Visiting German cities is popular for travellers coming from The Netherlands because Germany is just a neighbouring country. Since living in The Netherlands for 13 years, my family and I have been to more than 15 German cities and towns. Visiting German cities is very convenient for us since it is accessible (some cities are just an hour drive) and cheaper as compared to the Netherlands. Below I will compile some of the information I observed and experiences when visiting a German city. This could be useful for travellers who plan to make a visit to Germany.
What you need to know when visiting German cities?
1. Bring cash when visiting German cities.
Going to Germany with cash is a necessity since surprisingly, many of the shops in Germany are not accepting credit or debit cards. It is an exact opposite of The Netherlands where in paying with cash is often frowned upon (people are very digital here and they used pay with bank cards and mobile phone app) In case you forget to bring cash, there are some ATM machines that you can withdraw money. But be warned do not go to the shop or restaurant without the cash on you, because otherwise you have to run to an ATM to pay.
2. When visiting German cities, tank your car on the German border instead of The Netherlands.
You can always cheaply get a full tank of gasoline when reaching a German border. This is way cheaper as compared to The Netherlands. In our last travel, it costs us 1.70 euros per litre to tank our car in Germany, versus the 2.10 euros in The Netherlands. Imagine how much savings we got.
3. Park in the Altstadt (and be early to secure your space).
Most German cities, especially the bigger ones, have Altstadt or Old Town in English. Most of the attractions or places that you need to city in German cities can be found in the Altstadt. Often, these attractions are all close by. So by parking in the Altstadt, it saves time to see the must see places when visiting German cities.
4. Most shops are closed on Sundays.
Do not expect to see shops, establishments, pharmacies, and supermarkets open on Sundays when visiting German cities. Only churches, and if you are lucky, a few restaurants, are open during Sundays. Germans take Sunday as a day-off to relax and enjoy with their family and to go to the church. Make sure to account this day when planning your trip.
5. Germany is less restrictive on speed limit on the highway.
If you are driving to Germany, do not be surprised to see cars driving up to 200 kilometre per hour speed limit. German highways are less restrictive when it comes to speed limit. And if you cannot cope with it, just make sure you do not use the left lane to avoid crash or accident. Also be warned that even though Germany is less restrictive with the speed limit on highway, as soon as you enter a city, there will be a lot of cameras ready to catch over speeding drivers. So avoid the mistake of not dropping your speed when entering German cities.
6. Buying drinks in cans and bottles includes deposits.
Beers, juices, and water bottles and cans have Pfand (pay a deposit). After consuming your drinks, you can collect your panda by exchanging the cans and bottles in a vending machine of a supermarket. Beer bottles’ Pfand costs 8 cents per bottle and cans’ Pfand costs 25 cents per can. Some people may not be aware of this, so make sure you get the amount back after consuming the drinking products.
7. Eating out is a bit cheap and often involves a large portion meal.
You can easily get value for the money when eating in Germany. Often, they have larger portion at cheaper price as compared to The Netherlands. For instance, we used to eat German delicacies, such as cakes, often costing only less than 3 euros. However, the size is 1.5 times to double the size of what we can buy in The Netherlands for the same price. The same case for the meat and beer, often they have larger portion for the same price that we pay in The Netherlands.
8. Leaving a small tip of 5-10% is always appreciated.
Tips are not necessary when eating in the German restaurants since it is already accounted for in the bill. However, giving tips or rounding off the bill is highly appreciated. So bring smile to people, especially small owners of establishments when dining in their restaurant.
9. German breads are pure and dense.
Have you tried buying a bread in the German supermarket or bakery? You will notice the uniqueness of the German bread. Breads are made from pure ingredients, composed mainly of whole grains, such as rye, spelt, millet, and wheat, making its weight heavy and compact. Unlike other European cities whose breads are white, lighter, and starchy, German breads are in its own way healthy with full of fibres, proteins, and other nutrients.
10. Book your train in advance and enjoy big discounts before visiting German cities.
If you plan visiting German cities by train, book a train ticket in advance, at least 2 months before your travel. You have higher chance of getting up to 50% discounts in your ticket. From The Netherlands, some Dutch cities that have direct connection to other German cities also have cheaper price as compared to the uncommon route. German government also provide supports for using public transport such as trains, so make sure to check on them. For instance, you can travel throughout Germany for only 9 euros ticket. Kids are also often free in their public transport. You can check information on the website of Deutsche Bahn (DB)
Check out some of the German cities that we visited to get inspiration on your next trip.