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Country Reports

Germany Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travel to Germany can generally be expected to take place under excellent conditions. Travelers should nonetheless take certain precautions while in Germany, home to Europe's largest economy.

SOCIAL UNREST

Germany (population 81 million) sees regular strikes and large-scale protests. Some demonstrations (most of them protesting government policies) are well-planned, largely publicized, and draw thousands of participants, while others (concerning education and other social issues) gather fewer participants due their spontaneity and near-daily occurrence.

In Berlin, demonstrations typically take place on Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg Gate. In Munich, protesters often gather at Marienplatz. In Frankfurt, protesters gather at the Römer City Hall and Opernplatz.

In Frankfurt, the Roemer City Hall and Opernplatz are traditional places for political rallies.

Strikes affecting the transportation sector can affect scores of travelers depending on their scale. In late 2015, dozens of air and rail transport strikes took place (notably against Lufthansa and its affiliates, various German airports, and Deutsche Bahn) which disrupted millions of travelers.

Since October 2014, the group "Pegida" ("Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West") has organized regular protests against Islamist extremism, notably in Dresden. Counter-protests almost always occur at the same time as Pegida protests. Despite some incidents, these rallies normally remain peaceful.

Germany is also home to a significant Kurdish community which regularly organizes demonstrations in support of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) - a Kurdish nationalist organization which has been in an armed conflict with Turkey since 1984, and has been designated a terrorist organization by NATO member states and the European Union.

TERRORISM

The terrorist threat was considered low in recent years until Germany was targeted in several terrorist attacks in 2016.

Authorities are concerned about the potentially expanding influence of international and domestic radical Islamists, including the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qa'ida, Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Kongra Gel (former Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK), Hizbullah, and Hamas. Official reports estimate that over 1100 individuals in Germany are described as potentially violent Islamist extremists. The German government subsequently implemented legal changes to ban terrorist organizations and their affiliates.

Like other European nations, Germany is dealing with the consequences from a number of its citizens who have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). In 2016, nearly 800 Germans are thought to have joined IS and, according to the German Ministry of the Interior, 270 have since returned to Germany. Special police forces regularly lead anti-terrorist raids across the country.

From July 18 to July 24, 2016, three small-scale attacks took place in Germany - which was until then mostly spared from recent terrorist incidents. A suicide bomber injured 12 people when he detonated his device on July 24, in the southern city of Ansbach (Bavaria; population 40,000) near a music festival. That attack came less than two days after a gunman killed nine people in a Munich shopping mall on July 22. Finally, an ax attack perpetrated on a train in Würzburg on the evening of July 18 left five people wounded. IS later claimed the attack.

The most significant terrorist attack in Germany occurred in Berlin on December 19, 2016, when a truck intentionally plowed into a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz. At least 12 people were killed and another 48 injured. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack on the following day in response to the international coalition's operations in Syria. 

CRIME

Like in most urban areas, petty crime exists in German cities (Berlin, Frankfurt, etc.), with pickpocketing and purse snatching in high-traffic and tourist areas (train stations, cafes, restaurants, outdoor markets, etc.) being the most frequently reported crimes. Overall, crime in Germany increased by 24 percent from 2014 to 2015. Recent reports also suggest that crime increased from 2014 to 2015 in Berlin, including drug related crime (increase of 19 percent), homicide (increase of 33 percent) and burglary (increase of 43 percent). Moreover, it is advised to be particularly vigilant when withdrawing money at ATMs located outside of banks.

Crime rates tend to be higher in regions previously belonging to East Germany, where racists and neo-Nazis occasionally assault people of African or Asian origin, often during and after soccer matches. Visitors should thus exercise vigilance at sporting events.

Right-wing extremism remains a central issue and is on the rise. According to 2014 estimates, far-right extremists committed more than 16,000 crimes in 2014, including 990 violent crimes. Left-wing extremists committed 4400 crimes in 2014, of which 995 were violent.

HEALTH

Medical facilities offer high-quality care. Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance plan covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue. Tap water is drinkable in Germany.

Ticks are numerous during the spring in wooden areas and can bear Lyme disease or tick-borne encephalitis. The regions of Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Thüringen are particularly affected by tick-borne diseases.

Like most European countries, influenza is present in Germany. To limit the risks of contamination, it is advised to wash your hands frequently and with care. Moreover, a measles epidemic affected Germany early 2017.

NATURAL RISKS

Heavy snowfall during winter can significantly disrupt traffic, especially outside urban areas. Air and rail travel are most affected by winter weather conditions. Flooding during autumn and winter is possible. In January 2017, the northeast of the country was touched by Storm Axel (the most severe storm since 2006), which was responsible for costly material damage.

TRANSPORTATION

Over 3475 road deaths have been reported throughout 2015 in Germany (4.3 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants). Road maintenance can seem less extensive in some other western European countries. The road network is, however, in a satisfactory state. Driving can be dangerous during winter, especially in the east.

Vehicle exclusion zones exist in some city centers. Pedestrians and drivers are advised to be careful of the many cyclists in Germany. Moreover, pedestrians who fail to comply with prohibitions on crossing the street when streetlights are red risk the assessment of a fine, and are liable in the event of an accident.

The rail network is excellent; frequent and rapid service links principal German and European cities.

Due to the ongoing migrant crisis and consequent border checkpoints implemented between Denmark, Sweden, Austria, and Germany, public transportation between these four countries can be disrupted. Allow ample time for your journey when traveling by road, train, or ferry.

LEGAL

German police are currently carrying out more frequent ID checks. If you are asked to show your passport without it in your possession, the police may escort you to wherever your passport is kept so that you can show it to them.

Germany is a member of the European Union and uses the euro as its national currency. It is also a member of the visa-free and border checkpoint-free Schengen Area.

Climate

Germany has a continental climate: very hot and dry in the summer and cold and rainy in the winter. In the north of the country, along the Baltic coast, the climate is more temperate (humid and cooler in the summer).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +49 Police: 110 or 112 Fire Dept., Ambulance: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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