Information on Germany

Informationen über Deutschland Foto: Goethe-Institut

What awaits you in Germany? A brief overview of everyday life, travel, health, safety, weather, opening hours, etc.

  • Parliamentary democracy
  • Population: approx. 82 million, including 8.8% foreign residents
  • Capital: Berlin (population: 3.5 million)
  • Federal states: 16
  • Religions:
    • 31% Roman Catholic
    • 30.2% Protestant
    • 4.26% Muslim
    • 0.24% Jewish
    • A large number of unaffiliated Protestant and Orthodox Christian congregations
For extensive and interesting information about Germany, visit:
If you need assistance, ask the staff at your institute.

In emergencies you can call the following numbers (toll free):
  • 112 Europe-wide emergency number
  • 110 Police
Time zone: CET (Central European Time)

Switch to daylight savings time (CET + 1 hr): Last Sunday in March
Switch back to standard time (CET): Last Sunday in October
Germany is in the most moderate climate zone in central Europe. Because of its geographical location, people in Germany experience four different seasons: fall, winter, spring and summer. The seasons differ both in temperature and precipitation. June is a very rainy month and there is a high likelihood of snow in January and February.

Clothing and weather

The weather in Germany can be very changeable. Consequently, please bring suitable shoes and rainwear no matter when your course is taking place.

For the winter months we recommend clothing that keeps out wind and rain, a warm jacket, a scarf, a cap and gloves.

All buildings and housing are heated. Air conditioning is quite uncommon and is normally not necessary.
Current weather in Germany
1 euro (€) = 100 cents

Credit cards, checks: Smaller amounts are usually paid in cash in Germany (food, admission tickets, souvenirs).

Major credit cards: MasterCard, VisaCard, American Express (fees apply to cash withdrawals from ATMs)

Exchanging cash and checks: Fees apply if you do not have an account in Germany.

The Reisebank, with branches at major railway stations and airports, specializes in these transactions.

Opening a bank account

A requirement for opening a bank account in Germany is proof of regular residency for a duration of more than 90 days.

The following documents are required for opening an account:
Registration of place of residence (through the Goethe-Institut, police registration), passport and residence permit (generally in the passport). Banks do not allow any exceptions. 
Effective as of June 15 2017, international roaming charges will no longer apply within the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway for permanent residents of those countries. They will not be subject to additional charges when using their mobile telephones or tablet computers.

Non-EU citizens will still be subject to international roaming charges. For an extended stay in Germany it is therefore worth purchasing a prepaid SIM card, available from kiosks and supermarkets. SIM cards are generally sold by major wireless service providers. These include e-plus, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone.

In our institutes and in most of our guesthouses you will have access to free wireless service.
  • Supermarkets: Generally 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.)
  • Department stores: Generally 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.)
  • Banks: Generally 9:00 a.m. – 12 noon and 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. (and until 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays)
  • Post office: Generally 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. (Mon. – Fri.), 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Many banks and post offices at key locations in the city do not close at midday and stay open later. Supermarkets and shops at airports and railway stations are generally open until 11 p.m. At large gas stations you can buy groceries almost 24 hours a day.
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink everywhere in Germany. There are no health risks.

Food / foreign food
  • Supermarkets offer a very wide selection of foods.
  • Organic products have special labeling.
  • There are various supermarket chains in different price categories, organic supermarkets and weekly markets with fresh regional farm products.
  • In larger towns there are also Asian food markets, halal butchers and kosher supermarkets.
Feel free to ask the Goethe-Institut staff if you have any questions.

Alcohol / cigarettes
  • Beer and wine: can be sold to persons 16 years of age and older
  • Cigarettes, spirits and higher-proof alcoholic beverages: can be sold to persons 18 years of age and older
  • Blood alcohol limit in road traffic: 05‰
  • Smoking: not permitted in public buildings; permitted in restaurants/bars only when a separate smoking area is provided – signs are posted at the entrance. 
Waste is sorted for disposal in Germany: paper, glass, packaging and residual waste. Most collection bins in public places are marked accordingly.
Electrical appliances operate with 220V (for instance hairdriers). Outlet adapters are available at any department store (travel sets).

If you are not sure what you need, simply ask the staff at your Goethe-Institut.
By train

The German railway has special regional and national ticket offers for travel in Germany. For information visit:

By air

Germany has a number of low-cost airlines that serve almost all airports.

Public transportation

The S-Bahn local train system, subways, streetcars and buses are safe and reliable modes of transport in Germany. Single fares are approximately €2.00.

You will receive detailed information on timetables and fares on arrival at your institute

By car

Are you planning to rent a car? Please remember to bring an international driver's license with you from your home country. Some car rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 21 or 25.

By taxi

Taxi fares are approximately €1.40/km.

Online route planners:
Jobs and internships

To learn German successfully, you should plan to spend at least two hours a day on homework and self-study. This leaves very little time for taking on a job or an internship in addition to the course.

A few tips if you wish to work:

Before your arrival, clarify whether you are permitted to work in Germany, whether you need a permit, and what kind you need (for example a business visa or Germany visa or an EU work permit.)


Some institutes are happy to help course participants find intern positions.

For more information on working in Germany and an overview of the regulations for various countries, see:

Job and internship boards

Studying in Germany

The language requirements and subject-specific prerequisites for studying in Germany may vary by type of institution (universities, universities of applied sciences) and from state to state. Detailed information in several languages is posted on the websites of the institutions.

The Goethe-Institut staff will be happy to help you to contact the college or university that interests you.

For general information on studying in Germany, see:

German for university studies

For successful admission to college or university with certificates from the Goethe-Institut, please find out what language requirements you must meet for your program of study. This will enable you to prepare ideally with special courses offered by the Goethe-Institut.

Overview of examinations and certificates

Au-pair placements

For information on requirements and au-pair placements, visit:


Your health is important to us. We therefore wish to remind you to check before traveling that your health insurance provides adequate cover for Germany.

Health care in Germany

Medical care in Germany is excellent. Hospitals, ambulance services, specialists and general practitioners can be found in the vicinity of all course locations.

Emergency telephone number

There is one standardized emergency number across Europe. It is free of charge and available 24 hours a day.

Emergency number: 112

Emergency call boxes

Emergency call boxes are located at all U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. You will be connected to the emergency service immediately. An ambulance or the police will arrive within minutes to help you.


U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations are also equipped with defibrillators that can be used easily even by non-professionals.
European health insurance card

Do you live in an EU country? In that case, you can request a European health insurance card from your health insurer. It will give you coverage under Germany's statutory health insurance scheme.

Participants from non-EU countries

Do you come from a non-EU country? In that case, please contact your health insurer before entering Germany to find out whether and in which situations you are covered for medical treatment abroad.

Goethe-Institut travel medical insurance

As soon as you book your course, you can take out a special insurance policy online with our partner, Klemmer-Assekuranz (currently € 1.40 per day). It covers travel health insurance, accident and liability insurance.

This insurance protection meets the German regulatory standards (for example when applying for a visa).

For terms and conditions as well as other details, see:

Klemmer International Versicherungsmakler GmbH
Am Sägbach 3
83674 Gaißach bei Bad Tölz
Tel: +49 (0)8041 7606-305
Fax: +49 (0)8041 7606-8305


You can also arrange for insurance coverage after arriving in Germany if you do not need proof of insurance in advance, for example for a visa application.

Existing conditions / health restrictions

Pre-existing conditions or chronic health restrictions are not covered by the Goethe-Institut medical insurance. Please speak with your doctor and your health insurer before coming to Germany to decide on the best course of action for you.

Do you have a health restriction? Please notify the Goethe-Institut you will be attending before you come to Germany so that the staff are informed in case of an emergency.


You do not need vaccinations for malaria, hepatitis, etc. for your trip to Germany. We do recommend a tetanus vaccination, however.

Our advice: Please bring a copy of your international vaccination pass if you have one.
In case of illness

Naturally your local institute will be there for you if you need medical assistance.

First aid at the institute

At every Goethe-Institut in Germany there is a designated first aid staff member who will be at your side in an emergency and initiate all of the necessary steps. This employee is specially trained for this task and participates in refresher courses on a regular basis.

Local doctors

Every institute keeps a list of general practitioners and specialists. These doctors also speak foreign languages. If necessary we will arrange a doctor's appointment for you, give you addresses of (international pharmacies) or go with you to the hospital.


Employees of the Goethe-Institut are not permitted to hand out medication, including painkillers. This is for safety reasons in case of previously unknown allergies or intolerance.
Gyms and health clubs

Do you want to keep up your fitness routine while you're in Germany? Your local Goethe-Institut will give you details about suitable gyms, yoga studios and special courses of back strengthening exercises.
In Germany smoking is banned in public buildings, bars and restaurants.

Smoking is also strictly prohibited at the Goethe-Instituts in Germany and their guesthouses. It is permitted only in specially designated outdoor areas, for example in gardens or on terraces.
Are you a wheelchair user? Please let us know before you book your course. Your institute will inform you if it can meet your needs, and will provide advice about accommodation.

The following institutes are suitable for wheelchair users:

  • ground-level elevator
  • accessible classrooms
  • accessible toilets
  • ground-level elevator
  • accessible classrooms
  • accessible toilets
  • ramp at entrance
  • accessible toilets
  • accessible ground-floor classrooms
  • ramp at entrance
  • elevators
  • assistance may be needed for opening elevator doors
  • accessible toilets

Ask the local institute what help they can provide, in particular with accommodation-related questions. A few other institutes have limited accessibility and will be happy to provide you with information on local facilities.

Information for blind participants:

Contact your institute directly to ask whether your needs can be met.


Security situation

Germany is generally a very safe place with a low crime rate.

However, the need for security measures in public spaces has also increased in Germany in recent years. As a result, security cameras have become common in public areas and in buses, local trains and trams. Signs indicate the presence of video monitoring.

Naturally there are pickpockets in Germany. It is therefore important to be careful of your purse or backpack in crowded public places.

Emergency telephone number

There is one standardized emergency number across Europe. It is free of charge and available 24 hours a day.

Emergency number: 112


In an emergency you can also reach the police at this number. The police have a strong local presence in Germany and will arrive within minutes to provide assistance.

Emergency call boxes

Emergency call boxes are located at all U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. You will be connected to the emergency service immediately. An ambulance or the police will arrive within minutes to help you.
Contacts at the institute

The institutes in Germany do not require special security staff. During the courses the institute staff will be your point of contact and will initiate all necessary steps in case of an emergency.

Safety drills

During the first week of the course, your teacher will discuss safety aspects of the institute with you and will show you the emergency exits. An emergency evacuation plan is posted in all rooms of the institute.

Every institute is inspected on a regular basis to ensure that the building complies with the statutory fire protection regulations in Germany. In addition, the institutes are equipped with sufficient numbers of fire extinguishers.

What should I do in case of fire? Where do I have to go? Every institute is required by law to conduct fire drills at irregular intervals. The drills cannot be announced in advance. You will recognize that a fire drill is taking place by an alarm signal that is clearly audible in the classroom. Remain calm and follow your teacher's instructions.
Our guesthouses are also subject to Germany's statutory fire protection standards.

In addition, they are covered by the house rules of the Goethe-Institut, which will be provided to you on arrival.

For questions and support a contact from the institute is available.

If you are staying with one of our German host families, they will also assist you in emergencies and take all necessary steps.
If you need assistance from your country's official representation during your stay in Germany, for example because of the loss of your passport, our local staff will be happy to help you contact your embassy or consulate.
First aid app

The German Red Cross (DRK) has developed a first aid app that will provide you with detailed instructions on how to respond in case of serious emergencies. At present, the app is available in German. It is very intuitive and is authorised by the DRK.

For more information on the DRK first aid app, visit

Android download
iOS download

Emergency number

There is one standardized emergency number across Europe. It is free of charge and available 24 hours a day.
Emergency number: 112

The Goethe-Institut assumes no liability for the apps listed here, in particular with regard to availability or for the services offered.