Being safe travelling and staying abroad
A safe stay abroad starts at home. Well before you leave, you can take action to ensure that your time in far-away places does not hold any nasty surprises. Once you've decided which country to go to, it's a good idea to go to the Federal Foreign Office website for an initial overview and lots of general information. Under "Travel and Security Advice" you'll find plenty of helpful advice for all countries.
www.reisemeister.de is another source of useful information on every country and includes local security and health directives. This site also provides printable packing and check lists, so that you'll not forget anything when you prepare for your next trip!
To start with, you'll need to know your chosen country's entry regulations. You'll find these on the country-specific pages of the Federal Foreign Office website under "Einreisebestimmungen" (entry regulations), or at the country's embassy or consulate in Germany. Should you require a visa, all the relevant information is available at your chosen country's embassy or consulate. Addresses of all embassies and consulates in Germany are available on the Federal Foreign Office Länderseiten (country-specific pages).
Possible vaccination requirements can be found under Medizinische Hinweise (medical advice) or by contacting the country's embassy or consulate.
IMPORTANT! Definitive information about current visa and entry requirements are available only from the country's embassy or consulate. Please note that, unfortunately, Eurodesk is unable to help with determining whether you need a visa, or with helping you apply for one!
There are no particular entry requirements for EU citizens travelling to any of the 28 EU member states and the EFTA states (Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). You don't need a visa for any of these countries; all you need is your ID card.
What to take?
We strongly suggest you copy all your important documents and papers before leaving your home country. Taking a copy of your passport with you is usually sufficient when you go on day excursions, which means that you can leave your original documents safely at the hostel, hotel or your guest family's home. Then, if you should lose any of your papers or documents, the bureaucracy required to retrieve the situation will be considerably reduced.
Use common sense when packing: leave your diamond necklace and Rolex at home! As for your camera, smartphone or MP3-player, consider whether you really need them, or maybe an older model would do. This would keep any potential upset about loss or damage to a minimum.
German embassies and consulates
Contact information about German missions in your host country can be found on the Federal Foreign Office website under German Missions Abroad. The German missions abroad are your point of contact if, for example, you lose your passport.
IMPORTANT! Should your host country not have a German mission, as a citizen of an EU country you are still entitled to consular assistance. You are free to ask for assistance at the embassy or consulate of any other EU member state. More information here.
Have you lost something, was something stolen, have you been involved in an accident? You absolutely need to report such incidents to the local police. This is the only way to ensure that you won't have problems if, for example, you have to apply for another passport. We suggest you find out the address and phone number for the local police before you even leave home - you can research this on the internet, for example on tourist information sites. Often, this information is included in guidebooks.
In an emergency, it is best to ring the central emergency number, which in all European countries is 112. If your travels take you outside of the EU, please make sure that you know the emergency number for your host country!
If you travel "cashlessly" with your credit card and you lose it, you need to cancel it immediately. The number for cancelling a credit card is usually printed on the back of the card - you absolutely need to make a note of this!
Your point of contact at the placement organization
If your stay abroad was booked through a placement organization, you should have an emergency number that gives you direct access to a contact person within the organization. Don't forget to keep this number with you! Information about finding a reputable placement organization ("Vermittlungsorganisation") is available in german under Wie finde ich eine seriöse Vermittlungsorganisation.
Choose your travelling companions wisely and avoid unsafe situations!
Being out and about after dark: be careful and cautious, especially when you don't know the area. If you want to go out in the evenings, make sure you know how to get back to your temporary home. Avoid alleyways and backyards. Do not hitchhike under ANY circumstances, and don't walk off with strangers! It's a good idea to ask local people you trust (host parents, work colleagues, fellow students and hotel staff) whether it's safe and what to look out for. If at all possible, ensure that people you trust have your telephone number and know what your plans are. If you are going out with another person or in a group, avoid being left on your own!
Party-party: we all love parties, they're a great way of making new friends. Please be careful with alcohol consumption and make sure you're still in control and able to assess the situation! Don't accept drinks from strangers (especially drinks that have already been poured or bottles that have been opened) and never ever let your own drinks out of your sight. Drugs or knockout drops are dangerous and often can't be detected by taste or smell.
After a hopefully terrific stay filled with great experiences, eventually it'll be time to go home. Here are some things that need to be considered towards the end of your stay, so that you can complete your homeward journey relaxed and without last-minute problems, and take only good memories back with you.
Countries requiring an entry visa that you had to apply for beforehand, as well as those where you were given a tourist visa on arrival at the airport, will want to see this visa when you leave the country. Please remember to keep all documents safe that you received for entry, and have them available for inspection when you make your homeward journey.
Whatever gifts you might want to take home for your friends and families, you'll need to make sure that these are items you are allowed to take out of the country. Information about import regulations - which goods you are allowed to import into Germany, and what quantity - can be found here.
In general, you may not import non-packaged foods from countries outside the EU, and you need to be careful with natural materials such as pebbles or shells. Make sure you read up on customs regulations - punishment for infringements can be severe, at the very least there will be a hefty fine to pay. Animals may only be brought into Germany after prior application and mandatory veterinary examinations.