Home from Home
Accommodation may be your first concern. If you are new to German hospitality, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the facilities of the inns and boarding houses.
We will happily put you in touch with, for instance, a guest house ("Pension") where we know from experience the warmth of the hospitality and the willingness to speak some English.
Tell us if you have specific needs or would like us to find a different sort of accommodation for you. The range available is from a mountain-hut to a four-star-hotel, and includes self-catering cottages and flats. There will sometimes be the possibility of ordering meals on site even if you are staying in self-catering accommodation. Generally, breakfast is included in overnight charges. We can help with the organising of other meals to fit in with your holiday agenda
Families or youth groups are welcome at our local field centre, the "Schülerfreizeitzentrum".
These addresses are among those in the English-in-Germany network
How to get here
A search for cheap flights will produce various alternatives. If London (Stansted) is a good airport for you, there are good offers to Altenburg (Leipzig) airport, which is 120 km away. From here transfer by train, bus or a local pick-up service available in the EIG network (see below) to the hotel, hostel or guest house you are staying in.
Travel midweek, or book very early, and benefit from cheap airfares.
Other airports in Germany or France, Belgium and Holland are well connected to Erfurt (and thus Ilmenau) by train, (Erfurt has internal flights from airports within Germany.) If you want to have the convenience of air travel to get across the Channel, it is often best to find the airport which is most convenient to your home , find the cheapest flights from there and look up the trains for the rest of the journey.
If you are coming mainly to learn German, the “Sprachdienst” (Teaching and Translation Service) will help with an online search on request, and phone or email you with a suggested itinerary.
Trains across Europe
London has now got a good rail service to Lille and Brussels, and, in fact, the shorter check-in times can make this a more convenient option than a flight; it is also, on the whole, a more environmentally friendly solution.
Trains within Germany
If you arrive in Altenburg and you do not want to take up the network’s offer of a pick-up service from the airport, take a taxi or the airport bus shuttle (3.50 euros) from the airport to Altenburg Bahnhof (train station). From there, take the train to Ilmenau, changing at Gera and Erfurt. The journey to takes approx. 3 hrs and 45 mins and costs 36 euros. If your stay in Germany is to include a number of train journeys, consider buying a Bahncard. Also check the “Thüringen Ticket”, which can enable up to five passengers to travel for the price of one.
Driving here from the UK may not be the “greenest” of arrangements, but will obviously be the choice of many visitors. You will aim to join the A$ motorway (Autobahn), following it from eastwards until you reach the “Erfurter Kreuz” (motorway interchange). Take the A 71 following the signs to Schweinfurt. There is an "Ilmenau-Ost" (East) and an "Ilmenau-West" exit. Take "Ilmenau-Ost" and if you want to find the “Sprachdienst”, follow the signs to Ilmenau. You are on the B 87. The 'Am Vogelherd' industrial estate is signposted; turn off the B87 opposite the Agip petrol station. Follow the road uphill, over the bridge which crosses an old railway line. Almost immediately the main road turns left, but you carry on straight ahead, uphill, and take the next right turn. Continue along this road, which becomes one-way, until you see our premises, where the road bends to the left.
Use the English in Germany network
It is possible for us to arrange for one of the local transport services in our network to provide you with an airport-to-accommodation shuttle service, possibly calling at one of the motorway service stations along the way for a comfort break and snack. In general, shuttle transfer costs 40 euros for the first person with reductions for groups of two or more.
Paying for goods and services in Germany
It probably goes without saying that, as a participating member of the European Monetary Union of the European Union, Germany uses the euro as its official currency.
Although Visa and other credit cards are in circulation in Germany, their use is still fairly limited. Electronic Cash (EC) cards are used in many major stores and restaurants, but there is still at least one major supermarket chain, for instance, where payment is in cash (and only in cash).
A visitor’s best bet is to carry some cash in euros at all times. Further withdrawals from the numerous ATMs can be made by bank card. This ensures that one doesn’t end up with a trolley full of goodies at the front of a queue, expecting to be able to make a credit card payment, only to find out that the store takes cash or EC-cards only. ATMs give a fair exchange rate, the charge for their use is not high (there is some international bank grouping which can make it worth while finding your best ATM) there is always an English language option and they are well dispersed throughout towns of all sizes.
Paying for Your Accommodation
Members of the English-in-Germany network will have added a “how to pay” section to the information on their pages. If deposits are required, people in EU countries will find the EU transfer is not at all costly.
Paying for Transport
These can be purchased:
U-Bahn ( the underground train), S-Bahn (rapid transit railway) and Straßenbahn (tram):
- online with a credit card or a bank transfer
- at any of the Deutsche Bahn ticketing offices/counters payable with cash (euros) or a visa credit card
- even in the train itself with cash or credit card when the conductor comes to check your ticket. (This is the more expensive option and includes a small service charge, but can be a lifesaver when catching a train at the last minute). On all but very local trains, you must seek out the conductor so as not to be suspected of trying to get a free ride.
Tickets must be purchased from ticket machines and sometimes imprinted at the station prior to boarding. Plain-clothes ticket inspectors check for valid tickets regularly and being caught without one, even as a result of misunderstanding, can cost you an on-the-spot fine of 40 to 60 euros at best, at worst or a little trip to the station for sorting out your fine.
Bus tickets can be bought from the driver upon boarding. Cash is the only form of payment in
this case and smaller notes or coins are preferred.
Some Useful Reminders:
- Value Added Tax (VAT)
(Mehrwertsteuer [MwSt] in German) is already included on the price tag of retail items and (most) services. If you are a non-EU foreign national visiting Germany and save your receipts as you go along, you may be reimbursed upon leaving the country for sales tax paid while you were here.
Keep in mind that it is normal in Germany to wait for orders in a sit-down restaurant, especially when ordering beer from the tap: it is here only considered of good quality if it takes a few minutes to pour. It is helpful to bear in mind that in pubs, food and drinks are not ordered or paid for at the bar. Instead, payment takes place at the table after everybody has finished eating and drinking. Also, waiters tend to let you enjoy your drinks or meals “in peace”, but are responsive if you make eye contact or even politely, but clearly, wave them over when you need something or would like to pay. Try a beginner’s German course and then test out in real life what you have learnt in role plays!
- Paying & Tipping
When paying for a meal and offering a tip, it is customary to tell your waiter how much you are paying, including the tip amount (i.e. the sum of total + a tip of about 10% of the price of the meal –variable because you round up to something a little more than the actual bill). Yowill then receive your change accordingly. Tips are not usually left on the table as is sometimes the case in other countries.
Use Although Deutsche Telekom no longer enjoys a full monopoly on telephone service, making phone calls in Germany can still be somewhat more expensive than in other countries. All telephone calls made have per-minute charges, even local ones. For long distance and international calls being made from land lines it is best to use one of the many discount prefixes to save money.
Pay phones or telephone booths are usually well dispersed throughout any town or city, but can sometimes be
tricky to use, as fewer and fewer take coins, but rather prepaid chip cards.
These are available in a number of places such as: post offices, cigarette and news-stand kiosks, tobacconists’
shops and Deutsche Telekom shops.
- Don’t forget your change
As for making purchases in shops, boutiques or even for transport tickets at a ticket counter or in a bus or train, remember that one doesn’t say “thank you” or “danke” until after the transaction is fully completed and change has been received. Saying “thank you” before the transaction is complete is sometimes considered to be the same as saying “keep the change” and can cause an embarrassing situation when you have to make it clear that that wasn´t what you meant!
Just to reassure those of you who, at home, have got out of the habit of using cash rather than “plastic” money, Germany is a law-abiding country and, although the usual caution has to be advised, theft of cash is not a prevalent problem. One visitor from a large British city was astounded to see cigarette machines being operated safely and conveniently (for smokers and presumably the cigarette companies) with a slot for cash.