Have you read our post on transport tips? Then, you will have safely arrived at your destination. Now you will need to look for a place to stay.
Accommodation Tips if Hiking in Germany
If you are following one of the major German hiking trails, this will generally not require too much of a logistical effort. These trails are, as a rule, organized in such a way that there is some accommodation available at the end of each stage.
Most country towns have at least one two- or three-star hotel, and standards are very much what you would expect. But even towns too small or insignificant to accommodate a proper hotel – as well as most German villages – have a Gasthof, an inn, with at least three or four Fremdenzimmers (guest rooms). These rooms are generally clean and inexpensive, sometimes surprisingly so. On the flip side, however, standards can be quite basic.
Many of these hotels seem stuck in the early 1970s – with Formica tables, cheap parquet floors and paintings on the walls that look as though they had been picked up at a car boot sale. You should also not expect that, as a matter of course, your room will have a TV set.
Do not take it for granted that they will accept your credit card.
In rural Germany, cash is still king. As a rule, you should have enough cash in local currency for any length of time you are staying away from towns with at least 50,000 inhabitants.
REMEMBER: Following this rule may save your life.
Prices quoted by hotels or inns generally include breakfast. Bigger hotels would offer you a breakfast buffet continental style – muesli, cold cuts, cheese, various breads; do not expect anything cooked such as bacon and eggs – while smaller places will serve you a couple of rolls and rye bread with jam, cold cuts and coffee / tea on your table.
One notch down from the country inns are Germany’s Jugendherbergen or youth hostels, not to be confused with “hostels” in the wider sense of “cheap hotels”.
Jugendherbergen are special places: originally set up a little over 100 years ago with the idea of providing cheap accommodation for the country’s working class youth, they now welcome everybody, young and old, working class or not, although until quite recently (2007, in fact), single adults were not admitted in some of the federal states. The justification for this policy was that the Jugendherbergen – run by a non-profit organization and supported by government subsidies – were not meant to compete with commercial operators.
The good news:
Jugendherbergen are cheap The price for a bed and breakfast typically ranges from € 15 to 20 per night and person. (In a few big cities, they charge up to € 25, but these are exactly the places where you would not find a double room for € 50 either.) They serve food, too, and you can get a meal for under a fiver and full board for little more than € 20 a day.
To sleep at a Jugendherberge, you need to be a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation (4,000 such hostels exist all over the world with 540 in Germany alone), but they can issue you a membership card right there at the reception desk which costs € 3 for one night and about € 15 for a full year.
The bad news:
Although many Jugendherbergen increasingly cater for the needs of small groups of visitors and even single hikers, most of these places – particularly the old ones – cannot conceal their past as barracks-like sleeping quarters for school children on overnight outings. In a typical Jugendherberge, between two thirds and three quarters of all available beds would be tied up in rooms that sleep 4, 5, 6 or even 8 people.
Jugendherbergen are not hotels: they issue you with bed sheets (nowadays, they are generally included in the price but you still have to make your own bed and bring the sheets back on departure), and you have to pay extra for towels. At least, you no longer have to bring a sleeping bag to protect their woolen blankets.And generally, only the more modern facilities offer “family rooms” with en suite bathrooms and WCs.
Another problem is that, although some Jugendherbergen can be found near the major trails, it would be a challenging task to arrange an entire hiking holiday in such a way that you can always spend the night in one. If I have not sufficiently deterred you, you can scan your preferred hiking destination for Youth Hostels on HERE. Just click on the map of the federal state you are about to visit.
Jugendherbergen are still too expensive for you?
Then, there are always the cabins and shelters that are scattered along the way. Using one of those will cost you nothing at all, but you should remember that these places are primarily intended as, well, shelters for a few hours in bad weather.
Overnight stays are, strictly speaking, not allowed, although widely tolerated. It is the same story for tents and bivouacs in the forest: you are generally okay as long as you only stay for one night.
Nobody will ever confirm that to you as “official information”, because the authorities don’t want to say so for legal reasons. They still reserve the right of evicting anybody who tries to establish a permanent or semi-permanent “residence” and, of course, they do not want to accept any liability in case something goes wrong. So remember: in cabins and shelters, you always stay at your own risk.
Also, bring a sleeping bag and a camping mat (as underlay), otherwise it will be the coldest night you will ever experience. Cabins and shelters are not generally equipped with a privy, so please behave responsibly and don’t make a mess. (Bring and use a small shovel.) Be aware that open fires are often prohibited, depending on the area you are in and the season, so don’t expect to enjoy a camp fire in the evening – or freshly brewed coffee in the morning either.