Germany Health Care and Vaccinations
For European visitors who are taken ill or have an accident during a visit to Germany, free or reduced-cost necessary treatment is available - in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). For non-EEA citizens, insurance is highly recommended.
The emergency telephone number is 112 – this should be used for requesting an ambulance (Krankenwagen).
The overall standards of healthcare in Germany are, in most cases, excellent. Hospitals and surgeries are well equipped and staff are proficient. In pharmacies, over-the-counter advice is given and standard medicines are sold. In major cities, you’ll usually find at least one 24-hour pharmacy. Elsewhere, most stay open until 1830 on weekdays, opening on Saturday mornings but remaining closed on Sundays. Many pharmacists speak English.
The German obsession with spa waters has been well documented, and significant numbers of people still swear by their restorative health qualities. You should be able to sample them for yourself at any town with Bad or Baden in its title. The city of Baden-Baden, which has some of the oldest known mineral springs in Germany, translates literally as ‘Baths-Baths’. Today, many health spas are equipped with sauna worlds, spa areas and fitness areas. While in some health spas children are not allowed, others aim to attract children with animation areas for children and facilities like water slides and current canals.
Food and Drink
There’s nothing to mark out German produce as particularly risky to general health (although it has a partly founded reputation for being fatty). Tap water is also safe to drink.
Tick-borne encephalitis is present in forested areas all over Germany except Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen; vaccination is advisable.
There is a risk of tick-borne Lyme disease from March until October. Preventive measures include insect repellents and skin-covering clothes.
During the summer months, sunburn can be a problem. The southwest generally draws the highest temperatures. The usual precautions apply: use a generous amount of sunscreen and be sensible about how long you spend in direct sunlight. Be aware that a breezy day can sometimes mask high temperatures.
If walking over a long distance in warm weather, it’s advisable to drink – and carry – plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing, including a sun hat. Blisters can be another problem for hikers. These can often occur if new walking shoes are being worn across a long distance. Ideally footwear should be worn in before the trip.
As a counterpoint to the balminess of the summer, German winters can be fairly severe. This is generally truer the further east you travel. If you’re arriving during the coldest months of the year, ensure you have adequate clothing. At any time of year, in fact, temperatures can be unpredictable – even in July and August, it makes sense to have a sweater (and maybe a brolly too) to hand.
Other health problems that inexperienced travellers might reasonably encounter are the various knock-on effects of too much alcohol consumption. The risk, unsurprisingly, is particularly prevalent among those attending Munich’s Oktoberfest. Be aware that some beer’s ABV levels can be 6 or 7%, so should be treated with respect.