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Germany: Christmas Markets - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Germany's Christmas Markets, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for the Christmas Markets tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your German adventure.
Germany is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Like most European countries, Germany has daylight savings time which lasts from April to September. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight savings time in the United States, but the exact dates vary. When it's noon in Munich, it's 6 a.m. in New York and 3 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from German Christmas Markets, so make sure that you have enough space left in your suitcase. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional. Since we'll be walking quite a bit, you should pack your most comfortable walking shoes to bring with you. Since it will be wintertime in Germany when we visit, you should bring warm winter clothing, including winter boots, winter jacket, scarf, hat and gloves.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport to enter Germany and the European Union, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Munich (you should arrive at and depart from Munich Airport, code: MUC). The tour starts at 3:00PM, on Tuesday, December 10, 2019, in Munich, Germany, and your flight should arrive no later than 1:00PM. You'll probably depart North America on Monday, December 9, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Munich. This tour ends on Monday, December 16, 2019, and we will have a morning group transfer from Rothenburg to Munich airport. We will arrive in Munich airport at 10:00AM, so please schedule your flight no earlier than 12:30PM. If you need help with your flights to Germany, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones), you should drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Germany group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by professional local guides and bus drivers, who will accompany the group throughout the tour.
Germany does not pose any major health hazards. The heavy cuisine may give some travelers mild indigestion, so you might want to pack an over-the-counter medicine and moderate your eating habits. German medical facilities are among the best in the world. If a medical emergency arises, your hotel staff can usually put you in touch with a reliable doctor. Medical and hospital services aren’t free, so be sure that you have appropriate insurance coverage before you travel. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels, otherwise they might not make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name. Since this tour takes place in winter, make sure to bring appropriate, warm clothing.
Waiters in German restaurants will not bring you a complimentary glass of water. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get a glass of tap water in a German restaurant even if you ask for it. Tap water in Germany is safe to drink, but the Germans almost never drink it, and the restaurants definitely won’t serve you a free glass of German water. You can order carbonated or non-carbonated bottled water. The reason for Germans' aversion to tap water is cultural or rather linguistic. The German word for tap water is Leitungswasser which literally means plumbing water which sounds only slightly better than sewer water.
Bars, restaurants, cafes, gas stations, airports, rail stations, and all hotels have facilities, and public toilets can be found near many of the major sights. Usually they're designated as WC (water closet) or Toilette (pronounced twah-leh-tah). Women’s toilets are usually marked with an F for Frauen, and men’s toilets with an H for Herren. Expect to pay 1€ to use public facilities, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them. Almost all toilets in Germany are Western style.
Overall, the security risk to travelers in Germany is low. Violent crime is rare, but it can occur, especially in larger cities or high-risk areas such as train stations. Most incidents of street crime consist of theft of unattended items and pickpocketing. Report the loss or theft abroad of your passport immediately to the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate. Germany experiences a number of demonstrations every year over a variety of political issues. These demonstrations have a tendency to spread and turn violent, and foreign visitors are cautioned to avoid the area around protests and demonstrations.
Travel in Germany is as easy for women as it is for men. You may become the object of verbal admiration, but you’re probably physically safer there than you are at home. You should feel perfectly safe in Germany, but you may encounter a flirtatious man who wants to be "helpful" to foreign ladies. Though most of the time they mean well, use your best judgment when dealing with complete strangers. Of course, it always pays to play it safe and stick to populated streets after dark.
During the Christmas Markets tour, we will travel by private bus. Since town and village centers are most accessible by foot, we also expect to be walking quite a lot, although at a leisurely pace. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day, frequently on uneven surfaces and cobble stoned streets. Since this tour takes place in winter, there may be snow on the ground and/or slippery conditions. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is filled with outdoor activities, most likely in cold weather.
Germany has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters, although prolonged periods of frost or snow are rare. Weather unpredictability is a major factor and it can rain any time during the year. The average December daytime temperature is 41°F, but the extreme temperatures can drop to 5°F in winter.
Germany's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Germany's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. Both hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.
Voltage in Germany is 200 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival in Munich airport. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage. Small electronics which are "meant to travel", such as laptops, tablets, iPhone, etc., have dual voltage, so you only need a plug converter.
German, of course, is the language of Germany, but English is generally understood at most attractions such as museums, hotels and restaurants that cater to visitors. You don't need to hesitate to ask a German person if they can speak English (or perhaps even another language). Since English is taught in nearly all schools in Germany, many people have a basic grasp of this language. It is always appreciated to know a few basic phrases in German.
The Euro, the new single European currency, is the official currency of Germany. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. Some people like to bring local currency with them when traveling to a foreign country, but it is not needed, and depends on what you're comfortable with. We believe that the easiest way to get local currency is on arrival at the airport ATM. ATMs are common throughout Germany; you'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Before leaving, you should notify your bank/credit company that you will be using your card in a foreign country, so that it doesn't get blocked for suspicious activity. You should have a 4 digit PIN to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that your bank/credit card company will charge you for each withdrawal, so you should withdraw larger amounts of cash less often.
As a member of the European Union, Germany imposes a tax on most goods and services known as a value-added tax (VAT) or, in German, Mehrwertsteuer. Nearly everything is taxed at 16%, including vital necessities such as gas and luxury items such as jewelry; the tax is factored into the price. Food and books are taxed at 7%. VAT is included in the prices of restaurants and hotels. Stores that display a tax-free sticker will issue you a Tax-Free Shopping Check at the time of purchase. When leaving the country, have your check stamped by the German Customs Service as your proof of legal export. You can then get a cash refund at one of the Tax-Free Shopping Service offices in the airport. Otherwise, you must send the checks to Tax-Free Shopping Service, Mengstrasse 19, 23552 Lübeck, Germany. There is no airport departure tax.
The tips for restaurants, guides and drivers are included in the cost of your tour. It is customary to tip the chambermaid .50E to 1E per day, the bellhop or porter 1.50E to 2E for carrying your bags to your room. When on your own, it is customary to add 10% to the restaurant bill, unless it says Bedienung (service charge included).
What should you bring home from Germany visited during Christmastime? The list is topped by traditional Christmas gifts: ornaments and decorations, wooden toys, glass, and ceramic. The most typical German Christmas gifts are: hand-crafted Christmas pyramids carved in wood, individually crafted nutcrackers, music boxes and figurines, beeswax candles, glass Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas Stollen cake, Lebkuchen cookies, traditional wooden toys, handmade chocolates, nativity sets, and local handicrafts.