homeGermany travel guide > Germany getting around - internal travel
Germany guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2009
Germany Getting Around - Internal Travel
Germany Internal Travel - Getting Around Germany - TravelPuppy.com
Air

Internal services are operated by Lufthansa and several regional airlines. Frankfurt/M is the focal point of internal air services and all airports in the Federal Republic of Germany can be reached in an average of 50 minutes’ flying time. There are several airports in the country which can offinternal air services.

Helgoland, Sylt and some other Friesian Islands are served by seasonal services operated by regional airlines or air taxi services. Connections by air are run daily from Berlin, Bremen, Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt/M, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Westerland/Sylt (during the summer only). The majority of western airports offer daily flights to Leipzig and several flights a week to Dresden.

Sea

Regular scheduled boat services operate on most rivers, lakes and coastal waters, including the Danube, Main, Moselle, Neckar, Rhine and the Weser, and also on Ammer See, Chiemsee, Königssee and Lake Constance.

Ferry services are operated on Kiel Fjord and from Cuxhaven to Helgoland and to the East and North Friesian Islands as well as to Scandinavian destinations.

Besides these scheduled services, special excursions are available on all navigable waters. The KD German Rhine Line covers the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers, and has comfortable ships which operate daily from April to late October. Tours with entertainment on board and excursions are arranged as well as cruises between The Netherlands and Switzerland and on the Moselle.

In conjunction with the ‘White Fleet’ Dresden, the KD also organises cabin cruises on the Elbe between Dresden and Hamburg. The ‘White Fleet’ offers 30 scheduled services and short trips around Berlin.

Other routes include the rivers Saale and Elbe, several lakes and the Mecklenburger Lake District.

Hapag-Lloyd operates cruises of 7 to 21 days from Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Kiel in summer.

Lake Constance (Europe’s third-largest inland lake) is served by regular steamers, pleasure boats and car ferries between the German, Swiss and Austrian shores.

The Bodensee Pass
gives 50 per cent reductions to visitors throughout the Lake Constance area. This includes scheduled ferry services offered by the German, Swiss and Austrian railways as well as some bus, local train and mountain railway routes. The pass is valid for either 7 or 15 days. Children up to 6 years of age travel free.

In addition to the pass, there is a Family Ticket which is available free of charge and allows children between 6 and 16 years of age free travel; unmarried young persons between 16 and 26 years of age pay half price. In both cases they have to be accompanied by a parent. The Family Ticket is only valid on boats together with the Bodensee Pass.

Rail

Several InterCity and ICE connections are on offer running every one-two hours on the following routes:

Berlin–Frankfurt/M–Karlsruhe
Berlin–Cologne–Basel
Munich–Frankfurt/M–Berlin
Hamburg–Berlin–Dresden with direct links to Prague.

The ICE-Business-Sprinter runs non-stop on the following routes:

Frankfurt/M–Hannover
Wiesbaden–Hannover
Frankfurt/M–Hamburg
Wiesbaden–Hamburg
Mannheim–Hamburg
Karlsruhe–Hamburg
Frankfurt/M–Munich.

Seats on these services have to be booked in advance, yearly ticket holders can use the Sprinters without surcharge. Generally, reservations are advised on all services. Children under 6 years of age travel free of charge, those aged 6 to 11 pay half the fare, young people aged 12-26 pay 75% of the standard fare. For latest information leaflets, contact German Rail in the UK.

German National Railways (Deutsche Bahn) operates some 32,684 passenger trains each day over a 40,800km (25,500-mile) network and many international through services.

Work on the 3200km (2000-mile) fast-train network has already started and should be completed by 2010. The network does not radiate around the capital as the federal structure provides an integrated system to serve the many regional centres.

EuroCity, InterCity, InterCity Express and InterRegio departure and arrival times are co-ordinated with each other. More than fifty cities, including Berlin, Erfurt, Dresden and Leipzig, are served hourly by InterCity trains, and increasingly by InterCity Express trains, regional centres are connected every 2 hours (west Germany), or every 2 to 4 hours in the eastern part of the country, through the InterRegio system. Details of up-to-date prices, and where tickets can be bought, are available from German Rail or the Tourist Office.

Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa have introduced an innovative project aimed at replacing internal German flights with more environmentally friendly rail transport. For travellers using Frankfurt airport wanting to transfer to or from Stuttgart or Cologne, train and flight timetables will be coordinated; one ticket will cover the whole journey and check in/check out will take place at Stuttgart Station. Boarding the train with just hand luggage, the travellers can pick up their luggage at the flight destination or Stuttgart Station. This offer is currently available for every airport Lufthansa flies to from Frankfurt (except Tel Aviv).

With a railway network as complex, sophisticated and modern as that in the western part of the Federal Republic of Germany, it is obviously impossible to give all the details of the main routes, facilities, timetables, fares and reductions which are currently available. The following section gives brief descriptions of the major special fares and tickets which are currently on offer. Some of these can only be obtained in Germany. Other new schemes, or modifications to existing ones, may be introduced in the future.

The introduction of the high-speed InterCity Express, travelling at 280kph (175mph), reduced travel times between the major centres immensely. The service is operating hourly only on some connections at the moment, but this number is increasing, a supplement is payable.

The extensive InterCity network connects the major centres at hourly intervals, and ensures swift interchange between trains. A supplement is charged for first or second class on EuroCity and InterCity trains.

Smaller towns are linked by the 26 InterRegio lines at 2 hour intervals. Supplementing the system of these longer-distance trains are several commuter networks in larger towns and cities.

Facilities and services

Buffet cars with some seating for light refreshments and drinks are provided on InterRegio (IR) trains. Most EuroCity and InterCity trains carry a 48-seat restaurant, offering a menu and drinks throughout the journey. The newer generation InterCity Express trains combine both of the above-mentioned facilities, offering a selection of snacks and menu in their restaurant cars. First-class passengers are provided with ‘at-your-seat’ service. The InterCity Express also provides a service car with conference compartment, card telephones and fully-equipped office.

Sleeping cars: Many have showers, and air conditioning is provided on most of the long-distance overnight trains. Beds can be booked in advance. Some trains provide couchettes instead of beds. Sleeping-car attendants serve refreshments. Seat reservations should be made for all long-distance trains well in advance.

When reserving a seat on EuroCity, InterCity and InterCity Express trains, specify Grossraumwagen, which is a carriage with adjustable seats and without compartments, or Abteilwagen, which is made up of compartments.

Bicycles: At approximately 260 stations in areas suited for cycle tours, the DB operates a bicycle hire service (ticket holders have special reduced rates). It is also possible to carry your bike on the train but you may need to pre-book a space for it so check prior to travel.

Mountain railways: Cable cars, chairlifts or cogwheel railways serve all popular mountain sites.

Rail passes

The following is a selection of rail passes available on the German railways. Details may change and travellers are advised to check with Deutsche Bahn.

Because of the large range of promotions available at any one time, it is not possible to list them all so visit www.bahn.co.uk for the latest information and offers. Some passes can only be purchased outside Germany (see Note below).

Saverticket: Available for a return journey on one weekend or within 1 month.

Supersaverticket: Available for a return journey on a Saturday or within 1 month (not valid for Friday, Sunday and during peak days).

Twenticket: Available for second-class single or return journeys for regional and long-distance travel between the ages of 12 and 25. Valid for up to 2 months, the ticket gives up to 20 % discount on the regular fare.

Happy Weekend Ticket: Available for up to 5 persons travelling together at a weekend, from Saturday-Monday (0300 hrs). Valid on all local trains, second-class only.

Euro Domino: These tickets enable holders to make flexible travel arrangements and are valid in 27 European countries including the ferry service from Brindisi (Italy) to Igoumenitsa (Greece). They have to be bought in the country of residence for which a valid passport or other form of ID has to be shown. First and second class tickets are available for travellers over 26 years of age, for passengers under 26, only second-class is available. The tickets for travellers over 26 years of age are also valid for any 3, 5 or 8 days within a month (travel days do not have to be consecutive). They also entitle holders to a discount of 25 % on rail travel in the country of origin or in all countries which comply with the system.

Discounted Euro Domino tickets are on offer for persons under 26 years of age. Children between 4 and 11 years get a 50 % discount, children under 4 travel free. The German variety of the ED-ticket is valid on the complete network of the Deutshe Bahn, all InterCity trains, including the InterCity Express, can be used without paying a supplement. Motorail is exempt. Where seat reservation is required, a reduced fee is charged, the usual rates apply for couchette and sleeping-cars.

Inter-Rail: Available to all, but for those aged over 26, tickets are approximately 40 % more expensive. Four different tickets are available. Europe is split into 8 zones (A-H) and the pass is valid for an unlimited number of train journeys in the zones chosen, which now include Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro.

The Global Pass is valid for one month in all 8 zones (32 countries, including Morocco, Turkey and the ferry connection Brindisi–Patras). Other tickets cover just 1 zone (two-seven countries, 15 days validity), 2 zones (six-10 countries, 22 days validity) and 3 zones (nine-15 countries, one month validity). Reductions of 50% are offered in the country of residence for travel to the border and back as well as transit journeys. The Inter-Rail ticket is only available for second-class travel and does not include the use of certain services such as the X2000 in Sweden, the Pendolino in Italy or the AVE in Spain. Certain other trains incur supplements.

BahnCard: The BahnCard ticket offers half-price rail travel with a choice of first or second class travel and is valid for 1 year. In addition, there are reduced versions for married couples, families, senior citizens, young people and children.

Good Evening Ticket: Only available in Germany this ticket offers travel on nearly all routes within Germany for a flat fare between 1900-0300 hrs daily except Christmas, Easter and other major travelling dates. The ticket has to be bought at the station of departure.

Motorail: The German Railway has a fully integrated motorail network, connecting with the rest of the European motorail network. Trains run mostly during the summer and at other holiday periods; most have sleeper, couchette and restaurant/buffet cars, for further details see online (website: www.dbautozug.de).

Note: Conditions may apply to some of these tickets. There are certain discount rail passes that can only be purchased outside Germany.

The following rail passes can only be purchased through German Rail offices and travel agencies outside Europe:
German Railpass (valid for five, 10 or 15 days for either first or second class travel)
German Rail Youthpass (second-class travel for travellers under 26 years of age); and
German Rail Twinpass (for two persons travelling together, first or second class, for 5, 10 or 15 days).

Road

Traffic drives on the right. The Federal Republic of Germany is covered by a modern network of motorways (Autobahnen). There are over 487,000km (303,000 miles) of roads in all, and every part of the country can be reached by motorists. Use of the network is free at present, but the introduction of a road toll is being discussed and charges have been levied on some sight-seeing roads in Bavaria. Lead-free petrol is obtainable everywhere.

The breakdown service of the German Automobile Association (ADAC) is available throughout the country, though in the eastern part of the country, the Auto Club Europa (ACE) and the Allgemeiner Deutscher Motorsportverband (ADMV) also provide a service. Help is given free of charge to members of affiliated motoring organisations, including the AA, and only parts have to be paid for. Breakdown services, including a helicopter rescue service, are operated by the ADAC. In the event of a breakdown, use emergency telephones located along the motorway. When using these telephones, ask expressly for road service assistance, (Strassenwachthilfe). In almost all cases, the number to dial for emergency services is 110, if in doubt, dial the fire brigade, 112. Although motorways in eastern Germany are of a reasonable standard, many secondary roads are still being improved to match West German standards.

Bus

Buses serve villages and small towns, especially those without railway stations. Operated by the Post, German Railways or private firms, they only tend to run between or to small places and there are few long-distance services. Europabus/Deutsche Touring runs services on special scenic routes such as the Romantic Road (Wiesbaden/Frankfurt to Munich/Füssen) and the Castle Road (between Mannheim/Heidelberg to Rothenburg and Nuremberg).

Car hire

Self-drive cars, companies include Avis, Europcar, Hertz and Six are available at most towns and at over 40 railway stations.

Chauffeur-driven cars are available in all large towns. Rates depend on the type of car. Some firms offer weekly rates including unlimited mileage. VAT at 16 per cent is payable on all rental charges. On request, cars will be supplied at airports, stations and hotels. Several airlines, including Lufthansa, offer ‘Fly-drive’. Contact the National Tourist Office for details (see Contact Addresses section).

Regulations

Traffic signs are international. Speed limits in western Germany are 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas and 100kph (62mph) on all roads outside built-up areas. Motorways (Autobahnen) and dual carriageways have a recommended speed limit of 130kph (81mph). Speed limits in eastern Germany vary according to the condition of the road. Although officially the same as in western Germany, some motorways and dual carriageways carry varying speed limits and are signposted.

Children under 12 must travel in a special child seat in the back. Seat belts must be worn in the front and back. All visitors to Germany must display vehicle nationality plates. Fines can be imposed for running out of petrol on a motorway. The warning triangle and a first-aid box are compulsory. The nationwide alcohol limit is 0.5 per cent. Disabled drivers should be warned that, although Germany is well-organised for disabled travellers, an orange badge as used in the UK will not entitle the disabled motorist to park freely in Germany.

Motoring organisations:

The Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil Club (ADAC) based in Munich and the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD) based in Frankfurt/M have offices at all major frontier crossings and in the larger towns. They will be able to assist foreign motorists, particularly those belonging to affiliated motoring organisations. They also publish maps and guidebooks, which are available at their offices. German Automobile Association (ADAC) operates an emergency service to relay radio messages to motorists. In both winter and summer, there are constant radio reports on the road conditions and traffic.

Documentation

Foreign travellers may drive their cars for up to 1 year if in possession of a national licence or International Driving Permit and car registration papers. Insurance is legally required. EU nationals taking their own cars are strongly advised to obtain a Green Card. Without it, insurance cover is limited to the minimum legal cover, the Green Card tops this up to the level of cover provided by the car owner’s domestic policy.

Urban

A high standard of public transport services is available in all towns and cities. All urban areas have highly efficient and well-established bus services. These are supplemented in a number of larger cities by underground and suburban railway trains. In many towns, block tickets for several journeys can be purchased at reduced rates and unlimited daily travel tickets are available. In many larger cities, tickets for a local transport journey have to be purchased from ticket machines before boarding the suburban train (S-Bahn), underground (U-Bahn), bus or tram. There are numerous sophisticated vending machines which service all the main boarding points and a wide range of relevant maps and leaflets is available to travellers. Although there is often no conductor on trams and underground trains, inspections are frequent and passengers without valid tickets will be fined on the spot. Timetables and brochures are available at all the stations.

Berlin

The city’s excellent public transport includes an extensive network of buses, underground and S-Bahn. In the eastern part of the city, tram services and the ferries of the Berliner Verkehrs-Betriebe, BVG (Berlin Public Transport) , in conjunction with east Berlin’s ‘White Fleet’, provide further services. The underground lines 1 and 9 run a 24-hour service Friday night to Saturday and Saturday night to Sunday.

The Berlin-Ticket is valid for 24 hours for unlimited travel on bus, underground, S-Bahn and the BVG ferries. The special BVG-excursion coaches are exempt. Holders of the Combined Day-Ticket enjoy unlimited travel with bus, underground and S-Bahn, as well as on the complete ferry network of either organisation. A special Weekly Ticket with a validity of 7 days can only be obtained at Zoo station. Further details are available from the information desks and website of the BVG.

Note

Pedestrians should be aware that it is an offence to cross a road when the pedestrian crossing lights are red, even if there is no traffic on the road. On-the-spot fines for offenders are common.

Travel times:

(1): The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Berlin to other major cities and towns in the Federal Republic of Germany.
  Air Road Rail
Hamburg
0.45 4.00 2.25
Cologne
1.05 7.00 4.00
Frankfurt
1.10 6.30 4.00
Munich
1.20 7.00 6.20
Dresden
- 2.30 2.00
Leipzig
- 2.00 1.45
Erfurt
- 4.30 3.20
Rostock
- 2.30 3.00
 
 
(2): The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Bonn to other major cities and towns in the Federal Republic of Germany.
  Air Road Rail River
Hamburg
0.55 4.00 0.44 -
Hannover
- 3.00 3.15 -
Frankfurt
0.40 2.20 2.00 0.30
Düsseldorf
- 2.20 1.00 -
Cologne
- 0.20 0.15 0.40
Stuttgart
0.50 4.00 3.00 -
Munich
1.00 7.00 5.30 -
Berlin
1.05 8.00 5.00 -
Leipzig
- 7.00 6.30 -
Dresden
1.45 8.00 7.00 -
 
[a]: There is a hydrofoil service (not daily) between Cologne and Mainz via Koblenz and Bonn which takes about three hours 30 minutes.

Note: All the above times are average times by the fastest and most direct route, by motorways in the case of road journeys, and by the quickest hydrofoil service for the time by river. The slow boat from Bonn to Cologne, for instance, takes 3 hours.
Useful travel links
AA route planner directions and maps within Germany