Germany Guide

Germany Guide

Germany City Guides

Berlin
With its copious amounts of historical venues and cultural artefacts, Berlin has rightly claimed...

Student-accommodation-in-berlin-pano

Germany

Getting Out There

It is well worth doing your research on low cost airlines before you head out to Germany. TUIfly fly to many German cities and often offer a special deal of €19.99 flight with taxes included. Beware when travelling with RyanAir, they only allow 15kg of luggage and this might not be enough when you're moving a huge suitcase. You also have to pay fees for baggage, so the prices RyanAir offer are not always as cheap as they claim to be.

It is advisable to get travel insurance before you go. Ask your university to see if they offer their own travel insurance, some do for free, but check out what it covers. It may be that you then do not need to purchase travel insurance for the airline and this all helps to save a few extra pennies.

Try to get your first flight to Germany as early in the day as possible as it is daunting arriving in the evening not knowing where you're going. If you are going to arrive later on in the day, it's probably best to book a youth hostel in advance as most Studentenwerk offices close at 4pm, sometimes even earlier depending on which day you travel.

Getting Around

It might be worth getting a BahnCard 50 discount card. It costs a little over €200 but if you plan to travel around Germany whilst you're there, you will save half on all train fares. The Schones Wochenende ticket allows up to 5 people to travel by train to any city in Germany on Saturday and Sunday for a set price of €30 Euros. That's Munich to Berlin for €6 per person! There is also a ticket for up to five people which permits you to travel anywhere in the ëLandí for the same price, and this isn't limited to weekends.

When you get your student ID card, you will probably be offered a local transport card which helps save a lot of money on bus and local train travel. It is worth getting if you live a bus ride away from the city centre.

Transportcard

Most of the major cities have a total transport card: Ausbildungskarte (for students, trainees, etc...). You will just have to fill in a form with an official stamp from the university and show your student card (Studentausweis). In general the travel cards are around 30€/month which is fairly cheap.

Life in General

Business hours; shops generally open until about 8pm. Some supermarkets stay open until 10pm and pretty much everywhere closes on a Sunday except for petrol stations, pubs and restaurants. So unless you're eating out on Sunday, stock up!

Food, Drink & Going out; beer is ridiculously cheap in Germany, and before a night out it might be worth going to the supermarket as you can get a bottle of beer for around 20p. As a rule, Germans dress reasonably modestly for a night out, jeans and trainers are the norm. Nightclubs are open until between 4-6am and most cities run night buses from Thursday to Saturday nights for the partygoers.

With regard to food, the Germans love meat. Germany has been stereotyped in the past for its poor food but most restaurants offer good quality food for reasonable prices. In Berlin the food is very cheap, four people can eat out for €20, including soft drinks, and elsewhere the food isn't a great deal more expensive.

Anmeldung

You need to go the Kreisverwaltungsreferat to register (Anmelden) in the town where you are going to spend some time. You may be asked for a utility bill or copy of your tenancy agreement to prove residency and you will definitely need a passport or other official form of ID. They will give a document, proving that you are officially registered in that city. This registration(Anmeldung) document is very important, since you cannot open a bank account without it.

Telephone and Internet

The international dialling code for Germany is +49 and to make calls to England it is +44.

Mobile; It is worth getting your phone unlocked before you go abroad, so you only have to buy a SIM card as opposed to a brand new mobile phone. Some people prefer to buy a cheap new phone so that they can access their English contacts just as easily as their German ones, and phones these days can be bought for around €30.

In order to get a contract, you will need to provide many documents, so it's easiest just to get a Pay As You Go mobile. Even for this you may need your passport and proof of German address.

Internet; if you're staying in halls of residence, your internet will probably come included in your rent. You will simply have to gain access to the username and password to access the Internet. If staying in private accommodation, you may need to shop around to find the best deal for you. Some Internet packages come with a landline phone which works out cheaper when calling the UK. It is a good idea to download Skype, and get friends and family to do the same as you can make cheap calls to landlines using Skype, and free calls to Skype contacts. If you do not have the Internet, there will be plenty of Internet cafes around. Charges do vary, so it is a good idea to shop around, but most of them are open until late at night.

Money

Opening an account; It is strongly advised to open a bank account upon arrival in Germany, particularly if you are staying in student accommodation (Studentenwohnheim). You will probably be required to transfer money into your new (German) account immediately in order pay the deposit and first month’s rent. Only upon payment can you move into your residence.  Setting up an account is fairly simple, and you will be able to close it after a certain period of time without much difficulty and without incurring a charge.

HSBC do offer a Bank Account Plus service, which allows you to withdraw money for free anywhere around the world for a monthly fee of around £10. Be sure to register for Internet banking if you sign up for this so you can keep a track on your finances. In Germany you cannot check your balance when withdrawing money from an ATM.

Depending on the bank, you may be charged to receive monthly bank statements, so check before you open an account. Banks close at 3.30pm so it is better to get there earlier on in the day; they are open every day except Sunday, most close earlier on Saturday.

There are many banks to choose from so have a look round to see what suits you, however we can recommend the DEUTSCHE BANK, who do a particularly good Jugendkonto (basically, an account for young people, either studying or doing an internship). This account is free, you get a bank card, and you can also access online banking for free.

Health

The German health system is fantastic, but you should always carry your EHIC card with you. The Red Cross can impose charges on EU citizens regardless of what insurance cover you have. Whatever you do, do not pay without investigating as the European Health Insurance Card covers basic treatments, and bills are sometimes sent out accidentally by the Red Cross.

EU/EAA citizens: If you are citizen of one of EU/EEA countries (which includes all 27 EU members) and moving temporarily to Germany or looking for cover at the start of longer stay, you are automatically entitled to free basic health care in Germany due to reciprocal agreements among EU countries. Since the 1st June 2004, European citizens who are travelling within the European Economic Area are given a European Health Insurance Card, which simplifies the procedure when receiving medical assistance during their stay in a Member State. The European Health Insurance Card replaces forms E111 and E111B, E110, E128 and E119. Apply for the European Health Insurance Card.

Non EU/EAA citizens: If moving temporarily from a non-EU/EEA country to Germany, check with your relevant local agency whether there is a bilateral agreement that will cover you in Germany. These normally cover only limited urgency healthcare and you are advised to get comprehensive private insurance. If you get private insurance, make sure that they provide cover in Germany, have a local office or partner and read the small print so you know what's covered (and what's not!).

Quick tips for finding accommodation in Germany

Finding accommodation in Germany at short notice can be tricky. However, don't panic as it can definitely be done. This guide has been written in order to help you find accommodation in your host city in the quickest time and with the least hassle.

Step One - Define the Criteria

Set your budget - Germany isn't a very expensive place to live, however, in university cities, private accommodation is hard to find. It may be better to go into university halls of residence, which is a cheaper option and also much easier to find as an international student.

Define an area- Have a look at a map of the city or have an idea in your head within what area you are willing to live. Be aware that being close to the university may be practical but is not always a good idea. If you want any more specific advice on where is good to be in your host city, have a read of our city guides. If the guide for your host city has not yet been published please don't hesitate to get in contact with us and we try to give you some more detailed advice.

Know what you are looking for - Be aware that most private landlords will expect you to furnish the flat yourself. Always enquire as to whether the flat will be furnished when you move in, and it might be worth paying that extra bit more to find an already furnished flat.

Step Two - The Search

There are several ways of finding accommodation in Germany;

1. Through the Studentenwerk at your host university is by far the easiest way of finding accommodation. Your home university should be able to contact the host university and ask for application forms, if not, there are links to the Studentenwerk on most university websites, where you will find information about the halls of residence on offer, prices, location etc. This is by far the most popular method for students finding accommodation in Germany. The rent will be reasonable, Internet and electricity will be included and your contract will be for the duration of the semester, with the possibility of extending it should you wish.

However, you will often have to pay a hefty Einzahlung (deposit) before moving into student accommodation. This is often in cash so be prepared to hand over €400 for a deposit! Keep your receipt from this, and the Studentenwerk will pay your deposit back into your bank account after you have moved out and if everything is in order.

Before you leave, your Hausmeister (janitor) will inspect your room, so keep it clean! The Hausmeister is there to assist you with any problems you might have and should be on hand to answer any queries.

2. Online or through an agency - Private residences can be found online, or through agencies. To find out more about agencies it is worth contacting someone at your host university who will be able to advise you on the best ones. Many students live in WG's (a group of students, not necessarily friends beforehand, who live together in a house) and there are notices posted online to advertise rooms.

One of the best sites to look at for accommodation for students is: Studis-Online. This site is aimed at German students but the forum is one of the best ways of finding a room with other German students and is a great way to improve your language skills! Always be careful though, the flats on offer here are not vetted, take care when agreeing to a contract.

3. Look on arrival - Of course, you can also arrive in Germany, find yourself a youth hostel for a week or so and go flat hunting within that week. There are notice boards all over German university campuses. The Studentenwerk will also be able to help as they often have left over rooms in the Studentenwohnheims should you be unable to find private accommodation. However, moving to another country is a stressful experience, and can be even worse when you move there with a massive suitcase, not knowing where you will live. It is probably best to prepare in advance, to ensure you have a reasonably priced and convenient flat.

Step Three - Found It!

If you apply through the Studentenwerk for a place in halls of residence, the process will be fairly straightforward. However, typically, you do not receive confirmation of your place in halls until about a month before you are due to move in. So, do not worry, this is just how the administrative process works. Once you have your confirmation, get as many photocopies of the contract as you can. Once you move in, take these with you and make sure someone (usually the Hausmeister) signs the contract having inspected the room. That way; they cannot keep your deposit when you move out, so long as the room remains in the state they give it to you in.

With private accommodation, you may need a guarantor, which will usually have to be a German person. This can be awkward to organise, so check in advance to see who can be accepted as a guarantor.

When signing the contract for any type of accommodation, you will need proof of identity. It is advisable to take as many sorts of identity with you as possible, such as birth certificate, passport, several passport photographs, driving licence with the supporting paper documents, etc. This will also be necessary when you register at the town hall as a resident.

The Contract

Read it in detail, and try to get a German native to read over it. Check the clauses, as often you will not get your deposit back immediately, it may take several months for it to get back into your account, and this is especially the case with university accommodation. The contract may specify the preferred method of paying rent, which is usually by direct debit. This will mean that you will have to open an account with a German bank, although if the first payment of rent is due before you fly out to Germany, you may be able to transfer it using an international bank transfer (which you usually pay a fee for).

If possible, take photographs of the rooms/furniture when you move in, as this will be crucial should your landlord refuse to return your deposit.

Paying the Rent

As mentioned above, you will normally need to open a bank account to pay your rent, then either set up a direct debit transfer, or alternatively pay it on the first of each month. If staying in university accommodation, the university will give you all of the relevant bank information to pay your rent. They will sometimes even suggest the best bank to use for this. Your landlord should provide you with the appropriate information to set up a direct debit if in private accommodation.

Living with German people

One of the best ways to get exposure to the German language is to live with German natives. Be careful when choosing university accommodation, as certain universities like to place Erasmus/international students in halls together, so insist that you want to be with German natives. If you choose to live in a WG, you will undoubtedly be living with German natives. German students do tend to keep themselves to themselves in halls, but suggest a ëtandemí arrangement, whereby you meet up with them once or twice a week to practice your German, and they can practice their English. Many students study English, and they will no doubt jump at the chance to practice with a native.

When applying to live in a WG, try to make a good impression as they often interview many potential Mitbewohner and will be selective when choosing. 

Guide written by Rachel Preece, English exchange student Tuebingen, 2006/2007.