Taking a vacation in Germany and need advice on what to pack? These are the things I’ve found to be most useful during my own travels, as well as some tips about what you can leave at home.
From the galleries of Leipzig to the full-on experience of Oktoberfest, Germany has an incredible amount to offer the culture hound. Not to mention forests, lakes, and mountains, and a life lived out in the open. Here’s a comprehensive vacation packing list for Germany, to help you make the very best of your time away.
Preparing For Your Trip To Germany
The key things you need for a German vacation won’t be in your luggage at all. These are the essentials to prepare well before you leave for the airport.
- Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and has plenty of spare pages. A passport cover will keep it from getting damaged and provide a handy place to keep all your documents in one place.
- Accommodation – Prices and availability fluctuate and, as with transport, costs will be considerably cheaper if you book in advance. Use Booking.com to find the ideal location.
- Flight Ticket – Book any flights around three months in advance. Print out copies of all of your tickets, as you might be required to display a return ticket when you arrive. Sites like Skyscanner will help you get the best deals by comparing all available options.
- Bus and Train Tickets – If you expect to travel between different cities, you can make significant savings if you book in advance.
- Germany has a comprehensive rail network, making for some of the most pleasant train travel in the world. The Trainline is an efficient one-stop store for both trains and busses in Germany. There is a great phone app for booking and managing tickets.
- For more the ambitious, investigate Interrail Passes for EU nationals or the equivalent for non-EU visitors.
- The huge network of FlixBus busses covers much of the continent and will be cheaper than going by train. You can buy a pass that bundles in a number of journeys for a reasonable cost.
- Do I Need A Visa For Germany? – EU citizens, Americans, Australians, Canadians, and residents of many other countries do NOT need a visa for up to 90-day trips to Germany. See this official list for the full rundown.
- Face mask – COVID is still very active in many countries and you may be required to wear an SFP2 facemask on the plane and in some indoor spaces. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser when you travel.
Travel Insurance For Germany
Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Other Documents To Prepare For A Visit To Germany
- Document Scans – Take photos or scans of your passport, credit cards, insurance information, and any other documents with your phone, then upload them to an online account like Dropbox. If you lose anything important, you will have copies available on your phone and anywhere with an internet connection. Also keep a list in your email account of the emergency contact details for banks and other key institutions.
- Student Card – If you’re under 30 or a teacher, it pays to get an International Student Identity Card. This entitles you to an array of discounts, including guidebooks, STA travel, and cheap entry to certain attractions.
- Driving License – You shouldn’t have any problems using a foreign driving license in Germany, as long as you are over 18 and have never been disqualified.
What Do You Need To Pack For Germany?
Pack less where possible. You can get practically anything you need in stores and Germany is reasonably priced. Start with Euroshops, where you can find a surprising range of items for €1. Bigger cities have some 24-hour supermarkets, but beware of opening hours. Most stores are closed on Sundays and during public holidays, like Easter. In Berlin (and other cities), you can usually find a ’Späti’, a late night corner store, much beloved by locals.
- You Don’t Need To Bring Toiletries – Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, soap, razors, tampons, condoms, toilet paper and deodorant are all available from a ‘drogerie’ – look for a branch of Rossmann or dm. Treatment for everyday illness like diarrhea is available from an Apotheke. The staff are able to dispense basic medical advice.
Luggage For A Visit To Germany
- Backpack or Suitcase – It’s worth investing in a solid backpack brand like Osprey that can hold everything comfortably without causing a strain. Make sure the harness will support the weight you’re carrying – the weight should be supported on your hips rather than your shoulders. See Amazon for bargain-priced backpacks.
- If you’re taking a suitcase, make sure you have high-quality luggage that’s large enough to fit your gear with a little extra space for anything you buy during your vacation.
- Wash Bag – A decent, waterproof pack to store all your toiletries is invaluable. Pick a well-designed one that gives you access to just what you need, and that’s durable enough to stop any mess if a bottle explodes. The Magictodoor travel kit is thoughtfully designed and inexpensive.
- Airlines have a 100 mL limit on liquids, so pack bigger bottles into your checked luggage or transfer them into smaller containers and a clear bag as part of your cabin luggage.
- Travel Cubes – Using travel cubes will save you time and hassle. By grouping all your clothes into three or four cubes, you can rapidly pack and unpack, rather than emptying everything on the bed. Get different colors to easily tell them apart.
- Luggage Locks – These are worthwhile to keep your bags safe from opportunistic tampering. If you are traveling to and from the USA, make sure they are TSA-approved locks.
- You’ll need a daypack for general daily use and to pick up bits of shopping.
- Travel Billfold – A good quality travel billfold keeps your cash, credit cards and important items out of harm’s way. The Lewis N. Clark RFID Security Wallet is big enough to fit your passport, cash and other essentials but still comfortable enough to wear beneath your clothes.
The Best Time To Visit Germany
Germany is best during the summer – from July to September. Germans love to socialize outdoors and the parks fill up with picnics, barbecues, and crates of delicious beer. Both Berlin and Munich reach an average of 18ºC during the summer, but it can get surprisingly hot – and sometimes also wet.
Spring and autumn are also delightful. From May, the greenery starts to blossom and bloom, and sidewalk seating outside cafes and bars starts to fill up. Berlin temperatures are about 15ºC, with Munich a couple of degrees cooler. From the end of September, the trees turn vibrant colours, and the biggest beer and wine festivals take place. Temperatures across the country drop from 15 to 10ºC during these months.
Winters can be very cold, with weeks of heavy snow, but it’s a fantastic country to visit around Christmas, with markets and hot mugs of Glühwein or Feuerzangenbowle to warm you up. Temperatures should hover around 0ºC, before the really cold weather sets in during the new year.
What Clothes To Pack For Germany
The weather can be unpredictable and rain is possible at any time of year. Pack layers in preparation for sudden showers or chilly evenings and bring four or five day’s worth of clothing if you’re traveling for a week or longer. This way, you’ll be able to do laundry twice a week and always have a spare outfit in reserve. You can head to cheap clothes stores like Primark, if there’s something you’ve forgotten.
Clubs and bars are a big part of German nightlife, so you may want to bring one outfit to dress up in. Don’t stress, though, as the door policy tends to be quite relaxed.
- Lower Body – Pack good quality shorts, pants, or skirts, that can deal with everyday travel and getting washed a lot. Pack according to season: lightweight from April to September, and warmer materials during the rest of the year.
- Sturdy zipper pockets on your shorts are also useful for protecting valuables.
- Cold weather calls for simple, durable and comfortable clothing. Pack a couple of pairs of jeans so that you’ve always got something warm that looks good with anything.
- Upper body – Packing layers will give you the greatest flexibility in the face of fluctuating temperatures.
- You can strip back to a light t-shirt in a July heatwave or add a couple of light long-sleeved tops when the temperature drops. Under Armor t-shirts live up to their promise of staying dry and light.
- A warm, waterproof coat or jacket is essential during the winter. Wear it on the airplane to cut down on packing.
- Base layer tops and thermal pantyhose keep you warm in even the coldest weather, without taking up much space in your suitcase. For men, Duofold sells excellent crew neck base layer tops that slip on unnoticed under a t-shirt or long sleeved sweater. Duofold also has thermal shirts for women that provide excellent warmth without adding too much bulk to an outfit.
- Underwear – Under Armor underwear, while expensive, does a great job of staying cool in the summer, without chafing if you’re doing a lot of walking or cycling. Another workaround for chafing is a lubricant, like KY Jelly. It could really help maintain your comfort levels.
- Footwear – Despite excellent public transport, you’ll end up walking a lot in Germany, so it pays to have good footwear. Look at Amazon for walking shoes for men and women’s footwear. Make sure your socks give your toes a bit of protective padding.
- During the summer, you might consider some lightweight, breathable Keen CNX hiking shoes which will protect your feet from getting icky.
- If you go with sneakers, make sure they have plenty of ventilation otherwise you’ll end up with blisters, heat rash and other uncomfortable issues.
- Waterproofing – A waterproof jacket or coat is essential during the winter. For the rest of the year, I carry an emergency ‘cag in a bag’.
- Summer Accessories – Even in winter, you’ll find it useful to have a decent pair of sunglasses for screening out harmful rays. You can find quality sunglasses listed on Amazon if you want to avoid paying too much. A sun hat or cap can be useful for keeping cool.
- Swimwear – Germany loves the outdoor life and there are many open-air lakes and pools to swim in, including Berlin’s Badeschiff. If you think you’ll be taking the plunge, make sure you pack some good quality swimwear: bikinis, trunks and the like.
- Winter Accessories – If you’re traveling at the peak of winter, a scarf, pair of gloves, and a good winter hat will make life more comfortable.
Health And Grooming Items To Pack For Germany
- Refillable Water Bottle – German supermarkets sell a huge range of tasty mineral water and faucet water is perfectly safe. So fill up a water bottle so you always have a refreshing drink to keep you hydrated. The Nalgene OTF is a great option.
- Sunscreen – Summers can be surprisingly hot, so make sure you put on sunscreen if the sun is out. We recommend Neutrogena SPF 45 Drytouch Sunscreen, which is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, non-greasy and absorbs into your skin instantly.
- Tissues – Keep a pack of tissues on you, for sneezes or just to mop up some random spilled mess. You can pick these up from any supermarket. Consider keeping some hand sanitizer handy too.
- Antihistamine tablets – In addition to allergies, I’ve found popping an antihistamine at the beginning of a long flight stops general miserable symptoms brought on by breathing dry, canned air. They are very cheap and available without prescription.
- Moisturizer – Keeping some moisturizer handy for your face on long flights and just generally while traveling can do wonders for making you feel better at the end of a long day. My girlfriend got me using some quite upmarket brands like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. Because I’m worth it.
- Ear Plugs – Ear plugs are essential for airplane, train and bus journeys, and for sharing a room with a snorer. Moldex ear plugs are cheap and an excellent brand.
- Quick Dry Towel – Any accommodation with en-suite bathroom will supply you with towels, but it’s useful to bring your own, especially if you plan to swim. Super lightweight and non-bulky towels are a real godsend for minimizing your travel load. Sunland towels are priced fairly and small enough to fit into any suitcase or backpack.
Electronic Devices To Pack For Germany
- Plug Adaptors – These days, the only things I need is a localized Koppla 3-port USB charger from a German branch of IKEA.
- Germany mainly uses the same 2-pin plug as many other European countries. Known as a ‘Type F’ or ‘Schuko’ plug, it has rounded terminals and grounding pins on the side. It shares the same 230V / 50 Hz power as the UK so if you’re traveling from the US, you might need an adaptor with a build-in voltage converter for things like hairdryers. The simplest solution is to get a universal power adaptor, preferably with surge protection.
- Cell phone – See below for using your phone in Germany. A few things to consider:
- If you will need to buy a local SIM card and your current handset is still locked to a provider, buy a cheap phone for the trip.
- Make sure you have a suitably rugged case. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which turn your cell phone into a tank.
- Consider getting a power bank as you won’t have the opportunity to charge it as frequently while you’re traveling.
- Don’t forget your phone charger! You can get a replacement from a branch of Saturn or MediaMarkt if you need to.
- Noise-canceling headphones – A pair of noise-canceling headphones are more expensive than normal earbuds but can be worth their weight in gold on a long flight or bus journey.
- Camera – If you’re looking to take a lot of photos, I’d recommend the Canon Powershot range which are super compact, easy to use and relatively cheap.
- The popular alternative is a GoPro, a tiny rugged waterproof camera great for recording first-person viewpoints while you’re doing adventure activities like climbing and kayaking.
- Whatever camera you use, be sure to bring plenty of memory cards to store all the images. You should regularly change the cards and backup the images immediately.
- Kindle – A Kindle reading device is great entertainment during the inevitable downtime in places like airports. Don’t forget your charger and cable to power up.
Preparing Your Cell Phone For Germany
EU citizens can use their existing phone and data plan in Germany. The situation for non-EU visitors is more problematic since many providers insist on a specific German registration document for all purchases of SIM cards.
PAYG provider Lebara Mobile is the one to go for, as they accept passports. Their SIM cards will fit any device, even the newest iPhones. Make sure your device is unlocked before you go – or buy a cheap handset for traveling. It’s possible to register online but, as you’ll need to buy the SIM in person, you might as well go thru the whole process with one of Lebara’s ‘Registration Partners’. There’s a comprehensive list of locations, although the new Berlin airport doesn’t yet seem to be one of them, unfortunately. You can expect to pay about €20 for a month of unlimited national calls, 250 minutes of international calls, and 3GB of (3G) data. However, Lebara offers a dizzying array of plans, including the more data-focused 10GB for €30. Get the representative to recommend a plan to match your preference and likely use.
You can find free wifi in Germany, although the Störerhaftung law – which makes the owner of a wifi network responsible for any illegal activity that it may inadvertently host – has stifled widespread use and connections can be spotty. Your best bet is to head to an Apple Store or Starbucks.
Planning What To Do And Where To Go In Germany
- Germany Guidebook – A guidebook remains the easiest way to get an idea of all the options available to you. It’s worth buying a few months before your trip so you can really thumb thru and find the things that really appeal to you.
- ’Lonely Planet Germany’ would be my personal preference, but there are numerous other guidebooks, including city and region-specific titles.
- The canny visitor knows that a great deal of German culture can be had for free with a bit of research. For example, Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt admission fees for its excellent exhibitions every Monday, and there are free lunchtime concerts every Tuesday at the world-class Berliner Philharmoniker. Spend a few hours online and cross reference with your guidebook.
- German Maps – Most German train stations have excellent bookstores where you can find a good tourist map.
- You can also download Google maps for offline use to save on data.
- German Phrasebook – English is widely spoken across Germany, often to fluency. However, if you do find yourself in a non-English speaking situation, the excellent ’Lonely Planet German Phrasebook’ will get you out of trouble.
Money For Visiting Germany
ATMs are everywhere, and all banks and post offices have them. Look for ‘Geldautomat’. They are easy to use, as most will give you the option to change the operating language to English.
Always inform your bank before traveling and check that your cards will work internationally. If your plastic doesn’t work, try at a couple of different banks first, then call the number on the back of the card and you should be able to get it unfrozen. Where accepted, Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards should be fine. You’ll need the PIN number. Other cards, such as American Express, are much rarer.
Many stores, including supermarkets, are cash only, so carry some Euros. Shop around before you leave for the best exchange rate and buy maybe €100 in advance. This also serves as backup in case something goes wrong.
Check if you bank is partnered with a German equivalent – Bank of America and Barclays with Deutsche Bank, for example. You will get a more favorable exchange rate when withdrawing money in the German equivalent and reduce the risk of having your card rejected.
Health Considerations For A Visit To Germany
- If you have travel insurance, check that you understand what your provider requires of you before leaving for Germany. Keep their number within easy access, contact them as soon as possible for advice, and keep any receipts to claim against.
- For all medical emergencies, call 112.
- Vaccinations – Germany is a safe country and it is generally enough to be up to date with your routine vaccinations. Get your doctor or nurse to give you the all clear about 6 weeks before traveling.
- Prescription Medicines – Have a full supply of any prescription medicines you need, in the original packaging with prescription label and sealed, if possible. Or take written documentation to present at customs.
- Allergy Card – If you have any serious food allergies or can’t eat certain foods due to your beliefs, make sure you have a translated statement that you can show to food vendors and restaurants. Select Wisely sells downloadable cards for most major food and drug allergies in a huge variety of languages.
- Non-Prescription Medicines – German pharmacies are very good for non-prescription medication and are easily found (look for ‘Apotheke’). The pharmacists are helpful, highly skilled, and often speak English. Medicines and painkillers, such as cold remedies and aspirins can be bought over the counter, but the laws are stricter in Germany and this is reflected in the cost. Furthermore, you have to ask for them, which can be a hassle. If you think you’re likely to need any non-prescription drugs, you might want to bring them with you. It can save trouble with customs if you keep these sealed in their original packaging.
- If you are planning to hike or camp in the forest, you should also consider vaccination against the tick-borne diseases encephalitis and Lyme, which carry a higher risk during the summer in rural areas. Prevention is the best cure, so be sure to cover exposed skin. Be sure to check the FitForTravel website for the latest travel advice.