming increasingly so. Seeing-eye dogs are allowed on all forms of public transport.
- Many local and regional tourism offices have special brochures for people with disabilities, although usually in German.
Deutsche Bahn Mobility Service Centre (0180 651 2512; www.bahn.com) Train access information and route planning assistance.
German National Tourism Office (www.germany.travel) Your first port of call, with inspirational information in English. Click on 'Discover Germany – Barrier Free'.
Munich for Physically Challenged Tourists (www.munich.de) Searching the official Munich tourism website will produce gigabytes of info on everything for travellers with disabilities from Oktoberfest to local clubs and organisations to special ride services.
Natko (www.natko.de) Central clearing house for enquiries about barrier-free travel in Germany.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.