Whether you want to get around Germany by train, plane, bus, tram, subway, car or bike, read on for some important tips.
Traveling by train can be a quick and convenient way to get around Germany. It's also a great way to take in the landscape - or catch up on some sleep after your long-haul flight to Germany.
Tickets are cheaper the earlier you book them. If you book a round-trip journey on a specific day and train at least three days in advance, you are eligible for a discount, subject to availability.
In some cases, children up to 15 years travel for free when accompanied by a parent or grandparent. The number of children traveling must be included on the ticket. Groups of six or more can save as much as 70 percent, depending on how early they book.
Also attractive for tourists traveling around Germany: the German Rail Pass, which allows vistors to travel on all DB Bahn trains, including high-speed ICE trains, for between three and 10 days within a four-week period at discounted prices. The German Rail Twin Pass for a party of two is even cheaper. The German Rail Youth Pass gives discounted rate for those who are eligible.
Or try the classic Eurail Pass, which gives you fleixibility in traveling around Europe for a flat fee for a set time-period.
These are available only to people with a permanent residence outside of Europe.
Other DB offers include the "Schönes Wochenende" (Nice Weekend)-Ticket, which enables five people to travel for 44 euros, valid for only one day, to any German destination.
A "BahnCard" gives you 25, 50, or even 100-percent discounts on fares for up to a year.
It is possible to purchase train tickets online at www.bahn.de and print them out yourself via their English-language pages. You can also buy tickets in advance or last-minute at any train station, either at the counter or at a ticket vending machine.
In a pinch, it's also possible to purchase tickets from the conductor per cash or credit card on long-distance trains, but you have to pay an extra fee. It is advisable to purchase your ticket for long-distance or regional trains beforehand in the station or online.
Reserving a seat is a good idea if you are traveling at peak times (weekends, rush hour, or holidays) or if you have a lot of luggage with you. It costs 4.00 euros ($5.20) per seat and connection. Your reservation voucher will indicate a car number and a seat number. There will be a sign at the track indicating where on the track your reserved car will stop.
For train schedules and detailed price information, visit the Deutsche Bahn website at www.bahn.de.
Trains are categorized by the distance they travel and the level of comfort they offer, which can all mean a big difference in price. Not all tickets are good for all trains.
These are Germany's fastest long-distance trains and are generally more expensive. They offer luxury services on board like laptop hook-ups and audio and visual entertainment. ICE trains only stop at bigger stations.
The IC trains link major cities in Germany, while the Eurocity trains connect Germany with major cities in neighboring European countries.
These trains service shorter routes within Germany and generally make more frequent stops.
This high-speed train connects Cologne to Paris in just over 3 hours.
Overnight travel is also possible in sleeper cars, and Motorail allows you to take your car along on the train.
Discount airlines are more common in Europe than in the US. If you're lucky enough to snag a good deal, flying from A to B can be both quicker and cheaper than traveling by train or even by car.
Some airlines advertise inter-European flights as cheap as 19,99 euros ($28). These prices are subject to availability, however. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to find a good deal. When looking on the Internet, be sure to check for taxes and fees - which can quickly quadruple the price of the actual flight.
Want to book an inter-European flight? Take a look at these Web sites:
Driving in Germany
Citizens of European Union member states with a valid driver's license from their home country may also drive in Germany.
Citizens of non-EU states with a valid driver's license from their home country may drive in Germany if the length of their stay is shorter than six months. Those who stay in Germany for longer than six months must apply for a German license.
It is not usually necessary to carry an international driver's license, although it serves as an additional form of identification and proof that you hold a valid driver's license in your country. An international driver's license must be obtained in your home country before you leave.
The legal driving age in Germany is 18, though the age requirement for renting a car is often 21. Getting a driver's license usually costs between 1,500 and 2,000 euros ($2,100 to 2,800) and requires a minimum of 13 hours of professional instruction, but more are usually required, and 14 hours of theory.
As of January 2011, young people aged 17 and over can also apply for a driving permit, which allows them to drive in the company of an adult.
Though speed limit signs aren't posted everywhere, that doesn't mean there aren't any. In cities and towns, the speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph), unless otherwise posted, and it may be 30 km/h in residential areas. On normal two-lane highways the limit is 100 km/h. Only freeways, or Autobahnen, have a "suggested" speed instead of a speed limit, which is usually 130 km/h. Some restrictions apply, however. Speeds of 160 to 200 km/h are common on some freeways.
Autobahn is the German word for "freeway." It does not refer to one particular street.
If you are traveling with children, keep in mind that Germany has relatively strict car-seat laws. Children shorter than 150 centimeters (59 inches) and under the age of 12 are required to have a car-seat when riding in the car. Seat-belts are mandatory for both children and adults.
Visit this website for a glossary of German traffic signs:
If you're adventurous, interested in meeting new people and would rather spend your travel money on beer and souvenirs, then you might consider carpooling as an alternative to going by plane, train, bus or rental car.
The website www.mitfahrzentrale.de offers carpoolers the opportunity to find others heading in the same direction. Riders split the cost of gas and road tolls. Basic registration is free.
Public transportation in Germany is generally very good, particularly in the more densely populated areas. Regulations and ticket prices vary from city to city.
In buses, tickets can usually be purchased directly from the driver. For the tram (Strassenbahn), subway (U-Bahn), or suburban trains (S-Bahn), it's a good idea to purchase your ticket from a vending machine at the stop or station before you board.
Some tram and subway cars have ticket machines in them, but not always. Those that have them only take coins.
Depending on the regulations in the district you're in, it may be necessary to stamp your ticket either in the station or on the bus or train. Look for validation machines and, when in doubt, watch the other passengers or ask someone.
It's usually possible to purchase a multi-trip ticket, or a pass good for a few days, a week or a month at a time.
Tickets are checked by random inspection, often by plain-clothes ticket officers. If you do not have a valid ticket, you will be forced to pay about 40 euros on the spot.
In many places in Germany, bicycles are not only a form of recreation or sport, but also an essential method of transportation. It's common to see adults in business suits riding their bike through the city, perhaps with groceries in the basket behind their seat. Cyclists are generally permitted to ride on the street, even if no bike lane is marked.
Biking can help reduce your carbon footprint, while also being a great way of seeing the countryside, with various Web sites - also in English -offering route planners.
For bike paths and bed & bike offers around the country - numerous ones along rivers, as well as in Europe, read information in English or German at:
For the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, see:
For biking through Europe, particularly along the "Green Belt" where the former Iron Curtain was located, see in English and German:
For a review of that route, go to:
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