Germany offers almost all types of accommodation, including hotels, guesthouses, youth hostels and camping. You can also consider staying with members of a hospitality exchange network.
German mattresses tend to be firmer than American and Japanese mattresses. Bedding is usually simple: one sheet to cover the mattress, one duvet per person (very nice if you sleep with someone who tends to hog the blankets, but sometimes a little wind around the toes for tall people) and a huge square feather pillow that you can shape into any shape you want. Making the bed in the morning only takes a few seconds: Fold the blanket into three with a quick flick of your wrist, as if it were sleeping in your spot while you’re out and about, and throw the pillow on the bed.
Most international hotel chains have franchises in major German cities, and there is a wide choice of local hotels. All hotels in Germany are rated by stars (from 1 to 5 stars). The rankings are determined independently and are therefore reliable. The price always includes VAT and is usually set per room. Prices vary greatly from city to city (Munich and Frankfurt are the most expensive). There are many “value-added” hotel chains such as Motel One or Ibis, both in the suburbs and in the city centre of most cities, which are often quite new or renovated and surprisingly pleasant for the price. For people travelling by car, there is a dense network of Ibis Budget hotels in Germany, as in France, located on the outskirts of cities near the motorways and offering a really unexciting hotel experience at prices that can compete with those of youth hostels.
At the other end of the scale, there are many luxury hotels in Germany. Market penetration by hotel chains is high. Local brands include the ultra-luxurious Kempinski (now a global brand), while Dorint and Lindner operate high-end business hotels. Most of the world’s hotel chains are well established, led by Accor (Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure).
It is not a cliché to say that you can rely on the quality and predictability of German hotels. You may not be spoiled if it’s not in the brochure, but it’s very rare that your experience is really bad. Also, domestic tourism in Germany is very family-oriented, so you should have no problem finding family-friendly hotels, with extra beds in the rooms, often in the form of bunk beds, and facilities for your youngest guests.
If the name of a hotel contains the word “Garni”, it means that breakfast is included. Therefore, there may be several hotels in a city with “Hotel Garni” in the name; when asking for directions, mention the full name of the hotel and not just “Hotel Garni“.
Bed and breakfast
Guest rooms (“pensions” or “Fremdenzimmer”) offer (usually) less comfort than hotels at lower prices. The advantage is that you are likely to meet Germans and get an insight into the German way of life. A sign saying “Zimmer frei” (room available) indicates a B&B with a free room.
Hostels offer simple and inexpensive accommodation, usually in shared rooms. They are good places to meet other travellers. In Germany, as in many countries, there are two types of accommodation: international youth hostels and independent youth hostels.
The international youth hostels are run by the association “Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk” (DJH), which is part of the Hostelling International (HI) network. There are more than 600 hostels throughout Germany, both in large and small cities and in the countryside. They are not only aimed at individual travellers, but also at school classes and other youth groups. To stay here, you must be or become a member of a youth hostel organisation that is part of the HI network. You can find detailed information on this and on the individual hostels on the HI website. Usually you just have to fill in a card and pay a few euros more per night. In general, the advantage of these places is that they tend to serve a buffet breakfast at no extra charge, although this is not an absolute rule. However, the quality is often worse than in private hostels and many of them don’t offer good socialising opportunities.
Independent, privately run hostels are starting to be an attractive alternative at a similar price. There are already more than 60 such hostels in Germany, and more are opening every year. They are located in big cities like Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Hamburg. Only a few are in the countryside. Sometimes run by former travellers, the hostels do not have strict rules. Smaller hostels in particular are often places where you feel at home. Many are known for their lively and festive atmosphere and can be a good way to meet other travellers. You do not have to be a member of an organisation to stay there. About half of the hostels have organised themselves into a “Backpacker Network Germany“, which provides a list of member hostels. Gomio is a website that lists almost all independent hostels in Germany. Of course, international room booking agencies like Hostelsclub, Hostelworld & Hostelbookers are also a good resource and allow travellers to leave comments. A & O Hostels/Hotels hasanumber of quality establishments in Central Germany that offer an interesting mix of hostels and hotel-like accommodation, usually for young adults and families.
There are countless campsites in Germany. They differ considerably in terms of infrastructure and level. The ADAC offers an excellent guide for most German camping groups. If you are a member of your national automobile club, you can get help and guides for free or at significantly reduced prices.
Some travellers pitch their tents somewhere in the countryside. In Germany this is illegal (except in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), unless you have permission from the landowner. But hardly anyone cares, as long as you are discreet, only stay one night and take your rubbish with you. Watch out for hunting and military training grounds, otherwise you run a high risk of being shot.