Healthcare and Safety in Germany

Students sitting on the lawn

Living in a foreign country, knowing that your health and well-being are supported and that you will be looked after as an international student is important. The information on this page gives you a quick insight into the healthcare system in Germany, your insurance coverage, how to make a doctor’s appointment, where to get medications and whom to contact in an emergency. Your higher education institution always aims to ensure that you are safe and supported during your studies.

Healthcare System

The German healthcare system has a well-deserved reputation for offering equal treatment and easy access at moderate costs. You will find a large network of well-trained and skilled medical doctors, as well as modern treatment and support. There are also numerous pharmacies (in German: Apotheke) that can help you when you need medicines. There might be differences from your home country as to which medicines are over the counter and which are prescription only, but pharmacists and doctors will be happy to help you with any questions. 

Health insurance during your studies in Germany

Every citizen in Germany is required to have health insurance – and so are you! There are two types: private and statutory (in German: private und gesetzliche Krankenversicherung). Generally, private health insurance plans offer more benefits, but they are significantly more expensive and require advance payments. For this reason, most are covered by statutory health insurance. Statutory health insurance providers are required to offer a basic plan which includes most doctor's visits, a broad selection of medicines and, e.g., ER visits and ambulance rides.

Upon , (international) students must prove that they have health insurance. Depending on your home country, proof of health insurance must already be provided when applying for a visa. For more information on the validity of your home insurance or how to take out insurance in Germany, please visit the page "".  

By the way, with enrolment, (international) students are also automatically insured through the higher education institution’s . The insurance covers e.g. activities that take place on the institution’s grounds or that are organised by the higher education institution. However, it doesn’t replace your personal health insurance.

What to do if you fall ill?

If you are not feeling well or have complaints it is best to go to a general practitioner (GP) first, or as it is called in German Hausärztin/Hausarzt/Allgemeinmedizinerin/Allgemeinmediziner. They will assess whether the illness or injury should be treated by a specialist. If you don’t need to see a specialist, you might get a prescription from your GP for any medicines you may need. You can pick them up from a local pharmacy.

For emergencies, at night or on the weekend, you can also always go to a hospital. If you require immediate treatment, call 112 to contact emergency services. This is also covered by your insurance. If it’s not an emergency, yet you feel that it’s an urgent situation and you cannot wait for your GP’s opening hours, you can reach on-call doctors via , or you could check whether there is a "Bereitschaftspraxis" in your city. This can be an emergency clinic affiliated with a hospital or located in a central, easily reachable location in town. These clinics pull together medical specialists from various disciplines so that you can find help in the evening or on the weekends. Tip: Search for "Bereitschaftspraxis" plus your city's name.

And what if I need to see a specialist?

Sometimes, the GP will tell you to see a specialist. In that case, you get a referral, which you then take to make an appointment with a specialist. However, you do not need a referral for all medical areas, for example with a dentist, gynaecologist or orthopaedist. Keep in mind, depending on the type of specialist, whether you have private or statutory health insurance and how urgent you need to be seen, it can take a few weeks or even more than a month before an appointment is free. 

All these visits are also covered by your statutory health insurance as long as it’s not a private doctor, in German: Privatpraxis or Privatärztin/Privatarzt. It is recommended to mention your (type of) health insurance when making an appointment to ensure that you find the right doctor for you.

TIP: Many doctors speak English or other languages such as Turkish, Spanish, French or Polish. If you use an online portal to find your doctor, you can sometimes filter for specific languages spoken in their offices. However, if you experience or fear language barriers with your doctor, you can turn to the of your higher education institution for help: They often offer services such as study-buddy programmes to support international students in their daily lives. They may be able to help you find a volunteer to translate at your next doctor’s appointment. Of course, you can always ask a friend to accompany you. It is also the case that the majority of doctor’s office assistants speak only German. If it is not possible to book online or even over e-mail, have a German-speaking friend help you book the appointment.

Safety in Germany

In an international comparison, Germany is one of the safest countries in the world: When it comes to gun crime, petty crime, assault or murder, Germany is low on any worldwide rankings. This, however, doesn’t mean incidents do not happen. Police are trustworthy and willing to assist. In an emergency, call 110 to receive help around the clock. If you need more information on safety in Germany, please visit the website "". 

For any further problems, you can also contact the diplomatic mission, embassy or consulate of your home country. On the , you can search for the diplomatic missions your country has in Germany. Please note that the particular search box is only available in German.

Which contacts should I keep in mind?

You are not quite certain who to contact in your specific situation and feel overwhelmed? There are numerous helpful contact points for many particularly challenging situations! You are welcome to  in German: Studierendenwerk or Studentenwerk, for advice and assistance.

For any questions, problems or support that might not require the police nor the diplomatic mission, feel free to contact the International Office (in German: Akademisches Auslandsamt) of your higher education institution. They can often help with your questions and point you toward the right address. For more information see the page "". 

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service