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 in Cologne is German but English is also widely spoken.
Cologne has a temperate climate, which means it tends to see mild winters and warm summers. July and August are usually the warmest months, with temperatures averaging out at around 19˚C. The most sunshine can be seen in June, which gets about 7 hours of sunlight each day. In the winter, temperatures hover around 1˚C to 2˚C and January is generally the coldest month. Cologne also gets quite a bit of rain throughout the year. Most of this rain falls between June and August.
Cologne uses Central European Time which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Most shops in Cologne are open from Monday to Saturday between 9.00am and 6.00pm. They also tend to open on Sundays for shorter hours, and late night opening usually takes place on Thursdays.
The main tourist office is the Köln Tourismus Service Centre, located at Kardinal Höffner-Platz 1. It opens from 9am-8pm on Monday to Saturday and from 10am-5pm on Sundays.
The price of most goods and services in Germany includes a fifteen 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.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks around the city. Euros can be withdrawn from the numerous ATM machines scattered around, using international debit cards displaying the Cirrus symbol and also with a number of international credit cards.
Electricity in Germany is 220 Volts AC.
The international calling code for Germany is +49 and the area code for Cologne is 0221. To dial from abroad you dial 00, followed by 49, the local area code 221 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.
Cologne’s main post office is in the WDR Arkaden Shopping Mall on Breite Strasse 6-26. It’s open on Monday to Friday from 9am-7pm, and Saturday from 9am-2pm.
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 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.