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Germany

Encouraging Trans-Atlantic Relations and Academic Study
Unrated
A castle in the German countryside

Raylin Xu '19, Germany

GSS Country Snapshot

A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations

Germany is a popular destination for Harvard affiliates to study, research, intern, attend conferences, and travel. Harvard’s connections with Germany are long and deep, and the country consistently ranks in the top 10 registered locations for Harvard travelers.

At Harvard, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies promotes the interdisciplinary understanding of European history, politics, economy, and societies through study, research, training, and the exchange of ideas.

The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.

Safety & Security

Although the Harvard GSS risk rating for Germany is unrated, there are still factors for Harvard affiliates to research and consider when traveling or planning activities in Germany. For example, petty street crime poses a risk. Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur periodically. Organized rallies by anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi, and anti-fascist activists pose a risk. Terror attacks have occurred in the past, and the country remains a potential target for terrorist activity. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.

Weather-related incidents can create a safety risk. Storms may cause flooding around the River Elbe in the north, River Oder in the east, and in the southern mountains. Download the International SOS Assistance App to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.

There are more than a dozen international airports in Germany, and domestic flights are available between most major cities. Railways also connect to neighboring countries. Germany has an extensive and well-maintained road network, but travelers are advised not to drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. There’s a large intercity train and bus network. Strikes and train delays happen on occasion. Bigger cities also have metro and commuter rail services. Taxis (cream colored) are widely available, and ride sharing applications are available in certain cities.

Mobile and internet coverage networks are widely available in Germany. Although cybercrime mostly targets the financial sector, individuals and organizations working in government, energy and utilities, telecommunication, media, manufacturing, and defense have been targeted. Know how to keep your data safe abroad.

Health

Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for Germany. Health risks such as Covid-19, hantaviruses, rabies, tickborne encephalitis, and West Nile virus may be present. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in Germany. Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.

Keep in mind that all travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.

If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in Germany, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to appropriate inpatient or outpatient or care and provide translation assistance. Emergency and trauma capabilities are available in most major cities.

Culture

Germany is a parliamentary democracy with 16 states. It has the largest national economy in Europe and is the world’s third largest exporter of goods.

German is the official language, although English and French may be spoken in some western states and Russian may be spoken in some eastern states. Just over half the country identifies as Christian, approximately five percent identify as Muslim, and much of the population does not identify with any religion.

Cash and credit cards are widely accepted. It’s common to greet shop owners with “Guten Tag” and “Auf Wiedersehen” as you come and go.

When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Germany’s holidays and festivals. Businesses may be closed or have reduced hours, especially during July, August, December, and around the Easter holiday.

Visas & Travel Documents

Germany belongs to the Schengen Area—a group of 26 E.U. and non-E.U. countries that share a common visa policy. Depending on your citizenship, reason for travel, and length of stay, you may need a visa. A Schengen visa allows visitors to travel within the territory of member countries without any entry/exit formalities for stays up to 90 days within a six-month period. As part of the Schengen visa application, you may need to submit fingerprints and show proof of health insurance coverage and medical evacuation and repatriation coverage. If you’re traveling on a Harvard-related trip, you can request a letter from GSS to demonstrate proof of medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

Before traveling, make sure your passport is valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from Germany and that you have at least two blank pages. If you’re staying for three months or more, you’ll need to register with the German authorities within seven days of your arrival.

Requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.

Quick Facts

  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Tipping: optional, but 10% in restaurants and rounding up your bill in taxis and cafes are common practices
  • Voltage & plug type: 230 Volts; Types C and F
  • Telephone code: +49
  • Emergency numbers: 110 (police) and 112 (fire and ambulance)
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