Germany has pretty good cellular phone coverage. The major cellular networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus, and O2. They offer roaming services for many foreign network providers. You may want to check ahead which is a strategic partner of your home network.
Many restaurants and shops in Potsdam and Berlin accept major credit cards, but many smaller businesses accept only cash or EC (Maestro) cards. Some stores have a minimum that can be charged.
The currency in Germany is the Euro. Payment in another currency is not possible.
ATM machines of major financial networks are available around town 24 hrs a day, allowing you to get cash (Euro). Most banks are open 9:00-12:30 and 14:00-16:00 from Monday to Friday and closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. However, few banks exchange currency.
Cash can be exchanged at the airports in Berlin. Some hotels offer the currency exchange as a service for their guests. There is also "Euro Change Wechselstuben" location ("Wechselstube" means currency exchange) in the very center of the Old City at Brandenburger Str. 29 (open Mon-Fri 9:30-18:00 and Sat 9:30-16:00).
The electric current in Germany is 220 Volts, 50 Hz. Since German power outlets are recessed, an adapter plug may be required even if your home current is also 220V.
Police 110. Fire and medical emergency 112. These numbers can be dialed from any phone for free.
Three grades of gasoline ("Benzin" in German) as well as diesel ("Diesel" in German) are available on practically all gasoline (fueling or petrol, "Tankstelle" in German) stations. Regular gasoline is called "Benzin" (91 octanes), premium is "Super" (95 octanes), and extra-premium is "Super+" (98 octanes). Many Shell and Aral stations also offer 100 octanes gasoline and premium diesel. All gasoline is lead-free.
Prices given on gasoline stations include VAT. Note that they always have 9 as the third decimal digit, although it is not always well visible on the street price displays. The price of regular and premium gasoline is pretty similar, whereas diesel is somewhat cheaper. Most gasoline stations accept cash as well as credit cards. Virtually all stations are self-service and one pays inside at the cashier. Major station chains are Aral, Shell, BP, JET, Esso, Fina, Elf, Total, Orlen.
For the town of its size, Potsdam has relatively few gasoline stations. None of them are inside the downtown area and most are far in the suburbs. JET on Zeppelinstr (highway B1 direction Geltow/Werder) is the closest to downtown. JET and Aral on Potsdamerstrasse (highway B273 direction Nauen) are close to the university. Total in Pirschheide (B1 direction Geltow/Werder) is close to the Kongresshotel. See the links page for a web site that lists all gas stations in Potsdam and their current prices.
Many Germans speak English, so one can get directions and other information without knowing German. However, bus drivers rarely speak English.
PARKING IN TOWN
There is virtually no free parking anywhere in the center of Potsdam as well as of Berlin. On top of that, it can be quite difficult to find a parking spot in many areas. Street parking in the old city of Potsdam is mostly reserved for residents. Public (paid) parking is permitted only on a few streets, so watch the signs.
Street parking requires prepaying a specific amount of time in pay-and-display machines. These machines are scattered along the parking areas (look for "Parkschein-Automat" sign on a post). You are required to leave the parking ticket on the dashboard. These machines accept only coins.
Car parks (parking garages) dispense a time-stamped token or card as you enter. You pay before leaving the parking. You actually pay before getting into the car since most parkings have the pay machines by the pedestrian exit/entrance. Most of these machines accept coins and banknotes. Only seldom they accept credit cards.
The parking fee in Potsdam is from 50 Eurocents to 1 Euro per hour, depending on location. In Berlin, it is 1 to 2 Euro per hour. Car parks may be more expensive. Parking by the "Stern Center" mall in Potsdam and any store with own parking is free.
Most stores are open 9:00 to 20:00 on weekdays. On Saturday quite a few stores are also open until 20:00 but many only until 16:00. All stores are required by law to be closed on Sundays with the exception of those catering specifically to tourists. The "Stern Center" shopping mall is open until 22:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Calls from Germany abroad must be prefixed with 00 (or + on cellular phones) followed by the country code and the rest of the number. Long-distance calls within Germany must be prefixed by 0 and area code. Area code for Potsdam is 331.
Some public phones in Germany accept coins but many accept only phone cards of Deutsche Telekom (Germany's national phone company). A few phones accept also credit cards. Phone cards can be purchased at most newspaper stands. Phone booths are scattered around the city, although not as commonly as they used to. While closed phone booths are still fairly common, many public phones have no booth.
There are no public phones at the conference location, but there is a phone booth within a walking distance. See page with the map of campus .
In August, Germany uses central European summer time (EST), that is GMT+2.
It is customary to give up to 10% tip in restaurants. Typically, one rounds up the amount due. If paying with a card, you need to tell the total to charge before the transaction is processed. It is not possible to write it in later.
19% (7% on groceries and books) Value Added Tax (VAT) is normally assessed on all goods and services in Germany. It is already included in prices posted in stores and restaurants.
VISITOR VISA FOR GERMANY
Participants requiring an entry visa for Germany should apply at German Consulate or Embassy as soon as possible. See the links page for online information about visas.
The weather in August is normally warm with typical temperatures 18-22°C, although they can reach above 30°C or drop to 15°C. Rain is rather rare in August, but if it rains it often pours. See the links page for weather service with short term forecast.
The conference meeting rooms have no air-conditioning.