The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Germany at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Consulate in Munich does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Germany-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is minimal risk from crime in Munich. Crime rates throughout Germany are comparable to those in most of the West; comparative analysis of crime data for the U.S. and Germany reveals only marginal differences. The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA) 2017 Police Crime Statistics for Germany indicated a large reduction in the number of recorded offenses, with a fall of 9.6% overall. However, when discounting the “Aliens Act-related” crimes (which saw a 21.1% increase in 2016), a smaller fall of 5.1% in overall recorded offenses was registered. Regardless, reported crime is at its lowest level in over 20 years. Small decreases occurred in violent crime categories (2.4%), with murder and attempted murder falling by 1.6%, bodily injury by 2.8%, and serious bodily injury by 2.1%. Robbery reports fell by a large amount (9.7%), and other significant decreases occurred in overall thefts (11.8%), domestic burglaries (23%), and shoplifting (6.6%). Authorities documented significant increases in economic crime (28.7%), drug offenses (9.2%), and weapons offenses (10.3%). Rapes, sexual coercion and sexual attacks increased by 30, attributed partially to the strengthening of laws concerning sexual crimes in response to the sexual assaults in Cologne and other cities during the New Year period of 2015/16. The stricter laws came into force at the beginning of 2017.
Some observers continue to claim that official statistics may not always provide an accurate accounting of the level of crime, and not all crimes reported to the police appear in the form of an actual police report. There have been reports of police dissuading victims from making formal reports citing little chance of capturing the suspect. This may discourage overall reporting of criminal activity.
According to the State Office of Criminal Investigation (Landeskriminalamt, or LKA) in Bavaria, overall crime decreased from 882,473 reported offenses in 2016 to 629,512 in 2017, a reduction of 29%. While there were several notable increases of certain crimes during the same period, such as sexual harassment (26.2%) and drug related offenses (3.8%); there were corresponding decreases in violent offenses, such as homicides and assault.
There have also been reports of effective decriminalization of some crimes, due to their frequency and impact on resources. To tackle high-profile criminal activities, such as violent crimes and burglaries, police have reallocated and/or increased resources in certain areas, resulting in less emphasis on investigating and detecting less serious crimes, such as fraud. One criminologist recently described the Police Crime Statistics for Germany as ‘a sketch of police activity’ rather than a full record of crime.
Visiting Americans are commonly victims of purse snatching or pickpocketing in high traffic and tourist areas (e.g. train stations, internet cafes, crowded restaurants, and outdoor market places), but violent crimes against Americans are relatively infrequent. Visitors should carry a copy of their passport while maintaining the original in a safe location. While personal assaults do occur, there is no evidence that anti-American sentiment drives such crimes.
Extensive information regarding reported crime statistics and German crime prevention programs is available in several languages on the BKA website.
Oktoberfest is an annual event that brings as many as 7 million visitors to Bavaria each year. In recent years, security at the event has increased due to non-specific terrorism-related concerns. Those planning to attend the festival should remain vigilant in public to mitigate the risks, including petty crime and alcohol-related incidents that accompany large, high-profile public gatherings. An official Oktoberfest App has expanded to include new security information and features like a detailed fairground map. Visitors should also review U.S. Consulate Munich’s tips for a fun and safe Oktoberfest, and OSAC’s Oktoberfest Threat Assessment.
Cybercrime remains a major concern. In recent years, cyber-attacks in Germany targeting information infrastructures, government institutions, businesses, and private citizens have increased in frequency and complexity. Although changes in categorization of computer crime may have influenced the figures, there was a 53% increase in recorded crimes 2016, and that level remained constant through 2017. Many of the attacks are likely state-sponsored, and include disinformation campaigns to influence public opinion. In a highly-publicized case that hit the press right after the New Year, a twenty-year old hacked into accounts of hundreds of German lawmakers and personalities whose political stances he disliked, prompting further questions about ability of the German government to protect sensitive data. Authorities continue to investigate this breach to determine if the perpetrator was acting alone, as he claims, or as part of a larger plot.
Viruses and other malware continue to be the preferred methods of online criminals. Although authorities have dedicated additional resources to enforcement and prosecution efforts, cybercrime in Germany continues to be a growing problem. Authorities believe most Internet crimes go unreported, and only solve one in four crimes.
For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions throughout Germany vary significantly from region to region, but are generally fair to good. One should exercise caution, however, while traveling on older roads. Road conditions can and do deteriorate quickly with rain, ice, and snow. Lack of proper lighting can also be problematic. Consequently, minor and major traffic accidents occur frequently on many major German highways; delays can last hours.
Road construction and road wear also present unique safety challenges. In general, road maintenance is a lower priority in Germany than in other well-developed countries; much of the infrastructure budget goes towards public transportation services, road and sidewalk environmental cleanup, and other non-maintenance items and services. As such, many roads experience deep and uneven rutting, causing grooves to form on seemingly flat and level road surfaces. Road maintenance projects can last several years.
Speed limits in most German cities are relatively low. The average speed limit in cities is 50 kph (~30 mph) but drops to 30 kph in most residential areas and in school zones. Police now enforce speed limits on large stretches of the Autobahn, mostly through urban areas and on stretches where road curves are more frequent.
The leading causes of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving U.S. citizens are driver error/confusion (due to unfamiliar road signs, or unusual driving customs and courtesies) and bicyclist hazards. For example, even though double parking is illegal in most German cities, the practice is an everyday occurrence on many German streets. It is very common for lane traffic to stop abruptly when a delivery truck parks unexpectedly in a travel lane to unload cargo, or when a German driver places his/her car in reverse to occupy a street-side parking space.
Bicyclists and bicycle traffic also pose a heightened risk for motorists and pedestrians. Many sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes. Whether you are driving or walking, be aware that bicycles have priority use of these lanes. If you are walking, watch for bicyclists before crossing or stepping into bike lanes. Bicyclists also have priority over cars when turning onto side streets. If you are driving, check whether a bicyclist is approaching from either direction before attempting to enter side streets, even when the light is in your favor. If you are turning onto a side street and strike a bicyclist using a marked bike lane, you are responsible for any injury or damage caused.
Right-of-way and yield laws are similar to those in the U.S., but can seem awkward and confusing. Unless you are traveling on a priority road, vehicles coming from the directional right have the right-of-way. It is also generally illegal to pass vehicles on the right side.
It is illegal to leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident until all parties agree that it is all right to do so, and before all parties have verified the validity of their insurance information. German authorities frequently prosecute drivers who leave the scene of an accident. It is illegal to use cell phones while driving; police can detain and fine persons engaging in this practice. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.
For more information on ride sharing, review OSAC’s Report Safety and Security in the Share Economy.
Public Transportation Conditions
The use of trains – particularly the U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems – can be very convenient. Transportation centers and trains are an appealing target for criminals and terrorists. Despite any enhanced security, these venues remain a soft target. Crimes are common in and around U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems and stations. Crime is often in direct proportion to the lateness of the hour. For more information on travel within Germany, contact the German National Tourist Board Office in New York at (212) 661-7200.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is considerable risk from terrorism in Munich. Several international terrorist groups that target U.S. government personnel and interests have a presence and operate in Germany, including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Kongra Gel (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK), Hizb’allah, and Hamas. The large population of official U.S. government and military personnel in Germany creates a significant potential target for terrorist groups.
Continued government reporting reiterates the growing concern for the expanding international and indigenous radical Islamist presence. In 2017, German security officials estimated there were roughly 25,800 residents in Germany who belonged to radical Islamist groups, not including ISIS and al-Qaida. The estimated number of Salafists was 11,300 in 2018. German authorities currently consider 760 radical Islamists at a high risk for involvement in a serious crime or violent act. Security officials estimate over 1,050 residents of Germany have departed the country to participate in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq since 2012, the majority of whom joined violent radical Islamist extremist groups in the fighting there; an estimated 200 have died there, while one-third of the total group (or roughly 350) have returned to Germany. German officials actively investigated these returnees for terrorist threat resulting from their experience abroad and possible desire to continue to support violent extremist causes. Prior groups of German “foreign terrorist fighters” traveled to Egypt, Somalia, and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, particularly during 2010-2013; many attended terrorist training camps. The total number of these travelers was less than 50.
ISIS and other groups continue to call on followers to carry out attacks in Europe, including in Germany. The government has employed legal tools to ban these organizations and their affiliates, such as the 2014 ban on ISIS, the 2015 ban on two radical Islamist groups, and a ban on three ultra-conservative Salafist groups. Following each of these bans, authorities carried out raids of residences of suspected radical Islamist extremists and seized property linked to their activities, including personal computers, phones, cash, and extremist propaganda in both German and Arabic.
In 2016, there were numerous terrorist attacks and plots in Germany. These included the stabbing of a police officer in the Hannover main train station, a bomb attack on a Sikh temple in Essen, a suicide bombing in Ansbach, and a knife attack on a train near Würzburg. Most notable was the December Berlin Christmas market attack in which an ISIS-linked Tunisian refugee killed 12 persons using a large truck as a weapon. In July 2017, a fatal Islamist terror attack occurred when a machete-yielding refugee killed one and injured several in a supermarket in Hamburg. In 2017, federal authorities reported that 1,052 investigations against 1,173 individuals from the Islamist scene had taken place that year. In the first 11 months of 2018, this figure was 855 investigations against 905 suspects. This includes the June 2018 arrest in Cologne of a Tunisian man and his German wife accused of preparing a combined explosives and ricin attack against an unidentified target.
Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons to target both official and private interests. There remains a potential for terrorist attacks against public transportation systems and other tourism infrastructure. The U.S. continues to work closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qa’ida and ISIS. The U.S. routinely shares information with its key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen defenses against potential threats. German authorities continue to investigate extremist groups, deport or arrest individuals considered dangerous, and conduct raids on suspected groups throughout the country.
Demonstrations with an anti-U.S. sentiment remain common in Germany, but are most always nonviolent. Numerous demonstrations in 2017 and 2018 protested President Trump and U.S. foreign policy, to include withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal), as well as the administration’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. U.S. military actions in the Middle East, and U.S. involvement in Syria, continue to spark interest and are often the primary reason for anti-U.S. protests in Germany.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Right- and left-wing extremists alike have carried out a number of violent acts in recent years. After reaching a ten-year high in 2016, politically motivated crimes dropped by 4.9% to 39,505 in 2017, still the second highest level recorded since the introduction of this statistic in 2001. Of note is the number of crimes targeting political persons and parties. There are no nationwide statistics in this regard, but over a seven-month period of 2017, the BKA counted 205 crimes against politicians and related institutions. There were more than 2000 crimes reported during the most recent Bundestag elections.
Right-wing extremism remains a center-stage issue, despite a recent drop in the number of related crimes. Authorities estimate that there are 24,000 right-wing extremists in the country, of whom 12,700 are potentially violent. Far-right extremists committed 20,520 politically motivated crimes in 2017, including 1,130 violent acts, including four attempted murders. In 2017, police recorded 312 offences against refugee accommodation, 46 of which were violent. These figures both showed an approximate drop of 70% compared to 2016.
To help mitigate the threat of right-wing extremism, the government maintains a central database for monitoring violent right-wing extremists. Government attempts to ban the National Democratic Party (NPD), a neo-Nazi political party, have been unsuccessful. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) is now monitoring the AfD, a popular-right party that gained 11.5% of the votes in the 2017 federal parliamentary election, for its extreme-right links.
Left-wing extremists committed 9,752 politically motivated crimes in 2017, of which 1,967 were acts of violence. Both figures represented significant increases from prior years, and three were attempted murders. There were also 1,318 violent acts against the police and security services, an increase of 35.2%. The left-wing extremist scenes in Berlin, Leipzig, and Hamburg are particularly active, and best exemplified by frequent luxury auto burnings, especially in Berlin and Hamburg. Repeated left-wing demonstrations at a startup Google campus in Berlin prompted company officials to pull the plug on the burgeoning project and search for alternate locations. Left-wing extremists continue to conduct attacks on the police.
Right- and left-wing extremists have increasingly come into direct conflict with each other, especially when right-wing protests encounter larger and more violent left-wing counter protests. This phenomenon played out repeatedly over the past year during a series of “Merkel Muss Weg” (Merkel Must Go) demonstrations in Hamburg.
Many well-planned and publicized demonstrations protesting government policies draw thousands of participants; spontaneous demonstrations concerning education and other economic and social issues occur almost daily throughout Germany. Demonstrations in Munich typically take place at Marienplatz.
Demonstrations related to the German refugee policy, both for and against, continue to occur frequently throughout Germany. Anti-refugee demonstrations, frequently related to the neo-Nazi and PEGIDA movements, have been particularly problematic at times, resulting in violent confrontations with police authorities. PEGIDA, whose name is a German acronym for the “Patriot Europeans against the Islamization of the West,” is an anti-Islamic political movement. No matter the theme of a given demonstration, avoid such events, as they can turn violent very quickly.
Germany is home to a large number of ethnic Turks and Kurds of various political persuasions. Ethnic, religious, and political differences have often led to disturbances between parts of these communities. The Turkish government has a large amount of influence in the DITIB mosque network, one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany, and maintains links with the Grey Wolves, an extreme-right group. Many Kurdish opposition groups have strong representation in Germany, including the banned PKK. A number of DITIB mosques experienced firebombs in response to the Turkish Military entering Syria in 2018. In Wiesbaden in August 2018, officials removed a golden statue of President Erdogan, erected as an art installation, after only 24 hours following scuffles among groups and fear that larger-scale disturbances would ensue.
There have been several reports of riots and conflicts between different religious and ethnic groups within the numerous refugee centers throughout Germany. To date, these conflicts have not spilled into the general community.
The arrival of nearly 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016 continues to be controversial. While one might argue that the documented conflicts are merely growing pains, others claim that it represents a clash of cultures. Whatever the assessment, there is little dispute that not all of the refugees may be integrating into German society as quickly as might have been hoped. Furthermore, there is evidence indicating that not all are as tolerant and accepting as a majority of their hosts.
Police statistics recorded 1,504 anti-Semitic crimes in Germany in 2017, an increase over past years. The vast majority were non-violent and involved propaganda or statements made online, which are prohibited by law. Nonetheless, authorities are concerned about the trend, which has drawn considerable press attention. Police also recorded 129 anti-Christian and 1,075 anti-Muslim crimes during 2017.
Personal Identity Concerns
There have been multiple media accounts of conflicts between male refugees and women. Events in Cologne in 2015, coupled with the terror attacks over the past two years, have led to a more robust and proactive approach to policing and securing large public events. The 2016 New Year’s Eve celebrations saw an increased police presence and fewer complaints of assaults, as police report having expelled large numbers of aggressive young men from the scenes of the previous year’s attacks. In 2017, a ‘women’s safety zone’ was introduced to further combat and respond to the indecent attacks committed during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Throughout the year, there were multiple reports of inappropriate behavior by suspected refugees at public pools and spas. The alleged behavior involves, but was not limited to, harassment and unwanted physical contact.
The 2016/2017 New Year’s celebrations saw an increased police presence and fewer complaints of assaults, as police reported they expelled large numbers of aggressive young men from the scenes of the previous year’s attacks. In 2017, a ‘women’s safety zone’ was introduced to further combat and respond to the indecent attacks committed during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Throughout the year, there were multiple reports of inappropriate behavior by suspected refugees at public pools and spas. The alleged behavior involved, but was not limited to, the unlawful touching of women.
There have also been reports of assaults or harassment based on other factors, such as sexual orientation, nationality, and religion. One such report involved suspects throwing rocks at a transgender individual. In another case, a refugee stabbed another refugee for wearing a crucifix.
Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana, remain widely available in Germany. The illegal sale and distribution of these and other drugs often occur near major train stations, public parks, and nightclubs. While drug-related activity does not usually affect U.S. tourists or business travelers, travelers should be aware that Germany has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city. In many cities, there has been a notable increase in violent crime directly associated with the selling of drugs in recent years.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. travelers detained or harassed by local or national police while visiting Germany should contact the U.S. Consulate.
Crime Victim Assistance
Local police: 110 (with English language capability)
Fire/medical assistance: 112
Victims of crime should contact the local police by dialing 110 or 112 for fire/medical assistance (all with English-language capability), and the closest American Citizen Services office for assistance. German authorities often contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate when an incident involves U.S. travelers.
For local first responders, refer to the Consulate’s Emergency Assistance page.
There are two primary police agencies within Germany: the LKA and the BKA.
- The LKA is the local police agency responsible for traffic accidents, investigating crimes, enforcing local laws and ordinances, and responding to local emergencies.
- The BKA is the federal police agency responsible for higher-level law enforcement actions, such as ambassadorial and head-of-state protection, national-level crime investigation (terrorist-related), collecting and analyzing national crime data, and other issues of national importance.
Reach the fire department and ambulance service by dialing 112. Germany has several university hospitals, which provide state-of-the-art medical care in most fields of medicine, including advanced cardiac surgery.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Many worldwide air ambulance services operate in and out of Germany and Europe, including:
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Tick-borne encephalitis (Frühsommer-Meningoenzephalitis, FSME) risk exists in most of southern Germany, including the Black Forest regions of Baden-Wuertemberg, Freiburg, and along the Bavarian borders with the Czech Republic and Austria. Risk also exists around Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Nuremburg. Transmission season is March-November. Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date before prolonged stays that include hiking, camping, or similar outdoor activities in rural wooded regions. The FSME vaccine is only available in Europe and by special release in Canada. Exercise anti-tick precautions.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Germany.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is an active Country Council in Munich. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Munich, Königinstraße 5, 80539 Munich
Hours of American Citizen Services Operation 0800-1200, 1300-1600 Monday-Friday
Closed on German and U.S. holidays and last Thursday of every month
Consulate Contact Numbers
Phone Number: +49 89 28880
Nearby Posts: Embassy Berlin, Consulate Düsseldorf, Consulate Frankfurt, Consulate Hamburg, Consulate Leipzig
U.S. citizens traveling in Germany are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.
Germany Information Sheet