First Trip to Deutschland

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First Trip to Deutschland

Post by stringtapper » Fri Feb 15, 2019 5:35 pm

I will finally be making a trip to Germany in May to do some research, and since this is one place I know where Germans or people living there congregate I figured I'd ask some questions.

Transportation: I'll be staying in Kürten and the folks there have advised I rent a car to be able to drive into Cologne, but I'd rather keep expenses down and avoid that if possible. Does Uber (the irony) or something like it exist over there? Surely, right? Also,

Money: I've looked into this a bit, but would welcome any advice. Is Apple Pay a thing around there or will I have any trouble using a US debit card to pay for things? Will I need to carry any cash around?

Power: I figure I'm going to need some adapters to power my electronics. Luckily I'm not playing any gigs, so it's just my laptop, phone, watch, and headphones that I will need to charge. I will probably get some kind of USB to wall hub so cut down on wall adapters.

Language: I'm okay at reading German, but my speaking, and especially my conversational comprehension is "sehr schlecht." I know from people I've spoken to that English is pretty much like Spanish is here in the US, and maybe even more so, because most people I know here can't speak Spanish even if they took it in school, while most Germans I've met here in the US speak English very well. I'm working on refreshing myself (it's been a few years since I actually studied German) but I'm wondering if it will be the case that most people I run into, especially in things like the service industry, will be able to speak English.

Cologne: I am expecting to be working most of the time I'm there, but there may be a night or two where I will have some downtime, so I'd love to hear any suggestions of things to do in Cologne. I'd especially be interested in any live music venues in the city (especially jazz or experimental).

Any and all advice, wisdom, cautionary tales, etc. are most welcome!

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Re: First Trip to Deutschland

Post by Tarekith » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:52 pm

Uber is only in some cities in Germany, I don't think Cologne has it yet. Trains and public transit are pretty decent in Germany, and often you can find iOS apps that help you with routing and booking trips. Google Maps actually has a lot of the transit options built in, I relied on that while in Berlin the whole time and it always routed me correctly and on time. Download an offline map of the city at home ahead of time to reduce your data useage considerably. Bus passes in most cities can be bought for multiple days, which makes it easy to just bus hop around the city easily.

Apple Pay is slowly taking off, but I wouldn't count on it. I had no issues with my US cards while there, but definitely let your bank know ahead of time you'll be travelling internationally so they don't flag your card for fraud and stop transactions. Also, a LOT of US banks charge rather hefty currency conversion fees on card transactions, so again contact your bank to see if they have options with lower fees. Normally I would pay the lower fee to withdraw a bunch of money in Euros at the start of a trip, versus paying higher fees on each transaction to the card.

The USB wall hubs are good, if a little slow to charge things like iPads. I normally bought a iOS iPad charger in the country I was visiting, since you can plug any USB cable into those. The iPad chargers work faster than the iPhone chargers, thus why I would get one even if not bringing my iPad.

In the larger cities it's a lot easier to find people who speak English, especially Berlin, Trier, Frankfurt, etc. I'd recommend getting the Google Translate app and download the German language on it ahead of time. I used it considerably, especially being able to take a picture of a sign and have it translate instantly for you.

One more thing to consider is data roaming if you're bringing a cell phone. I used mine constantly for the above options, and it helps a TON. Downside is that msot US carriers have very low data plans for international travellers, and they are often very expensive. We had friends visit us who only had 200MB for a couple weeks, and while doable, they were always having to watch their useage to avoid going over. Depending on how long you're going to be there, it might be worth getting a prepaid local SIM card and just swapping out while you're there. Airports are the easiest place, and most stores there have people who speak English.

Other tips.

If you know some German and can start with that, great. If you run into a situation where you just can't do it or need to switch to English, I recommend NOT asking people if they speak English. Just switch and see if they switch too. A lot of times we met people who spoke WAY better English than our German, but thought they didn't and would say no if we asked them. A halting English conversation is better than no conversation.

Definitely try and get out in the country, especially in the south and west which are just beautiful with the mountains.

Finally, if you do drive anywhere it can be a little intense on German roads. The Autobahn you hear about with no speed limit is not a special road, it's literally every single major highway in the country that has no speed limit. Always stay in the right lane except to pass (serious, they ticket for this in Europe way more than in the US) and if you do pass keep an eye on your rearview mirror. People have nice cars there and drive them very fast. My neighbor and I did 300kph in his Porsche GT4, totally legal.

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Re: First Trip to Deutschland

Post by scheffkoch » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:02 pm

...i live in cologne so here‘re some recommendations:

- no uber, cheapest way would be by train or maybe something similar to uber called „mitfahrgelegenheit“: ... G-Redirect

- no apple pay, credit/debit cards can be a problem in small towns or even in small bars in cologne but you‘ll get cash money at the cash machines

- language: people in cologne are very friendly and „down to earth“ so i bet they‘ll try to help even if they don‘t speak english

- besides the thousand pubs in cologne where they play music i can recommend:

jazz: metronom bar (been here for 30+ years, sadly no more live music;
electronic music: gewölbe;
hip hop/soul/everything: club bahnhof ehrenfeld;
everything (very famous location): stadtgarten;

...there are so many places to go it‘s hard to recommend one…when will you be here?…
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Re: First Trip to Deutschland

Post by [jur] » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:39 am

Something that surprised me the 1st time I went to Berlin: people there don't use credit cards much at all, even in restaurants/bars. Cash is the way to go, so don't grab only 20€ when going to the ATM.
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Re: First Trip to Deutschland

Post by stringtapper » Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:24 pm

Thanks for the replies guys! Lots of good info here.

@scheffkoch: I will be there May 13–19, flying into Frankfurt and then taking a train to Cologne.

After reading everyone’s advice and looking into transportation options I think I will rent a car after all.

I do have one question with regard to the area, maybe scheffkoch is best equipped to answer: is Kürten pretty self-contained? Like, will I be able to go into town and eat out easily there, or would I need to expect to go all the way to Cologne to dine out?

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