Like many countries in Europe, Germany may seem to have a rather more relaxed view towards child safety than other places. Germany is a very safe country, with low crime rates, so there isn’t too much to worry about. However, though children aren’t coddled, there are still health and safety laws to follow and dangers to watch out for, particularly when out and about.
When Traveling by Car
There are laws that need to be adhered to if you’re planning on hiring a car while you’re in Germany. Children need to be in a child/booster seat until they are 12 years old or 1.5 meters tall (4’11”). Child seats cannot go in the front of the car, unless the airbag has been deactivated. You can hire seats at the same time as the car, but if you bring your own they need to comply with United Nations regulations 44.03 or 44.04. Seat belts are compulsory for everyone in the car (even the adults!). These laws apply to taxis too and companies will provide a seat if you ask for one, though for smaller babies (under 8 months) you’re likely to need your own.
With Emergencies and Illness
The emergency numbers for Germany are 110 for police and 112 for fire and rescue (including ambulances). All hospitals, apart from small private ones, have 24 hour accident and emergency departments. If you need a doctor, look for an Allgemeinmediziner, which is a general practitioner or family doctor, though you can also find a paediatrician (Kinderarzt) or any speciality you require.
Apotheke is the word for pharmacy. There should be one open at all times wherever you’re staying (though not the same one all the time), with a pharmacist on duty who is qualified to give you health advice. There are some medications that may be available without a prescription at home but that require one in Germany, so a visit to the doctor might be required first.
Check that your health insurance covers Germany and if not be sure to get travel insurance to cover you and your family.
In the Great Outdoors
Generally, no vaccinations are required for travel to Germany. However, if you plan to spend a lot of time hiking, cycling or doing other outdoor activities vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is advised for high risk areas. Ticks can also transmit Lyme’s disease, which can’t be vaccinated against, so protect yourself and your kids against tick bites by wearing long pants and sensible shoes and perhaps using an insect repellent.
Swimming is often allowed, and safe, in lakes and rivers, as well as the sea. It’s best to swim at official bathing sites, particularly with children. It’s also a lot nicer, as there will often be lounge chairs, platforms and ice-cream stalls.
In terms of wild animals, there’s little to worry about in Germany. There have been sightings of wolves and even a bear, but these are highly unusual as they migrated from Eastern Europe and are pretty shy (actually, the bear was shot and the wolves may not be around any more either). The one animal you should worry about is the wild boar, particularly mothers with babies. The piglets are totally cute (the adults make great sausages), but don’t approach them; just slowly walk away.
One of the best ways to equip yourself for a safe trip to Germany is to learn the language. Knowing even just a few words will be extremely valuable if you need help or to ask a question.
Do you have any other tips for staying safe in Germany?