Every U.S., Canadian, British, and Australian traveler entering Germany must hold a valid passport. You won't need a visa unless you're staying longer than 3 months. Once you've entered Germany, you won't need to show your passport again at the borders of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, or Spain. Safeguard your passport in an inconspicuous, inaccessible place like a money belt. If you lose your passport, visit the nearest consulate of your home country as soon as possible for a replacement. You should always carry a photocopy of your passport (stored separately) to expedite replacement.
For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the International Travel Web page of the U.S. State Department at http://travel.state.gov (click on "International Travel for U.S. Citizens").
It's always wise to have plenty of documentation when traveling in today's world with children. For changing details on entry requirements for children traveling abroad, go to the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov.
To prevent international child abduction, European Union governments have initiated procedures at entry and exit points. These often (but not always) include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, facilitates entries and exits. All children must have their own passport. To obtain a passport, the child must be present -- that is, in person -- at the center issuing the passport. Both parents must be present as well. If not, then a notarized statement from the parents is required. Any questions parents or guardians might have can be answered by calling the National Passport Center at tel. 877/487-2778; http://travel.state.gov; Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm Eastern time.
Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes 3 weeks but can take longer during busy periods (especially spring). If you need a passport in a hurry, you'll pay a higher processing fee.
For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, QC K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.dfa.ie). Ireland infants (up to age 3) are issued a 3-year passport. Children aged 3 to 17 are issued a 5-year passport. Persons aged 18 and over, including those over 65, are issued with a 10-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/494-4700) or at most main post offices.
For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from the website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-year passport for children 15 and under), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0300/-222-000, or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.
For Residents of the United States: Whether you're applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov. To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
What You Can Bring into Germany -- In general, items required for personal and professional use or consumption may be brought into Germany duty-free and without hassle. No duty is levied for a private car, provided that it is reported. You can also bring in gifts duty-free up to a total value of 175€.
The following items are permitted into Germany duty-free from non-E.U. (European Union) countries: 200 cigarettes; 1 liter of liquor above 44 proof, or 2 liters of liquor less than 44 proof, or 2 liters of wine; 50 grams of perfume and .25 liters of eau de cologne; 500 grams of coffee; and 100 grams of tea. Travelers bringing in tobacco or alcohol products must be 17 years or older, and those bringing coffee or tea must be 15 years or older. From E.U. countries the duty-free limits are higher. Duty-free allowances are authorized only when the items are carried in the traveler's personal baggage.
What you Can Take Home from Germany --
U.S. Residents -- Returning U.S. residents who have been away for at least 48 hours are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, $800 worth of merchandise duty-free. You'll be charged a flat rate of 3% duty on the next $1,000 worth of purchases. Any dollar amount beyond that is dutiable at whatever rates apply. On mailed gifts, the duty-free limit is $200. Be sure to have your receipts or purchases handy to expedite the declaration process. Note: If you owe duty, you are required to pay on your arrival in the United States, by cash, personal check, government or traveler's check, or money order, and in some locations a Visa or MasterCard.
To avoid having to pay duty on foreign-made personal items you owned before you left on your trip, bring along a bill of sale, insurance policy, jeweler's appraisal, or receipts of purchase. Or you can register items that can be readily identified by a permanently affixed serial number or marking -- think laptop computers, cameras, and CD players -- with Customs before you leave. Take the items to the nearest Customs office or register them with Customs at the airport from which you're departing. You'll receive, at no cost, a Certificate of Registration, which allows duty-free entry for the life of the item.
With some exceptions, you cannot bring fresh fruit and vegetables into the United States. For specifics on what you can bring back and the corresponding fees, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov. Or contact the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/227-5511), and request the pamphlet.
Canadian Residents -- For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet Be Aware and Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca). Canada allows its residents a C$750 exemption, and adults are allowed to bring back duty-free one carton of cigarettes, one can of tobacco, 40 imperial ounces of liquor, and 50 cigars. In addition, you're allowed to mail gifts to Canada valued at less than C$60 a day, provided they're unsolicited and don't contain alcohol or tobacco (write on the package "Unsolicited gift, under C$60 value"). Declare all valuables on the Y-38 form before departure from Canada, including serial numbers of valuables you already own, such as expensive foreign cameras. Note: The C$750 exemption can be used only once a year and only after an absence of 7 days.
U.K. Residents -- U.K. residents who are returning from a European Union country go through a separate Customs Exit (the "Blue Exit") especially for E.U. travelers. In essence, there is no limit on what you can bring back from an E.U. country, as long as the items are for personal use (this includes gifts) and you have already paid the necessary duty and tax. However, Customs law sets out guidance levels. If you bring in more than these levels, you may be asked to prove that the goods are for your own use. Guidance levels on goods bought in the E.U. for your own use are 3,200 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 400 cigarillos, 3 kilograms of smoking tobacco, 10 liters of spirits, 90 liters of wine, 20 liters of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), and 110 liters of beer.
For information, contact HM revenue Customs at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 02920/501-261), or visit www.hmrc.gov.uk.
Australian Residents -- The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$900. Residents can bring in 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of loose tobacco, and 2.25 liters of alcohol. If you're taking valuables you already own, such as foreign-made cameras, you should file form B263. A helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or go to www.customs.gov.au.
New Zealand Residents -- The duty-free allowance for New Zealand is NZ$700. Residents 18 and over can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco (or a mixture of all three if their combined weight doesn't exceed 250g); plus 4.5 liters of wine and beer, or 1.125 liters of liquor. New Zealand currency does not carry import or export restrictions. Fill out a certificate of export, listing the valuables you are taking out of the country; that way, you can bring them back without paying duty. Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice No. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs Service, the Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
Unless you're arriving from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic (particularly cholera or yellow fever), inoculations or vaccinations are not required for entry into Germany.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.