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 Angela Merkel since 2005.
Last updated: 20 March 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Around 2 million British nationals visit Germany every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you’re living in or moving to Germany, visit our Living in Germany guide in addition to this travel advice.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Germany. The German government has announced that increased security has been put in place as a precaution at public buildings, major events, transport hubs and large public gatherings. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
There’s no requirement to carry your passport with you, but if you’re asked to show your passport and you don’t have it with you, the police may escort you to wherever your passport is being kept so that you can show it to them.
Border controls have been reintroduced at some crossing points between Germany and Austria, Denmark and Sweden. Carry your passport with you and be aware of potential delays.
If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.
British nationals have been arrested for possessing counterfeit currency. Avoid changing money anywhere other than banks or legitimate currency exchange offices.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Crime levels are broadly similar to the UK. Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, bag snatching and pick pocketing. Be particularly vigilant at airports, railway stations and crowded public gatherings. Do not leave valuables unattended. If your passport has been stolen, you must go to the nearest police station and get a police report.
If you wish to drive in Germany you must carry a valid driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents with you in the vehicle at all times. If the vehicle does not belong to the driver, written permission from the registered owner may also be requested. The minimum age for driving a car in Germany is 18. It is illegal to take part in motor vehicle races or rallies on German roads.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Germany and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Germany, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
In 2016 there were 3,206 road deaths in Germany (source: Department for Transport. This equates to 3.9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
There is an environmental zone (Umweltzone) in some inner city centres. Only vehicles meeting specific exhaust emission standards are allowed to enter the zone. See the websites of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Environmental Agency for further information.
You should follow all safety instructions given by the local authorities due to the danger of avalanches in some areas. Always check with the local tourist offices on current snow and weather conditions on arrival. Avalanche beepers (receivers) are the most common rescue devices and when properly used provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim. You can get information about the risk of an avalanche occurring from the European Avalanche Warning Service.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Germany. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places visited by foreigners. The German government has announced that increased security has been put in place as a precaution at public buildings, major events, transport hubs and large public gatherings.
Recent attacks in Germany include:
on 19 December 2016, a lorry was driven into a crowd at a Christmas market in central Berlin causing 12 deaths and a number of injuries.
on 24 July 2016, a suicide bomb outside a wine bar in Ansbach injured 15 people.
The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). Daesh have claimed responsibility for attacks in Germany.
The German authorities have successfully disrupted planned attacks and made a number of arrests.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, the rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. If your adult passport was issued over 9 years ago, you may be affected. You should use this tool to check your passport is still valid for your trip before booking travel.
Adult and child passports should have at least 6 months’ validity remaining on your date of travel. If you renewed your passport early, extra months would have been added to your new passport. Any extra months on an adult passport will not count towards the validity requirement, so some passport holders will need to have more than 6 months remaining in order to travel.
You can check your passport here.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you’re a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you’re intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the German Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
If you’re planning a stay of longer than 3 months, you must register with the German authorities (Einwohnermeldeamt) within 3 months of arrival. See our Living in Germany guide and contact the German Embassy if you have further questions.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Germany.
Working in Germany
If you intend to work in Germany, you should get detailed information on employment regulations from the German Embassy.
Local laws and customs
You don’t have to carry your passport with you while in Germany, but if you’re asked to show your passport and you don’t have it with you, the police may escort you to wherever your passport is being kept so that you can show it to them.
It is illegal to cross German pedestrian crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. Offenders risk a fine and payment of all costs in the event of an accident.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Germany is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as German nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
The UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Germany as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Germany, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Germany guide.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Germany is the Euro.
Since 15 June 2007, new legislation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the EU apply in all Member States. Any person entering or leaving the EU will have to declare the cash that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 Euros or more; this includes cheques, travellers’ cheques, money orders, etc. This will not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside of the EU, nor to those travelling within the EU.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.