Germany travel guide
Misunderstood by many, Germany is one of the most varied and charming countries on the continent. Anyone expecting a homogenous nation conforming to old Teutonic stereotypes is in for a shock.
As a destination, it offers a clutch of truly lovely cities, culture served up in hefty portions and rural scenery so pretty you'll wonder why it isn't on every tourist hit list.
The country occupies a prime position at the heart of Europe – both literally and figuratively. It is home to the biggest economy on the continent, has more inhabitants than anywhere else in the EU and shares land borders with no less than nine other nations.
It's no surprise, then, that today's Germany is more diverse and cosmopolitan than old stereotypes suggest; mixing time-honoured traditions with multicultural modernism and self-confidence.
It’s the nation’s urban highlights that immediately draw the attention. Berlin is the definition of dynamism, having forged a good-time reputation for groundbreaking creativity while still keeping sight of its past.
Elsewhere, the likes of Cologne, Munich and Hamburg provide the capital with able support. Not only are they rich in history, whether in the forms of classical music, fine art or medieval architecture, but they also put pay to the notion that Germans don’t do gastronomy. These days, you can dine and drink extremely well in Deutschland.
Then there's the beautiful German countryside. From the sky-scraping peaks of the Bavarian Alps and pale cliffs of the Jasmund National Park to the castles of the Rhine and moors of the Mecklenburg Lake District, it's nirvana for hikers, cyclists, boaters, motorists and skiers alike.
Travelling around this country is a piece of Black Forest gâteau. Costs are manageable, overcrowding is rare and, despite its size, it could not be easier to get from A to B thanks to an incredibly efficient public transport network. Which proves some of those old German stereotypes do hold true.
357,022 sq km (137,846 sq miles).
236 per sq km.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier since 2017.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz since December 2021.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Germany set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Germany’s embassy or consulate in the UK.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Passport validity requirements
If you plan to visit an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
If you hold a valid residence permit, passport validity requirements are less strict. In this case, your passport only needs to be valid for the duration of your stay (check the ‘expiry date’). Before applying to extend a German residence permit, you will need to renew an expired passport and present your new passport to the local Foreigners Authority (Ausländerbehörde).
At German border control, you may need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Germany as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
If you live in Germany, read our Living in Germany guide for passport stamping information.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel:
- as a tourist
- to visit family or friends
- to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
- for short-term studies or training
If you are travelling to Germany and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer (for example, to work, study or for business), you must meet the German government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the German Embassy in the UK.
If you stay in Germany with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Proof of residence
If you live in Germany, read our Living in Germany guide for information on carrying proof of residence while travelling.
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check what vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need in TravelHealthPro’s Germany guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into and out of Germany. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Taking food and drink into the EU
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food needed for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
Taking money into Germany
British nationals have been arrested for having counterfeit currency. Only change money in banks or legitimate currency exchange offices.
You must declare any amount above 10,000 euros in cash or other payment types. You can find more information on the German Federal Foreign Office website.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
Terrorism in Germany
Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Germany.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by foreign nationals such as:
- shopping centres
- places of worship and religious sites, including synagogues
Recent terrorism attacks in Germany include:
- in 2020, one person was killed and another seriously injured in a knife attack in Dresden city centre
- in 2020, 8 people were killed and 5 injured in 2 mass shootings in shisha bars in Hanau
- in 2019, 2 people were shot and killed close to a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle
Protecting your belongings
Crime levels are similar to the UK. Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, bag snatching and pickpocketing. Be particularly vigilant at airports, railway stations and crowded public gatherings. Do not leave valuables unattended.
If your passport has been lost or stolen, get a police report from the nearest police station.
Laws and cultural differences
You don’t have to carry your passport with you in Germany. However, if you’re asked to show your passport and don’t have it with you, police may escort you to where your passport is being kept so that you can show it to them.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Skiing and avalanches are a risk in some areas. Always check the local snow and weather conditions when you arrive. Read more information about avalanche risk from the European Avalanche Warning Service.
Licences and permits
You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a valid UK driving licence to drive in Germany. The 1949 IDP is not accepted anymore. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service. If you’re driving a vehicle that doesn’t belong to you, you may also need written permission from the registered owner. The minimum age for driving a car in Germany is 18.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. These have replaced GB stickers. Check the guidance on displaying number plates if you are driving outside the UK.
The German Federal Transport Ministry has more information on the validity of non-German driving licences.
If you live in Germany, check the Living in Germany guide for information on requirements for residents.
Some inner city areas have an environmental zone (‘Umweltzone’). Only vehicles that meet specific exhaust emission standards can enter. See the German Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection for more information. It is illegal to take part in motor vehicle races or rallies on German roads.
The Euro 2024 tournament will take place in Germany from 14 June to 14 July 2024. If you are travelling to attend:
- sign up to get email updates on Germany’s travel advice
- check the official Euro 2024 website
- download the official Euro 2024 app
- check relevant football and fan association websites.
Visa and entry requirements
Check the entry requirements for Germany, especially information on passport validity and visa-free travel within the 90-day limit.
Make sure you have appropriate health insurance before travelling.
Check the Euro 2024 website for ticket information. Only buy match tickets from official providers. Tickets will be electronic and you will need your mobile phone to validate them at entry. Make sure your phone is charged and take into account roaming charges in Germany – check with your phone provider before you travel.
Match tickets bought through unofficial means may not be valid. If you sell tickets through unofficial means, you could be prosecuted.
Entry restrictions may be different for each stadium. Check the Euro 2024 venues guide for more information, as well as the Euro 2024 app. You are allowed to carry a small power bank so that you have enough power on your phone to show your ticket.
Transport to the event
Transport routes around the stadiums will be very busy during the tournament. Local authorities may ask you to enter or leave the stadium by specific routes. Make sure you:
- plan your journey
- leave plenty of time, particularly on match days
Beer can be stronger than in the UK, so drink responsibly, know your limits and respect local laws. You may not be let into the stadium if you drink too much.
Each host city will have a football village, where fans can spend time before and during the matches. Restrictions on what you can take into football villages and live viewing areas may vary between cities. Check the Euro 2024 venues guide for more information as well as the Euro 2024 app.
Before you travel, check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
For more information, read guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on health risks and what vaccinations you need in TravelHealthPro’s Germany guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Germany, including mountainous regions. More information about altitude sickness is available from TravelHealthPro.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Germany
View FCDO’s list of English-speaking doctors in Germany.
Health insurance cards
Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC, it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as German nationals. If you do not have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An EHIC or GHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
EHIC and GHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment from a private doctor or private clinic.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Germany
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you’re involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Germany
- dealing with a death in Germany
- being arrested in Germany
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online .
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.