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Crossing borders

Germany, at the centre of Europe, has the densest network of international links on the continent. The summary below includes the principal mass transport modes without examining the possibilities of private four or two-wheeled travel.

Destination names below with slashes – such as Prague/Prag – indicate preferred English/German versions.

Air travel

There are various options to and from most parts of Europe, although traffic at several airports serves largely the domestic Mediterranean budget holiday market. Long-haul flights are largely restricted to Frankfurt and Munich while Berlin tries to complete its much-delayed transition to a new airport.

For linking up with flights to or from German airports, the Rail&Fly package serves 17 airports and involves about 60 airlines, but must be booked with the airline or travel agent. Check the Deutsche Bahn link in English here or accesrail.com/products/db-rail-fly.

Most airports are served by S-Bahn, U-Bahn or local bus connections with their nearest cities. The European Rail Timetable updates information on rail timetables to and from airports monthly (see Maps, timetables & information under the Rail heading in the Transport – National & Regional menu).

Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurt remains the main centre for international flights to Germany from intercontinental air hubs and its underground railway station brings it into close touch with the city and other parts of the country. A Deutsche Bahn Reisezentrum (M-Su 6-21), a handy counter for bookings, validating rail passes and buying locally available discount tickets, is at terminal 1, concourse B, level 0. Prepare for queues, however, and use the nearby information desk when appropriate. Another DB office is above at the air-rail terminal and linked by a connector to terminal 1. The 'S' regional station (platforms 1-3) for S-Bahn or regional trains into Frankfurt city is under terminal 1. Long-distance trains depart from the 'T' station (platforms 4-7), a longer walk from the baggage claim.

Berlin: Berlin’s main airport remains Tegel (TXL) to the north-west of the city centre. It is not 24-hour but is being upgraded to deal with temporary passenger diversions as the opening of Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt airport (BER) south of the city could be delayed until 2020 or 2021. Tegel has regular air links with Heathrow and most other large European airports. There are flights to and from the global hubs Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York (JFK and Newark). Buses link the airport with the Berlin rail network.

Schönefeld airport (SXF) continues operation with a wide European network until its planned incorporation into the neighbouring BER but does not operate 24 hours. Many flights are from the British Isles (Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Nottingham, Stansted and Southend). Schönefeld has S-Bahn (30 minutes) and regional train access to the city from the attached station as well as buses to the city and to Dresden.

Munich: The second German airport for traffic volume is Munich (MUC), almost 30km north-east of the city, but it does not operate 24 hours. Direct flights serve global hubs such as Bangkok, Chicago, Delhi, Dubai, London, Montreal, Singapore, Shanghai, Toronto and Vancouver. European centres with flights to Munich include Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Basel, Belgrade, Berne, Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Istanbul, Lisbon, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Oslo, Paris (and several other cities in France), Prague, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Riga, Rome and several other Italian cities, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zürich, as well as Cairo and Tel Aviv. Two S-Bahn lines serve the airport.

Budget flights, including services from Stansted, also use Memmingen airport (FMM), about 100km west of Munich. Regional trains run to and from Munich every 90 minutes.

Düsseldorf: DUS is Germany's third-busiest airport for traffic and is a useful link with regular flights from the British Isles (Birmingham, Dublin, Glasgow, Heathrow, Leeds-Bradford and Manchester). Like Munich it has a dense network of European connections but is not 24-hour. North American flights arrive from New York-Newark. Other intercontinental flights arrive from the global hubs Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Moscow. Düsseldorf airport has two rail stations and is well served by long-distance and local trains. A sky train links the stations, parking areas and the airport terminal.

Hamburg: HAM is well linked to the city by S-Bahn and bus. It has a close European network including most UK airports and Dublin, Warsaw, Riga, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, all neighbouring countries and Scandinavia.

Cologne: Cologne-Bonn airport (CGN), 15km south-east of Cologne and the base for Germanwings, operates 24 hours and has a high-speed rail station handling regional and long-distance trains and an S-Bahn line from Cologne. Buses run to and from Bonn. The airport takes traffic from around Europe, including London (Heathrow and Stansted), Bristol, Manchester, neighbouring European hubs such as Vienna, Zürich, Milan, Budapest and Mediterranean and eastern European airports. The airport also has a bus station served by long-distance buses. There are several flights a week between Cologne and Miami (11 hours).

Stuttgart: STR has UK connections with Birmingham, Heathrow and Manchester as well as a network of European flights. The airport is 13km from the city and has S-Bahn and bus connections.

Hannover: Langenhagen airport (HAJ) is useful for trade-fair traffic and operates 24 hours, but on low traffic volumes. It handles mainly European flights but these include services from Heathrow and Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester.

Dortmund: The DTM airport receives UK direct flights from Stansted and Luton, as well as servicing eastern European flights.

Frankfurt-Hahn: This small airport handling international budget flights is 80km west of Frankfurt, halfway between Mainz and Trier. Its links include London-Stansted, Dublin and many smaller European airports. The airport has bus connections with Koblenz, Cochem, Trier, Mainz, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Heidelberg.

Leipzig: The Leipzig-Halle (HEJ) airport is between the cities at Schkeuditz and served by S-Bahn railway and fast trains as well as autobahn links. It accepts flights from European cities, mostly in central Europe and the Mediterranean.

Other airports: UK connections with Bremen (BRE) include flights from Stansted and about 40 other European centres. Dresden (DRS) direct flights are limited to eastern and central Europe and the Mediterranean. Flights from London City airport are available to Nuremberg. Airports such as Münster-Osnabrück (near Greven), Erfurt-Weimar, Rostock, Saarbrücken, Karlsruhe and Friedrichshafen handle flights to and from German cities and the Mediterranean. erborn and other flights include Gatwick to Erfurt-Weimar. Lübeck has connections with a handful of European destinations but not the UK. Airports such as Rostock, Saarbrücken, Karlsruhe and Friedrichshafen handle flights to and from German cities and the Mediterranean.

Ferry travel & cruise ships

International ferries and cruise ships operating in the Baltic and North seas are big business, carrying regular traffic in tourist and business markets with a wide range of comforts. Buffets, cafes, bars and duty-free shopping mix with a range of entertainments, casinos and spas on big ocean-style cruise craft plying the popular routes.

Roll on-roll off services even extend to rail carriages on some routes but the routes offered have varied considerably in the past 20 years. Where vehicles are carried, operators often charge fares per passenger vehicle (varying sizes, generally under or over six metres), motorbike or caravan with a varying number of occupants. Drivers should note minimum check-in times for vehicles. Some ferries may not sail Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

The booking sites www.directferries.co.uk, www.aferry.com and www.ferryto.co.uk are options for comparing groups of services and can highlight deals.

The main international river route involves Danube cruises between Germany and Austria.

One-way fares are given below as a guide, discounts for family tickets, day tickets, return trips within a period, multiple trips or gangway sales being available on some ferries. Online bookings can attract special rates or avoid fees, but travellers should check provisions for cancellation or change. A few operators offer both economy fares with strict conditions and flexible fares with options to change bookings.

The 2018 fare structure and details are given below. Voyage times are minimums given good sea conditions. Passenger check-in times should be noted.

UK-Netherlands or Belgium: There are no direct ferries between the UK and Germany but UK-Netherlands connections allow travellers to link with trains or buses over the German border. The Harwich-Hook of Holland service of Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk) operates daily or overnight (eight-9½ hours). The overnight Newcastle-Amsterdam ferries of DFDS Seaways (www.dfdsseaways.co.uk) depart nightly (about 14 hours). P&O Ferries (www.poferries.com) travel overnight Hull-Rotterdam (13-14 hours, seven times weekly) and Hull-Zeebrugge (about 12 hours, seven times weekly).

Cars, caravans, motorhomes, bicycles or motorcycles are carried.

Denmark: The Scandlines (www.scandlines.com) Puttgarden-Rødby ferry connection (45 minutes) shuttles 24 hours, half-hourly. Gangway tickets for adults are €7 low season, €14 high season (early May-early Sep) and for children (ages 5-12) €3.50 or $7. Younger children travel free. Fees of €10 are added for manual bookings and spot tickets. Bicycle or motorbike surcharges are €1.50 (low season) or €3.

Charges for cars with occupants start at €33 (€67 high season, both for online bookings 14 days ahead) and range up to €101 or €114 (flexible or last-minute). Vehicles over 6m long incur €20 surcharges, over 8m €40 or more. Up to three passengers with a motorcycle travel at €41 low season, €47 high season. Round-trip fares, including day car packages (€85 or €100), are available.

Scandlines also sails Rostock-Gedser (1¾-two hours) five times each way daily. Adult booked fares (including bike) are €10 low season or €20 high season, children €5 or €10. Standard car charges range between €33 (€67 high season) and €134 (or €146). Surcharges for longer vehicles are as above. One to three passengers with motorcycle travel at €50 (low season) or €57 (high season). Round-trip fares are available.

The 2018 Scandlines online booking fee is €0.75. Scandlines also offers packages for travellers continuing to Sweden via its Helsingør-Helsingborg service or the Øresund bridge.

BornholmerFærgen (www.faergen.com) ferries sail between Saßnitz and Rønne on the island of Bornholm (late Mar-Aug, 3¼-four hours) two to 10 times weekly depending on season. The standard adult online fare is €25 (low season) or €32 (late Jun-Aug). Children 12-15 travel at €13 or €17, children 11 and under free. Cyclists with bikes pay between €34 and €41 and vehicles including up to five occupants cost €120 to €290, depending on size, season and day of departure. Motorcycles with up to two people travel at €56 (low season) or €63 (high season).

TT Line (see below) runs between the island Bornholm and the Polish border port of Świnoujście/Swinemünde, about 50km south-east of Greifswald.

Sweden: Two TT-Line (www.ttline.com) ferry routes, serving Travemünde (near Lübeck) and Rostock, connect with Trelleborg, south of Malmö.

The lowest fares are for online bookings. A €14 service charge applies to other bookings and environmental surcharges of €2 or €3 per person are included in fares. The fares below are for specific departures and flexible tickets have higher rates. A rebate of up to one-third is available on return trips. Free satellite wi-fi internet access up to 100Mb is available in areas of all craft. Meals can be bought on board, booked as extras or booked with various packages. Some departures require vehicle bookings.

Where cabins are not compulsory – as on certain departures – the charge for a comfort chair is €11, passenger charges for one to four-berth inside or sea view cabins start at €46, luxury cabins at €84.

For the Travemünde-Trelleborg direct ferry (7-10¼ hours, two departures daily including overnight crossings), the basic adult online one-way fare is €28 (€38 overnight), for a child aged 7-17 €14 or €19, children 6 or under free. The bicycle cost is €3, motorcycle €1-7 (high charge for overnight crossings). The fare for a driver with car is €63-201 (top charges for Saturdays in summer season), car and caravan generally €93-271.

On the Rostock-Trelleborg route (5½-seven hours, four to seven times daily including overnight crossings), the basic adult one-way fare is €24, children 7-12 €12, children 6 or under free. The fare for a driver with car is €63. Fares with car and caravan depend on lengths, generally €93-123. Additional passengers pay an extra adult or concession fare as above. The bicycle cost is €7, motorcycle €5-11. Some fares are available in conjunction with Stena Line (see below).

Premium Travemünde-Rostock-Trelleborg cruises (12-15 hours) are also available.

Another TT service runs between Trelleborg and the Polish border port of Świnoujście/Swinemünde, about 50km south-east of Greifswald.

Stena Line (www.stenalinetravel.com) sails Rostock-Trelleborg (up to three departures a day, 5½-7¼ hours) and Sassnitz/Saßnitz-Trelleborg (one or two daily departures each way, 4¼ hours), running its several daily departures, including overnight crossings, in cooperation with TT-Line. Alternatives of fixed economy fares or rebookable flexi fares (about 30% higher for passengers but often double for vehicles) are offered.

Rostock-Trelleborg basic adult fares start at €17 economy or €22 flexi, children aged 4-15 €8.50 or €11, children 3 and under free. Booked reclining seats are an added €5 and buffet meals are bookable at the website. A basic outside single cabin can be included on some departures. Other cabin costs range from €50 to €65 on day trips, €85 to €120 overnight.

Giving an idea of variations for vehicles, economy fares for a car with driver range between €44 and €78 for April weekday departures (€70 to €78 Saturday) and start at €63 or €70 weekdays in July (the range is €124 to €209 Saturday, depending on craft). For a driver, car and 6m caravan, the economy fare starts at €99 on an April weekday, or €187 on some July Saturdays, rising to €264 on some departures. Ferries do not operate during the Christmas-New Year period.

The Saßnitz-Trelleborg economy adult fare is €12, child fare €6.25. The fare for driver with car starts at €27 for some off-peak departures, such as midnight crossings from Saßnitz, but the same crossing on Saturday in July could be €82 or €155 (with caravan €137 or €210), depending on the departure. Reclining seats are an added €5 and buffet meals are bookable at the website.

Stena Line Kiel-Gothenburg/Göteborg ferries (nightly each way, 14½ hours) have basic fares of €45 (economy) or €55 (flexi) for adults in low season, €20 or €25 for children. In high season (mid Jun-early Aug) this rises to €100 or €110 for adults, €50 or €55 for children. The mandatory cabin charges range from €45 up to deluxe cabins at €300.

Carriage charges for cars range from €65 to €195 depending on booking conditions, comfort level, season and day. Many low season departures levy no fee for a caravan, but add about €50 for a basic caravan in high season. The basic bicycle or motorcycle charge is €45. Meals can be booked separately.

Finnlines (www.finnlines.com) operates a Travemünde-Malmö service (about nine hours, two or three times daily). These ferries include overnight runs, some of these being Travemünde departures in the small hours with compulsory cabin bookings. Higher rates for flexible bookings are available. Meals are available at on-board prices or bookable as packages.

The low-season basic fixed-departure adult passenger day fare starts at €20, travellers aged 13-17 €15, children 6-12 €10. But these fares will more than double in high season. Return trips booked in advance attract a 20% discount.

To these any cabin charges will be added, starting at €30 for optional cabins on day departures, rising to just under €44 in high season. Basic four-bed cabins start at €35, luxury four-bed cabins €65, four-bed suites with meal packages €85.

Charges for vehicles up to 6m are €29 (high-season weekdays €39, weekends about €67). Higher rates apply for larger vehicles. Bicycles or motorcycles are carried free on low-season day departures (€10 to €20 in high season).

For the Scandlines tariff to Sweden via Denmark, combining Puttgarden-Rødby or Rostock-Gedser tickets with the Helsingør-Helsingborg ferry crossing or Øresund bridge vouchers, visit www.scandlines.com.

Norway: Overnight cruises on the Kiel-Oslo service of Color Line (www.colorline.com) are the only direct connection (daily each way, 20 hours). Cabin charges are compulsory. Low-season one-way adult fares with basic cabin start at €240 weekdays (up to €410 Saturdays). In high season (mid Jun-mid Aug) the range is between €310 and €460. Add €150 or €320 for four or five-star cabins. For children (ages 4-15) add €10 each. For flexible bookings add €25.

Small car charges range from €89 to €119 low-season, €109 and €169 high-season. The bicycle charge is €20 low-season, €20 to €32 high-season.

Ferries do not sail some days in April, and may be in port some dates Jan-Feb.

Norway has introduced border controls on passengers of Baltic ferries.

Finland: Finland: Finnlines (www.finnlines.com) cruises Travemünde-Helsinki daily (about 29 hours, departure at 3.00 or 3.30 from Travemünde and return 17.00 from Helsinki). There are variations for public holidays.

Special fares for fixed bookings or standard rates for flexible bookings are offered. There is a 20% discount on return fares and, with two adults, third and fourth passengers travel free in a cabin.

There are fares for passengers in shared berths in gender-based inside cabins or in family-type cabins. Adult low-season special fares start at €105 or €205 (for accompanying passengers 13-17, add €35 to adult price in cabin, children 6-12 add €18 to adult price in cabin, children under 6 free). Typical May or Sep special fares start at €100 (for limited numbers of recliner seats), €120 or €235 (passengers 13-17 €60, add €40 to adult price in cabin, children 6-12 add €20 to adult price in cabin). Example high-season fares start at €160 (seats), €180 (berths) or €355 (cabins), but on a July Saturday these could be €213, $240 or €473. Cabin bookings can range much higher for suites and rates depend on comfort standard, season and position. Meals can also be booked.

Charges for basic cars up to 6m on special fares start at €72, motorbikes €35, bicycles €13, but these rates can rise to €164, €80 or €33 on a July Saturday.

Lithuania: DFDS Seaways (ferry.dfdsseaways.com) sails a Kiel-Klaipeda/Memel overnight route (about 21 hours, six times weekly). A €10 per passenger fee is charged for bookings each. Twin cabin fares start at €120, rising to €199 at weekends in high season. Four-berth cabins start at €235, rising to €340 (four levels of cabin accommodation are offered). Berths in shared cabins start at €60 and recliner chairs can be booked from €34. Car charges start at €70, motorcycles at €34, bicycles at €10. Meals can be booked online.

Latvia: Stena Line sails Travemünde-Liepaja (26 hours, five times a week with evening departures) at basic adult fares of €32 (economy low-season) to €36, or €36 to €40 (flexi), children 4-15 half-fare. Cars costs start at €27 (economy low-season Monday departure) but range up to €101 or €111 (high-season Saturdays). Motorcycle costs range from €17 (low-season Mondays) to €51, bicycles €3-7. Reclining seats are bookable at €25-30. The mandatory cabin berths start at €45 (four-berth shared, low season) to €100 (high season), two-berth cabins €100 or €125, three-berth cabins at €50-289, four-berth cabins at €129-339. Meals can be booked online.

In early 2018 the Ave Line Travemünde-Riga service was in suspension.

Passengers continuing to Russia need valid Russian entry visas. Drivers in Russia must show an international driving permit (IDP) in Russian or authenticated Russian translation, as well as having their foreign licence with Russian translation. There should also be proof of minimum third-party automobile insurance and car ownership in Russian. Passengers bound for Belarus are likely to require a visa. Crossing from Belarus to Russia over the land border is not permitted.

Austria: Donauschiffahrt Wurm & Noé (www.donauschifffahrt.eu) cruise ships sail the Danube between Passau and Linz (6½, five times weekly, May-early Oct). The adult single fare is €27, children 6-13 €13.50, under 6 no charge. Bicycles cost €2. There is the option of continuing to Vienna (€59) next day, by bus or rail from Krems.

Rail travel

For information about rail passes, ticketing and helpful agencies see Rail in the Transport - National & Regional menu. The Man in Seat 61 (https://www.seat61.com) covers a host of rail topics including timetables, reviews and photographs of trains inside and out, especially service and itineraries to Germany from the UK and north-west Europe.

For details of the Saver Fare Europe discount fares between Germany and 16 European countries, visit www.bahn.com under the Offers menu. These fares include Copenhagen/Kopenhagen-Hamburg from €29.90/49.90 second/first class, Paris-Frankfurt or Amsterdam-Frankfurt from €39/49 and London-Frankfurt from €59.90/129.90.

Rail options to and from other European cities are many. The jump-off and arrival points for links with neighbouring countries are listed below, followed by options connecting major cities.

Poland: Berlin (for Poznan/Posen, Warsaw/Warschau and Cracow/Krakau). Trains to Wroclaw/Breslau and from Berlin run through Cottbus and Szczecin/Stettin trains leave from Angermünde near Berlin. For direct Cracow services turn to DB’s IC Bus (see Bus travel below).

Czech Republic: Dresden or Regensburg (for Prague/Prag) or Nuremberg/Nürnberg (railway buses, via Plzen/Pilsen). Several crossings using regional links have reopened in recent years, including Zittau-Liberec, Bad Schandau-Rumburk, Zwickau-Karlovy Vary/Carlsbad, Chemnitz-Chomutov (weekends only), Bad Brambach (or Marktredwitz) to Cheb and Plattling-Bayerisch Eisenstein-Plzen.

Austria: Munich (for Salzburg, Innsbruck or Bregenz) or Passau (for Linz and Vienna/Wien).

Switzerland: Freiburg im Breisgau (for Basel) or Singen (for Zürich).

France: Saarbrücken (for Paris or Metz) or Offenburg (for shuttle services to and from Strasbourg/Straßburg).

Luxembourg/Luxemburg: Trier.

Belgium & the Netherlands: Cologne/Köln or Aachen.

Denmark: Hamburg (for Jutland trains crossing at Flensburg) or Lübeck (for trains direct to Copenhagen).

Sweden: Hamburg (for Malmö via Copenhagen, but see also Denmark above), or Saßnitz (for Malmö using Saßnitz-Trelleborg ferries, see Berlin Night Express below).

Cross-border services Main-line links between neighbouring capitals and key rail points with scheduled travel times and frequency are below. Other connections may be offered.

Berlin-Malmö: 12½-14¼ hours (overnight runs three times weekly late Jun-early Aug, holiday services Apr-May) via the Saßnitz-Trelleborg ferry, see Berlin Night Express below.

Berlin-Warsaw: 5¾-7¾ hours (four times daily). Night trains either way are not well timed, departing Berlin before dawn and arriving just after midnight.

Berlin-Prague: 4¾ hours (10 times daily).

Berlin-Budapest: 9¾-12½ hours (three times daily, including sleeper).

Berlin-Vienna: 9¾-12 hours (twice daily, including sleeper).

Berlin-Paris: 8¼ hours using fast trains with a change in Cologne or Mannheim or double changes in Offenburg and Strasbourg. Other connections require multiple changes and will take longer.

Berlin-Amsterdam: 6¼-7¼ hours (six times daily).

Frankfurt-Vienna: 9¾ hours (nightly, with sleeper provisions).

Nuremberg-Vienna: 4¾ hours (twice daily, plus connections via Passau and Linz several times daily).

Nuremberg-Prague: 3¾ hours (railway buses, several times daily), or change at Schwandorf for the Munich-Regensburg-Prague service following.

Munich-Regensburg-Prague: 5¾-six hours (six to seven times daily). Try using the Czech railways site www.cd.cz/en. Trackwork will require bus changes during periods in 2018.

Munich-Salzburg: 90 minutes to two hours (regional or fast trains, at least hourly, with connections to Vienna six times daily).

Stuttgart-Zürich: 2¾ hours (seven times daily plus connections changing at Schaffhausen).

Freiburg-Basel: 45-50 minutes (InterCity trains, almost hourly).

Mannheim-Paris: 3¼ hours (five times daily).

Offenburg-Strasbourg: about 30 minutes (hourly or half-hourly).

Koblenz-Luxembourg: 2¼ hours (five times daily).

Cologne-Amsterdam: 2¾ hours (eight times daily).

Cologne-Brussels: 1¾ hours (eight times daily).

Cologne-Paris: 3½ hours (with one change, several daily connections).

Hamburg-Fredericia (Jutland): 3½ hours (twice daily) with changes possible for Flensburg-Copenhagen trains.

Hamburg-Copenhagen: 4¾ hours (four times daily via Lübeck, including ferry Puttgarden-Rødby).

Trains

EuroCity (EC) trains run frequent international services at up to 200km/h, generally with on-board bistros. Foreign carriage stock is part of the make-up.

IC and ICE trains (see Transport – National & regional) run several cross-border connections, such as those to and from Basel.

Several times daily French TGV fast trains run between Paris and Frankfurt and between Paris and Munich via Stuttgart, Mannheim or Cologne. Thalys high-speed trains run some services from Brussels and Paris into Ruhr cities, Düsseldorf and Cologne.

Austria’s ÖBB Railjet fast trains travel several times daily between Munich and Vienna. Overnight Zurich-Prague services are operated by the the Austrian rail authority ÖBB and the Czech ČD through Linz. ÖBB also operates Hamburg-Innsbruck overnight services via Munich, Hamburg-Berlin-Munich sleepers, Munich-Venice and Munich-Florence-Rome sleepers.

Night sleeper trains are increasingly in competition with discount bus tickets and budget European short-haul flights, forcing the end of the City Night Line service. But ÖBB has taken over some former DB City Night Line routes under the brand Nightjet (www.nightjet.com/en), having taken over the former sleeper cars once used by DB. Each has nine economy compartments with basin and access to a shower at the end of the corridor, and three luxury compartments with private toilet and shower. Some cars are double-deck. Each compartment has three berths but compartments can be sold as single, double or triple. Night snacks and water is provided, with slippers and towels, and a menu breakfast is served.

Budget four or six-bunk couchette compartments are available with sheets, blankets and pillow with tea or coffee and a light breakfast included, with snacks available to buy. Couchettes suit groups well, although sleeper compartments can be booked with interconnecting doors. Plans can be viewed online.

Six-seat overnight compartments are also available. There are no dining cars. Seat reservations are necessary. The Nightjet international routes in and out of Germany are:

Düsseldorf-Cologne-Koblenz-Linz-Vienna: 11½ hours (cars, motorcycles and bicycles carried).

Düsseldorf-Cologne-Frankfurt-Munich-Innsbruck: 12½ hours (cars, motorcycles and bicycles carried).

Hamburg-Linz-Vienna: 12 hours (bicycles carried).

Hamburg-Munich-Innsbruck: 12¾ hours (bicycles carried).

Hamburg-Basel-Zurich: 11½ hours (bicycles carried late March to mid-November and over the Christmas-New Year period).

Berlin-Basel-Zurich: 12 hours.

Munich-Venice: nine hours.

Munich-Bologna-Florence-Rome: 13¼ hours.

Vehicles and bicycles must be reserved separately at booking.

Night trains run between Munich and Zagreb or Rijeka in Croatia (both about nine hours) are operated by Nightjet and Croatia's HZPP. Again, sleeper, couchette and six-seat compartments can be booked.

Overnight Zurich-Prague services are operated by ÖBB and the Czech national railway CD through Linz. Zurich-Linz-Vienna trains take about 11 hours.

The EuroNight Munich-Salzburg-Vienna-Budapest service (10¾ hours) does not operate daily or at all times of year.

The Berlin Night Express (known in Sweden as Snälltåget) runs on a limited holiday basis Apr-May and three times weekly (late Jun-early Aug) between Malmö in Sweden and Berlin, travelling overnight on the Trelleborg-Saßnitz ferry (12½-14¼ hours). Late summer departures are from Malmö (M, Th & Sa) and Berlin Hauptbahnhof (W, F & Su). Overnight travel is in couchettes – in shared six-berth compartments – or by booking whole compartment. Malmö-Stockholm connections are available.

Adult one-way tickets between Malmö and Berlin vary and are priced in Swedish kronor but work out at about €40 for couchettes and €157 for private compartments. Holders of Interrail and Eurail passes valid for Sweden may use them, but reservation is mandatory at €29 for couchettes or €169 for the full compartment. Tickets are sold at DB counters or the website www.snalltaget.se, where there are full details.

The private Alex (ALX) rail services include cross-border Munich-Nuremberg-Prague trains.

A small network centred on Zwiesel in eastern Bavaria and trains from Zittau (east of Dresden) also cross the Czech border.

Bus travel

The benefits of developing competition show in fares for long-distance buses, mostly booked online, sometimes through travel agencies or by phone. For some departures heavy discounts are available (fare ranges are given below). Passengers can also pay normal fare on board where seats are available. Fees (€9-10) for heavy luggage (and, where space permits, for bicycles) are normal. On many routes buses are more frequent Thursdays, Fridays and weekends.

The downside of the bus industry's state of flux is that routes and fares are constantly changing and current research of offers is best. The rule of thumb should be: book online, when possible in advance. Early 2018 fares are given below.

Each city’s usual hub for long-distance buses will be the Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB, sometimes just Busbahnhof). Most often this will be next to or near the central rail station (important exceptions are Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart). Compared with big rail stations, these often lack support services such as ticket counters, enclosed waiting areas, luggage lockers, cafes and snack bars. But, with growing patronage, these are improving and in cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich arrangements are adequate.

Departures for a range of operators, including cross-border buses, are listed at www.busliniensuche.de, www.fernbusse.de, www.busticket.de and www.fernbusguide.de. In all cases it is advisable to check the operator’s website for conditions before booking.

FlixBus (www.flixbus.de), having merged with MeinFernbus, Postbus and the Continental operations of Megabus, is the dominant German player. FlixBus fares vary between discount offers and higher rates for online bookings, tickets available on the bus, tickets from agencies, sales by phone (tel +49 30-300137300) or FlixBus ticket offices in Berlin (two), Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Cologne-Bonn airport, Munich and Nuremberg. Further ticket offices are in Paris and Prague.

The network is now dense and, using changes, many journey combinations are possible. For lowest fares, check departures early in the week or late on Sundays.

Free wi-fi access is offered on buses and basic luggage items (backpacks up to 20kg and hand luggage up to 7kg, with size restrictions) will be carried free. A second large item costs €2, and must be booked 48 hours before departure. Heavy or oversize luggage up to 30kg could incur a €9 fee. The bicycle carriage fee is €9. Children aged up to three may travel only in properly designed child seats, which parents or carers bring with proper fastening belts. Children can ride on many departures at about 20% discount.

Snacks and drinks are available from drivers.

FlixBus runs Scandinavian services with multiple daily departures. These include direct or one-stop links between Berlin (several Berlin departure points are available) and Copenhagen/Kopenhagen (7½-12 hours, €19.90-50.90), Berlin-Oslo services (via Copenhagen and Gothenburg/Göteborg, 16½-22 hours, €37.90-49) and Berlin-Stockholm services (direct or with one stop via Copenhagen, 18½-23 hours, €49.90-103.40). Stockholm-bound passengers have the option of continuing to Uppsala. Lübeck-Copenhagen direct services (4½ hours, €19.90-49.90) run at least once daily. Daily or most days, buses connect with Aalborg, Aarhus and Esbjerg in Denmark, running from Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck.

A network of FlixBus services covers the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Hamburg-Amsterdam buses (direct or with one change, 5½ to nine hours, €29.90-49.90) and Bremen-Amsterdam buses (direct or with one change, 4½-8¾ hours, €16.90-65.80) run several times daily. Amsterdam-Hannover buses (direct or with one change, 4¾-13 hours, €21.90-47.80) and Amsterdam-Duisburg direct buses (2½ to five hours, €15-24) also run several times daily. Groningen, The Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Schiphol airport are among other major destinations. Frequent direct Cologne/Köln-Brussels/Brüssel buses (2½ to five hours, €9-19.50) are available, although much slower one-stop options can be considerably more expensive. Cologne-Antwerp/Antwerpen links (€27.80-57.80, 6¼-9¾ hours) are less frequent and require a change of buses. Cologne-Luxembourg/Luxemburg buses (8½ to nine hours, €20-30.50) run twice a day, with a change, three days a week, but other days Luxembourg buses will run from centres such as Bonn, Düsseldorf and Essen.

Direct or one-stop Cologne-Paris buses (six to 10½ hours, €22-36.80) have frequent daily departures (from Cologne-Bonn airport or Leverkusen). Frequent direct or one-stop Cologne-Strasbourg/Straßburg connections (4¾-7¾ hours, €15-26.90) and Frankfurt-Strasbourg services (3¾-5½ hours, €11-25.80) run daily.

Cologne-London direct services run most days or – except F-Su – overnight (10¼-11½ hours, €25-58.80). Other connections with changes are available. At Cologne airport, passengers from the UK can then change for Berlin (20½-23 hours, with all-up fares €54-129.80), Munich (21¼-22¼ hours, €56.80-129.80) or other destinations.

Stuttgart-Basel connections (4¾-8¼ hours, €16-23.90) run several times daily with one change in Karlsruhe or Freiburg im Breisgau. Frequent direct Munich-Zürich buses (3¾-4¾ hours, €15-25.90) run daily.

Berlin-Warsaw/Warszawa direct buses (8½ to nine hours €12.90-27.90) run in partnership with PolskiBus (see below).

Daily Berlin-Prague/Prag direct buses or connections with changes in Dresden (4½-8½ hours, €19-28.50) are frequent. Nuremberg-Prague direct buses (3½ to four hours, €14.90-24.90) run several times daily, as do Regensburg-Prague direct buses or connections with changes in Plzen/Pilsen (3¼ to six hours, €13-25.40).

Frequent daily or overnight Berlin-Vienna/Wien buses run direct or with changes in Dresden, Leipzig or Prague. Berlin departure points for the journeys (8½-13 hours, €29.90-65.40) vary and connections with changes in Salzburg are considerably longer and more expensive. Several buses daily run between Munich and Salzburg (two hours, €5-14). Several daily Munich-Vienna direct buses or connections via Salzburg (5¼ to six hours, €19-50.40) service multiple stops in Vienna.

Munich-Venice/Venedig overnight direct fares (7½ hours) start at €29.90. Milan/Mailand connections are simplest via Zürich. Munich-Zagreb direct buses (7½-8½ hours) start at €35.90.

Connections to Bratislava/Preßburg, Budapest, Trieste/Triest, Venice and Zagreb also run from Linz and Vienna.

Deutsche Bahn’s IC Bus (www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/bus/index.shtml) operation includes several cross-border services. Seat reservations are included in the fares shown and on wi-fi access is available. Luggage travels free but bicycles (where space permits) may incur a fee. Fixed departures or flexible fares are available at varying prices – see the ranges below. Holders of Eurail passes and German Rail passes valid for the territory may use them but should make seat reservations. BahnCard holders gain discounts. Berlin Linien Bus ceased operating in October 2016 and its operations were folded into the IC Bus network.

IC Buses run Berlin Hauptbahnhof-Copenhagen daily, via Rostock (7¾ hours, €29.90-109) or Hamburg (8½ hours, €39.90-142.10) using cross-Baltic ferries.

On the Düsseldorf-Antwerp/Antwerpen-Ghent/Gent-Lille route via Eindhoven, Antwerp buses (three hours, €9.90-44.40) run four times daily and Lille (5¼ hours, €19.90-67.80) buses daily. Düsseldorf-Maastricht services (once or twice daily, about 90 minutes, €9.90-30.30), extend to Liège (2¼ hours, €14.90-36.40) daily.

Hamburg-Amsterdam services run daily via Bremen and Groningen (6¾ hours, €14.90-108.20) or nightly via Hannover and Utrecht (7¼ hours).

Frankfurt-Luxembourg/Luxemburg servces via Trier were in suspension early in 2018.

Munich-Zurich buses (3¾ hours, €19.90-85.80) run five or six times daily. Munich-Milan buses via Chur and Como (7¼ hours, €9.90-148.30) run once or twice daily.

Prague/Prag buses run from Munich (4¾ to five hours, twice daily, €9.90-69.60), Mannheim (twice daily, 7¼ hours, €19.90-109.60) and Nuremberg (at least eight times daily, 3½ to four hours, €9.90-55.60). Leipzig-Prague services were in suspension early in 2018.

Daily IC Buses run Berlin-Wrocław/Breslau (4¼ hours, €29.90-60.70) and Berlin-Cracow (about eight hours, €34.90-79.40) via Katowice.

Eurolines-Deutsche Touring (www.eurolines.de) offers some discount online fares to its Europabus network of more than 700 European destinations. Eurolines has ticket offices in main bus stations such as Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Bremen, Hamburg and Cologne-Bonn airport. Business class seats are available on some routes, with benefits including free power and wi-fi access. Snacks and drinks are available on the bus. Heavy baggage (up to 30kg) fees vary. The hotline (tel +49 69-971944833, M-F 8-20, Sa 9-17) has further information.

Examples of adult fares are: Berlin-Copenhagen/Kopenhagen (three times weekly, 7¾ hours, €44), Berlin-London (daily, 21-23 hours, €78-132), Cologne-Amsterdam (twice weekly, four hours, €19-43), Berlin-Warsaw/Warschau (seven nights, eight hours, €26), Berlin-Prague/Prag (four times daily, 4½ hours, €21-44), Berlin-Vienna/Wien (daily, 9½ hours, €23-42), Berlin-Budapest (five or six times weekly, 13 hours, €44-69) and Munich-Zagreb (daily, seven to nine hours, €30-41).

For the international services of DeinBus (www.deinbus.de), budget fares are listed online – tickets from the bus driver, where available (or by telephone, through (barzahlen.de) are paid by cash only. Tickets purchased from the listed travel bureaus or by phone (tel 069-175373200, up to an hour before departure) incur a €3 charge.

Bulky baggage, including bicycles and sports equipment, costs €9 when there is room. Such items should be booked using the online form on the DeinBus website.

Direct services are given below. Further connections using changes – generally but not always at higher fares – may be possible.

Cologne to Antwerp/Antwerpen buses (4½ hours via Aachen, €12-21) run M (twice), W, Th (twice) & Sa and from Antwerp to Cologne (4¾ hours) Tu, Th, F & Su. Services from Cologne to Brussels/Brüssel (3¼ hours, €17) run M, W, Th, Sa, and Brussels to Cologne (3½ hours) Tu, Th, F, Su. Direct Cologne to Amsterdam via Utrecht buses (four hours, €23, Th & Su) and Amsterdam to Cologne (M, Th & F) services are less frequent.

Overnight Hannover to Amsterdam buses via Osnabrück (about six hours, €15-27) run M, W, Th & Sa have very early morning arrivals.

To France, Cologne to Lille (6½ hours, €15-25) buses via Ghent/Gent run twice daily M, W, Th & Sa, Lille to Cologne twice on Tu, Th & F and once Su. Paris overnight direct services from Cologne (7½ hours, €21-25, departing Th, F, Sa & Su) run via Aachen. From Paris to Cologne, direct buses (10-11 hours) depart five times a week (M, Th, F, Sa & Su). Overnight Paris-Stuttgart buses (9-9¼ hours, €23-24) run several times a week via Karlsruhe and Strasbourg/Straßburg.

Direct Barcelona-Freiburg im Breisgau buses (15-15½ hours, €69) run twice daily four days a week, Barcelona-Stuttgart services (18-18½ hours, €79) twice daily three days a week. Direct Munich-Milan/Mailand-Genoa/Genua buses (9½-10 hours, €28-47) run four times a day three days a week.

Direct Nuremberg-Prague/Prag buses (4-4½ hours, €12-27) run via Pilsen daily, some days (M, Tu, Th, F, Sa) multiple times. Multiple Berlin-Prag via Dresden (4¼-4½ hours, €13.50-21) buses run daily. Direct Berlin-Vienna/Wien buses (9½ hours, €23-32.20) run daily.

The Czech Student Agency Bus/RegioJetBus (www.studentagencybus.com) network has several routes extending into Germany and beyond with Prague as the node, connecting east to Brno, Vienna, Bratislava/Preßburg, Košice, Budapest, Györ/Raab, Cracow/Kraków and Timişoara in Romania and south to Zürich, Genoa/Genua and Naples/Neapel. There are also Paris, Lyon, London, Brussels and Amsterdam services.

The company’s fare structure is standardised, with occasional special discounts. Children aged up to 14 travel at half-fare, passengers 15-25 and over 60 at a 10% discount, student card holders at a 15% discount (document proof required). Online fares are posted in Hungarian forints and full adult figures given in 2018 euros below are hence approximate (euro fares were expected in 2018). Cold and hot drinks are served, power points and multimedia stations (with free wi-fi in Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) are available.

Two standard luggage items are carried free, further items, winter sports equipment or bicycles at €6-8 each to or from Germany, depending on destination.

Direct Berlin-Prague (4¾ hours, €27) buses run eight times daily. Nightly buses run Frankfurt-Prague (7¼ hours, €53) via Plzen, Nuremberg-Prague buses (about four hours, €56) run eight times daily including a night service, and Munich-Prague (4¾-six hours, €35) buses run three or four times daily, including a night service.

For eastern connections including stop in Prague, examples are Berlin-Vienna/Wien links (10¼-11 hours, €45) three times daily with overnight options, Berlin-Budapest (13¼-14¼ hours, €43) twice daily links including an overnight option and Dresden-Bratislava/Preßburg services (7¾ hours, €31) four times daily, including overnight.

Four times a week, including an overnight option, there are Munich-Zürich (8¾ hours, €31) services. A Bonn-Amsterdam ticket (6½ hours, €19 with no discounts) is also available.

Several bus lines based in eastern Europe offer competitive fares throughout the region. The Riga-based Ecolines network (ecolines.net/lv/en) covers 20 countries and stretches as far as Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. Children aged up to 12 travel at half-fare, passengers up to 18, students or seniors generally at 10 per cent discount. There are also spot budget rates on the website.

Berlin-Warsaw buses run daily (7½ hours, €24). There are two nightly direct overnight Berlin-Riga buses (20-23 hours, €55), three or four nightly Berlin-Minsk connections (17-22 hours €75), overnight Berlin-Tallinn/Reval connections two or three times daily (24-25½ hours, €55), several weekly Berlin-Kaliningrad connections (13-19¾ hours, €77), several overnight Berlin-St Petersburg connections weekly (30¼-37 hours, €109) and several overnight Berlin-Moscow connections weekly (32-34 hours, €109).

There is also a range of options across western Europe, notably three weekly Hamburg-Amsterdam buses (9½ hours, €45). From Riga, Ecolines carries passengers on long-distance routes back to eastern and western Europe.

PolskiBus.com (www.polskibus.com) is now affiliated with FlixBus. For English details on services, go to the FlixBus site.

The associated Estonian lines Simple Express and Lux Express (www.luxexpress.eu/en) connect with Baltic countries, Belarus, Russia and Finland from Warsaw.

Many bus routes of Belarus-based Intercars Europe network (intercars-tickets.com) stretch throughout Europe and converge on Berlin but, apart from Poland, Belarus and Latvia, eastern European destinations are lacking. The Berlin-Minsk (18¾-23¾ hours) adult fare is about €58.

Visitors to Russia from most countries will need a visa. Visitors arriving in Belarus by bus will likely need a visa.