These days, traveling abroad doesn't mean you can't stay connected with home or the office. Whether you're in Germany on business or pleasure, here are some tips for everything in your suitcase with a plug.
Electrical appliances in Europe run on 220 to 240 volts. Plugging your foreign hair-dryer into a German outlet could result in a fire, or at least some smoke. It's best to buy an electrical adaptor before you come to Germany, as they made be hard to find once you are here.
German sockets take round-pronged plugs. For most gadgets, you'll need both a voltage converter and a plug adaptor.
Rechargeable electronics like laptop computers, cameras and iPods usually function at multiple voltage levels. For these, you'll probably only need a plug adaptor.
Wi-Fi Internet access is not found everyone in Germany, although it is becoming more common. It is usually available in most airports, hotels and some cafés in larger cities.
Text messaging is a very popular means of communication
If you have a tri-band or quad-band mobile phone, it will function in Europe. If your phone has not been locked by a particular carrier, it is possible to purchase a pre-paid SIM card to use in Germany at local rates. These are available in any mobile phone shop.
With a German SIM card, slight roaming charges apply as soon as you cross the border into another European country.
When calling Germany from abroad, use the country code +49 and drop the first 0 in the telephone number. When calling abroad from inside Germany, dial 00 and then the country code.
For long-distance calls, keep in mind that Germany is one hour ahead of London, six hours ahead of New York and eight hours behind Sydney.
Prefixes and telephone numbers within Germany vary widely in length and can range from four to eight or more digits, respectively. Calling a mobile phone is generally significantly more expensive that calling a landline.
Public pay phones are no longer common, but they are often available in larger cities. They may be operated either with coins or a calling card. Calling cards can be purchased at post offices, banks, kiosks and tourist offices.
When making a phone call, it is polite to give your name at the start. Also, Germans generally answer the phone by saying their last name.
It's not polite to call a private home after 10 p.m., unless you've made arrangement with the person you're calling. When calling a business office, don't expect to reach anyone after 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday or after 4 p.m. (sometimes earlier) on Fridays. Government offices often have more irregular or shorter hours.
In many places in Germany, the mail is delivered by bicycle
Post offices in Germany, operated by Deutsche Post, are generally open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays until 12 p.m. Many close at lunchtime, however, even in bigger cities.
Public mail boxes throughout the city can be identified by their yellow color. Pickup times are listed on the box.
It costs 60 euro cents (82 US cents) to mail a standard letter weighing up to 20 grams within Germany. A standard overseas letter or postcard costs 75 euro cents. Postcards cost 45 cents within Germany.
German postal codes (Postleitzahlen) are five-digit numbers. Take a look at the Deutsche Post's website to search for postal codes within Germany, or for other information on sending and receiving mail.
Other mail delivery providers have popped up over the past few years, and can be cheaper. Inquire about them at a train station.
Russia has agreed to stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. Finally! Diplomatic talks in Geneva have led to a breakthrough that could de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, says DW's Bernd Riegert.
Russian President Putin has said that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Are his words just posturing in order to put the West under pressure, or could the situation really turn bloody in eastern Ukraine?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of Latin America's most widely acclaimed authors, died at home in Mexico City on Thursday. The Nobel laureate, whose fame drew comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, was 87.