Even more travel tips for Germany, this time from a German himself.
By user13366078 on Jul 29, 2004
You wouldn't guess by my name, but I'm german. Really. At least I live in Germany, have a german passport and I mostly feel like a german. I've also been in the US quite a few times and I often found it interesting to think about the differences in culture and in how people do stuff. After having read Dan's Weblog with some great tips for americans travelling to germany which was even extended a while ago, I thought of adding some of my own. They proved to be useful with some US colleagues I gave them to, so here we go:
Make sure you always have enough cash in your wallet. It's no problem to get cash in Europe, your bank card should work at any european ATM and if in doubt, ask your bank. The point is: Paying with credit cards is very uncommon in Germany and in Europe. Most typical touristic businesses (hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, car rentals) and the big warehouses do accept credit cards, but that's it. Smaller cafes, grocery stores, newsstands, public transportation, shops and everything else rarely accepts credit cards and if they do, then only one or two brands. I once overheard a conversation between two US tourists shaking their heads about the german waitresses with their huge purses for carrying all that change in typical german restaurants and they did have a point...
For booking hotels all over germany and many european countries, the Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) is recommended. The website is available in english, you just need to tell it when you go where and it'll bring up a list of available rooms in every category, complete with the average distance to important spots for that city.
I found it interesting that the kind of restaurants that tend to be expensive in the US tend to be cheaper in Germany and vice versa. For instance, going to an italian restaurant in the US is kinda high-level, whereas in Germany, there's an italian restaurant around almost every corner. Mexican restaurants tend to be cheap in the US and in Germany they are seldom to find and you usually spend more money, especially because they also come with american-type cocktail bars. Thai places in the US are my favourite for low-cost, high value food, in Germany they tend to be a bit more expensive. Chinese restaurants seem to be equal all around the world, but I've never been in China. "Typical German" restaurants are not really recommended unless you really want to gain some pounds. It's better to find a nice bavarian "Biergarten", that's something I can always recommend.
Speaking of "Biergarten", I'm surprised Dan never brought up the subject of beer. When in Germany, you are in beer-heaven. Use it. Try any german beer, the chances are very good that you'll like it. Try to avoid the big brands, you'll enjoy trying out the lesser-known ones. Try "Weissbier" (or "Weizenbier" when north of bavaria), it's the kind of beer that's difficult to find outside of Germany. Get used to having beer served in bigger measures the more south you go. The typical "Biergarten" measure is 1 liter per serving, in Duesseldorf they typically serve beer in 0.2l servings. Bavarians call them "test-tubes" :).
When exploring different cities in Germany, you'll find it much more efficient to do it with the excellent railway system. It's called "Deutsche Bahn" and their website has excellent travel planning capabilities. Just enter when you depart where and where you want to go (including street addresses) and it'll tell you the best way to get there, including prices. And you can print out your ticket too.
Ok, that's it for now, I'll add some more tips later. Or maybe I could start writing tips for german travellers in the US?