Germany has one of best health care systems in the world. You are better off than in most countries when you need medical attention.

Who to contact when you need help

When you are experiencing dental problems, you make an appointment with a dentist called a Zahnarzt. For all other complaints, it is best to visit a general practitioner, called a Hausarzt. The GP will then decide if you require the attention of a specialist, and provide you with a referral if appropriate.

Young woman at the doctor
At the doctor © DAAD/Jan Zappner

You can find the address and telephone numbers of a GP, dentist or specialist in Germany’s Gelben Seiten yellow pages, which are online. Office hours will vary widely, and many doctors close their offices on Wednesday afternoons. Best approach is to call the office and ask for an appointment. If it is urgent, you can appear without an appointment, but you will often have to wait to be seen.

Pharmacy© DAAD/contentküche

Prescriptions at the pharmacy

If the doctor provides a prescription for medication, you take it to an Apotheke to be fulfilled. You will probably have to make a co-payment of between 5 and 13 euros, and the rest will be paid by your company, called a Krankenkasse. This only applies to medications prescribed by your physician, by the way. You have to pay the full amount yourself for other drugs.

In medical emergencies

If you require immediate attention during the night or on weekends, you can go to the emergency room of the next hospital. If you cannot reach a hospital on your own, you simply dial 112 on a telephone to call an ambulance. In urgent but not emergency situations, when doctors’ surgeries are closed, on-call doctors are available through a service called Ärztlicher Bereitschaftsdienst. You can reach this service by dialling 116 117.

Two categories of medications

There are two broad groups for medications: prescription drugs and non-prescription medicines.

You can only receive prescription drugs with a doctor’s prescription, and only in an Apotheke. Germany’s pharmaceutical regulations are fairly strict. Drugs you may get over-the-counter in other countries could still require a prescription here.
Over-the-counter medications are plentiful at the Apotheke, and drug stores also have a wide selection of over-the-counter medications, including cough drops and nose sprays.

Rezeptfreie Medikamente kannst du dagegen auch ohne ärztliche Verschreibung in Apotheken kaufen. Einige rezeptfreie Medikamente bekommst du sogar in Drogeriemärkten: Dazu zählen Mittel gegen Husten und Schnupfen, etwa Hustenbonbons oder Nasenspray.