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My Tips For Traveling In Europe(Germany)

This is a bit (ok, alot) belated, as I’ve been home from study abroad since July, but better late than never! After spending five weeks in Germany, Austria, and a short time in the Netherlands, these are a few things as inexperienced college student might be able to offer in the way of traveling tips.

1. Bring an umbrella. Seriously. Everywhere.

2. Dress in layers, particularly if you’re from Arizona. The weather is more unpredictable and can be quite a bit cooler, so be prepared to go from 90 degree humidity to a 45 degree thunderstorm fairly quickly. (Also learn how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa, because everything is in C over there.)

3. Don’t miss your trains, especially in Germany. Or your bus. Or your appointment. Or your breakfast. No one will wait for you.

4. In fact, be ten minutes early to everything.

5. Don’t use up a seat on a train with your bag. That’s just bad manners people.

6. Use the train and the public transport. It’s faster, cheaper, and there are lots of handy route guides and maps for you to use, often available in English. Driving will be difficult for anyone used to orderly American roads.

7. If you do drive, be aware of the very different-looking street signs. And the bicyclists. And the pedestrians. And the buses.

8. If you’re a pedestrian, watch out for the buses. They will squeeze through tiny alleys and are often electric, so you won’t hear them behind you.

9. Do not ever do anything to attract the attention of a German policeman. If you do, be extremely polite. You can be fined some extravagant amounts if they have cause to believe you are being rude. (I promise I do not know this from personal experience!)

10. In most of Europe, the drinking age is generally 18. In Germany, you can drink beer at 16 and anything else at 18.

11. Your breakfast will likely not be like the usual breakfast that you’d have at home. It is also probably not complimentary. Also, if there’s a little bucket on your table, it’s for trash.

12. Unless you stay in an American hotel chain, there will not be as many  amenities or services provided. It is not even required that your hotel room include a bathroom. Make sure you find out before you book.

13. Do not ask for ice in your drinks. They probably don’t even have any. Also, don’t tip over 10%. People will probably try to give it back to you.

14. When possible, use cash. It is harder to find places that accept credit cards abroad, and in some cases, even the places that do won’t take certain ones.

15. Always have your passport with you, if you are traveling. Particularly in Germany. Sometimes, your driver’s license will work as ID, but most likely they will want your passport. Officials will often also want to know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and why.

16. If you’re a student, bring your school ID card. You can get discounts at museums, etc. Some places will not accept an American Student ID, but lots will. Or you can get an International Student Identity Card (google ISIC).

17. If you do use trains, buy Eurail passes online while you’re still in America. There are lots of flexible purchase options (I bought one that was six train rides in three countries within a four-week period) and it will be waaaaay cheaper than buying long-distance tickets while you’re in Europe, and they also count for certain ferry rides (England to France, for example) as well as the fast trains.

18. There’s not much air conditioning. That’s not really a tip, just something to be aware of.

19. Shops aren’t open for as long hours or for every day like they are in America, so plan your shopping accordingly.

20. Try the local food/delicacy(/beer) if you get the chance.

Bonus: I’m not sure about other countries, but in Germany, the bread they put on the table before your meal? Yeah, that’s not free. Don’t eat it unless you really want some bread.

(Now that I think of it, a lot of these tips apply specifically to German speaking countries, so at least keep all of them in mind if you’re in Germany.)


EDIT: I forgot one! Usually you have to pay to use the public bathrooms. Otherwise, they will mostly likely be expecting a tip, especially if there is an attendant (who keeps it clean and stands around while you use a stall and will probably hand you a towel to dry your hands with- awk!)

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