Germany should not pose any major health hazards. The heavy cuisine may give some travelers mild diarrhea, so take along some antidiarrhea medicine and moderate your eating habits. The water is safe to drink throughout Germany; however, don't drink from mountain streams, no matter how clear and pure the water looks.
German medical facilities are among the best in the world. If a medical emergency arises, your hotel staff can usually put you in touch with a reliable doctor. If not, contact the American embassy or a consulate; each one maintains a list of English-speaking doctors. Medical and hospital services aren't free, so be sure that you have appropriate insurance coverage before you travel.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
For conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, or heart problems, wear a MedicAlert Identification Tag (tel. 888/633-4298; www.medicalert.org), which will immediately alert doctors to your condition and give them access to your records through MedicAlert's 24-hour hot line.
For travel overseas, most U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.
As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance. If you require additional medical insurance, try MEDEX Assistance (tel. 800/732-5309 or 410/453-6300; www.medexassist.com) or Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828; www.travelassistance.com; for general information on services, call Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc. at tel. 800/777-8710; www.worldwideassistance.com).
Canadians should check with their provincial health-plan offices or call Health Canada (tel. 866/225-0709; www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home if they are treated overseas.
Travelers from the U.K. should carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the E111 form as proof of entitlement to free/reduced-cost medical treatment abroad (tel. 0845/605-0707; www.ehic.org.uk). Note, however, that the EHIC covers only "necessary medical treatment"; for repatriation costs, lost money, baggage, or cancellation, travel insurance from a reputable company should always be sought. Call tel. 0870/033-9985 or visit www.travelinsuranceweb.com for quotes from several companies.
Travel Insurance -- The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com (tel. 800/487-4722). Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies.
U.K. citizens and their families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find that an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com (tel. 0845/345-5708), which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multitrip policies.
Most big travel agents offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain's Consumers' Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (tel. 020/7600-3333; www.abi.org.uk) gives advice by phone and publishes "Holiday Insurance," a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (tel. 0870/033-9988; www.columbusdirect.net).
Trip-Cancellation Insurance -- Trip-cancellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip cancellation traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and State Department advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and the "any-reason" cancellation coverage -- which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won't get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you'll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (tel. 888/885-7233; www.travelsafe.com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air-hotel packages. For details, contact one of the following recommended insurers: Access America (tel. 800/284-8300; www.accessamerica.com), Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-4919; www.travelguard.com), Travel Insured International (tel. 800/243-3174; www.travelinsured.com), and Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 800/228-9792; www.travelex-insurance.com)..