Remember to "Bloom where you are planted". It is up to you on what kind of experience you will have at each base you are stationed.
Stop right now and go and apply for your passports!! You need to make an appointment with Public Affairs for the picture and with the passport office. You should be able to make your passport appointment an hour after your public affairs appointment. Public Affairs will print your picture and hand it to you to take to your passport apt. Make sure you have an original birth certificate that is the extended version. The state department will not accept the short version or informational birth certificate. It MUST be the authorized one or long form certificate. Passports can take 6-8 weeks if not longer. You must not delay in getting your passport. Get off the computer and make the appointments now- no joke. :-)
The active duty member can take the driving test before they leave the states so that they can drive once they arrive on station. This is HIGHLY recommended. You will be without a vehicle and will be relying on others if you do not pre take the test to get your license. below is listed where you can find he study materials and practice tests. It was so great for us to get here and hubby was able to rent a car the same day we arrived. Once we arrived he took his paperwork that showed he passed the test to the drivers test building and was given his license. Spouses can study for the test before arrival and take the test once they arrive. If you look at the study material and take the practice tests several times you will pass with no problems.
---------> Army USAREUR website for Europe driving information
----------> Practice Tests and study guides
Also- They have just changed how to get your International Drivers Permit. You can no longer get it here quickly. You have to mail the application to the AAA office in the states and wait 5-6 weeks. SO---- get it before you come! This permit allows you to drive outside of Germany. (This information is ever changing as all the information is here. I have been told that some people do still get the permit here and others tell me they couldn't)
Sign up on the AHRN ( automated housing referral network) website to start looking at off base housing. It will show you what is available in the local area and you can get an idea of the things you like or not. This is the website that the bases now use for you to look for housing. The homes on the site have been pre-inspected by housing and are approved for use by military families. Base housing is typically a pretty long wait since they have taken down stairwell housing and replaced it with town homes. There are 3 base housing areas that you can chose to be on- Ramstein, Vogelweh and Landstuhl. Unlike BAH you get paid in OHA your actual rent cost and not more. It is in your best interest to find a place closest to you allowance since you do not get to pocket the difference. The AHRN website has a link to the OHA rates.
Get an accordion file for you to organize your move paperwork. Also pick up some folders for you to keep papers separated. I had my folders marked- housing, school, TLF, misc and Household Goods. People keep giving you paperwork and if you are not organized you will not get paid for something or you will be delayed.
Have your sponsor sign you up for your Post Office box before you arrive! You can forward your mail to you but they will not hold it longer than 15 days prior to your arrival. There are 2 post offices on base one is for singles and one is for families. You will use this address your entire time stationed here. It is an APO address so you can send mail and only pay the US costs. Also, people will only pay the US costs when they mail something to you. Also-- you can ship FREE APO to APO. So if your spouse is deployed and has an APO address then you can ship a box for free. Went today and asked the post office for verification.
When traveling from the states to Ramstein most people might go through Baltimore airport. Use the USO rooms there! Many airports have USO rooms and they are there to help the military and their families transitioning and traveling. You can stop by and get free drinks and snacks amongst other things. Each person needs to have their ID card with them to enter the room.
The international flights are wonderful. You get a full meal service on your flight so don't buy a bunch of food right before boarding. I saw several people buy tons of overpriced airport food only to board the plane and get free food on the plane. The meal was very good and unlimited drinks. We were served dinner and breakfast. You will be VERY jet lagged upon arrival! Try to stay up really late the night before your international flight. You are going to jump ahead a minimum of 6 hours. This will cause you to not be on any kind of normal schedule for a while. Our first day here I did a bad thing and took a nap in the middle of the day- DON"T DO THIS!! force yourself to stay up so you can more quickly change your sleep schedule. Go walk around the KMCC or something. It took me 2 weeks to get on a normal sleep cycle.
Bring a GPS preloaded with the Europe maps. This will be very helpful plus the GPS systems here seem very overpriced and the states has more of a variety. Once here you will want your GPS to do any exploring and to just find places in general.
When you get here you are going to want to get cell phones right away. Don't make the mistake of getting ansy and signing a contract before you do some research. Ask people any input they have. You can buy prepaid phones at the BX and 24 hour shoppette. They run around $20 and have 3 minutes of time on them. I went to Tmobile and bought my kids prepaid phones there and used my VAT forms. I paid $74 for 2 phones with 15€ on them PLUS a 2 year warranty on the phones. The BX has no money on them and has no warranty. When you buy things off base there is a mandatory 2 year warranty on all electronics. If you get into a contract just be aware they are 2 year contracts off base.
Fax a copy of your orders to your cell phone provider and you get out of your contract hassle free but you need to do this BEFORE you are near your contract end date. They will automatically renew your contract otherwise.
If you sign up for internet service through T Mobile off base be ware that the contract is for 2 years! If you plan on moving on base you will have to buy out of your contract. All villages are different in the kind of internet you get. It is not always fast internet. So be aware and ready for slow internet.
The tax rate here is 19% for goods and 7% for food. With the VAT ( value added tax) form you do not pay this. The VAT forms cost a few bucks but when you buy 10 at a time they are cheaper. They are $4 each unless you buy 6 or more and then they are $3 each after the 5th one. You use them in Germany at any store that you are spending MORE than 50€ at and that excepts the form. You can ask at the customer service area of the store if they except the form before shopping. Since they cost money you don't want to just use it for a 10€ purchase.
Check out Ramstein Yardsales for people selling good stuff. You can buy autos, phones, transformers, furniture--ANYTHING on that website.
Also check out Everything KMC. This is a great website to get info and ask questions.
911 here equals 112. Use 112 to make emergency calls
Gas is rationed here amongst other things. If you rent a car you can bring your rental receipt to the custom office to get your gas card. If your name is not on the car rental you can not get gas. Only the people with names on the rental agreement can get and use the card. Only the person who has there name on the gas card can get gas. I cannot get gas in my husbands car unless my name is on the ration card. Also, your ration card for the rental card will expire when your rental agreement is over. If you extend and keep your rental car longer you need a new ration card. NO EXCEPTIONS. we made this mistake and pumped gas and did not notice the ration card expired- we extended the rental car 1 day- we had to pay $105 for a small tank of gas. Not cool!!!!!!! Once you get your permanent vehicle your gas card is automatically refilled with your amount at the first of the month. The rental car gas card is a paper and your permanent vehicle is an actual card.Our car gets 400 liters a month and our truck gets 600 liters a moth. On your receipt it tells you ho much you have left. You can also add money to your card to use off base when traveling at Esso stations only.
Here is more info on Rations-------> RATIONS
You can get Euro out of the ATM's on base and off. Your bank might and probably will charge a fee for this. No way that I know of to get around this. I have been told that you get a better exchange rate when you use the banks off base. Helpful information here------> LINK
If you have USAA and you plan on buying a car here they will not give you a new car auto loan. They do not give ANY oconus new car auto loans only personal loans. You must go to a local bank and get the loan through them for an auto loan. Also, typically your car insurance will go up dramatically here. You are required to have $9million---yes I said MILLION- dollars worth of coverage.
If you are shipping a vehicle from the states to Germany be sure to call your insurance carrier and let them know. They will change the type of insurance you have and it is cheaper for the duration of the vehicles travels. Also, make sure to get rental insurance for your property. Through USAA we pay $20 a month for rental insurance. If your car is not paid off and you are still financing it here is some info on shipping your vehicle and the rules -------> Shipping Financed Vehicles
When and if you find a home off base you will need to sign up for the UTAP (utility assistance program). This is for everyone regardless of rank. This saves you 19% on your utility bill. It costs $77 to sign up but well worth it. Utilities here are read once a year so save some of you utility money to make sure you are not short at the end of the year. You may be only paying 65€ a month for something and really it should have been 90€ a month. At the end of your yearly cycle they will collect ALL the money that is due or give you a refund of overpayment.
If you are a spouse when you get here make sure you attend the Spouses Newcomers Briefing at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. It is every Monday from 0830-1430. You will be given LOTS of great info on what to expect here and just some good knowledge in general. The sooner you take is upon arrival the better.
If SATO made your travel reservations you MUST call them before you leave to confirm you are traveling. They do not tell this to people and constantly there are problems with tickets because of this. We did not call and our plane was set to leave at 0630. When we arrived our tickets had not been paid for so we had to pay for them right there or miss the flight. Plus this altered our seats on all our planes. Also, our hotel wasn't paid for so we ended up paying for that as well. Of course those items are repaid on a travel voucher but it was a pain!! Something that you should not have to deal with.
The items that are rationed here are coffee, hard liquor, gas and cigarettes. For gas you will get a ration card that is used only for getting gas and your receipt will tell you what you have left. For autos you get 200 liters a month and nothing rolls over. Every first of the month your number resets. Trucks get 600 liters. Coffee, hard liquor and cigarettes are on a paper card that you carry with you. It is ILLEGAL to allow ANYONE to use ANY of your rations.
Before leaving the states get your haircut, by some new clothes and get all your records you can to bring with you. Upon arrival you do not want to try and find clothes or a hairstylist. You will already be overwhelmed with other things. I got a copy of all our immunizations, school records and copies of our dental xrays to bring. This helped IMMENSELY. Nothing gets here quick so if you don't bring it with you then you will probably be waiting a while for it.
Finally-- you do not need to bring your washer and dryer. Actually, the Air Force does not allow it. The base has American and German washers and dryers they loan to you. Some people did not bring any of their 110V appliances. I did and am thankful. We now live on base and can use both 110V and 220V.
This is a wall plug. You can plug your vacuum in easily in each room. Love it
This is my Keurig (must have item-my treat each day) that I have to plug into the transformer to use. There are different size transformers. This is one of the biggest at 1000Watts. The base gives you 2 to borrow while you are here. They only had the largest available when we got here. I do not leave it plugged in.
I hope this information has helped someone. I really believe that information is power and I am hoping that my recent move can help some others. If you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not send hate mail because I have this fabulous -DELETE-button that I use for haters. I am simply trying to help out and this was my experience. If you had a different experience then great- if you have more info I can add then shoot me an email. :-)