10 tips for traveling in Germany on a budget

Western Europe’s most populous country doesn’t always spring to mind as a low-cost destination. However, in a place this big and diverse, there will always be a smarter way to spend your euros.

Whether it’s free festivals, getting your hands dirty working on an organic farm, or getting the best value from Germany’s exceptional transport options, there are plenty of ways to see this stunning country on a budget.

Read on, for the best budget hacks in Germany.

Daily Costs

  • Hostel room: €25-€40 (dorm bed, shoulder season)
  • Basic room for two: €90-€250
  • Self-catering apartment (including AirBnB): €110-€190 (entry level, shoulder season)
  • Public transport ticket: €9 (daily, Berlin, Munich, Cologne)   
  • Coffee: €2.50-€3.50
  • Sandwich: €4.50-€8
  • Dinner for two: €50-€60 (modest restaurant, with a drink)
  • Beer/pint at the bar: €4-€6
  • Average daily costs: €150-€250

Book your flights well in advance

Flying to Germany will constitute one of your biggest expenses, especially if you’re coming from the USA or further afield. Traveling midweek, early or late in the day, and outside the peak season (May to September) are ways to potentially reduce your fare. Due to its many connections, often Frankfurt is slightly cheaper to fly into than Berlin.

Plan your visit for the shoulder seasons

Germany’s high season is the summer school holiday months of July and August. Warm weather is matched by higher prices and greater demand for everything. Conversely, the winter months of November to March see some attractions and hotels close, although prices do fall almost everywhere except the ski slopes. Be aware that Christmas is a big deal in Germany: while winter is generally cheaper, demand for accommodation can peak in the fortnight before Christmas.

Want to know the best time to visit Germany depending on your interests? Read on.

Smiling little boy and his father waiting express train on railway station platform
Weigh up the various discounted train pass options for the deal that best suits © SbytovaMN / Getty Images

Get yourself a Deutsche Bahn rail pass

Germany’s peerless rail network is often the cheapest means of traversing the country. Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail company, offers good-value rail passes allowing visitors unlimited access to both its own network and services run by affiliated private operators like Bayerische Oberlandbahn and Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn.

Choose from either a consecutive pass – good for three, four, five, seven, 10 or 15 days in a row – or a non-consecutive pass, good for the same numbers of days taken at any point over a month. Discounts are possible for two people traveling together on a twin pass, and for 12- to 27-year olds, who qualify for youth passes. Get the DB Navigator app for tickets, maps and schedules in your palm.

Hire an RV and bundle your transport and accommodation costs into one

Germany is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe for RV hire, and there are plenty of companies competing for your euro. Longer term rentals attract discounts and rental-tax waivers, and it’s cheaper to hire outside peak summer months, especially between October and April. Companies such as Motorvana and Motorhome Republic aggregate reliable rental companies with offices in over 50 German centers, including near all major airports.

A vineyard on a hill overlooking Trier in Germany
Plenty of local wine flows at festivals between May and September © Luxy / Getty Images

Plan your itinerary to take in Germany’s many festivals

Festivals of food, drink, music and the arts are a feature of German life throughout the year. Holiday periods and the summer months are particularly festive. For example, free music and excellent, cheap white wine and Sekt (sparkling wine) from the Rhine can be found at Berlin’s Rheingauer Weinbrunnen (wine fountain) between May and September. Hundreds gather on flowery Rüdesheimer Platz to enjoy the convivial atmosphere. Erfurt’s Güldener Herbst is a wonderful festival of early music that brings its many sacred spaces to life in late September and early October. Karneval in Cologne is one of Germany’s most exuberant with an endless program of parades and parties that culminates on Ash Wednesday.

Visit in spring or summer to hike or camp

Forests cover 32% of Germany’s land area, making it one of Europe’s greenest hiking destinations. Over 200,000km of well-signposted trails criss-cross mountains, national parks and biosphere reserves, while an unrivaled community of Wandergastgeber (hiking-friendly hosts) makes accommodation and logistics a dream.

The pine forests and fairy-tale log huts of the Black Forest are the stuff of hiking folklore, to which the Bavarian Alps and Baltic Shore provide glorious counterpoints. The main camping season, when you’ll find all of Germany’s 1200+, well-maintained campsites open, is from May to September. Book well ahead in the warmer months, especially during school holidays.

Excited to make the most of Germany’s incredible hiking opportunities? Save this guide to six of the best.

View of market in christmas at night in Stuttgart, Germany
Enjoy the many free diversions at Germany’s Christmas markets © Westend61 / Getty Images

Enjoy the Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) for free

While accommodation and flight prices will rise across Christmas, there’s also the free, fabulous enticement of Germany’s many Christmas markets. Notable Weihnachtsmärkte can be found in Frankfurt’s handsome Altstadt (one of the country’s largest, this market was first recorded in 1393) and around Aachen’s famous cathedral. Cologne’s Christmas market houses over 160 stalls across the Domplatte and Roncalliplatz, attracting five million visitors per year.

Look to Germany’s Turkish communities for cheaper, delicious food

Possibly no other European country, including the UK, has taken to Turkish food so avidly as Germany. With about 2.5% of the population either Turkish born or tracing their roots to Türkiye, you’re never too far from a gözleme (stuffed flatbread), tavuk şiş (chicken skewer) or Adana kebabı (fatty, smoky minced-lamb kebab).

Places recommended for great Turkish food include Fes Turkish BBQ in Berlin’s cool Kreuzberg district; Orkide Döner in the post-industrial culture hub of Essen; and TÜRKITCH Köfte & Kebap, which has multiple outlets in Munich.

Alcohol and cheese on display at a stall in Viktualien open air market in Munich.
Seek out some green space and pack yourself a picnic from a market or deli © Luisa Fumi / Shutterstock

Stock up for picnics and self-catering at markets and delis

German produce is excellent, in particular the charcuterie, preserves, dairy products and bread. Fresh-food markets and Feinkostläden (delicatessens) are abundant, especially in the larger cities. Some of the better examples include Münstermann, a legendary deli and bistro that started in 1885 as a simple stall selling eggs on Düsseldorf’s market square; the specialist delis and produce stalls of Hanover’s cavernous Markthalle (covered market); and the swanky Dallmayr Delikatessenhaus in Munich’s photogenic Aldstadt (old town).

Join a volunteer program to really immerse yourself in local life

It might be working on an organic permaculture farm, helping with the restoration of a historic train station or helping to build a new cultural center in a rural village: there are plenty of projects looking for visitors to lend a hand.

In return for your labor, you’ll get accommodation and board, the chance to immerse yourself in German culture and language and make new friends. Sites such as Workaway and Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) are great places to start your research.

This article was first published Aug 3, 2023 and updated May 4, 2024.

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