Germany is known to have an extensive transportation network. There is a wide array of transportation methods enabling you to travel from place to place in cities and everywhere throughout the country ranging from bicycles to bus, to rails. This makes travelling across the cities and to different locations within the country as convenient as possible. There are also options available if you are interested in venturing across the border and visiting other countries throughout Europe.
It is essential to be acquainted with the travel facilities and systems before you visit the place. This will give you more confidence and encourage you to explore new places letting you get the best out of your overall experience. Being a student usually means a strict budget, However, in Germany, there are different modes of transportation that you can find to fit within your budget. Familiarizing yourself with it will ensure that you are able to get around the country and your city as efficiently as you can.
Cycling is one of the most efficient ways of transportation in Germany. This mode of transportation can be used to fit your time schedule and eliminates the trouble of having to find parking space or getting stuck in traffics. To ensure safety, every city in Germany has specially marked paths that are reserved for cyclists. They are called ‘Radwege’. You are also allowed to take your bikes onto buses and trains when they are not crowded during rush hour. This can be done by purchasing an extra ticket for your bicycle. Some universities across Germany offer semester tickets which typically include free bicycle transport. Information regarded long-distance routes can be found on designated websites.
Taxis are usually one of the more expensive methods of transportation available for students. It usually costs between 1.50 and 3 euros per kilometer. They also frequently charge a minimum fare of 2.50 to 4 euros, which the passenger is required to pay regardless of how short the journey is.
Light Rail (Die Stadtbahn)
Stadtbahn or city rails are a light-rail system that is a mixture of special and regular streetcars that use underground tunnels and stations enabling them to avoid vehicular traffic. In some cases, the Stadtbahn travels on its own railbed to keep it from being hindered by the road traffic. In cities without a true U-Bahn, Stadtbahn provides a cheaper alternative to having a full underground system. They are designated by a white ‘U’ on a blue background similar to U-Bahn lines.
Buses and Railway
Buses and Railways are one of the most preferred methods of transportation even by German citizens due to their low cost and efficiency in getting around the city without any time delays. For students pursuing their masters or PhDs, the universities will usually provide a semester ticket which enables them to travel around for free. In case the university does not provide a semester ticket, public transport companies offer special rates for students. There are different types of railways that can be found across Germany, these include:
- Suburban railway (S-Bahn)
S-Bahn lines are often linked to the national rail network and they connect urban centers. Tickets purchased for S-Bahn are valid for buses as well as for streetcars. S-Bahn lines are abbreviated with an ‘S’ followed by a number.
- Underground trains (U-Bahn)
U-Bahns or subway trains are the fastest forms of travel available in Germany. They are usually found in major cities. Tickets purchased for U-Bahn are generally valid for buses as well. Specific U-Bahn lines are abbreviated with a ‘U’ followed by a number.
- Trams (Straßenbahn)
Trams and buses provide coverage into the rural area that surrounds the cities, making every location accessible through them. Bus or tram stops can be identified as yellow round signs with a green H (Haltestelle). Some stops are equipped with electronic signs that indicate the route number and display when the next tram or bus will arrive. It is important to note that tickets cannot always be purchased in trams, as every car is not provided with a ticket machine. It would be safer to purchase the tickets beforehand in such cases.
Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines available on platforms or at points of sale in major stations. Most machines usually accept cash and coins on occasion. But some machines do also accept debit or credit cards. Tickets can also be purchased through smartphones and other mobile devices. Tickets for local public transport can be purchased from selected kiosks and newspaper stands. Stands that sell such tickets will usually be marked by the logo of the public transport system. Apps are available through which the tickets can be purchased. Such apps also provide information into the train schedules and timings.
The German rail system is operated entirely by Deutsche Bahn. Passenger trains are usually divided based on the distances they cover. The different types of trains that can be seen across the country include:
- Deutsche Bahn – long-distance trains
- Intercity-express – high-speed trains that travel up to 330 kilometers per hour
- InterRegio-Express – regional trains connecting cities with very few intermediary stops
- EuroCity – international long-distance trains
- Intercity – national long-distance trains
- City Night Line – night trains with sleeper cars and couchettes
- RegionalBahn – local trains that run mainly in rural areas with frequent stops
- Regional Express – local trains with limited stops that connect rural areas with metropolitan centers and the S-Bahn
- EuroNight – international night trains
- Urlaubs Express – national night trains to the Alps and the Baltic sea during vacations
For those who use the rail as a frequent method of transport, it will be more convenient to get a BahnCard 25 or BahnCard 50. The BahnCard 25 provides 25 % off of all regular and saver fares. It is valid for 3 months and cost 19 euros. The BahnCard 50 provides 50 % off of all regular and saver fares.
Special offers are available for students to make it more affordable. Good Weekend Ticket (SchönesWochenende-Ticket) is an example of such an offer. This offer enables up to five people to travel on regional and suburban trains non-stop for the duration of an entire day during the weekend. It costs 40 euros for one person to 56 euros for five people. You can also travel on regional trains to any location in Germany for 44 euros for any one day. You can also pay an additional fee of 8 euros to travel with four additional people
Tran stations also provide coin-operated lockers (Schliessfach) that cost from 1 euro to 4 euros for a duration of 24 hours. Larger stations have staffed left-luggage offices (gepäckaufbewahrung) which are more expensive than lockers.
For students looking to travel in groups and planning a vacation or a trip, car-pooling is the best method of transportation. Offers for car-pooling can be found online.
Germany has several international airports located in major cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Cologne. Many airlines available offer concession rates for students looking to travel long-distance. Also, booking the flights in advance can also ensure that you get a good deal on the ticket.