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By Car

Germany has a world-famous network of excellent roads and Autobahn (motorway) with no toll or fees for cars (trucks have to pay), but gasoline prices are kept high by taxation. In April 2006 prices float around 1,30 € per litre. At petrol stations you'll have the choice between Diesel, "Benzin" (unleaded gasoline), Super and SuperPlus (high octane). Also LPG (Liquid petroleum gas) is available with not so much problems on Highways. Here and there you might find "Erdgas", too; this is compressed natural gas not gasoline. In Germany, you may first fill up your tank and pay afterwards.

Car rentals are available in most cities, and one-way rentals (within Germany) are generally permitted without an additional fee. When renting a car, be aware that most cars in Germany have manual gearbox (stick-shift), so you might want to ask for a car with an automatic gearbox if that's what you're used to.

Especially in Eastern Germany you will note small, green, permanent arrows at traffic lights, pointing to the right. When the lights are red, you are still ordered to halt, but if there are no cars approaching, you are allowed to carefully turn right, despite the red traffic light. (The whole system does not apply if there are no green arrows).

Watch out for cyclists on sidewalk lanes.

The police will show blinking signs reading "Polizei Halt" (police, stop) if they want to stop you. Stay calm and friendly, hand over the driving license and car papers (if you rent a car, you will have a copy of the rental contract) when you are asked to. In most cases that is all what happens and if you respect traffic signs and speed limits it is very unlikely that you get stopped at all.

Speed limits (for cars) are the following in Germany (unless otherwise shown):

max. 5 km/h on "Spielstraßen" (marked by a blue/white sign showing playing kids)
max. 50 km/h inside towns and cities (including "Kraftfahrtstraßen" (marked by a sign showing a white car on a blue ground)
max. 100 km/h outside towns and cities
There is no general speed limit on the "Autobahn" and - outside of towns and cities - also on "Kraftfahrstraßen" if there is any kind of barrier between lanes of different direction. However the recommended speed is 130 km/h and if you drive on the autobahn for your first time and are not yet used to the usual heavy traffic you should not exceed that speed.
Vehicles with a maximum speed of less than 60 km/h are not allowed on the "Autobahn" or "Kraftfahrstraßen".

For an overview of traffic signs and regulations in Germany, see this site.

Using the Autobahn

German drivers tend to drive faster and more aggressively than you might be used to, especially on the parts of the highway system without speed limit, which is taken literally. Always have a look over your shoulder when changing lanes. Especially motorbikes may seem to appear out of nowhere within a second.

Use the right lane if it's free, even if everybody seems to prefer the left and middle lanes (where they exist). Overtaking cars on the Autobahn is only allowed on the left side. Overtaking / Passing cars on the right is prohibited and you will be be fined. Exceptions are in traffic jams or at low speed within city limits.

Never ever reverse on a highway when you missed an exit. Go to next exit and make a U-turn.

[Autobahns have an emergency lane where you're allowed to stop only in case of a breakdown. For everything else, always use the frequent service areas, as it is illegal to run out of gas on the Autobahn. Note that it is dangerous to stay in the car on the emergency lane! Arrows on the small posts along the Autobahn guide you to the next orange emergency phone. These will automatically connect you free of charge with an emergency call center which will help you get the police, an ambulance or just a mechanic. These phones should be the preferred choice over using your mobile since they transmit your exact location.]

In some areas emergency tracks are used as extra lanes in times of heavy traffic. But this is always announced by electronic light signs.

In case of a breakdown you may also call the ADAC, by members the world's largest automobile club. The number is +49 180 2222222 from fixed lines and 22 22 22 from mobile phones regardless of network. On the Autobahn, the ADAC must come to you free of charge. In other situations, there may be costs involved if you're not a member. If you're a member of a foreign AA or automobile club, you may want to check if the ADAC honours your membership.

By train

Germany has a dense railway system, which reaches almost every part of the country. Unless you travel by car, the train will be your major mode of transportation. Crossing Germany from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north will take only 6 hours at best. Driving by car would take around 8 hours.

The majority of the trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn ("German Rail") [4], the formerly state-owned railway company privatized a few years ago. The trains are usually reliable (delays of more than 10 minutes are rather uncommon), and a comfortable and safe way of travel. If not otherwise indicated, the information in this section is about DB-run trains.

There are some independent railway companies which run regional trains or aim at specific target markets, like business travellers.

All major cities are linked by ICE (InterCity Express) and regular InterCity trains. The ICE are high speed trains, reaching top speeds of 330km/h; and even though they rarely cruise at such high speeds travel is faster than by car and quite comfortable. Be sure to get a reservation - it's not mandatory, but you may end up standing or sitting on the floor without one. Reservations are a MUST on Fridays and even Sundays because this is the main travel time for commuters returning home or to work for the weekend. Even first class will be very full on these days.

ICE trains have high standards of comfort. Before booking a first class ticket, bear in mind that the quality of second class on ICE trains is equivalent or even superior to first class in many other countries' intercity trains, which is also reflected in the price. The main difference between the two classes is the seat width (3 abreast in first and 4 abreast in second class).

The high speed ICE is the most expensive option, of course. On the major lines, an ICE or IC train will run each hour or so during the day. There are also EuroCity (EC) trains, which connect the larger European cities. For inner-Germany travel, these are virtually identical to the regular ICs.

There are also long distance trains operated by other companies than Deutsche Bahn, usually running over secondary routes. These are usually quite comfortable (although not as comfortable as ICE) and sometimes cheaper, but most of them stop at almost every station en-route. The "SchönesWochenende"-Ticket ("HappyWeekend") allows to travel on most of them (and on almost all means of short distance public transport) on Saturday or Sunday, the most notable exception being the "InterConnex" lines. Beware that travelling e.g. from Hamburg to Munich via short distance public transport, which is mandatory for "SchönesWochenende", would require around 10 transfers and take around 13 hours!

German Rail Passes provide unlimited transportation on all Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) trains and are easy to use for foreign visitors. In the off season reservations even on ICE trains are usually not necessary, particularly in first class. This allows travelers to simply show up at the train station and take the next train. Mainly all conductors (at least every main conductor, called the "Zugchef" (Train Boss)) speak good English.

Regional travel

Online information and bookings
All information and an online timetable for the Deutsche Bahn (as well as for almost any other public transport providers in Germany and many trains throughout Europe) are available from the Deutsche Bahn homepage at http://www.bahn.de/international/englisch/ (English). The address for timetable inquiries and online ticket sales is http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en (English).

Most important is to first distinguish between long distance and local trains. The problem is: if you ride between stations inside a tariff union, it is a local connection, if at least one is outside, it is a long distance connection, even if it is exactly the same train! Especially in local transport systems choosing the correct ticket and finding the procedure to trick the machine into selling it to you might appear to be a bit difficult. Feel free to ask some other traveller to help you. Travelling within a tariff union, you usually need only one ticket for your whole journey (there may be exceptions, e.g. historic, touristic or long distance trains or certain local or express bus lines).

Ticket machines come in three types. Local transport ticket machines are usually yellow, white / grey or orange, regional (up to 100 km) and long distance tickets are available from red and blue machines.

Tickets for Verkehrsverbund
Most big cities form a Verkehrsverbund (unified fare system). You have to pay first, then take your ride. Depending on the ticket you have to punch it to make it valid. If you have no valid ticket you will be fined as a fare dodger.

There can be return tickets and day tickets and some kind of 4, 5 or 10 rides tickets at a reduced price are common. Some tickets allow you to travel for a certain time, with being allowed to make a break. Some tickets are valid for a certain distance, either a number of stations or a number of regions. Many unified fare systems are structured into regions or zones, the price depends on the number of zones (aka the distance).

Unfortunately it is not easy to find out where to buy the tickets. If you see a machine at the station, buy it there. If you don't see one, enter the bus or tram at the front and ask the driver. In trains and subways tickets are not sold on board, in many cities it's even forbidden to be present on a platform without a ticket. In some areas there are ticket machines on the trains.

A very comfortable and cheap thing is the connection of long distance and local transport. If you travel long distance, there is a good chance that the ticket will include a day ticket of the Verkehrsverbund at least at the destination, probably also at the place of departure.

The machines for local tickets in most cases only accept cash. While some accept German bank account cards, electronic cash cards, or special debit cards, credit cards definitely won't work. To buy a single ticket you'll have to find out the distance code from a large table on the machine and enter that on a dial pad. Day passes or the like (which are usually the better choice for a tourist) have extra keys.

There are ticket counters in most middle sized and of course all bigger stations. Opening hours vary, though, and there's a good chance you'll have to queue up for 5 minutes. In some cities tickets are sold at newspaper kiosks too.

Tickets to Long Distance Trains

Long distance tickets are tickets for the trains of the Deutsche Bahn. As the Bahn participates at the unified fare system, they often do not sell tickets for rides inside the area of the Verkehrsverbund. According to the Deutsche Bahn there are seven ways to buy a ticket:

on the internet
at the blue (old) and red (new) DB ticket machines
at the DB ticket offices at the station, called Reisezentrum (sometimes slightly more expensive)
24h by telefone number 11861 (quite expensive - especially the phone call)
travel agencies wit DG sign (about 3600, sometimes slightly more expensive)
by subscription (not relevant for tourists)
on board (ca. 10% additional charge)
If there is a sign on the train doors or nearby that shows "Einstieg nur mit gültigem Fahrausweis" or anything similar, you have to buy the ticket in advance. Otherwise you may be fined. If you are fined and not willing (or unable) to pay, you will in most cases end up being questioned (or even arrested) by the "Bundespolizei" (federal police).

The internet is probably not very useful for tourists, but as there are an increasing number of internet cafes: just go to the website http://www.bahn.de (or directly to http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/), find your connection, pay by credit card, print your ticket (necessary). The conductor will check your ticket number and your credit card number. It is possible to buy tickets immediately before the ride, and it's fast if you are used to it.

The blue (and red) DB ticket machines were redesigned some years ago. Use the touchscreen to enter departure and destination, time and date. You will get a list of different connections, with prices depending on the train. Select one, pay by credit card or maestro, ticket will be printed. No cash. Sells tickets immediately before the ride.

The Reisezentrum is the best for travellers. They are friendly and helpful. Drawbacks are, they are open only at certain times, they exist only at big stations, there is almost always the need to wait. Depending on the time and day you should have at least half an hour spare time.

By telefone means reserve by phone, get the ticket at the machine or by snail mail. Mail obviously takes three days and requires a valid address in Germany.

On board tickets are available from the conductor. They do not sell most of the reduced price tickets, and you will have to pay a small additional fee. They accept cash and credit card, for amounts above EUR 50 they require an id.

If there is only a short distance ticket machine at your origin station not selling tickets to your destination, you have to type "9999". The machine will sell you "Fahrkarte Anfangsstrecke" (preliminary ticket). In this case you have to buy your final ticket on board.


There are some special promotions and prices the rail company offers at various times. Your best course of action is to check their website, or to ask at a train station or their telephone hotline for current details. However, some general points to keep in mind are:

If you buy a return ticket at least three days in advance you can get discounts of 25% and even 50% if your trip includes the night from Saturday to Sunday. Unlike standard fare tickets you must use the trains you booked the ticket for and cannot choose an earlier or later ones.
Children up to fourteen years travel free when accompanied by at least one of their parents or grandparents.
If you plan to travel by train a lot, you may consider getting a BahnCard, valid for 12 months (from the date of purchase), which gives you discounts on all ticket purchases. The BahnCard 25 costs €50 (€100 for first class) and gives you a 25% discount on all further ticket purchases. Spouses and kids of BahnCard 25-owners can get additional cards for €5.
The BahnCard 50 is €200 (€400 for first class) and gives you a 50% discount on all tickets. You can get this card for half the price if you're a pupil or student (up to 26 years of age), a pensioner of more than 60 years or disabled.
The BahnCard 100 is €3300 (€5500 for first class) and gives you a 100% discount on almost all tickets. An example for the exceptions is the AutoZug, which is a train that allows you to take your car along. You will have to pay some additional fare to use the night trains and the ICE Sprinter.
But there is another great offer, if you are a student in Germany and under the age of 26, you can get the BahnCard50 with half-cut-off price, which is 103euro. Also another important tip if you don't want to buy the BahnCard, book the train ticket one week in advance, you also can get half price ticket, the restriction is you have to arrange your itinerary carefully, the destination of your return is the departure of you start, which means this kind of offer only works if you will return back to where you leave, and the duration should cover the weekends, finally, in which train you can take is fixed in advance(the train code will be given to you).

The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (English: Lovely Weekend Ticket) lets you travel anywhere in Germany on a Saturday or Sunday until 3 am the following day. It is, however, only valid on regional trains (IRE, RE, RB, S), many private railways and on most of the other means of public transport, but not express or night trains (ICE, IC, etc.). If you have time on your hands, it is a very inexpensive option at just €30 for up to 5 people. It is not uncommon to be asked by fellow travellers at a major train station if you have such a ticket in order to travel as a group and share the costs. The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket is potentially an ultra-cheap form of long distance travel: You can get from Munich to Hamburg for €5, taking 12+ hours, however it's still faster and more comfortable than taking the bus.
If your travel is contained within a single Bundesland (state), then you may buy a similar version of the Schönes-Wochenend-Ticket valid in that state only. Tickets cost around €17 for 1 person and € 25 for up to five people (depending on the state) and are valid on weekdays as well.
The German Rail Pass and the Eurail Pass allow for unlimited travel throughout Germany and Europe on a selectable number of days. These tickets are only available from travel agencies outside Germany. See Special offers for travelers from outside Europe for more information.

Information for railway fans
There are several railways of special interests in Germany. These include among others:

the Rasender Roland on Rügen
the Molli in Bad Doberan
the Harzquerbahn
the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn in Wuppertal
the H-Bahn in Dortmund
the Schwebebahn Dresden
the Transrapid (see Wikipedia article Transrapid)
Cog railways are in Stuttgart, up Drachenfels, up the Zugspitze Mountain and up the Wendelstein Mountain.

For an almost complete list, see de:Sehenswerte Eisenbahnen in Deutschland.

DB subsidiaries
Burgenlandbahn (Artern - Nebra - Naumburg, Zeitz - Teuchern - Weißenfels / Naumburg, Querfurt - Merseburg, Merseburg - Schafstädt)
other railway corporations
ABELLIO Rail (Gelsenkirchen - Herne - Bochum (Nokia-Bahn), Essen - Bochum - Witten - Hagen (Ruhr-Lenne-Bahn))
Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (around Karlsruhe)
Allgäu Express (München - Oberstdorf)
Altona-Kaltenkirchen-Neumünster Eisenbahn (Hamburg-Eidelstedt - Ulzburg - Neumünster, Elmshorn - Ulzburg, Ulzburg - Norderstedt Mitte)
Bahnbetriebsgesellschaft Stauden (Gessertshausen - Fischach - Markt Wald, Günzburg - Krumbach)
Bayerische Oberlandbahn (München - Lenggries / Tegernsee / Bayrischzell)
Bayerische Zugspitzbahn (Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Grainau - Schneefernerhaus/Zugspitzplatt)
Bodensee-Oberschwaben-Bahn (Friedrichshafen Hafen - Aulendorf)
Borkumer Kleinbahn und Dampfschiffahrt (on the North Sea island Borkum)
Breisgau-S-Bahn-Gesellschaft (Freiburg - Breisach, Riegel - Endingen - Breisach, Riegel - Gottenheim, Freiburg - Elzach)
Brohltal Schmalspur-Eisenbahn (Brohl - Engeln)
Busverkehr Ober- und Westerzgebirge Bahn (Cranzahl - Oberwiesenthal, Radebeul Ost - Radeburg)
Chiemseebahn (Prien(DB) - Hafen Stock)
City Bahn Chemnitz (Chemnitz - Stollberg, Stollberg - St. Egidien - Glauchau, Chemnitz - Burgstädt, Chemnitz - Hainichen)
Connex Sachsen (Cottbus - Görlitz - Zittau, Leipzig - Bad Lausick - Geithain, Görlitz - Bischofswerda - Dresden)
Dessau-Wörlitzer Eisenbahn (Dessau - Wörlitz)
Döllnitzbahn (Oschatz - Mügeln - Kemmlitz, Nebitzschen - Glossen)
Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe (around Karlsruhe)
By bus
A few long distance bus lines exist within Germany, most of them orientated to/from Berlin. Apart from these, there is a very dense network of regional and local bus lines. In rural areas though, many lines run only once per day. Regional and local express bus line designators usually contain the letter(s) CE (local), E (regional around Hamburg; in other areas, E is used for special runnings), S (regional), SB (regional and local) or X (local within Berlin), city bus line designators may contain the letter(s) BB ("Bürgerbus", not integrated within tariff unions), C or O. Always check the departure boards carefully: sometimes - especially at night or in rural areas - you have to order your bus by phone.

By Plane

The German flagcarrier Deutsche Lufthansa connects all major cities in Germany to each other and foreign destinations. Due to the comparatively short distances and relatively high hassle of air travel - especially when you travel with luggage - domestic air travel is used mostly for business purposes. Due to the boom of budget airlines very low price offers are seen in the internet and high competition in the industry will keep them low. Please compare prices for plane tickets to those of the railway tickets if you want to go to some major cities. Make sure though, that you get where you want to! Low-cost airlines are known for naming small airports in the middle of nowhere by cities 200 km away (e.g. Frankfurt-Hahn is not Germany's major international airport Frankfurt/Main).

The following carriers offer domestic flights within Germany:

Lufthansa (Berlin (Tegel Airport), Bremen Airport, Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dortmund Airport, Dresden Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Frankfurt International Airport, Friedrichshafen Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Hanover Airport, Hof Airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, Muenster Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Paderborn Airport, Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

Air Berlin (Berlin (Schoenefeld Airport), Berlin (Tegel Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dortmund Airport, Dresden Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Erfurt Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Hanover Airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, Muenster Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Paderborn Airport, Rostock-Laage (Laage Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

dba (Berlin (Tegel Airport), Berlin (Tempelhof Airport), Bremen Airport, Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dresden Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Frankfurt International Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Hanover Airport, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden (Soellingen Airport), Muenster Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport))

HapagFly (Berlin (Schoenefeld Airport), Berlin (Tegel Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dresden Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Erfurt Airport, Hanover Airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, Muenster Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport))
Cirrus Airlines (Berlin (Tempelhof Airport), Dresden Airport, Erfurt Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Heringsdorf Airport, Kiel (Holtenau Airport), Leipzig/Halle Airport, Mannheim Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Saarbruecken (Ensheim Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

LGW (Berlin (Tempelhof Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dortmund Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Erfurt Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Leipzig/Halle Airport, Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

OLT (Borkum Airport, Bremen Airport, Bremerhaven Airport, Cuxhaven/Nordholz Airport, Emden Airport, Heide/Buesum Airport, Helgoland Airport, Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

Germanwings (Berlin (Schoenefeld Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dresden Airport, Dusseldorf Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Leipzig/Halle Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport))

Hapag Lloyd Express (Berlin (Tegel Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Hanover Airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)

European Air Express (Berlin (Tempelhof Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Muenster Airport, Nuremberg (Metropolitan Area Airport), Stuttgart (Echterdingen Airport))

InterSky (Berlin (Tempelhof Airport), Cologne (Koeln/Bonn Airport), Dresden Airport, Friedrichshafen Airport, Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport))

LTU International Airways (Berlin (Schoenefeld Airport), Berlin (Tegel Airport), Dusseldorf Airport, Frankfurt International Airport, Munich (Franz Josef Strauss Airport))

Sylt Air (Hamburg (Fuhlsbuettel Airport), Westerland - Sylt Airport)
Transaero Airlines (Berlin (Schoenefeld Airport), Frankfurt International Airport)

By recreational vehicle and campervans

Recreational Vehicle (RV) is a broad term used to describe a large enclosed piece of equipment with wheels designed to be moved from place to place for people to temporarily live in and be protected from the elements while away from their permanent domicile. Campervans are vans that have been fitted out for use as accommodation. They are considered as an alternative to the purpose-built recreational vehicle or motorhome because they are smaller and handle like most vans.

German campgrounds (like most in Western Europe) usually offer a full range of amenities. You'll always have your own electricity hookup, water and sewer hookups for each are common, too. Every campground has restrooms and showers as well as kitchens, washing-machines and a spin dryer.

The yellow pages of camping, or, if you like, the German camping bible, is the ADAC Campingführer, a campground guide by Germany's largest automobile club ADAC. It lists almost all campgrounds along with prices, type of location, size, opening hours, amenities, you-name-it. Since the guide uses lots of symbols which are explained in a number of languages, it's suitable for travellers from abroad, too. The ISBN number for the 2006 edition covering Germany and Northern Europe is 3899052765, price is 16.90 €. If you don't get it at home you can buy at any bookstore in Germany. If they don't have it on hand they'll order it for pickup the next day.


It is possible to hitchhike in Germany and most Germans speak (at least broken) English, so you will be understood if you speak slowly. Drivers rarely expect you to give them any money for the ride. The first letters of the German number plate (before the hyphen) indicate the city in which the car is registered. If you know the code for your destination it will increase your chances.

It is illegal to stop on the Autobahn itself, but hitchhiking from service areas or petrol stations is a good way of getting long rides (100-200 km). The hard part is getting onto the Autobahn, so it pays off to sleep near the gas stations if you are going far. At the gas stations you can get a free booklet called Tanken und Rasten with a map of the Autobahn and its gas stations. When getting a lift, agree with the driver where to get off, and make sure there is a gas station. Try to avoid the Auto Hofs.

It is also quite common to arrange a ride in a private vehicle in advance through the Internet. You are required to contribute towards fuel costs, and sometimes an agency fee as well, but it is usually still much cheaper than travelling by train (example fare: Frankfurt to Berlin €25). Mitfahrzentrale has offices in major cities and charges a small commission. Hitchhikers is a comparable service, multilingual and free. Mitfahrgelegenheit is a more private-run affair. You can contact the driver directly by email, phone or sms. As the drivers are registered it is safer than hitchhiking. Mitflugzentrale arranges rides in private planes.


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