On a table is a bag with the pharmacy symbol. Next to it are various medicines, towels and a hot water bottle. © Goethe-Institut

What to do if you are ill

In the event of minor illnesses, such as colds or headaches, you can buy medication in a pharmacy. But many medicines are available on prescription only. The prescription must be written by a doctor. Then you can use the prescription to collect your medication from the pharmacy, and you only have to pay a contribution towards the cost.

Pharmacies are usually open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 6.30 or 6pm, on Saturdays they close at 1pm. In cities however, some pharmacies are open until 8pm. And there is an emergency service for Saturday/Sunday and during the night. 

Eine Person liegt krank im Bett. Auf dem Nachttisch sind Taschentücher, Nasenspray, Medikamente und eine Tasse Tee zu sehen. © Goethe-Institut

Seeing the doctor

Do you feel very ill? The best thing is to make an appointment with the GP. Is your child unwell? Then go to the paediatrician. You can normally only go to the doctor from Monday to Friday. But there is an out-of-hours doctor service for Saturday/Sunday and during the night.

If you have a doctor’s appointment you need a card from your health insurance company, the health card. The first time you visit the doctor, you need to fill in a questionnaire with your personal details and information about your illnesses. Once you have registered you wait in the waiting room. They will call your name. Often it only takes a few minutes, but it can be an hour or more.

In the consulting room the doctor asks you some preliminary questions. At this point you should describe your symptoms precisely. What hurts? How long has it been hurting? Have you ever had this pain before? After questioning you, the doctor will examine you. After that he will make a diagnosis. He will tell you what illness you have.   

You do not have to pay for a doctor's visit if you are insured through a statutory health insurance scheme. But you must pay for additional private services. Your doctor will advise you.

Sick note and specialists

Once he has examined you, the doctor may write you a sick note. He will often give you a prescription for medication too. Perhaps you will also be given an appointment for your next examination. Or the GP will refer you to a specialist, for instance an ENT doctor, orthopaedic specialist or a gynaecologist. The specialist will then give you a further examination. 


Check-ups are available to prevent illnesses, not to ever become ill or to detect any illness early. Some examinations are a right provided by law, while others require payment.

For children there are preventive medical examinations to support their development. In addition, there are vaccines against infectious diseases such as measles, whooping cough and mumps.

Starting at age 35, there are check-ups for early detection of kidney and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. There are also breast examinations for women.

There are specific check-ups depending on gender, age, family diseases or if you are pregnant. Certain vaccinations may be recommended, particularly if you are traveling or living in Germany. For more information, please speak with your doctor.

Most important emergency numbers

All emergency numbers can be called free of charge from any phone without having to insert cash or a credit card.

Police: 110
The police are responsible for non-medical emergencies, crime and serious traffic accidents.
Please enter your name and
- where the incident happened
- what happened
- which persons are affected
- what injuries are present
- wait for further questions!

Nahaufnahme auf ein Polizeiauto von der Seite mit dem Schriftzug "Polizei" © Goethe-Institut
Fire/Emergency/Rescue services: 112
“112” is the number to call for life-threatening situations such as heart attack, stroke or serious accidents. When in doubt about the severity of the injury, do not hesitate to alert the rescue service. This may save lives in an emergency.

Ansicht auf das geschlossene Tor eines Feuerwehrgebäudes, durch die Fenster ist ein Feuerwehrauto sichtbar. © Goethe-Institut

Medical emergency service: 116117
If there is an emergency over the weekend, you may call the emergency service.
Or else you can go directly to the nearest emergency clinic. These emergency clinics are usually associated with a hospital and are open in the evening until 10:00 PM as well as on public holidays.
Otherwise, you can call 116117. This call is free of charge and is available nationwide. Here you will be referred to a nearby doctor. If a home visit is required, it will also be organised by the head office.

Dental emergency service: 01805/986700
This provides the telephone numbers of clinics you can then call directly.

Man sieht den oberen Teil eines grauen Gebäudes mit einem Schild, das ein rotes Kreuz auf weißem Grund zeigt. © Goethe-Institut
For children, the same criteria and numbers generally apply as for adults.
It is also important when children are involved to know how to behave and the important rules in order to respond quickly and correctly. First of all, if a child falls, comfort and calm him or her. It is important to keep calm and assist the child quickly, not to worry too much and to properly manage any necessary emergency call. A complete first aid kit should be available at home to cover lacerations with a pressure bandage or open fractures with a germ-free wound dressing.
Child and youth hotline: 0800/1110333
Call this number for children and youth issues, Internet-related concerns and sexual abuse.
Parent hotline: 0800/1110550
Call this number for educational issues, Internet-related concerns, sexual abuse of children and all other issues parents have with their children.
“Violence against women” support hotline: 08000/116016
Nationwide counselling service for women affected by violence, social environment issues and to reach specialists. It is available free of charge, anonymously, around the clock and 365 days a year.
Support hotline for pregnant women in need (anonymous and secure): 0800/4040020

Crisis line: 0800/1110111
Problems and crises, such as issues with partners, bullying at school and in the workplace, job loss, addictions, illness, loneliness, crises, and spiritual issues can all be discussed here.
Emergency blocking: 116116

Call to block EC and credit cards as well as identity cards if they are stolen or lost.

Different insurance policies

Everyone lives with risks: a risk is for example sickness or incapacity for work (you can’t work anymore). In a situation like that, you suddenly have additional costs. So that you are not solely responsible for these costs, you can take out insurance: you pay money to an insurance company every month or every year. In the event of sickness or incapacity to work, the insurance company pays you money. Some types of insurance are compulsory in Germany: everyone has to have these policies. Other insurance is voluntary: you can have the insurance if you like. 

Compulsory insurance

The most important compulsory insurance schemes are health insurance, pension insurance and unemployment insurance. Health insurance pays for your visits to the doctor or any medication you need. Unemployment insurance provides you with money for a year if you lose your job and do not find a new one. Pension insurance is also compulsory for employees: when you are old you cannot work anymore. The pension insurance scheme pays out money for you to live on. Do you have an employer? Then you do not have to pay the money for health insurance and social insurance all by yourself. Your employer pays almost half of it. If you have a car or motorbike, you also need vehicle insurance. What if you have an accident and another car is damaged? The vehicle insurance policy pays for the repair, or a proportion of it.   

Ein Auto hat in der deutliche Kratzer in der Tür. © Goethe-Institut

Voluntary insurance

The most important voluntary insurance policies are liability insurance, house and contents insurance and life insurance. Have you broken something belonging to another person? Then the liability insurance pays for it. The house and contents insurance pays if things are damaged in your home, for instance in the event of water damage. And the life insurance policy pays out if you die. The money can be paid out to the children, for instance.

There are many other insurance policies besides. Private accident insurance for instance pays out if you have an accident outside working hours. Legal protection insurance is for legal assistance, for instance to hire a solicitor. Payment protection insurance, travel insurance and pet insurance are also available. But check carefully which policies you need. The thing is, every insurance policy costs money.

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Frequently asked questions

Further questions? Write us via the contact form. We will forward your questions anonymously to the advisors of the youth migration services.

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