Europe, Germany, Travel Guide
Comments 29

First Time to Germany? Practical Tips to Plan Your Travels.

Germany solo travel, Berlin photos

I vividly remember my first trip to Germany, exactly four years ago. I had won a pair of flight tickets to Europe, taken a two-month sabbatical from my corporate job, and arrived in Munich with a friend – anticipating Germany to be uptight, and not half as fun as Italy or France. I was so wrong!

On that first trip, I guzzled the finest beer in the country’s oldest biergartens, savored the wry humor of locals, climbed the stunning limestone mountains of Saxon Switzerland, and fell in love with the quirky city of Dresden, once the seat of east Germany’s cold history. I’ve been back twice to revel in the snowy Christmas Markets of Cologne and Rothenburg, attend a travel conference in the port city of Hamburg, soak in the spring colours of Berlin and discover the fascinating lake region of Spreewald.

Here are some travel tips to experience one of my favourite countries in Europe:

What’s the best time to visit Germany?

best time to visit germany, best time to travel to germany, berlin spring

Colors of spring in Berlin.

I loved the onset of summer in early June, with long days and sunsets past 9 pm, just a little hot and not yet buzzing with tourists. Although temperatures fell below -10 degrees celsius in winter, I have fond memories of sipping copious amounts of gluhwein and watching the snowflakes dance above the festive Christmas markets. But my favorite time is spring – late April, when neighbourhoods in cities and the rural countryside are exploding with vibrant colours, the sun is wonderfully warm, and everyone is out on the streets after the harsh winter.

Read: First Time to Europe? Travel Tips to Get You Started

How to get a Schengen visa for Germany?  

Germany travel tips, schengen visa for germany

The visa pain is worth it for moments like this!

My passport is choc-a-bloc with Schengen visas issued by the German embassy, and as much as I hate applying for one every time, I appreciate that it never takes longer than 2-4 days, although the official processing time is 15 days. The applications are to be submitted via VFS Germany – including confirmed flight tickets and accommodations (use booking.com to find a hotel with no reservation or cancellation charges), travel insurance and bank statements. Besides the necessary documents, it helps to include a cover letter, CV and copies of past visas.

Read: US Tourist Visa for Indians: Tips and Requirements

Which airlines to fly to Germany from India?

Lufthansa premium economy, flying to germany, germany india best flights

Stretching out with wine and Wifi on Lufthansa’s premium economy.

When I was invited to try Lufthansa’s new Premium Economy (midway between business and economy class) on my recent trip to Germany, I was a little skeptical; I’ve tried it on other airlines and found it more or less similar to economy class. I was genuinely surprised that on Lufthansa, it had more leg space than I needed to fully stretch my feet. I could recline my seat comfortably without infringing on the passenger behind me, and choose from a wider movie selection spanning Bollywood to Iraqi movies that kept me glued to the bigger-than-usual screen. After more than a month away from India, I satisfied my food cravings with a homely meal of rajma and mixed vegetables, served with real cutlery, and could choose from a range of appetizers and desserts. Thanks to the fast Wifi and personal charging points, I caught up on work and had much fun tweeting from 30,000 feet! In short, it won me over in the value for money – travel time – comfort mix, with a direct 7-hour flight from Delhi to Frankfurt.

Even on economy class, the A380 is spacious with a 2-4-2 seating and I hear you can find cheaper prices on Lufthansa’s website than Goibibo / Makemytrip. Give it a try yourself.

Read: What I’ve Learnt from Winter in Europe

Do you need to know German to travel there?

Germany cycling, Germany people

Lost in the forests of Spreewald.

Other than the touristy bits, most people I met in Germany spoke little English – so like elsewhere in Europe, it’s good to know some basic German greetings and phrases. Danke schön (thank you) and tschüs (goodbye) go a long way. In Berlin, I managed to get my clothes stuck in a laundry machine at a neighbourhood laundromat and couldn’t follow the all-German instructions, nor had a local sim to use Google translate. An elderly gentleman with a stern demeanor observed my plight, and for a second, I thought he was going to scold me! Instead, he laughed with me, helped me get the clothes out, and explained to me (twice!) how it works. I’ve realized that  Germans are some of the most good-humoured people in Western Europe – and even though language is a challenge, it’s not a barrier.

See: In Photos: German Christmas Markets

Is Germany good for solo travellers?

Hamburg harbor, Hamburg photos

Wine and wifi above the Hamburg harbor.

ABSOLUTELY! On my most recent trip, I had plans to hit Italy and Slovenia right after the travel conference in Hamburg, but I had to submit my passport at the South African embassy in Berlin and couldn’t travel out of the country without it. It turned out to be a blissful week; I cycled through the forests and meadows of Spreewald, struck up conversations with local farmers, and stayed with Airbnb hosts who whisked me to their favorite spots on the countryside! Germany is safe, efficient, friendly and has something for every kind of solo traveller – so don’t hesitate to go alone, but do your research and trust your gut as always.

Read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears

How much should you budget for your Germany trip?

German christmas markets

Reveling in the German Christmas Markets.

With the Euro almost equivalent to the US dollar, traveling in Germany is cheaper these days! On average, I budget 50 Euros a night for experiential, value for money accommodation; that can score me a nice B&B (with a shared bathroom) in a big city like Berlin, and a sweet studio with my own kitchen and living area in a smaller town or village; 20-25 Euros for two meals with beer at a neighborhood café; 25-30 Euros on average on activities and transport, which works out to roughly 100 Euros a night.

Read: Small Towns in Europe You Probably Haven’t Heard About

How to find unique accommodations in Germany?

Germany travel guide, solo travel germany

My attic living room in Lubbenau.

I try to mix up my accommodation experiences to get a bit of everything – unique neighborhoods, local hosts and value-for-money indulgence. Booking.com and Airbnb (use my referral link to get 25$ off your first booking) are my go-to sources to identify and book accommodations, and Germany has been no exception. On my most recent trip, I used the former to score a charming attic apartment in Lubbenau, with a living area stacked with books, a cosy bedroom, a kitchenette and a grand bathroom, surrounded by a Japanese-style garden, hosted by a jovial old couple, in a pretty neighborhood with quaint homes and cherry blossoms – for 60 Euros a night! I never wanted to leave. I pour in a fair bit of research identifying these places and reading reviews on multiple sites. It’s the only way to ensure that besides a nice accommodation, I’ll also be able to explore the local way of life in a way Google can’t tell me.

Read: 10 Awe-Inspiring (Yet Affordable) Airbnbs in Central America

How to find vegetarian food and good beer in Germany?

Germany vegetarian food, flammkuchen germany

Veggie flammkuchen in an old German cafe.

Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that saying ich bin vegetarier (I am vegetarian) isn’t as effective as asking for food ohne fisch und fleisch (without fish and meat). Though German cuisine is largely meat based, try the vegetarian flammkuchen (a kind of flat German pizza) and spatzle (German pasta with cheese) for a local flavor. Most small bakeries and neighborhood cafes have atleast a couple of delightful vegetarian options. I was off eggs on my most recent trip, and had my most memorable meals at vegan cafes, found on happycow.

Good beer? That’s everywhere in Germany! If you don’t like beer or want something lighter, try Radler (a combination of draught beer and lemonade / sprite) or Spezi (a homemade, non-alcoholic coke-based drink).

Read: A Veggie Lover’s Europe

Should you get a Eurail pass for Germany?

eurail pass germany, train germany, german rail

Planning my Germany trail on the Eurail!

I’m no track basher, but I LOVE taking the train in Europe. It’s a great way to slow down a little, soak in the sleepy countryside life, meet locals and fellow travellers, and find some creative inspiration. It’s possible to find cheap flights on long routes, but having a Eurail pass can give you the flexibility to hop on and off trains impulsively and make the journey your destination. If you’re bound by time and budget, assess how long you’re staying and how often you plan to travel, and compare that with individual train fares / flights to decide if a Eurail pass makes sense; remember you need to buy one before you enter Europe.

Read: A Journey to A Special Place From Our Storybook Days 

Where to go in Germany?

Germany travel tips, travel guides germany

On my first trip to Germany, in Saxon Switzerland.

It really depends on your interests. Love history – go to Berlin. Love beer – go to Munich for old biergartens and Cologne for its Kolsch beer. Love small historical villages – go to Rothenburg ob Tauber. Love wine – go to the Rhine valley. Love alternative cities – go to Dresden. Love mountains – go to Saxon Switzerland.

If you love the countryside, Germany still has secrets waiting to be unearthed, like Spreewald, 1.5 hours by train from Berlin, where many villages are accessible only by water and forests! I’ll write about this incredible region soon.

ALSO READ: 

A Time Traveller’s Guide to Southwest Germany

Incredible Ways to Experience the World of German Wines (includes sleeping in a wine barrel!)

Longing For Somewhere Far Away

Got tips or unanswered questions about Germany? 

My trips to Germany were partly self-funded and partly hosted. A big thank you to the German National Tourist Board, Lufthansa and Eurail for making parts of these trips possible.

Travel with me virtually on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.
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29 Comments

  1. saki76 says

    Hi!
    I have been following you write for quite some time and used your travel tips in a recent trip to Europe.
    A few addons from my experiences
    – You can use Google translate offline by downloading the language packs.
    – Hepenheim is another beautiful town to explore in Germany.
    Happy Travelling !
    Vikas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad my travel tips were useful! And thanks for sharing your tips. Didn’t know I could use Google Translate offline; will start downloading the language packs now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarika says

    Really useful tips Shivya! I’ve only been to France and Italy in Europe and never thought about visiting Germany until now.

    Like

  3. Himani says

    Hey Shivya – I love each of your posts and have enjoyed following your travels the past few years! I’m going to be in Munich this month for about 10 days. Would love to know of any recommendations that you may have.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Himani! And that’s awesome that you’re going to Munich. Try Beer Garden Augustiner Keller – the oldest biergarten in the city! I remember catching lots of impromptu street performances in the smaller streets; keep an eye out 🙂

    Like

  5. Hey Shivya,
    nice post about Germany. But the mountains near Dresden are called Saxon Switzerland. Lower Saxony is another part of Germany around Hanover and up to Bremen/Hamburg.

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    • Oops, my bad. I somehow thought Saxon Switzerland was part of Lower Saxony. Fixed it. Thanks for pointing it out and glad you liked the post, Romy 🙂

      Like

      • Gideon says

        I want to travel to Germany coming from west Africa.my question is where to stay and how to make friends.. pls I need ur direction

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  6. Hi Shivya will my OBC Visa debit card work on AirBnb? Im quite skeptical as it requires a password to be sent to my phone to charge the card

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    • Hi Sanjay, I guess you wouldn’t know until you try it. My Indian debit card works on Airbnb (even though it needs a password / OTP on other websites).

      Like

  7. Hi shivya ,
    I am fall in love with your writing style…your this blog makes me more excited to plan a trip for Germany.
    Nice Blog post
    Thanks For sharing your delightful experiences with us…

    Like

  8. Really you have nice blog, and i enjoyed reading your articles. Your trip to germany was so fantastic. As you said we travelled with you virtually, without flying abroad. Thanks again

    Like

  9. Sathyan David says

    Hello, your write up on Germany was very informative. Last month I had a 6 hour layover at Munich airport so decided to explore a bit of the town. To my surprise, the airport enquiry told me the train was on strike but suggested the bus shuttle. As you say the Germans are friendly and speak English. Had a nice round of the Rathaus, Marien platz, the Virtualienmarkt and could make it back in time for my flight. A tip I’d like to give prospective travellers to Europe is that in most places, the main tourist attractions are centred around the town centre. If one digs deeper in history, it goes back to Roman times, the city centre would have been the Roman forum and temple.

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  10. priya says

    Very nice and informative article Shivya. 50 Euros a day seems a bit steep..seems i am yet unprepared for my Euro trip this year 🙂 Thanks a bunch!

    Like

  11. Tan says

    Hi Shivya, any recommendations on must try vegan german food? I am travelling solo to berlin & munich in few weeks and will be staying in hostels (near city centre) in both cities for 6 days (budget travel). Any budget vegan food and pubs recommendations for both cities would be super helpful. Thanks Tan

    Like

  12. Pingback: Planning a trip to Germany? Here are a Few Things You Need to Know

  13. Shivya, it was really nice to read about my favourite country here. Loved your write-up. Some of the extraordinarily beautiful areas in Germany, other than the ones you mentioned here, are the islands in the north, e.g. the chalk cliffs of Ruegen, the Bodensee/ Lake Constance in the south with the picture perfect islands of Reichenau and Mainau, the entire Bavarian Alps – and even though Neuschwannstein is extremely touristic and somewhat cliched, one cannot but fall in love with the castle and its breathtaking surroundings! The Black Forest area from Freiburg am Breisgau and beyond – right through to Karlsruhe and Heidelberg looks like a picture postcard. I could go on and on :). One of my most memorable experiences was devouring a rich creamy Black Forest pastry sitting in a quaint restaurant atop a hill in Schauinsland – the heart of Black Forest. Looking forward to a happy exchange of ideas!

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  14. Hi!
    It’s really nice to read about Germany trip which is very informative for the traveler in Germany. I really appreciate with you. I know it is more expensive to visit Germany then Highest peak in the world Mt Everest Nepal but i would love to visit Germany in future.

    Like

  15. Raju says

    Liked your blog and travel ideas. I am also travelling next month to Germany. Will be visiting my friend in Hannover. And then to travel to other parts of that country.

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  16. sridhar says

    what is the use of Eurail pass,shud we book train tickets in advance by online or do we get at the station itslef,november iam planning to germany on tourist visa,i will be planning for 10days,so i need to travel from frankfurt to hamburg and from hamburg to berlin etc,is train cheaper suggest me

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  17. Hi Shivya! I’m a German living in Berlin and was happy to read of your experiences throughout Germany. So many people outside of Germany have a certain…er…view of Germany/Germans as being boring or uptight. 🙂 I’m happy to see you did not find it that way at all.
    Hope you come back often to Germany!
    Carl Kruse

    Like

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