This guide offers tips & tricks to understand public transport in Germany. Get tips to find cheap long distance train tickets, the best deals for regional trains, buses and trams.
Train travel in Germany is convenient and efficient. Train stations are usually centrally located in most cities and towns. A taxi, U-Bahn, S-Bahn or bus can bring you to your final destination.
I always thought it was pretty easy to travel by public transport in Germany, that's probably because I have done it all my life.
However, when I read all your questions, I realise that it can be a challenge for visitors from abroad to find the best train ticket (Fahrkarte) or rail pass, and understand which trains they can use with their tickets.
Most of the confusion results from the fact that there are two systems, the long-distance trains (Fernverkehr) and local trains (Nahverkehr). The latter also includes S-Bahnen, trams and buses. Read on, I am going to explain the difference as best as I can on this page. This will help you that you always use the correct tickets.
To make things more complicated, the two systems often overlap when you travel "middle distances" within the same state, so it can be slightly difficult to get the right tickets. The cheapest tickets, that is.
When you search at the DB website for connections from Frankfurt to Fulda, you can travel with an ICE train (31 €), or an IC (25 €). If you are lucky, you even get a safer fare (Sparpreis).
However, you get the cheapest ticket when you use a regional express (RE) which will cost 15 € (Tariffs valid from December 2014).
You can't purchase RE ticket online because it is a RMV local transport ticket. You can get it from ticket machines at the train station. Of course, you cannot travel with this inexpensive ticket on an ICE / IC train. However, you can use the expensive ICE ticket on a regional train.
These trains are always operated by the Deutsche Bahn (DB) and include ICE / IC / CityNightLine trains.
Ticket prices depend on the train type you use. If you travel one section of your journey with an ICE train, your ticket will be more expensive.
Transportation means include regional trains and S-Bahnen operated by the DB. Underground railways (U-Bahn), trams (Straßenbahn) and busses are operated by private companies and / or local city government.
Most cities and towns in Germany are members of a local tariff & transport association (Verkehrsverbund) with different tariff zones. Some associations cover large areas of a German state, not only just a city. The Rhein-Main-Verkehrverbund (RMV), for example, is the second largest in Germany. It covers the entire Rhine-Main-area and much of central Hessen.
Means of transport within these associations include
When you are looking for a German rail pass, or any other pass to travel in Germany and Europe, there isn't one service for all international travellers available. It depends on your country of residence which service you can use.
I really hope these tips for travelling by train in Germany help you to get around by public transport. I wish you happy travels.
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