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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Federal Republic of Germany

Area: 357,030 sq km

Population: 82 million

Capital city: Berlin (pop: 3.45 million)

People: Predominantly Caucasian, with significant Turkish minority. Germany has absorbed most of the refugees from the former Yugoslavia.

Language: German

Religion: 90% Christian. There are 1.7 million Muslims and about 74,000 Jews (the pre-Holocaust figure was over half a million).

Government: Federal republic

Chancellor: Gerhard Schröder


The lowlands in the north of Germany stretch from the Netherlands to Poland, skimming southern Denmark where it bridges the North and Baltic seas. The industrialised central belt cinches Belgium and Luxembourg to the Czech Republic's western prong. The Rhine and Main Rivers, long crucial for inland shipping, power through the troughs and gorges which cut through the Central Uplands. To the south, the Danube River drains the Bavarian highlands from the Black Forest, near the French and Swiss borders, to Munich. The southern reaches of the Bavarian Alps give way to Austria.

Germany is not prey to dramatic climatic extremes, although there are regional differences. The most reliably good weather is from May to October, with high summer a good bet for shorts and t-shirt, even in the north. Autumn is a good time to visit Germany. As the tourist scrum disperses and the forests turn golden, it's not too stifling to be active but still thirsty enough to end the day with a few well-deserved steins. Winter is wet, especially in the south, with snow rarely settling for long except in the high country.

A land as heavily populated and industrialised as Germany is not an obvious paradise for the naturalist. Over a third of the land is intensely cultivated and you'll never travel far without hitting a town. There isn't much in the way of wildlife (don't tell the bird-watchers) and most of the forests are like everything else in Germany: organised! That said, the Bavarian Forest in the south-east is the largest mountain forest in Europe and the Black Forest is big enough to be a bit wild. However, a concerted effort is being made to re-create original forest conditions in many locations. Forest fauna includes wild pig, fox and deer, but you're not likely to be caught in a stampede.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$2,040 billion

GDP per head: US$24,900

Annual growth: 2.7%

Inflation: 1%

Major industries: motor vehicles, engineering, chemicals, iron, steel, coal, electronics, environmental technology, food, clothing

Major trading partners: EU (esp. France, Netherlands, Italy, UK, Belgium/Luxembourg, ), USA, Japan

Member of EU: yes

Euro zone participant: yes

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: EU citizens can enter on an official identity card. Americans, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Japanese just need a valid passport (no visa). Unless you're a citizen of a developing country, you can probably stay up to three months.

Health risks: The cost of medical care - come with insurance

Time: GMT/UTC +1(+2 in summer)

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 17 million visitors per year

Money & Costs
 Currency:euro (EUR), formerly Deutschmark (DM)
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$5-9
  • Mid-range: US$10-20
  • Top-end: US$25+

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$20-50
  • Mid-range: US$50-100
  • Top-end: US$100+
  • It's easy to spend lots of money in Germany. If you've got some sort of rail pass and restrict yourself to cheap takeaways or prepare your own food, it's possible to get by on less than US$50 a day. Those with more capacious wallets, wishing to eat at mid-range restaurants most days, to travel freely by public transport and to stay in mid-range hotels with fluffy duvets should count on dropping at least US$100 a day.

    All the major international brands of plastic - MasterCard, Visa and American Express - are becoming more widely accepted, especially at major hotels, petrol stations and department stores. Don't assume that you'll be able to use your card to pay for meals; inquire first. ATMs are ubiquitous throughout Germany and you should have no problem accessing your credit or debit account back home. Foreign currency, including travellers cheques, can be exchanged at banks and special exchange shops in large towns.

    At restaurants, the service charge is always included in bills and tipping isn't compulsory, though it is appreciated. Germans are used to rounding up prices as tips, but rounding up in euros can be too generous. Taxi drivers expect a small tip of around 10%.

    When to Go

    The German climate is variable so it's best to be prepared for all types of weather throughout the year. That said, the most reliable weather is from May to October. This coincides, naturally enough, with the standard tourist season (except for skiing). The shoulder periods can bring fewer tourists and surprisingly pleasant weather. There is no special rainy season.

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