All that residents of EU member states require to enter Germany is an up to date passport. The same requirement applies to citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand but they will also require a visa if staying for longer than three months. South African citizens do need a visa to travel to Germany and nationals of all other countries should contact the German Embassy in their home country before travelling.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The language spoken is Berlin is German but English is widely spoken.
Berlin has a varied climate with very cold winters (can drop to -10˚C), mild and fairly cold springs, fairly temperamental summers (occasional heat waves along with occasional rain), and mild to cold autumns.
If you need to buy medical products the only place you can buy products for minor health problems is in a pharmacy (Apotheke). For more serious problems you will have to bring a prescription to obtain certain medications. Hospitals prepared to deal with emergencies are dotted all over the city.
Berlin uses Central European Time which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Most shops in Berlin are open from Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 6.00pm and on Saturdays from 9.00am until 2.00pm. Many now open late on Thursdays until 8.00 or 9.00pm. They also open on certain Sundays.
The main tourist office is the Berlin Tourismus Marketing housed in Budapesterstrasse 45. English-speaking staff can change money and provide details on transport, entertainment, exhibitions and day trips. They also arrange hotel and theatre bookings and sell city maps. The office is open 8.30am-8.30 Mon-Sat and 10.30am-6.30pm on Sundays.
The price of most goods and services in Germany includes a nineteen percent value added tax or Mehrewertsteuer. This includes restaurant and hotel bills as well as items which you purchase in stores. You should note that stores displaying a ‘Tax Free’ sticker will give you a Tax Free Shopping Check when you are paying for your purchases. When leaving the country you need to get this check stamped by the Customs officials as proof of legal export. Once you complete and return this check you will get your cash refund. Some of the major airports, train stations or ferry terminals will process this for you. Otherwise you need to send it to Tax-Free Shopping Service, Mengstrasse 19, 23552 Lübeck, Germany
Foreign currencies can be exchanged and used in unlimited amounts. You can get cash around-the-clock at cash machines with an ATM card which is valid overseas (Cirrus) and with international credit cards (American Express, Visa, Diners Club, Euro Card and MasterCard), which can be used for payment practically everywhere.
Electricity in Germany is 220 Volts AC.
The international calling code for Germany is +49 and the area code for Berlin is 30. To dial from abroad you dial 00, followed by 49, the local area code 30 and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from Germany, again you dial 00, followed by the international calling code for your particular country, the local area code and then the local number. It is worth noting that you need to drop the first zero from the local area code for both types of call.
Public telephones (Telefonzellen) can be found in all post offices as well as train and bus stations. You will also find one on most street corners. In other words, they are not hard to find, you just need to keep your eye out for them. Most are phones use phonecards and you can buy them (Telefonkarten) at post offices, newsstands or the major train stations.
Berlin’s main post office is located in the Kranzler Eck on Joachimstalerstrasse near Zoo Station. Opening hours are from 8am-midnight Mon-Sat and 10am-midnight on Sundays.
If the service charge is not included on the bill, you should leave a tip of between ten and fifteen percent. If it has already been added on, you will see the word Bedienung at the end of the bill. For taxi fares, you should round up the total to the nearest euro and, with regard to luggage, you should tip €1 per item.
In Germany are they take place on January 1st, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Thursday, May 1st, the first Monday in June, October 3rd and December 25th and 26th. It is worth noting what the public holidays are before travelling as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.