The Munich skyline


Backpacking Germany: Top experiences


  1. Hiking in the Alps
  2. Exploring castles in Nuremberg, Dresden, and the area around Munich
  3. Dancing till the sun comes up at an electronica club
  4. Learning about Germany’s tragic history at the Dachau Memorial Site
  5. Hanging out at a festival with some live music and a beer


Jump to the list of posts from Germany, or read on for my comprehensive Germany travel guide.


Germany itinerary ideas


Don't miss Dresden when you're backpacking through Germany on a budget.
Dresden Castle is one of the top places to visit in Germany and should earn a spot on your Germany itinerary.


The typical Germany itinerary focuses on the major cities, with some time built in for trips out to the mountains and national parks. Two weeks is enough time to cover the top places to see in Germany.


Start in Berlin, the hippest city in the country, and spend a few days exploring its museums and music culture. Then, train it to Dresden, where you’ll find some of the country’s most charming architecture. Continue on to Nuremberg — which looks like it was pulled straight out of a fairy tale — before a longer stop in Munich. Three days is enough to see the main highlights, but stay an extra day to do a hike in the nearby Alps. Finally, head to Cologne, with a possible stop in Heidelberg to see the castle.


If you have more time, you can squeeze in a visit to the Black Forest. After Munich, pass through Stuttgart on your way to the mountains. Frankfurt makes a convenient stop on your way north after you’ve finished exploring the great outdoors near the Swiss border.


Germany weather and when to visit Germany


The best time to visit Germany is shoulder season -- spring and fall. Winter can be nice for snowy landscapes, though.
You can go hiking in Germany at any time of the year — in winter, you’ll get beautiful snowy vistas.


Germany’s climate is similar to the rest of north-central Europe. Summers are warm — not outrageously hot, winters are cold and wet, and spring and autumn are pleasant.


Germany’s high season is June-August. Expect lots of crowds in the main cities, lines at some popular attractions, and accommodation to be booked up well in advance. Additionally, you may get some rainy days.


A second high season occurs around the Christmas holiday. Germany’s Christmas markets are famous all over the world, and travelers flock here in December to see them. Otherwise, winter is generally a very quiet time to go backpacking Germany — many museums even reduce their opening hours.


Shoulder season — spring and autumn — may be the best time to visit Germany. The temperature is perfect for both urban exploration and outdoor adventures. It’s not as crowded as summertime, and you’ll get lots of long, sunny days. There really isn’t a downside.


Language in Germany


Some of the most charming things to see in Germany are its very small villages -- this is the only place where you may need some German.
You’ll rarely have trouble finding English speakers during your Germany travel, except in very small villages.


The main language spoken in Germany is, of course, German. You can easily learn some of the basic travel phrases in advance using a language app like Duolingo.


Most people you encounter backpacking Germany will speak English pretty well. Urban Germans start learning English from an early age and young people often speak better English than native speakers!


The one place where you may need some German is if you venture way off the beaten path into rural Bavaria. The villages in this region are very traditional, and the older folks who operate many of the businesses speak no English. (Most of the younger folks have moved to more urbanized areas.)


Even if you don’t speak very well, a little effort to communicate in German first goes along way toward making local friends.


Budget for backpacking Germany


Your trip to Germany cost can be kept down by focusing on free attractions.
Your Germany budget will be lower if you focus on free attractions, like the street art in Berlin.


Let’s get this out of the way: Germany is not an easy country for backpackers. Everything is quite expensive, from food to transportation to lodging. However, if you’re careful, you can survive backpacking Germany on as little as €40 a day staying in hostels — or half that if you’re willing to CouchSurf.


The good news is, many of Germany’s best attractions are totally free. And if you travel in the countryside, you can often camp — which is far cheaper than hostel stays. Additionally, self-catering and street food are pretty affordable.


Transportation costs add up fast, as does alcohol. To save money, narrow your trip to just one region and only go out drinking and dancing once or twice rather than every night.


Sample Costs

Dorm bed in a hostel: €20

Pretzel or sausages from a market or street vendor: €3

Coffee at a cafe: €1.50

Liter of beer: €4

Museum or historical site admission: Free-€20

Train ticket from Frankfurt to Berlin: As low as €20

Hiking in the Alps: Free!


Germany visa requirements


No Germany travel guide would be complete without mentioning that visas are not required for most visitors from Western countries.
You can fly into Frankfurt and quickly continue to some of the more interesting places to go in Germany – the customs process is easy and quick.


Germany is part of the Schengen Zone, a set of European countries that have eliminated border formalities among themselves. Essentially as a traveler, you should treat the entire area as one country — if you’re from a Schengen country, you don’t need a passport to travel to others. If you’re not from a Schengen country, one passport stamp/visa applies to the entire zone.


United States and Canadian citizens and folks from Australia and New Zealand do not need visas to enter the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. You can leave and re-enter as many times as you want, provided the total number of days doesn’t exceed 90.


German passport control is pretty strict. If you’ll be leaving the Schengen Zone through Germany, expect the customs official to add up every Schengen stamp in your passport to ensure you haven’t overstayed.


Accommodation in Germany


If you're visiting Germany on a budget, you can find hostels in most major cities.
It’s easy to find hostels in Germany, and they’re relatively affordable.


Germany has the full range of accommodation you’d expect in any Western European country. You can stay in five-star luxury hotels, remote mountain villas, small locally operated guesthouses, backpacker hostels, campgrounds, and everything in between.


If you’re backpacking Germany on a very tight budget, consider CouchSurfing. I CouchSurfed the entire time I was in Germany and had nothing but good experiences — including finding emergency hosts at the last minute. Munich in particular has an active CouchSurfing community, with a massive meetup every Tuesday.


Hostels are another good option when traveling in Germany on a budget. In most cities you can find a clean and safe place to stay for as low as €15. Trendier hostels in Germany will usually run you about €20. Bavaria is more expensive than the rest of the country.


Above the hostel price point, cheap rooms are hard to find. Cheap hotels in Germany start around €50 for a basic room, but you’ll often pay closer to €80. A nicer mid-range hotel can easily cost over €100.


Food in Germany


Topping my list of Germany travel tips is vegetarians should consider self-catering.
If this is what you associate German food with, you’re not wrong. But the best cities to visit in Germany all have diverse restaurant scenes where you can avoid sausage and sauerkraut.


Germany is traditionally meat, potatoes and sauerkraut country. To some extent, that tradition continues today — you can find endless varieties of sausages, potatoes cooked every which way, and a food culture that is extremely picky about its pickled cabbage. However, German cuisine is also constantly branching out, with a long-time focus on local and seasonal produce.


One of the essentials of eating in Germany is good bread. Rye and pumpernickel bread are the most popular. They’re ubiquitously served with butter and eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


German food may not seem vegetarian-friendly at first glance. But vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are growing in popularity, and vegetarians will have no problem finding suitable meals while backpacking Germany. Most cafes have at least one veggie option, and even many of the donor kebab street stalls now offer falafel as well.


Restaurants can be expensive — although tipping in Germany is not common. And living off of street food isn’t very healthy. So when you’re traveling through the country, consider self-catering and shopping at the local farmer’s markets. You’ll find every variety of locally produced vegetables, cheese, and other specialty products. It’s all very affordable and the quality is higher than what you’ll find in supermarkets.


Germans definitely have a sweet tooth. The most famous incarnation of this is Black Forest Cake, a chocolate, cherry and cream concoction that you won’t be able to stop eating. Spice also features prominently in German sweets — from spice cakes to gingerbreads.


Drinks in Germany


One of the highlights of backpacking Germany is the beer halls.
You can affordably drink good beer while backpacking through Germany on a budget.


If there’s one thing people know before they start backpacking Germany, it’s that this country has great beer. After all, Munich is the original home of Oktoberfest. And this is one of the few places in the world where most beer is still produced without chemicals and additives.


Most German beers are ales, although you’ll find many regional varieties. Local preferences trend toward lighter beers — you won’t find many stouts here. Bock has the highest alcohol content of the common varieties, while Helles and Pils are much weaker.


Germans often drink their beers in large quantities at once. It’s common to order at least a half-liter at a time at a German beer garden, and in Bavaria, a liter at a time is the norm. (Tell the bartender you want a “mass hell“.) Your beer will inevitably be warm by the time you finish it.


Despite its reputation as a beer country, Germany also produces some excellent wines. White wines from the Rhine regions are the most common. You will still encounter some very sweet wines, but it’s not hard to find something drier.


Unlike many of its neighbors, Germany is not known for its coffee culture. You can get an okay coffee at most cafes, but outside of major cities, you won’t find anything that knocks your socks off.


Activities you can do while backpacking Germany


Hiking in Germany is a budget-friendly way to see the countryside.
The hiking in Germany is pretty great — and usually free.


Germany offers a huge variety of activities. You can get out into nature, explore cities, and everything in between while backpacking Germany.


Most cities have at least a couple of world-class museums. Berlin’s are especially noteworthy. You can see everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern art. Others focus on the darker side of German history — you can visit the former concentration camp of Dachau and learn about what happened there at its extensive museum, or see where the Nuremberg trials were held.


Festivals are huge in Germany, especially during the summer. These are great places to go for a drink, listen to live music, or dance. Once the festival shuts down for the day, head to a club to see some of Europe’s best bands or dance until the sun comes up to a DJ set.


When it comes to the outdoors, Germany has an abundance of riches. The Black Forest. Saxon Switzerland. The Alps. All of it is accessible by train or bus. Hiking is the main activity — trails are well-maintained and well-marked. You can usually find a cafe, tavern or beer garden along the way, even in the most remote of mountain areas!


Transportation in Germany


Trains in Germany are expensive but fast and easy to use.
If you can afford it, trains are the best way to get around Germany.


When you’re backpacking Germany, you have a choice to make: Do you want the more comfortable, faster form of travel? Or are you willing to deal with delays and discomfort to save money?


If money were no object, trains would be easily the best way to travel around Germany. The extremely extensive rail network is fast and runs like clockwork. Trains are comfortable. They’re easy to use. You can book tickets online.


Unfortunately, trains also run the gamut from slightly-pricey to outrageously expensive. You could easily blow €80 on a fast train from Frankfurt to Berlin, for example.


If you decide to travel by train, research the route in advance. Learn the different train types and classes, and find out if you need a reservation (usually for an extra fee) or not. If you book in advance, you can sometimes even get a promotional fare.


The alternative to trains are coach buses. These cover most major cities, usually on nonstop routes. Unfortunately, traffic makes them quite a bit slower than trains. The good news is, they’re also quite a bit cheaper — you’ll rarely pay more than €15 for a ticket. Search for bus companies covering your route online in advance, as most buses depart from the company’s office, often way outside the city center.


Safety when backpacking Germany


Even if you go off the beaten path in Germany, it's very safe.
Backpacking Germany is extremely safe, whether you’re alone or with friends.


As a whole, backpacking Germany is extremely safe — it’s one of the safest countries for travelers in the world. The usual big-city street smarts apply: don’t walk alone in dark areas late at night, be careful about accepting drinks from strangers, and watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas.


Germany travel advice for women alone


Germany presents no issues to solo female travelers.
Solo female travel in Germany is easy and safe.


Solo female travelers backpacking Germany will find it one of the easiest countries in the world to travel in. German men are generally extremely respectful, even when they’ve been drinking and are dancing at a club. You’ll see German women go to bars and restaurants alone and walk around alone after dark without blinking.


Many hostels have women-only dorms — this can be convenient for avoiding obnoxious drunk dorm-mates who may be less respectful than most locals.


Ready to get started? Check out the posts from Germany.


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Have you always dreamed of backpacking Germany? This budget travel guide includes the best Germany castles, top things to do in Germany, and how to save money on Germany travel. #germany #travel