Cologne > Travel Tips

Timetables/Planning your trip:

Plan in advance - Buy your VRS Ticket ahead of time. Any rides with the Deutsche Bahn requiring entry or exit help may be requested ahead time with the following number: 0 180 5-512 512 or via E-mail: mobiltaetsservicezentrale@bahn.de or online https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml

Signaling the Driver - Let your (bus) driver know by signaling with your hand that you need help before entering the bus or train.

Entering or exiting with wheelchairs - Place yourself within good view of the driver while waiting on the platform (observing all safety precautions). Make sure you press the button with the buggy on time so that the driver knows when to release the ramp or to lower the bus. 

Contact VRS-Info Service for Questions about Timetables for Bus and Tram

(Die Schlaue Nummer): 0 180 6 50 40 30

Visa Regulations and Requirements

According to Federal Foreign Office regulations, all EU nationals do not require a visa to enter Germany. For all other Non-EU nationals, a visa is not required for visits of up to 90 days. A more explicit list of countries and their visa requirements can be found here: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/visabestimmungen-node/staatenlistevisumpflicht-node


If you are a EU citizen, you are advised to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you as proof that you are insured in an EU country, since you have the same rights to health care as German natives. If you are a non-EU citizen, it is advisable to check that your insurance company caters to international travels. Students often receive discounted plans. 

German pharmacies are marked by a big red “A” for Apotheken. They are typically open from 9AM – 6PM Mondays – Fridays and from 9AM – 12PM on Saturdays. All stores, including pharmacies, are closed on Sundays with the exceptional emergency number. It is advisable to ask instructions for dosage, as this information is not always on the packaging.

Emergency Numbers in Germany

Police – 110
Ambulance – 112
Fire Service - 112

Currency and Credit Card 

More than 80% of payments in Germany are made using cash. It is advisable to make an ATM withdrawal upon arrival using a (credit/debit) card that doesn’t charge an international ATM fee. A debit card is a good travel money choice since you will be able to access cash at an ATM easily and avoid interest charges.

The current exchange rate (as of 19 December 2018) is 1,14 dollars to 1 euro. 

Time zone

Germany operates on the Central European Standard Time (GMT +1).


Cologne, Germany has four seasons. The city experiences the hottest weather in July (24°C/64°F) and the coldest in January (2°C/36°F). In September, the average temperature is 15°C/59°F.

Voltages and Plugs

The standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. The power plus and sockets are type F with two pins. If necessary, a universal travel adaptor may be purchased on amazon.com for approximately $20.

Smoking Policy

In Nordrhein-Westfalen, smoking is banned in restaurants unless there is a separate smoking area. Smoking is not allowed in school, educational institution, and health facilities. Exceptions to the smoking ban are party tents, special regional events such as Carnival, private parties and bars. Fees range from €5 to €1000.

Tax Refund (VAT)

The amount paid for merchandise includes 19% value added tax (VAT). The VAT can be refunded if the merchandise is purchased and exported by a customer living outside the EU. The merchandise has to be exported within three months of purchase. Be sure to inform the retailer that you would like a Tax Free Shopping Check or “Ausfuhrbescheinigung” (export paper). When leaving the EU through Germany, you will need the export paper/tax free shopping check plus the original receipt of the store. The purchased goods (unused/unworn in its original packaging and with price tag). Passport showing residence outside the EU. These need to be presented to the Customs Service at the airport before your non-stop flight. The export papers will be stamped after the goods have been examined. Please make sure the goods are in your carry on. The stamped invoice will need to be sent back to the store in Germany where the product was purchased. A Tax Free Shopping Check allows you to obtain a cash refund if they have an office at the airport. Otherwise, the check needs to be sent back to the address on the back of the check. 



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