Top 10 Tips for Traveling to Germany | Jest Kept Secret

Top Ten Tips for Traveling to Germany

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Like Austria, Germany is a haven for travelers. Thanks to the German preference for orderliness and polite behavior, getting around is super easy, and the people are very happy to help if you need it. I really enjoyed our time in Germany, and here are my top ten tips for making the most out of your trip.

1. It’s Okay to Skip Oktoberfest

If you’re not big into drinking, it’s probably a good idea to miss out on Oktoberfest, the two-week festival dedicated to all things brewed. It’s a huge draw for tourists, with an estimated 6 million visitors attending every year. It’s kind of a big deal, if you’re into that sort of thing.

But if you’re not, or you just don’t like huge crowds, don’t plan on visiting Germany (especially Munich) from mid-September to the first weekend in October. In fact, we went right after Oktoberfest was over, and not only were there no massive crowds, it was downright abandoned. It was kind of nice to feel like we had the whole city to ourselves. I highly recommend this plan of action, personally.

2. Have a backup plan

One of the activities we had looked forward to was visiting an enormous Milka store and scoring some delicious German chocolate. After wandering around in the rain for a good twenty minutes wondering how in the world we were both reading our map wrong, we realized that we were in the right place, but the Milka store was no more. It had gone the way of all the earth, and in its place stood a soon-to-be-opened Italian restaurant called Eataly.

They mock us.

But thanks to the recommendation of a good friend who visited Munich a week before we did, we had a backup plan. That’s how we found ourselves heading over to the Deutsches Museum and spending a nice afternoon out of the rain, exploring all sorts of fun exhibits.

So sure, this tip isn’t necessarily specific to Germany, but still. It’s a good idea to have a back up plan in case your dreams of German chocolate are unceremoniously drowned in spaghetti sauce.

Lakeside Village in Germany | Jest Kept Secret

3. Book your train travel in advance

As with many travel options, train travel gets more expensive the closer you get to your departure date. To avoid paying more for your train tickets, be sure to book your seats about a week in advance. That’s easy enough to do on the Deutsche Bahn website. We had a little trouble getting the site to remember that we wanted the English version since we were in Italy when we booked the train from Füssen to Munich, but it looks like they may have updated the site since we were there.

4. Opt for regional trains

The Germans love their high speed trains. They also love to charge a lot for tickets to ride on those high speed trains. You can save a lot of money by opting for slower regional or intercity trains. Besides, a little extra time on a train traveling through some of the prettiest scenery in the world never hurt anyone. So slow down, enjoy the view, and save your money for some schnitzel.

5. Trains can’t get you everywhere

Remember our adventure getting from Salzburg to Hohenschwangau? That was thanks, in part, to the fact that we couldn’t get all the way to Hohenschwangau on one train. If you’re sticking to big cities, you’ll probably be just fine. But if you want to go visit any of Germany’s beautiful small towns or one of their 20,000 castles, you may have to use more than one mode of transportation to get there.

Going Noodling in Munich | Jest Kept Secret

6. Prepare for rain

We got rained on a grand total of three times on our 6-week trip across Europe, and one of those was in Munich. Turns out, that’s pretty par for the course: other travelers I know say they also got rained on in Germany. In fact, Munich has a higher average precipitation rate than Newcastle, where I lived in England. And it rained a lot in England.

Average Rainfall in Munich, Germany

Average precipitation (rain/snow) in Munich, Germany

7. Carry cash

As in Austria, many places in Germany don’t accept cards. Be sure to carry some cash with you so that you don’t have to go hunting for an ATM. If you do need to find an ATM, it’s not common to find them in places like shopping centers. Look for banks, or get plenty of cash from an ATM before you leave the airport.[1]

8. Bring your student ID

Many places in Germany offer free or reduced ticket prices for students. We flashed our student IDs at the Residenz and the Deutsches Museum and BOOM. Reduced ticket prices. It was great, and it saved us a fair bit of money.

You know, for schnitzel.

Viktualienmarkt, Munich | Jest Kept Secret

9. Buy your food from Street Vendors and Markets

Seriously, y’all, this is where it’s at. Not only did we score some exotic fruits and delicious sandwiches from the market in Munich, we also got the best bratwurst ever from a street vendor. Ugh. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. (Or maybe I’m just hungry because it’s currently 7:30 at night and I haven’t eaten anything since lunch…)

10. You might have to pay for grocery bags

This one is new since our visit, but just barely. In the spring of 2016, the German government made a deal with the retail industry to reduce single-use plastic bags by charging a small fee for each bag used.[2] This program is optional and vendors can choose whether or not to participate, but as global awareness about the impact of plastic pollution rises, you’ll be more and more likely to have to pay for a bag. One easy solution is to carry a small, packable shopping sack. I think this Starry Night inspired zippered shopping bag is really pretty, and it folds up into a tiny pouch that you can stuff in your purse or backpack.

Helpful Sites

Accommodations – We booked all of our lodging through Booking.com and Hostelworld.

Train Travel – We used Rail Europe and Deutsche Bahn to find and book a our train trips.

Flights – EasyJet and Expedia are great sources for cheap European flights.

Planning Your Itinerary – As usual, TripAdvisor was very useful for planning our trip to Germany.

Looking For Inspiration?
Here are my favorite films set (at least partly) in Germany:

Have you been to Germany? What are your travel tips?

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Top 10 Tips for Traveling to Germany | Jest Kept Secret

[1] Source: Transferwise

[2] DW.com: German government signs deal to reduce plastic bag use

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