When it comes to travelling, especially by air, taking precautions and planning ahead is key to ensuring a smooth journey. Here are some general travel tips that can come in handy during your next flight! We also have some advice on booking your flights, travel insurance and your time at the airport.
If you’ve got your own tips to share, we’d love to hear them! Simply submit them to us and we’ll be happy to include them on the page.
Airport information - Germany
There are over 30 airports in Germany. The biggest airport in Germany is Frankfurt International Airport. Other major airports are Munich (MUC), Berlin (BER), Hamburg (HAM), Stuttgart (STR), and Düsseldorf(DUS). Most major airlines fly to these airports.
Discount airlines like Ryanair, Eurowings, EasyJet, TUIfly, and Condor usually make use of smaller airports, as the airport taxes are much lower. They do however also fly from major airports.
A complete list of airports in Germany can be found on Wikipedia or the Airportcodes website.
Saving on flights
- Consider flying to or from an alternative airport. As an example, flights to Munich and Berlin can be much cheaper than to Frankfurt
- Be flexible with your dates
- Use search engines to compare prices
- Book as early as possible
- Weekdays are in general cheaper. Try to avoid peak seasons like Christmas and Easter. Flights to Munich in September and October are expensive due to the Octoberfest.
You can search and book flights via Flight search engines. The most popular search websites are:
- Google flights – very good for comparing prices and dates
- Travelstart (Also use the SA site) – also good for comparing prices and dates.
- Momondo, Fluege.de, Swoodoo, Flyscanner, Cheapflights
For information about travelling between South Africa and Germany, see the following pages.
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It’s always important to prioritize your safety when going on a trip, and one of the best ways to do that is by making sure to have travel insurance. Even if you’re only going to travel within the EU, you can never be too safe, as accidents can happen anytime and anywhere.
With travel insurance, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you’re protected and covered for any unforeseen circumstances such as medical emergencies, flight cancellations or lost or stolen luggage. Don’t forget that your health and safety should always come first.
It’s also crucial to read the fine print of the travel insurance policy to ensure you have the appropriate coverage for your needs. In short, always take the extra precaution of getting travel insurance before every trip to protect you in case of any unexpected situation.
See our visa application tips for insurance options when flying from South Africa. There are also companies listed that offer insurance when travelling from Germany.
Luggage and Luggage Tracker Tags
Each airline has its own luggage allowance depending on your booking class. Restrictions on what is allowed in your hand or checked luggage are imposed by bodies like IATA, the TSA and the EU. You can also find information about restrictions on the airline’s website.
For luggage restrictions in the EU, a single bag may not weigh more than 23 kg.
The amount of bags you are allowed to take with you will depend on your airline, ticket class and fare conditions.
Laptops and electronic devices containing Lithium Batteries may not be transported in checked luggage and must be in your hand luggage.
Make sure to pack light, and avoid carrying items that are not allowed on the plane or might cause inconvenience to other passengers.
For peace of mind consider getting luggage trackers. There are different types, choose one that will work best for your situation. ExportWorldTravel has some tips.
Make sure you understand the liquid restrictions of 1 litre per person, but no more than 100ml per container. This also applies to creams.
Never put anything in your luggage that you have not personally packed. You will also be asked at check-in if you packed your own bag and know what is inside it
We have some recommendations for sending excess luggage between South Africa and Germany
In order to guarantee safety on board, the transport of certain items is not permitted in your carry-on or checked luggage. Checked baggage is what you hand in at check in and is transported in the hold of the aeroplane. Carry-on luggage is what you keep on your person during the flight.
Always check with your airline on what is allowed in your baggage. The following infographic is from Lufthansa. Lithium Batteries are not allowed in your checked baggage! These are found in powerbanks, mobile phones, E-cigarettes etc.
At the departing airport
- It’s essential to arrive at the airport well ahead of your scheduled departure time. This allows you to go through security checks without feeling rushed or stressed. For international flights, arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before departure, for local flights at least 2 hours.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Think casual but smart.
- Be prepared when you go through security, take off your watch, and your belt, and remove anything from your person that can set off the metal detectors. Think ahead and help the process go faster.
- When taking an international flight, your passport and visa/residence permit will be checked at the check-in gates. Know your final destination.
Comfortable on board
- To book the best seat, study the seat plans on Seatguru. Some bulkhead seats do not recline or have limited recline. Being close to the toilets can be bothersome. Some seats do not have a window and some have an entertainment box under the seat in front that can limit the space for your feet. Babies are usually seated in the middle row at the front of a bulkhead.
- If you have an issue with turbulence, book an early flight or sit in the middle of the plane over the wing.
- You can store your luggage in the overhead locker above you or underneath the seat in front of you. If you sit in an emergency exit row, you are not allowed to keep any bags on your person, everything must be stored in the overhead lockers.
- On most international flights, there is entertainment (movies, games, music) available at each seat. Check the airline’s website for up-to-date information.
- On most international flights you will get an Amenity kit. This can include a sleep mask, ear plugs, socks, lip balm, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Check your airline for more details. I prefer to bring my own eye masks as the ones in the amenity kit are small and usually made from plastic which is not very comfortable.
- If there are air vents available above you, set them to blow lightly on you, this helps with travel nausea and also keeps germs away.
- If you have a fear of flying, discuss this with your medical practitioner, they can prescribe something to help you stay calm.
- If you suffer from vertigo or get nauseous during a flight, you can take travel sickness medication before take-off. Taking it once you are already feeling sick does not help that much. Have some medication with you to help against nausea as well. Discuss the use of medication with a health professional to make sure it is safe for you to use. Sucking on mints, sitting with your eyes closed or focusing on the horizon can maybe help you feel better. Avoid alcohol but drink plenty of water. Barf Bags are available in the seat pocket in front of you, and if not, ask the flight attendant for one
- Do not take any sleep medication before take-off. It can happen that your departure is delayed or you sit for a long period on the tarmac. Discuss the use of medication with a health professional to make sure it is safe for you to use.
- The temperature inside the plane can become chilly, always take something warm with you if you are sensitive to cold.
- To keep your legs and feet from swelling, invest in a good pair of flight socks to wear during the flight.
- Get up and move at regular intervals if possible, You can walk around in the alley if it is safe to do so. Be considerate towards other passengers when walking around. Search online for exercises you can do while seated to help regulate your blood flow. This will also help against swollen legs and feet.
- Bring along wet wipes and tissues for those moments when you might need them.
- You will be served dinner and breakfast on overnight flights. For more information check on the airline’s website. Check on the airline website if you can pre-book special meals for example Vegan, Low fat etc.
- Drinks will be served, take note some airlines do not serve alcoholic drinks
- Smoking is not allowed on flights, there are smoking detectors all over the plane, as well as in the bathroom.
- You can take your shoes off and wear comfy socks, just be careful when going to the toilets, some people cannot aim, and you might step into something wet. The toilets are cleaned regularly though on most airlines.
- If you would like to brush your teeth and freshen up before landing, do so before breakfast, as everybody plans on doing it after breakfast and there are long queues. If that doesn’t bother you (might be good to stand a while), then do it after breakfast.
- At any time if you need assistance or something to drink, there is a button to call the flight attendant.
Travelling with children
Travelling with kids can be quite a task especially when it involves long flights. One of the key aspects to consider while planning such trips is the sleep schedule of your children. A poorly planned flight routine can lead to a lot of stress, not just for the little ones, but also for the parents.
Here are some helpful tips to make flying with children a breeze. These are simple tricks that will keep your kids entertained, calm, and happy throughout the flight.
- Direct flights are in general more expensive, but it can be less stressful for small children. When searching for flights, do some research on the airline’s website to see what they can offer your children. This includes special meals, heating facilities for baby bottles, nappy changing facilities, entertainment, special seats or bassinets and priority boarding
- One of the most important things to consider is packing enough snacks and entertainment for your kids. Bring plenty of age-appropriate books, toys, and games. Carrying a tablet or portable DVD player with your kids’ favourite movies or TV shows is also a great idea.
- Ensuring your child is comfortable during the flight by dressing them in cosy clothes and bringing a favourite blanket or pillow can make all the difference.
- Small children tend to cry during take-off and landing, due to the change in cabin pressure. To help elevate the pain in their ears, give them something to suck on like a lollypop or something to chew on.
- Bring along a comforting toy and something to keep them busy like colouring in with crayons or board games. There are movies and games on most long-haul flights
- l so inclined, talk to your doctor about something you can give them to help them calm down and sleep. Remember they are swept up in the excitement and have no concept of how long the flight is, and my personal opinion is, that it is better to have something to help them relax and make the journey better for them
- Organise your hand luggage in such a way that you can easily find items you or the children might need during the flight
- Your child can bring hand luggage with them, it might be a good idea to have it as a small backpack that they can put under the seat in front of them. This way you don’t have to open the overhead locker each time someone wants something from their bag.
Making your transit stress free
Transit is when you do not have a direct flight to your final destination but arrive at an airport and wait for your connecting flight to your final or next destination. Here are some tips to make it a stress-free experience
- Make sure you have enough time for transit. Take into account you will arrive, then go through security, then you have to find your departure gate, and all this in a foreign environment. Depending on your flight, you might also go through passport control. An example- you have a flight to Stuttgart via Frankfurt. You will go through passport control in Frankfurt.
- If you have a long layover, see if you can book space in a lounge, if not included in your ticket (Business or First) or frequent flyer status. If you do not want to book lounge access, research the airport beforehand to see what restaurants or services are available
- Most airports have free wi-fi. For more information see the airport website
- Most airports have smoking sections/booths. Smoking is not allowed at Amsterdam airport at all, you need to exit the airport and when you go back, you need to go through security again.
- Consider booking a meet and greet service at the transit airport. They offer various packages but most include a greet at your arrival gate, short security queues, and a motorised trip (on a small vehicle inside the building) to your departure gate. This is extremely helpful for first-time or elderly passengers.
- Organise wheelchair assistance well in advance when needed. Make sure you know what is included. Some only offer assistance to the departure gate, and nothing further. The person might need assistance with going to the toilets etc.
- If you feel lost or do not know where you must go, find an info station or someone who works at the airport to assist you.
- You need to be at your departure gate at least 45 – 60 minutes before departure.
- If you travel to an EU country, you will go through passport control in the first Schengen airport you arrive in. If for instance, you fly with KLM to Frankfurt, you will do passport control in Amsterdam. If you fly to Frankfurt via Dubai for example, they will check your passport at your departure gate in Dubai, but only go through passport control in Frankfurt.
Arriving in Germany
- If you take a local Schengen area flight you do not need to go through passport control, unless they do special checks. If you arrive in an Schengen country from outside the EU you will go through passport control in your first Schengen airport of arrival.
- Keep your passport and flight ticket ready. If you are only visiting they will want to see your return ticket as well
- Airports in Germany have free Wi-Fi. Check on their websites beforehand to inform yourself about how to connect. Most are pretty straight-forward but sometimes you need to register or give your contact details to receive a pin
- At passport control, you will be asked some questions. Answer them and know your information for example where you will be staying, when you will return if relevant, who you are visiting etc. They might ask to see your return tickets.
- After passport control, you can collect your luggage if you are at your final airport. Follow the Luggage claim / Gepäckausgabe signs.
- If you are not at your final airport, follow the transit signs and go to your departure gate. Your luggage should be booked onto your next flight but please confirm this when you check in.
- If you bubble-wrapped your luggage, it might be a good idea to remove it before going through customs.
- Go through customs. If you have nothing to declare go through the green gate. If you need to declare items go through the red gate. See below for information about what you can bring to Germany.
- If you have people waiting for you, agree beforehand that you will be wearing for example a red scarf so that they can easily spot you.
When things go wrong
When your flight departs and arrives on time all goes smoothly and you have a relaxed experience. But what can you do when your flight is cancelled or delayed? How do you get through transit security when your connection time is tight?
Flights can be cancelled due to many factors, for example, dangerous weather conditions, political situations or mechanical breakdowns. Many times the airline has no control over the cancellation decisions as they must adhere to airline and airspace safety regulations.
As a general rule, if you booked through an agency you have to contact them to make any changes to your booking. If you booked directly with the airline, you can contact them via their channels to assist you.
Tip – Follow the airline and airport on their social media accounts for up-to-date information. Also, make sure the airline has your contact details. If you are not getting prompt feedback from the airline, use their Twitter, FB or chatbot options. If your flight is cancelled you should get messages from the airline, where they ask you whether you want to cancel your flight or re-book it. If they have an app download it onto your mobile phone or tablet.
Tip – if you decide to cancel your flights, your contract with the airline ends, and you will get a refund depending on your ticket conditions. Also, note if you cancel the flight, all passenger flights on this booking code will be cancelled.
Tip – Make sure who the operating airline is for example a Lufhansa flight operated by Swiss. In this case, you need to contact Swiss for any rebookings.
Flight delays or re-scheduled flights
Flights can be delayed due to many factors, for example, dangerous weather conditions, operational issues or mechanical breakdowns. Your contract with the airline is to bring you from point A to B. So are allowed to rebook your flight to a partner airline, or on another date or timeslot. Again make sure they have your correct contact data. Check your flight details online on the airline’s site if you have access to it.
Missing your connecting flight
Always make sure you have enough time scheduled for transiting to your connecting flights. The minimum prescribed time is between 45 to 60 minutes, but this can be too little if you still have to go through security or passport control and walk to the other side of the airport. If one of your flight legs is delayed this can cause you to miss your connecting flight. At most airports, you can contact the personnel and explain your situation to them, and hopefully, they will assist you in jumping to the front of the security line or transporting you to the departure gate. If you do miss your flight due to delays, they have to rebook you on the next available flight. Go to the airline office as soon as you can and ask for assistance. Some airlines have connecting flight information on their entertainment systems. The flight attendants can also assist you with information. They are there to help, so ask for assistance. They might also make announcements about special arrangements for passengers with connecting flights.
Tip – keep your passport, onward flight ticket and flown flight ticket stub on your person so that you have it available when requiring assistance.
Problems on board
When your entertainment system is not working, you can mention it to the flight personnel but they are not obliged to move you to another seat. You can however in certain circumstances ask for compensation.
Unruly passengers might be handcuffed if they jeopardise the safety of the flight. If you have any unpleasant issues on board, you are welcome to talk to a flight attendant or contact the airline after arriving at your destination.
The airline does not handle the loading and unloading of luggage. This is usually done by external operators.
The Montreal Convention governs your baggage rights.
When your luggage is delayed you must go to the lost luggage counter or luggage tracing desk at the airport.
If you fly to or from the European Union, there are special rules protecting your passenger rights. See more information here – EU Passenger rights
Info on the web
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