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20. (Public) Transportation in Germany

This section discusses some aspects of moving around in Germany. Public transportation is in general very good and readily available. If you are visiting any major cities, you do not need (or want) any other way of moving around than the public transport. Trams and buses usually run frequently and often deep into the night, making even a bar crawl by tram possible. Cross-country trains are very convenient, the connections are by and large reliable, although they can be pricey. For a cheap alternative, check out the Mitfahrzentralen.

20.1 Public transport on the Internet

The trains across Germany are run by the Deutsche Bahn AG. Select International Guests on their website to get information in English. The website also provides timetable information: you only need to provide from where to where you are travelling together with the times and dates and, voila, get a list of all possible connectons. You can buy tickets online or at any train station near you.

The Austrian rail company Österreichische Bundesbahn maintains a similar service.

Many providers of public transport within cities/regions also have websites by now. The sites usually provide timetable and ticket price information, rules for bicycle transport etc. Some sites:

Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr-Wupper

Services the Ruhrgebiet, roughly the area between Duisburg and Dortmund. Such wonderful cities as Bochum, Essen and Castrop-Rauxel are located in this area.

Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Neckar

Services Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg and vicinity.

Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund

Services Karlsruhe and vicinity. One of the best in Germany.

Elektronische Fahrplanauskunft

( English) of BayernInfo gives complete timetable information for public transport in Bavaria: You can get timetable information to go from one bus stop in one town to a tram stop in another regardless of which service company/companies are providing the transport.

20.2 Railways

Trains play a special role in Germany (and in Europe in general.) In terms of traffic they have top priority. They have right of way before any other vehicle. There are lots of tunnels and bridges for trains and therefore they don't have to stop anywhere between railway stations and can go at rather high speeds... 120km/h (75mph) for regular trains, up to 250km/h (155mph) for the high speed trains.


On a typical day an average of about 32,000 trains are scheduled.

The railroad system in Germany has been privatized in recent years. The former government-owned Deutsche Bundesbahn is now called Deutsche Bahn AG and organized like any big German corporation, although its majority stockholder is still the German government. Private and foreign companies are now free to operate on the German railroad net.

Deutsche Bahn AG

Deutsche Bundesbahn (former Western) and Deutsche Reichsbahn (former Eastern) joined to become Deutsche Bahn AG. Despite unification there are still price differences between East and West!

The Deutsche Bahn AG is forced to split into several branches (and later into several companies):

Fernverkehr (Long-distance travel)

runs all ICE, EC, IC, EN, IR and D trains.

Nahverkehr (Short-distance travel)

runs all the other trains.

Personenbahnhöfe (Railway stations)

runs the railways stations for all railway companies; rents shops in railway stations. (Remember: It is forbidden by German law to open shops in the evening and on Sundays. But it is legal to sell goods to passengers in airports and railway stations...)


Big freight service


Small freight service


Track network. Sells the right to travel to railroad companies


Repairs the tracks etc.

Luckily, as a passenger on the Deutsche Bahn, you don't need to know any of this; you can even forget about the fact that some trains are run by Deutsche Bahn or some other small rail company. Except for some special, mostly tourist--only rail companies, you just buy your ticket from the ticket counter or machine in your favorite train station and enjoy the ride. 1999-07

Which Train to Use

For the last couple years the Deutsche (Bundes-/)Bahn has been implementing a new philosophy in train travel. One very obvious sign of its modernization are the new cars, which have defined new colors outside and better seats inside. As this modernization is not quite completed, frequently mixed trains of old and new cars can be seen.

All modern trains have special color codes:

It is a good idea to use these if possible. Foreign cars are also nice. Check the label outside! Only the silver cars (Silberlinge) are really bad.

Most trains have some cars where smoking is allowed... There are also first class cars in most trains. You don't really need reservation in most trains. If you found no seat you can ride without a seat or, if you think the train is to full, take another train an hour later... There is no reservation possible for any short-distance trains.

Brief overview:

Long-distance trains


InterCityExpress; the German high speed train. These trains are integrated in the IC network, but have higher prices than other IC. Ticket prices depend on ICE speed and the speed of other trains at the same distance.


Cisalpino; a high speed train that can, contrary to the ICE, run on more conventional tracks, since it leans into curves. The CIS is sometimes called a Pendolino. Tickets are also more expensive than those for the usual trains.


EuroCity; an international high quality train. In Germany most EC's are integrated in the IC net.


InterCity; a national high quality train. Nearly all IC's run in the IC net. On most lines there is one IC every hour.


InterCityNight; a high quality night train; more silent rolling, leans into curves, you can sleep in even after arrival.


EuroNight; a night train, there were only 4 such trains in 1994/1995.


CityNightLine; high quality night train, rather expensive.


Nachtzug; high quality night train. Reservations necessary, special fares, but not necessarily more expensive than other trains.


Interregio; similar to IC. The IR net is much longer and IR's stop at more stations IC's. On most lines there is one IR every other hour.


Schnellzug; a long-distance train which is not good enough to be qualified as ICE, EC, IC, EN, IR. In May 1994 most of them will get modernized and become InterRegios. Some night trains or trains with foreign destinations will remain D trains.

Short-distance trains


RegionalExpress; an E-train with modern cars, runs periodically. Stop only at major stations.


RegionalBahn; a local train with qualified good rolling material. Stops at every station.


StadtExpress; a local train with modern cars, runs periodically.


CityBahn; a local train with qualified good rolling material, runs periodically.


S-Bahn; an urban train in areas like Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich,...


The following train types are now history...discontinued!


Eilzug; a semi-fast train. Some of these trains are as fast as IC, others are slower and stop at every station. Eilzüge have been completely replaced by the RE.


RegionalSchnellBahn; a semi-fast train; replaced by the RE.

(no letter marking)

Nahverkehrszug; local train.


Ticket Prices

2nd class

0.272 DM/km

1st class

150 percent of 2nd class price


is a little more in 2nd and 1st class.

There are special short-distance prices in many areas. In that case the ticket includes local bus and subway, but you can use all short- distance trains with a railroad ticket like Interail etc or a long- distance train ticket.

There are lots of special fares which can make travelling by train much cheaper. The most important are:


up to 5 years free, from 6 to 11 years half price.


If two ore more people are travelling together, only the first person pays the full fare, the others only half the fare. This ticket isn't available for very short distances.


Several long-distance return tickets for a fixed price. Only for journeys which include a week-end and not valid on certain days. Ask if a Sparpreis is possible when buying long-distance returns.


For 35 DM up to 5 persons can travel one whole day as much as they want - but only on Saturdays and Sundays and only in RE, SE, RB, and S trains. These trains are rather slow and often full - but it is by far the cheapest way to get around and explore the closer environs of wherever you are.


Valid for one year. You pay half fare for all standard tickets. Costs 230 DM for 2nd class, cheaper for people under 22 or over 60, students, and families. Spouses/partners of BahnCard holders can get their own BahnCard for 110 DM.


International Addresses for Railway Travelers


Thomas Cook Limited, Ground Floor, 257 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 2000, tel (03) 6502442, fax (03) 6507050


German Rail/DER Tours, 904 The East Mail, Etobicoke, ONT. M93 6K2, tel +1(416)695-1209, fax +1(416)695-1210


DER Travel Service, Germany

Rail Sales, 18 Conduit Street, London W1Y 7PE, tel 071-499 0577 / 0578

German Rail Distribution

18 Chertsey Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 5AB

Travel Planner: A 38-page guide to services and fares to and within in Germany.

Continental Rail Agents Consortium (CRAC)

424 Chester Road, Little Sutton, Cheshire L98 RB, 051-339 6171

A group of retail travel agents throughout the country offering a specialist service for the continental rail traveler.

German Tourist Office

Nightingale House, 65 Curzon Street, London W 1Y, 7PE. 071-495 3990


German Rail/DER Tours, 11933 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, tel +1(310)479-41140, fax +1(310)479-2239


Timetables; Travel Information

The Deutsche Bahn changes their timetables twice a year, usually at the end of May and at the end of September. The changes are in general only slight, and the times for most trains are unaffected by this.

There are many timetables you can buy or get for free in Germany. Prices will not be a real problem for travelers, but weight may be a concern, unless you are interested in transporting just timetables...

Kursbuch Gesamtausgabe

25 DM; 3000 g All trains in Germany, no subways, no busses.


10 DM; 800 g A selection of long-distance trains in Europe outside Germany.


7 DM; 800 g All long-distance trains in Germany.


7 DM; 800 g (each) 12 books with timetables including busses.


5 DM; 300 g (each) 30 books with all trains and all federal bus. (But no local bus etc!)


X DM; 300 g Trains from big towns to other big towns.

Städteverbindungen von ... und nach ...

0 DM; 150 g 160 booklets about trains from the 160 most important stations to 60 even more most important stations ;-) Available only at local railway stations.

Streckenfahrplan Strecke ...

0 DM; 10 g Specialized table of all trains on just one line; hundreds of these papers exist. Available only at local railway stations. At some place also available for street cars and/or busses.

Örtlicher Fahrplan

X DM; X g In all towns you can buy local timetables with all the local bus and subway and local trains and all trains from the main local station. Buy it if you plan on staying any longer than just a few hours in an area.

There is an FAQ (in German) about local timetables and travel information. You can call the travel information service of the Bahn at 01805 - 99 66 33, a toll free number.

Additionally, electronic timetables for MSDOS/Windows are available. There are two versions:

Elektronische Städteverbindungen

comes on 3HD floppies, requires 7MB of hard disk space, 80386, 2MB RAM; includes 1000 Stations, 24000 Trains, covers about 90% of all inquiries, DM 29,80

Elektronisches Kursbuch (ISBN 3-932045-31-9)

comes on CD-ROM, requires 80386, 4MB RAM;

includes all trains in Germany, and her neighbor countries; other Euopean countries are listed with those trains relevant to travelling to/from Germany.

You can opt to search the complete timetables of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbundes (that's a very large local integrated network of trains, busses, subways and other public transportation services)

Price of the CD-ROM is DM 30. 1996-12

They can be ordered at Deutsche Bahn AG, Postfach 1157, 53821 Troisdorf 1994-6

The Poor Man's Version of the Kursbuch

The German Kursbuch exists on CD-ROM; but even without it one still gets along quite well, following these simple basic rules:


Fly and Ride (a Train)

Airports with railway stations near or under the terminals:

Be ready to have German coins. It is not legal to enter an S-train without a valid ticket. So you might want to use the ticket vending machines. Other airports can be reached by local public transport. Taxis cost a lot in all areas and may also be time consuming in some areas. 1994-2

Trains and Bicycles

Transporting your bike on a train costs you 6 DM for distances below 100 km and 12 DM for longer distances. Reservation for your bike is absolutely a good idea in IR and IC trains. These have special carriages for bicycles. Watch for the bike symbol outside. Short-distance trains might have a special bike compartment. If not, put it in the room where the doors are. Some trains have a special carriage at the front, instead of a locomotive (which sits at the back then). These carriages almost invariably have bike accomodation. Sometimes you find special small-freight carriages at the end of trains. Put your bike in these. Enter them through the passenger entry (you can ignore the notice telling you it's forbidden usually) and open the extra- wide doors from the inside. Now bring your bike in. Very easy! In bigger cities local trains bike transport might be forbidden during rush hours, but you can bring your bike even in the underground.

In tourist areas it is possible to rent bikes at railway stations or from private. 1999-11

20.3 Country-Wide/Continent-Wide Bus Travel like Greyhound?

There is no national or private bus company like greyhound. There are, nevertheless, a few lines run by the European railroads or private companies. Some of the lines you can find in the Kursbuch. On many lines there is only one bus every day or even week. Some airport bus lines have real service. A return ticket Hamburg-Paris costs about DM 150.

In towns with many foreign workers there might also be some bus services to the South, but you have to be a local to know about it. 1994-2

20.4 Regional Hiking Service (Mitfahrzentralen)

Though hitch-hiking is not commonly encouraged, it's still a fairly common way of getting around in the summer time. There is no promise that it's more or less dangerous in Germany than in other parts of the world. You'll have to weigh up the risk and inconvenience yourself. If you're not in a rush, have a sense of adventure, and want or need to save money, it may be an option for you. If safety and comfort are your priorities it's probably much better to use the widespread network of ride sharing agencies (the so-called Mitfahrzentralen) to find a ride -- Organized hitch-hiking so to speak.

Based on the idea that single drivers and hikers just need some place where they can meet, these centers charge hikers a small fee for a successful match. Drivers don't get charged, because these centers live on their offers. The service bureaus usually note down the names, addresses, phone numbers and license plate numbers of the involved parties -- adding a lot of safety to the relationship, not just predictability.

The general procedure is:

All in all, you pay about 1/3 to 1/2 of the train fare. 1994-5

Quite a number of the Mitfahrzentralen are connected by the so-called Citynetz. The general phone number for all member centers of the Citynetz is 19444.

Your requests are handled on a computer network ... return/continuing trip requests can automatically be forwarded; you may pay by Bankeinzug(only from German accounts) examples of price totals (including fee; VAT; gas share)

from a brochure 3/94

There is also an internet address for the Mitfahrzentrale at the university of Stuttgart.

20.5 You Mean I *Can* Get Around on My Bicycle?

You may or may not be used to cycling at home - in Germany cycling is definitely worth considering: for your daily commuting, for short-distance errands, for pastime, or for longer vacation tours. Bring along your bicycle, or buy one in Germany. Prices range from under 100 DM on the fleamarket to several thousand DM.

Cycling conditions in the cities vary between comfortable (Münster) and horrible. Ask your German colleagues for advice.

Cycling is probably more regulated in Germany than in your country - which has both advantages and disadvantages. It's a good idea to know about German traffic rules regarding cycling and the required equipment of your bicycle. As a minimum, your bike has to have a white light at the front, a red light at the back, yellow reflectors in the wheels, a bell and mudguards.

The Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrradclub provides a wealth of information around cycling in Germany.

See also: Trains and Bicycles and the newsgroup de.rec.fahrrad (see The Internet) with their very informative FAQ list ( a second source.)

20.6 Buying a Car for Short Period instead of EuRail?

Summary of a thread from Fall 1993.

The overall tone of the responses was pessimistic. In particular:

Here are selected parts of the responses:

Driving in Germany is not cheap! A tank of gas that would cost you about US$12 ( 20 DM) in the USA would cost you about US$50 there ( 80 DM) in Germany (Assuming a rate of 1.60 DM per US$1.)

If you don't buy a car from a dealer you do not pay vat anyway. For that kind of money DM 2000-2500, US$ 1200-1500 don't bother about shipping it to the States. It would be so old that it wouldn't have a catalytic converter.

Your Insurance will be astronomical just because you're a foreigner. ... You've also got to pay property taxes on the car. That means you must have an address in Germany where you are angemeldet residency. There also may be some legal hang-ups against buying a car if you're just using it to travel. In addition to these thoughts, the buying process is also quite different. You can't just walk into a car dealer and come out with a car -- like you can in America. There's quite a bit of paper work that needs to be done before you can even test drive the car. You'll have to come back a couple of days later to do that and then afterwards you can negotiate the transaction.

Primarily central parts of the cities are closed for cars.

Parking can be a hassle.

To my knowledge, you have to be resident of the Fed. Rep. of Germany in order to register a car. ... re-selling the car can be quite a hassle. There are times (not particular seasons, though) when the market is not really in favor for sellers. ... Renting a car might be worth considering.

It should be no problem to get a car which is still running for this price. Make sure it has some state inspection time left, otherwise it will not be registered. ... You will need insurance, of course. This is based on the hp of the car. For 40 hp it will be about 100 DM per month. You must also pay car tax, this is based on the cc of the engine. For 1 liter is it about DM 200 per year. You get a refund, if you sell the car earlier for the unused time.

I personally would not recommend buying a very cheap car, because it will likely break down.

I would look for a really cheap car (<1000 DM), which will last for the time you are in Germany.

Q: Are there Mercedes diesels from the 70s that are reasonably priced? A: They are about DM 2000-6000 US$ 1200-4000 ... maybe more if in very good shape.

I lived in Germany for over a year and one of the nicer things ... about living there is the fact that you don't need a car.

Addendum: In July/94 the insurance market became more liberal (following an EU guide-line.) Whatever the consequences are -- it's very likely more diverse now and less transparent to the customers.

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