Guest post by Dana Newman, writer and expat vlogger at Wanted an Adventure
If you traveled to Germany from a fellow EU Member State, perhaps you’re feeling sprightly and alert as you arrive at your destination city. But if you flew in from overseas, you might find yourself dreaming of a soft pillow on which to rest your weary, jet-lagged, spinning head. This you must resist! Make your way to your accommodations--either by public transportation or taxi if you prefer--drop your things off, splash a little water on your face, then go explore your new surroundings, doing whatever you must to keep those peepers open until at least 9 p.m. If you’re too tired to explore the city by foot, the five big ones--Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt--all have above-ground public transportation buses and/or trams that you can utilize for do-it-yourself sightseeing.
If you haven’t booked your accommodations before arriving, it isn’t usually a problem. Hotels large and small abound within the city centers all over Germany, but at certain peak times it could be more of a challenge than others. For example, during the Oktoberfest in Munich and the Carnival celebration in Cologne, it can be challenging if not impossible to book a hotel room even a few months in advance let alone spur of the moment. Also, if there’s a large trade show in town, such as Bauma, a construction machinery trade fair, hotel room rates can be greatly inflated, if rooms are available at all.
Exploring the City
Public transit prices and offers differ from city to city. Berlin, for example, offers the Berlin WelcomeCard, an unlimited transit ticket that gives the cardholder discounts to sights around town. Munich offers something similar called the Munich CityTourCard. If you have questions about the public transportation in your city, check the larger downtown stations for an information kiosk or even a customer center. There you can find maps of the lines as well as ask questions.
If you’d prefer a guided tour, have no fear. From red double-decker buses to walking to biking to rickshaw and more, the cities have you covered. Look around the main downtown area for tour information shops or check online.
In the larger cities, wifi isn’t too hard to find. In fact, in Berlin visitors can use the city’s W-LAN for free at 44 different hotspots around the city for 30 minutes a day, and in Munich the M-WLAN project provides unlimited use of hotspots at Marienplatz, Odeonsplatz, Sendlinger Tor, and Karlsplatz Stachus. In addition to these two examples, cafes as well as international fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s often offer free wifi to their patrons.
- The main medical/fire emergency number in Germany is 112. For the police call 110.
- Germany’s country code is +49.
- Sales tax is already built into the price on the tag, so what you see is what you pay.
- The mailboxes are yellow and often located on the sides of buildings. Sometimes there’s just one opening on the mailbox, but sometimes there are two; one for local city mail falling within the zip codes named and one for “Andere Postleitzahlen,” other zip codes.
- Stamps can be purchased at post offices or stamp machines around the city.
- Some of the car rental agencies will only rent to those 21 and older, but Sixt will rent to those who are at least 18.
Information for Relocating
- It’s best to at least look into, if not completely sort out, your visa and permit details before arriving in Germany, but if you haven’t, head on over to the Local Registration Office. Different cities and towns have different names for this office, including “Kreisverwaltungsreferat,” “Ausländerbehörde,” and “Bürgeramt.”
- Availability and ease of finding a permanent home differs from city to city. Munich, for example, is known for being one of the more difficult places to find permanent lodging. Sites like ImmobilienScout24 are helpful, but it’s only available in German.
- While many people in Germany do speak some English, if you’re planning to stay in the country long-term, learning the language, or at least getting to know it, will be invaluable. Not only are many German websites not in English, but making an attempt at the language will be greatly appreciated by the locals. There’s no shortage of language schools in each city happy to help you with this endeavour.
- If you haven’t already found employment, start that job search! Different job and visa options are open to you depending on what country you’re from. ToyTownGermany is a great place to start looking. This expat site offers classifieds sections for the major cities as well as a forum section that can provide great answers to many questions. XING is the social networking platform for business professionals.
- Get a local bank account, being sure to consider which bank is the best fit for you. Different banks will require that you provide various documents such as your passport, registration form, and proof of employment.
- If you have children enroll them in either a public school or, if preferred, a bilingual private school.
- Relocating to a new place can be made easier by having a support group. Clubs and groups for expats abound throughout Germany, including InterNations and other city-specific groups.
Dana Newman is an expat YouTube vlogger and writer whose debut novel, entitled Found in Prague, is based loosely on her experiences living in the Czech Republic when she first moved to Europe in search of her roots. For the inside scoop on expat life in Germany (such as what it means to date the locals and why the German sauna culture is like mayonnaise) as well as travel videos from around the world, check out and subscribe to her Wanted an Adventure YouTube channel. She can also be found on Twitter @WantedAdventure, sharing her international thoughts and musings in the most concise form the Internet has to offer.