Every overseas trip is different. Some bring their car, some don't. Some stock up on favorite foods before traveling to Germany, others worry about car parts. Rather than guessing which things to bring and not to forget, we curated a list of things to ease your mind when PCSing to Ramstein, Germany. Here is some peace of mind so that you can focus on matters that are important to you.
#1 The Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) is the largest American military community outside the US
You are in good company! And it's not just the Air Base and American community that's there for you. There's the KMC Center which is host to 350 visiting quarters, a food court with American as well as local dishes, theater, over 30 stores, several ATMs, and much more. It's like a city where you feel right at home.
For more info on the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center check out the official Ramstein Air Base website.
#2 There's always a Facebook group
Having a place you can go to and ask for help is a fast and easy way to get answers. The good thing about groups: you can join them before actually arriving in Germany.
#3 Pets, vaccination status, and pet-friendly housing
Check the vaccination status to see if any vaccines are about to expire and see the vet before your trip - that's one less thing on your mind when you arrive. There's paperwork involved when traveling with a pet too, so make sure you get that done to have your pet included in your records.
You want to look for appropriate housing as well. Not every rental is accommodating to your furry fellow. If it doesn't explicitly say that the apartment is pet-friendly, reach out and ask if it is. When you stay with TLA Office your pets are always very much welcome.
#4 Shipping time
Here's another two things off your mind: clothing and school supplies. Make sure to be set for the local weather and get the clothing ready before you move. If you have kids who will start school soon you may want to take care of school supplies before your trip since German school supplies are different from what you are used to.
Aside from that prepare for the time it takes for your goods to arrive. On average, factor in a month or two before having access to your goods. It is a certainty that they will not arrive at the same time as you do. Not to worry though, there's a thriving lodging business for military staff around Ramstein Air Base which has evolved to accommodate military staff for temporary stays.
Options range from small apartments with no furniture to 2000 ft. fully furnished interiors, pets and all. Everything you need is right there: towels, dishes, and coffee beans.
Our personal recommendation is the Siegelbach rental with floor heating and a PS5 console.
#5 The U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR) driver's license
Anyone arriving on permanent change of station orders is subject to the Status of Forces Agreement and must have a USAREUR driver's license to drive in Germany. This license is the basis for an International Driving Permit (IDP) which you might need when driving to other European countries. Check the requirements of anyone country to be sure you abide by their local law.
To get a USAREUR driver's license you must pass an exam which can be accessed and taken online prior to PCSing. If you don't have that license you're legally disallowed to drive even a rental car.
#6 Shuttle transport from the airport
Whether or not you decide to bring your car overseas one thing is certain: you won't have a car waiting for you when you arrive on German soil. Shipping takes time. And without a USAREUR driver's license you can't even drive a rental car.
What you can do is ask for shuttle transport. It's like an uber and it takes you from the airport to your destination.
A tip: when you rent with TLA Office, ask for shuttle transport and you will be taken right to the doorstep of your rental. And if you need a rental car, talk to us as well and we'll have a car parked in the driveway when you arrive. To drive it you'll still need that USAREUR driver's license though.
#7 What is the VAT form and why do you need it?
In Germany, the "value-added-tax" is already factored into the products and services, which means - the price you see is the price you pay. However, through the Value Added Tax Relief Program, personnel stationed in Germany can get a tax refund when purchases are made on the German economy. So, in short: you want to make use of the VAT form for tax relief.
There's a procedure to how VAT forms can be purchased at the VAT office. Sponsors must attend a briefing where they will be informed of the available forms and of how the agreement between the German and American government works.
For more in-depth information read this article by Emily Jennings.
And that's it for our short list of things to make you ready for that overseas trip. There's a ton more you probably need to think about when moving to a new station, but at least now you have 7 things less to worry about. And if you have any questions, reach out to us by using that quick form at the bottom of the page and we'll get back to you within a day.
Have a great trip, have a great TLA experience!