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Germany

Follow us on Twitter for the latest travel advice alerts and information on events at the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin, and consider obtaining a Passport Card before you visit. The German police have the right to ask you to present photographic identification. A valid passport or Passport Card is the only acceptable form of identification for Irish citizens

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available by contacting the Health Service Executive, and that you also obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security Status

While Germany remains a popular destination for Irish citizens, visitors should be aware that a global risk of indiscriminate terror attacks also applies to Germany (see Safety & Security advice). We continue to advise visitors to Germany to exercise normal precautions. Irish citizens who require emergency assistance outside of working hours can leave a message for the Embassy Duty Officer on +49 (0) 30 220 720. (We aim to return your call within one hour, but where there are multiple calls we will prioritise medical and other emergency matters over lost/expired passports).

Irish citizens in Germany should download TravelWise, the Department's new free smartphone app, and set an alert for 'Germany', to receive all of our significant security and other updates direct to your phone. You should also follow the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin on Twitter. In the event of a crisis, we will issue travel advice from @IrlEmbBerlin, based on updates issued by the authorities in Ireland and Germany.

More detailed advice is included in the Safety and Security tab.

As Germany has reinstated immigration controls at its borders with Denmark and Austria, you should allow additional time for passport checks at road, rail and ferry crossings.

Emergency assistance for Irish citizens

The best help is often close at hand; try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Numbers for emergency services:

  • Police 110
  • Ambulance / Fire Brigade 112
  • Embassy of Ireland in Berlin +49 (0) 30 220 720 (message service for Irish citizens in a genuine emergency only)

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Get a European Health Insurance Card
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Safety and security

Terrorism

A number of security incidents in public places in Germany in recent months have caused loss of life and injuries and created a sense of increased anxiety. Most recently, on 19 December a lorry was driven into a Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring 48. Investigations into the incident are ongoing. Germany remains a very popular destination for Irish visitors, but these incidents have reinforced the need for travellers to take seriously the global risk of indiscriminate terror attacks, which also applies to Germany. We continue to advise visitors to Germany to exercise normal precautions.

  • Irish citizens in Germany should download TravelWise, the Department's new free smartphone app, and set an alert for 'Germany', to receive all of our significant security and other updates directly to your phone.
  • Follow the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin on Twitter. In the event of a security incident, we will issue travel advice from @IrlEmbBerlin. In the event of a crisis, we will only post updates issued by the authorities in Ireland and Germany.
  • Make sure that you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Ensure that your policy includes medical repatriation and the repatriation of human remains.
  • Have the contact details and Twitter handle of the police authority of the city/state which you are visiting. 
  • In any crisis, follow the instructions of the local authorities, the most reliable source of information.
  • Once you are out of immediate danger, let your family know that you are safe, ideally by phone. Be aware that your family will become concerned if you do not answer your phone. 
  • Be aware that public transport is likely to shut down following a major security incident. You may have to make alternative travel arrangements. If you are flying into an area where there has just been a major security incident, your flight could be diverted or you may be stranded at the airport until public transport resumes. Check with your airline before travelling and follow the security updates of your destination airport on their website or on Twitter. If the event of a flight diversion, contact your airline and travel insurance company for advice.
  • If you are an Irish citizen and require emergency assistance outside of normal working hours, leave a message on the Embassy Berlin emergency number (+49 30 220 720) stating your name, location, telephone number and the nature of the emergency and the Embassy duty officer will return your call. Do NOT send an email if you require emergency assistance outside normal working hours.

Crime

  • There has been an increase in pickpocketing and petty theft in Berlin (particularly around Alexanderplatz and Hauptbahnhof), and in the tourist areas and transport hubs of other cities. Be careful of your personal belongings, especially around airports, train stations and tourist attractions. Do not walk around with your passport or wallet in the back pocket of your jeans. Do not keep your valuables in a bag/pouch which someone else can open without your noticing. Keep a close watch on your belongings. Avoid falling asleep in a public place after a night out as you could become a target for pickpockets.
  • Reports of sexual assault can increase at events attracting large crowds including festivals such as Silvester (New Year's Eve), Karneval/Fasching (Carnival) or Oktoberfest. If you are a victim of an assault, contact the police on 110. You can also contact the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin for advice and assistance. Outside of working hours, Germany operates a system of emergency pharmacies (Notapotheken). For details of emergency pharmacists in your area, go to the Pharmacists' Association website www.aponet.de and enter your postcode in the "Notdienst" box on the top right of the screen.
  • Be alert regarding possible scams. If you are stopped for assistance in a busy area, this could be an attempt to distract you while you are robbed. If you are approached by someone claiming to have been robbed, do not hand over money but instead advise the individual to contact the police free of charge on 110. If the person is an Irish citizen they can also contact the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin.
  • There has been a documented increase in crimes committed against asylum seekers in recent years, along with a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Avoid demonstrations by any organisation or political party which appears to be inciting racism or hatred. Using or displaying Nazi symbols or material is illegal.

Reporting crime

If you're a victim of a crime while in Germany, report it to the local police immediately by contacting 110. You can also contact the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin for advice and assistance.

Local laws and customs

Personal identification

German police have the right to ask for identification at any time, and the only acceptable form of ID for Irish citizens visiting Germany is the Passport Card or full passport. We strongly recommend that you apply for a Passport Card before you visit so that you do not have to carry your passport with you at all times (lost passports account for approximately 90% of emergency assistance cases).

If you lose your passport at the weekend outside of Berlin you may have to pay for a new flight and accommodation, or travel to Berlin for a travel document. The Embassy charges a €110 call-out fee on top of the cost of a replacement travel document. A Passport Card costs €35, fits neatly into a wallet and can be used for travel within the EU/EEA and Switzerland. It is available to Irish citizens, aged 18 and over, who hold a valid Irish passport with at least 6 months remaining validity. If you decide to bring your full passport, make sure to bring a photocopy in case you lose the passport and need to prove your identity at the embassy or police station.

File sharing

Germany has a vibrant digital media industry with robust legislation protecting the sector. Unless you have paid to share content through a reputable service provider, such as Spotify or iTunes, assume that any sharing is illegal. Illegal downloads are tracked by law firms on behalf of copyright holders and substantial fines can be imposed on anyone caught downloading or sharing files illegally. The Embassy does not provide legal advice or intervene in legal disputes but can provide you with a list of English-speaking lawyers in Germany should you wish to pursue the matter privately. Bear in mind that if you challenge, and subsequently lose, you may be liable for the plaintiff’s legal costs as well as your own.

Health

Zika virus

A case of Zika virus transmission through sexual contact has been identified in Germany. The German Foreign Ministry advises against unprotected sexual contact with individuals who have returned from Zika affected areas, and also advises pregnant women, and women who plan to get pregnant, against travelling to Zika affected areas. Advice for those travelling to, or from, a Zika affected area is contained in the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Health care

Health insurance is compulsory in Germany. While the level of health care is generally very good, you will be unable to access free healthcare in an emergency unless you have a European Health Insurance Card. Possessing a medicine without the relevant prescription is legal, provided the medicine in question does not contain substances prohibited under the German Narcotics Act.

European Health Insurance Card

Make sure to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel to Germany. This card replaced the E111 and entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as German nationals. The EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance and doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. You can apply online.

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions. 

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million. 

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

Medical emergency

An emergency medical service operates in Germany outside of normal business hours. To locate the nearest clinic operating an emergency service, contact the 24-hour hotline of the German Doctors’ Association on 116 117. An emergency pharmacy service (“Notapotheken”) also operates throughout Germany. The emergency pharmacy in any area changes every day. Enter your German postal code at the website of the German Association of Pharmacists to locate the nearest pharmacy offering an emergency service that evening. The website of the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin contains a list of English-speaking medical facilities 

Morning-after pill

Two different types of “morning after pill” (Pille danach in German) are available over-the-counter to women and young women aged 14 and older. Girls under the age of 14 must present evidence of parental consent. The morning-after pill cannot be purchased by men.

Crisis pregnancy

The Embassy can provide you with the contact details for English-speaking medical and counselling options. 

Driving and public transport

Driving

You must be 18 to drive in Germany. Make sure that you drive on the right hand side of the road and that you always carry your driver’s licence, insurance and vehicle documents, as well as written permission from the registered owner if the vehicle does not belong to you. In the event of a road accident dial 110 for the emergency services.

Traffic can be faster-paced than in Ireland, especially on the motorways (Autobahn), and traffic laws, speed limits and driving customs are different.

Inner city areas of certain German cities are designated as environmental inner city zones (Umweltzone) into which only vehicles bearing a low emissions’ sticker may enter. The website of the Environmental Protection Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt) has information in English.

There have been a small number of reports of scams on motorways in northern Germany in which individuals claiming to be Irish have stopped motorists, said they were involved in an accident and asked to “borrow” money. If you are stopped by someone claiming to have been in an accident, contact the police on 112 with your location and a description of the individuals seeking assistance and their car registration number. Do not hand over money.

Lost licence

The Embassy has no involvement in driving licences. If you lose your Irish driver’s licence, you will need to contact the National Driver Licence Service in Ireland. If your licence is subsequently handed into the Embassy, the Embassy will return it to the NDLS. 

Car hire

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we strongly advise against giving your passport as a form of security. If you allow your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times. Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged). The Embassy cannot provide legal advice if your deposit is retained due to damage. We can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers and consumer rights organisations should you wish to pursue the matter privately.

Public transport

German public transport operates on an honour basis. This means that you are trusted to have the correct ticket but you must produce that ticket immediately if asked to do so by a ticket inspector. Ticket inspectors are often dressed in plain clothes and will not make an exception for non-German speakers. If you are caught without a valid ticket or pass you will have to pay an on-the-spot fine which could be €60 or more. The Embassy of Ireland in Berlin cannot assist you to avoid paying a fine. We can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers in Germany should you wish to pursue the matter privately.

Certain tickets, such as a day pass (Tageskarte) or a 7-day pass, have an open date or time and must be validated before boarding public transport to show at which time and date you began to use the ticket. Tickets are validated by inserting them into a validating machine (Entwerter). Validating machines (yellow or red in colour) are usually located on under- and over-ground platforms and inside trams and buses. Make sure that you have a ticket that is valid for each zone in which you are travelling. Transport prices and rules vary between cities so make sure to check the transportation authority of the city you are visiting. At the time of writing, a day pass on the Berlin public transport system expires at 3am the day after validation (i.e. not 24 hours after validation) and a 7-day pass expires at midnight on the seventh day of validation. In Dresden a day passes expires at 4am, in Hamburg 6am and in Frankfurt at close of operations or the last journey of the day. Ask the ticket office which rules apply. Anyone caught without a valid, or validated, ticket can face an on-the-spot fine.

When booking a Deutsche Bahn rail ticket online you will be asked to designate an identity card (passport, passport card, credit card etc.) which you must present to the ticket inspector on the train to show that you are the person named on the ticket. Make sure to bring the same card/identification document with you on your journey. If your ticket is for a specific train and time it may not need to be validated. If your ticket is open make sure to validate it before boarding the train at one of the red validating machines located on the platform. Failure to validate your ticket can result in an on-the-spot fine or in your being removed from the train.

Jaywalking

It is illegal to cross German pedestrian crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. Offenders risk a fine and payment of all costs in the event of an accident. While the Embassy cannot provide legal advice if you wish to challenge any fine, we can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers should you wish to pursue the matter privately.