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Travel Essentials

Security Briefing: Local Laws

The information below has been excerpted from the following: 1) the US Department of State's "International Travel" website (, 2) the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Smartraveller" website (, and 3) the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's "Foreign Travel Advice" website ( Additional information is available from these sources. World Trade Press annually assesses the information presented on this page.

United States: Department of State International Travel Information


While traveling in Germany, you are subject to its laws, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. While you are overseas, U.S. laws do not apply, and if you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not, as criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that may be legal where you are traveling, but illegal in the United States; for example, if you engage in sexual conduct with children or use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country, you can be prosecuted in the United States.

The Embassy has learned of some incidents of German lawyers, working on behalf of media companies, aggressively identifying individuals who are illegally downloading copyrighted content and then billing those people 1000 Euros or more per incident. If these cases are brought to court, German courts will likely rule in favor of the companies. You are strongly advised not to download media content except from reputable legal sites.

Arrest Notifications in Germany: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country that is not the case in Germany. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained. 


Germany has strict customs regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Germany of items such as firearms, military artifacts (particularly those pertaining to the Second World War), antiques, medications/pharmaceuticals, and business equipment. Under German law it is also illegal to bring into, or take out of Germany any literature, music, or paraphernalia that glorifies fascism, the Nazi past, or the “Third Reich.” Contact the German Embassy in Washington or one of the German consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Surprisingly, credit cards are not accepted as widely as they are in the United States. However, automated teller machines (ATMs) are widely available throughout Germany. They utilize many of the same account networks that are found in the United States, so it is possible in most cases to get Euros directly from your U.S. bank while you are in Germany, without paying inordinate currency exchange fees.

If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on our website. 

LGBT Rights

Germany welcomes multitudes of gay and lesbian visitors each year, especially to Berlin, an internationally famous rainbow destination.  Civil unions are legal for same-sex couples; same-sex marriage is not available in Germany.  The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community is protected by federal anti-discrimination laws and LGBT Pride events are officially encouraged by most large city governments, including those in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.


While in Germany, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from what is found in the United States. Many existing buildings, as well as public transportation systems, are less adapted to individuals with disabilities. You should check with your hotel or destination to learn more about options to accommodate disabled traveler needs before visiting Germany. At German airports, Lufthansa and Air Berlin offer services for disabled travelers, and the German National Railway,Deutsche Bahn, maintains a mobility resource webpage. The German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) and the German Hotel Association (IHA) maintain directories of accessible accommodations. You can find more information on accessibility by visiting the German National Tourist Board website. 

Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Travel Advice

When you are in Germany be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

The use or display of any Nazi symbols, salutes, songs or material (eg. flags, memorabilia) is illegal.

German police can ask for identification. We advise you to carry your passport at all times.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money, laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Dual nationals who are registered as permanent residents in Germany may be obliged to undertake military and/or civil service.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.