COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Germany is a modern and stable democracy. Tourist facilities are highly developed. In larger towns, many people can communicate in English.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Germany remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Germany's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Overall, the security risk to travelers in Germany is low. Germany experiences, however, a number of demonstrations every year on a variety of political and economic themes. These demonstrations have a tendency to spread and turn violent, and anyone in the general area can become the victim of a random attack. Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in Germany, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. All Americans are cautioned to avoid the area around protests and demonstrations and to check local media for updates on the situation.
In addition, hooligans, most often young intoxicated �skinheads,� have been known to harass or even attack people whom they believe to be foreigners or members of rival youth groups. While U.S. citizens have not been specific targets, several Americans have reported that they were assaulted for racial reasons or because they appeared "foreign."
Violent crime is rare in Germany, but can occur, especially in larger cities or high-risk areas such as train stations. Most incidents of street crime consist of theft of unattended items and pickpocketing. There have been a few reports of aggravated assault against U.S. citizens in higher-risk areas. American travelers are advised to take the same precautions against becoming crime victims as they would in any American city.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Germany's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Germany are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT ACT of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT ACT, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Good medical care is widely available. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate payment in cash for health services from tourists and persons with no permanent address in Germany. Most doctors, hospitals and pharmacies do not accept credit cards.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Germany is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent
Road conditions in general are excellent, although caution should be exercised while traveling on older roads in eastern Germany. The high speed permitted on the German autobahn, weather, and unfamiliar road markings can pose significant hazards, and driver error is a leading cause of accidents involving American motorists in Germany. Rules on right-of-way differ significantly from the U.S. Notice should be taken that it is generally illegal in Germany to pass vehicles from the right and that the threshold for determining whether a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol is lower than in some U.S. states. Drivers are reminded to watch out for bicycles, especially when turning right. Bicycles are far more numerous on German city streets than in the U.S. and generally have the right of way over motor vehicles. The use of cellphones while driving is prohibited in Germany. For specific information on travel within Germany contact the German National Tourist Board Office in New York at (212) 661-7200, fax (212) 661-7174 or via the Internet at
Travelers should also note that railroad crossings are differently marked in Germany than in the U.S. There have been several accidents involving Americans in recent years at railroad crossings. In addition to the standard crossbuck (X-shaped) sign, railroad crossings are often marked by signal lights. Signal lights flash only when a train is approaching. Regardless of the color of the light, a flashing light at a railroad crossing means that a train is approaching and that all vehicles should stop.
Individuals holding U.S. drivers' licenses may drive in Germany for up to six months without acquiring a German driver's license.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Germany's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Germany's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
September 9, 2004