PCS’ing to Germany (Our experience)
Is it time for your permanent change of station?, in short PCS..have you found out you are moving to Germany?, well I hope sharing our experience can help you in your move here.
My husband & I PCS’d in early august 2019 to Kaiserslautern Germany & there’s a lot I wish I knew before the move, despite my extensive research months prior to the move. In this post I will share the main things that could make your life easier, & if you have questions about a specific thing, please ask in the comments.
1. Accommodation – This was the thing everyone talked about constantly because it is so important in those first days. Book your stay in advance. There are hotels on the base that make your life so much easier because you may not have transportation in the first few days, so being able to get food & complete your daily required PCS tasks is key. If you have a sponsor (which you hopefully do), utilize them by asking if they can advise on best hotel/TLF location (there might be several bases in the same area) to choose from. We stayed at a central location booked for us by our sponsor & that made it easy for my husband to go to his required classes everyday with no issues, & I was able to walk to the grocery store, library, a few restaurants or parks, since we only had one car at that time.
In terms of long-term housing, some people like the on-base houses & some off-base. It varies from person to person. I have heard on base housing is very competitive, so apply ASAP if that is what you want. We live off-base & found our housing after arrival (the military pays for your temporary housing for 3 months), & we are both very happy & content with our location.
For the house hunt, I used Facebook, AHRN.com & bookoo.com to find houses for rent (approved by the military). It took us a few weeks of looking at houses before we settled on what we have now (which I found on facebook). Facebook groups here are key because people share experiences, who to rent from, who to avoid etc.
2. Transportation while in Germany – My husband sold his old 2003 Acura TL before we left fort leonard wood, & then I had my car shipped here by the army (they only ship one car for you, the others will be out of pocket costs). I have a 2013 Prius, so not too big or too small – perfect for German roads which can be very narrow. My prius was shipped 2 weeks before we left, & it arrived a month after our arrival in Germany. My husband rented a car from a rental place near the military base for 2 weeks, then bought a U.S spec car at a dealership on Ramstein (the airforce base). A lot of people buy new cars in Germany because it is expensive to ship out of pocket, so if you have a really old car, or are here for just a year or 2, you may choose to buy a new or used car (there’s a lemon lot on Ramstein airfare base). Our experience was buying a car on base, so can’t speak to buying off base.
Public transport (Taxis, buses & trains) is an option here as well. The train is relatively inexpensive & easy to use, but may be a little daunting at first. Use DB.DE (or get the app) to check the schedule & costs or even book a train. For long distance travel (e.g weekend trips) book a few weeks to a month in advance for cheaper prices. You can also buy tickets right at the train stop with euros.
If you have a big truck or any vehicles considered larger than standard in the U.S, it may be hard to drive in narrow streets, but it’s doable if that is your best option. I have seen big American trucks around, so I know people can still drive them around, but it just looks like a pain, especially backing up or parking in very tiny spots.
Getting your drivers license – Study this & do the test while in the U.S because it is so much easier & faster this way, than when you arrive, all you need to do is go to the licensing office on base with your documents & get a German drivers license.
3. Moving & Shipping house hold goods or other items. Plan on waiting for a month – 2 months on HHG, so if you can get them shipped early, do it. Also leave big appliances like washer & drier in storage because you can rent those from the base. American appliances use 120V while EU appliances are 220V, so you may damage your appliances. We brought our TV & kitchen items & left behind washer & drier. The base gives you transformers so you can plug in your 120V appliances to prevent damage, so make sure you remember that before you plug anything in. The on base hotels have almost everything you need in your house, so you’ll be all set before your HHG arrive.
To ship pets, book through SATO ASAP – fills up quick (I believe delta is the preferred pet transport) & make sure your pet has had a vet visit with updated shots.
Our experience – I traveled through commercial airlines because I had a delay with my travel documents, but this got reimbursed by the military. My husband booked through Patriot express BWI & used the military flight that goes straight to Ramstein airfare base.
I hope this 3 big things have helped in any way that they could to make your move easier. I will be posting more about Germany, so please stick around.