Navigation:

Information

The variety of options for travelling Germany mean driving is not necessary to reach most of the attractions. Public transport between cities is fast and efficient enough to allow hops between destinations and two-wheel traffic is a further option.

Tickets issued by regional transport authorities for single journeys or day tickets may be valid for train journeys or combined journeys of bus and train, even though the trains are Deutsche Bahn-operated.

The sources for general transport information are many and are given by mode below. The European Rail Timetable (see Maps, timetables & information under the Rail travel heading below) is naturally rail-oriented but includes much information about ferries and rail buses, while providing an update at the front of its monthly editions. Its timetables are not exhaustive for regional lines but provide an excellent guide to what is offered on the main lines.

For price and other comparisons between modes for selected journeys, visit the site www.verkehrsmittelvergleich.de, which for the most part translates to English (except Ziel ‘destination’). The search engine in a few minutes responds to each point-to-point query with a series of options listed by cost, including total travel time and other timetable details plus the number of changes for the journey. It provides printable results sheets and the user can select an option and be linked to the relevant transport booking site. It is a fast method of finding the cheapest option and highlights how much cheaper (especially for rail) off-peak travel can be.

Air transport is frequent between airports such as Berlin, Munich, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne and Stuttgart. Other airports with German networks include Leipzig-Halle, Dortmund, Dresden, Rostock, Münster-Osnabrück, Paderborn, Karlsruhe-Baden Baden, Friedrichshafen and Westerland on Sylt in North Frisia. The traffic in the age of operators such as Airberlin, Germanwings and other budget airlines is significant (Lufthansa also flies domestic routes) but the main volume of domestic travel is by rail and bus.

Rail travel

Trains are Germany’s best all-round tourist option, combining virtues of speed, service, convenience and reach, while low fares are offered with some restrictions. Deutsche Bahn is the national railway service, claiming almost 27,000 passenger trains daily and almost two billion passengers a year. There are almost 34,000km of lines in Germany and the regional and city networks integrate well with DB trains.

The DB corporate website www.bahn.com has most information in multiple languages. Travellers can check departures to any destination, bring up times, options and prices or book, pay and print tickets online. At most stations travellers can punch in destinations at ticket machines and sample a range of connections, including travel time, connecting trains and transfer times, often platform and train numbers and details of restaurant car and bistro availability.

Travel plans can be made and services booked at the website, by phone (tel +49 1805-996633 with international charges) or at DB travel agencies abroad (a list of these can be found on the site). Travellers can also go to the website to explore booking tickets by mobile phone or iPad under the Offers menu. The service portal www.bahn.de/m/view/en has latest information and timetables that can be customised through the My Bahn function. Cars can be carried on trains using the DB Autozug service.

Trains

The speed of Intercity-Express (ICE) trains (regularly above 200km/h but up to 320km/h on the ICE3, fastest of the five types) readily covers long distances within a few hours. The ICE Sprinter trains make few stops. From Hamburg, Frankfurt can be reached in 3½ hours, Stuttgart in 5½. From Berlin, Cologne is just over four hours away and Munich can be reached in about six hours. Services include bistros on board, seat service for first-class passengers, information points, music programs, mobile phone repeaters, quiet (no mobile phone) zones, parent-child compartments and baby changing stations (see also Wi-fi access below). Rail pass users travel on these trains at no extra charge, although on some routes seat reservations (see below) might be advisable at peak times of year. It is also possible to reserve from seat diagrams when booking online under the Offers menu at www.bahn.com.

Intercity (IC) trains run frequent high-speed links on main lines, offering on-board bistros and power outlets to seats. Interregio-Express (IRE) and Regional-Express (RE) trains offer basic comforts on city links and Regionalbahn (RB) trains link cities with smaller centres. Basic D-class trains run day or night. S-Bahn (Schnellbahn or Stadtbahn, see Transport - Urban) lines often link large nearby population centres as well as a metropolis with its hinterland, sometimes with small first-class areas in carriages.

Overnight trains with sleeper and couchette accommodation will run between Hamburg or Hannover and Munich, Berlin or Leipzig and Munich, Cologne or Düsseldorf and Munich, but these will reportedly cease after December 2016. DB overnight trains with sleeper and couchette accommodation ceased at the end of 2016. But Austria's national railway 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.

Finding carriages and booked seats on long trains is easy. On station platforms diagrams of each train on regular runs will be shows with first (yellow) and second-class (green) sections, on-board bistros, labelled and coded to correspond to the letters shown above platform areas when the train halts.

Finding carriages and booked seats on long trains is easy. On station platforms diagrams of each train on regular runs will be shows with first (yellow) and second-class (green) sections, on-board bistros, labelled and coded to correspond to the letters shown above platform areas when the train halts.

Stations

Large central stations (Hauptbahnhöfe) are open 24 hours to handle overnight traffic but most will be open restricted hours depending on arrivals and departures. The DB Reisezentrum at large stations is open long hours with staff to sell tickets and provide information, backed up by DB Information desks, designed for answering queries only and staffed even longer (at the biggest stations 24 hours).

Luggage lockers (Schließfächer) are at most stations, usually in two sizes and generally varying in price between €6 and €2 per day (for up to 72 hours in total) depending on size and location. Cologne is exceptional in offering a choice between a left-luggage counter and an automated luggage storage system.

At rail stations multilingual touch-screen machines will bring up instant point-to-point results for services with full details for the time frames requested. A printout can be taken to the ticket desk for purchases. Detailed timetable boards will be on each platform showing all trains, yellow for departures and white for arrivals.

Locations, facilities and services at DB stations can be searched at www.bahnhof.de, where schematic PDF maps of larger stations can be called up (symbols are tagged in German only, but browser translations will be useful). When searching for the central station in a large city, use the letters ‘Hbf’ after the placename. Snack bars, toilets and kiosks selling newspapers and other reading matter are basic features of stations in small cities. Nuremberg is exceptional in having no public toilets in the main station complex open in daylight.

Some stations are labelled smoke-free (look for 'Rauchfreier Bahnhof' or 'Nichtraucherbahnhof'). Smoking areas at other stations may be defined by a labelled yellow square painted on platforms.

First-class ticket (but not rail pass) holders can use the DB Lounges at 15 major stations, open varying hours.

Travellers in distress can turn to the Bahnhofsmission, identified by the red Maltese cross symbol at more than 100 stations, for advice and assistance.

Maps, timetables & information

Maps and timetables provided with rail passes are by no means comprehensive. Go to the Deutsche Bahn website to check trains and precise connections.

As an overall guide, the European Rail Timetable is updated monthly with latest news and alerts and covering all but a minority of local rail services. ERT is worth the expense for cross-Europe travellers and includes handy pages on ferry links and other details. The monthly print editions of the guide (£16.99) can be ordered in advance for overseas delivery at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu. Monthly digital versions are available at £11.99 (slightly outdated editions £3.00) for smartphone, tablet or e-readers, along with annual subscriptions (£90-150).

MG Ball's European Railway Atlas is a detailed publication for travellers and rail enthusiasts, including more than 120 maps of all main and regional European lines and many heritage railways plus station listings. The atlas, in A4 format, is available from www.europeanrailwayatlas.com or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu at £19.95. The European Railway Atlas Germany, extracted from the main guide, covers the country in more than 40 maps and is available in print at £13.95 (with free PDF download to your device) at www.europeanrailwayatlas.com.

Detailed maps of German rail lines, including regional and S-Bahn links, can be downloaded state by state as PDFs HERE or type ‘DB Kartenmaterial’ into a search engine and download – a zoom will be necessary. Paper maps cost €4 each.

The EurAide organisation (www.euraide.de) cooperates with DB in providing information to rail travellers – especially first-time travellers – in Germany and central Europe. Online, or through partners in the US, Australia and New Zealand, it can provide rail passes and tickets or book full itineraries without agency mark-ups and will provide weekday over-the-counter advice to ticketholders from its Berlin and Munich central rail station desks. Travellers should visit the website at the planning stage and read the explanatory notes. Details about opening times are at the site or see the Raven Guides Berlin or Munich chapters.

DB Navigator, a Deutsche Bahn timetable app, allowing bookings of mobile phone tickets, can be downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple Store to mobile phones for use in travel planning – even the station plans are shown. Door-to-door street maps for any journey are available online under the ‘Offers’ tab. Detailed point-to-point timetables in leaflet form are in the DB Reisezentrum or station hall.

On-board information is DB’s speciality. Brochures in seat pockets (with English version) describe the stops, point-to-point timings and any restaurant service, first-class seat service, on-board music programs, the positions of mobile phone repeaters, disability toilets and baby change tables.

Information about all sorts of topics is contributed by enthusiasts and travellers and assembled online at rail.cc. Use the Germany country tab at the bottom of the homepage. For a well travelled opinion on rail issues, including those specific to Germany, go to www.seat61.com.

Seat reservations

Reserved seats are necessary on international and some domestic fast trains and are recommended for most long-distance journeys but must be claimed no more than 15 minutes after departure. Reservations are advisable on ICE Sprinter trains. First-class normal or Sparpreis (see Discount rail fares below) fares include seat reservation.

Reservations are best made on booking but can be made separately and can help keep groups seated together and secure compartments or (on the relevant ICE trains) mobile phone repeaters or wireless hotspots. Online seat reservations for most ICE trains can be made from seat diagrams at the DB website (look under 'Information' under ‘Seat reservation’ in the Offers menu).

Wi-fi access

Wireless broadband hotspots through the Deutsche Telekom T-Mobile network are accessible free in DB Lounges (to first-class – not rail pass – passengers) at about 20 key stations. WLAN is also available on ICE trains to Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In first-class carriages, this extends to VPN links and music or video streaming, although DB asks that streaming long videos be avoided. Second-class links allow searching, email and chat. Switch on the device, select the ‘WIFIonICE’ option and log in. Accept conditions on the landing page and select ‘jetzt online gehen’. For updates visit the DB website.

A HotSpot service is also accessible free for up to 30 minutes in more than 130 stations. Select the ‘Telekom’ option and start the browser.

Standard rail fares

At Deutsche Bahn stations or the DB website, www.bahn.com, standard fares can be booked one-way or return. Various combinations of class, departure time, train type and number of changes of train are possible, for the next train or in advance, with different fares attached. The DB daytime express one-way ceiling in first/second-class is €265.50/157.50.

Children under 15 with parents (or grandparents) travel free (register at point of purchase) or at half-fare unaccompanied. Children under 6 travel free and need no ticket.

A Hamburg-Munich trip (6¼ hours direct by ICE in daylight or as much as 11½ hours overnight). First-class same-day fares (which include seat reservation) might vary between €155.90 and €253, while a second-class off-peak ticket booked weeks ahead could cost €24.90.

By comparison, the Berlin-Dresden (about two hours) fare can be as little as €29.90/19.90 or as high as €116.50/69 depending on schedules of whether ICE expresses or regional trains are used.

Punching in the departure point and destination at the ‘Timetable & booking’ tab on the landing page produces all the options chronologically, with matching fares under ‘Saving fares’ (Sparpreis, see Discount rail fares below) or Flexpreis (for which unplanned stops, exchanges and refunds are available). Doing the same under the ‘Saver fare finder’ tab produces the lower fares first.

The City mobil single-fare ticket adds the convenience of one or two city transit journeys to an intercity journey at point of booking, valid for two or three hours to cover the necessary connection. The City mobil day ticket is similar but can apply for any number of connecting journeys for varying periods up to 24 hours – check when booking.

Some travellers might prefer booking tickets through travel agents, but there are also websites offering several types of rail pass. Passes valid in Germany are listed in the Rail passes section below.

Discount rail fares

Budget travellers can find that working to a careful plan offers considerable savings on rail travel without the up-front expense of rail passes. There is a selection of discount fares from locally valid day tickets for singles or groups happy to restrict their travel to off-peak regional trains – ideal for excursions – to tickets covering states or groups of adjacent states.

A summary of DB discount fares is below but full details and conditions are at www.bahn.com in the Offers menu. The ‘Regional offers’ tab provides some basic comparisons of terms. Private train services (see below) offer further discount options but – with a few exceptions – these are for shorter regional journeys.

For a scheme selling last-minute, fixed-booking, second-class rail seats online from €19 and tips on other budget fares, check out the L'tur network at www.ltur.com/de and translate in the browser or app.

Sparpreis

This is a range of discount one-way fares, subject to availability, for first or second-class travel and valid on the main expresses (ICE, IC or EC) within Germany. Select a specific express train and day for the journey when ticket will be valid. When starting or completing the journey on regional or local trains, there is no restriction on trains or times. No rebooking or refund is possible. The fares can be booked online using the ‘saver fare’ option at the DB website.

Sparpreis tickets are available from €29.90 second-class (no reserved seat) or from €39.90 first-class (including seat reservation). Rebooking or refund before the day of use costs €19.

A Sparpreis Aktion fare (€29.90/19.90 first/second class) can be booked on expresses up to six months in advance and are valid between designated stations (shown on a map at the bottom of this page on the DB website).

Region for a day – Länder-tickets

With this DB budget option, holders can travel second-class through a particular federal state (Land) or group of states for a day at fares ranging from €23 to €30.50 between 9.00 on the nominated day and 3.00 next day. Conditions vary by state but in all the offer is available M-F (for some states at weekends or on holidays from midnight to 3.00 next day). Extra passengers can be added at varying rates.

Länder-tickets are valid on all regional trains, most S-Bahn networks and the bulk of urban public transport links within the relevant states. Some private rail operators also accept these tickets. But it is best to be certain of boundaries and validity on the desired services and check carefully any planned local links. So, although these tickets can be a fraction (typically €2) cheaper when bought from a ticket machine or online, it can be worth inquiring in person and then buying at the booking counter.

Some offers group adjoining states – Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen are grouped with their neighbour states, while Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen make a trio. The Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein ticket extends to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the Niedersachsen tickets are valid on Greater Hamburg transit services. Brandenburg and Berlin, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern also offer first-class options. In Nordrhein-Westfalen the ticket is known as SchönerTagTicket. The varying terms can be investigated under ‘Regional offers – Regional day tickets' in the Offers menu at www.bahn.com.

Länder-tickets can be particular bargains for up to five people, who can travel on one ticket for little extra (between €3 and €7 per passenger), making it possible for groups or families to spend a week or two in Germany with quite low travel expenses – so long as the fast ICE, IC and EuroCity (EC) trains (and sometimes Interregio-Expresses) are avoided. It’s a cheap and handy way for groups of Garmisch-Partenkirchen skiers or Alps walkers and climbers to have a day and night out in Munich, or for culture buffs in Dresden to visit Weimar for the day.

Germany for a day – Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket

This ticket for up to five people allows unlimited second-class travel in Germany on regional trains only for a day (9.00 to 3.00 next day, from midnight at weekends or on German public holidays) at €44 for one person, plus €8 per extra person. Some private operators also accept this ticket.

Weekend day excursions – Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket

This is a ticket offer for €44 for one weekend day, valid on regional or S-Bahn trains only from midnight to 3.00 the following day, with up to four accompanying passengers (each paying €6 extra) travelling second-class together. This ticket also covers some services into Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Poland.

Season tickets

For repeating journeys on regional or S-Bahn trains, a range of DB local or regional commuter or frequent-travel tickets (Zeitkarten) is available at the DB website for a year (Jahreskarte), month (Monatskarte) or week (Wochenkarte). With monthly or yearly tickets up to three people can accompany the holder on Saturdays.

BahnCard

A range of DB BahnCards with percentage discounts supports flexibility of needs. Travel insurance can be added for journeys at extra cost. All can be booked at the DB website and an interim card printed out for immediate use. Cancellation of the card must be notified in writing at least six weeks before the end of its one-year term or it will be automatically renewed.

BahnCard 25 (€125/62 in first/second-class) gives 25% discounts and for long journeys can pay off quickly. BahnCard 25 for passengers up to 26 costs €81/39.

BahnCard 50 (€515/255) gives 50% discounts on Flexpreis journeys (25% with Sparpreis) and is designed for frequent trips at short notice. Children and passengers over 60 pay half-price for BahnCard 50, adult passengers under 27 pay €252/69.

BahnCard 100 (€7225/4270 or monthly payments of €395/670) covers all travel on Deutsche Bahn services for a year. The PDF order form is on the DB website but in German only – ask at a DB Reisezentrum or large stations.

In addition to BahnCard discounts there is a City-Ticket discount allowing free travel on public transport in 126 destination cities after intercity journeys over 100km. This applies also on return journeys. Free travel for accompanying children is not included.

Rail passes

Several passes, including convenient flexi-passes, are available for international visitors only. The Deutsche Bahn website www.bahn.com offers these for online sale. For comparisons of rail pass deals, websites such as www.raileurope.com or rail.cc will offer more than one type of pass. For specific passes, compare prices at such sites with those given for the passes described below.

Rail passes must be validated at a station on the first day of use and must be shown with a passport. A list of private rail services where rail passes are (and are not) valid is in the Private train services section below.

Mid-2018 prices and conditions are given below.

German Rail Pass

Deutsche Bahn's German Rail Pass is for travel in Germany by non-European, non-Russian and non-Turkish residents, including S-Bahn urban-regional trains, listed private rail services and the cross-border extensions outlined below. Pass holders need not pay supplements for fast trains. Basic, flexi, twin and youth pass options are available. Flexi passes spread travel over a set number of days within a month, while twin passes effectively provide a 50% discount for the second traveller.

Online purchases can be made in euros at the DB website (where a brochure stating conditions and bonus benefits is available for download) or in US, Canadian or Australian dollars at www.germanrailpasses.com. Passes can also be bought at DB sales office outside Europe or at rail pass offices in Germany (listed at the DB website). Passes purchased online arrive by post, shipped free to several countries including the US, Canada and Australia. Passes are also valid on DB’s IC Bus services.

The basic German Rail Pass allows three, four, five, seven, 10 or 15 days’ consecutive travel. Adult passes (for travellers aged 28 or over) in first/second class range from €260/190 for three days to €610/450 for 15 days. First/second-class twin passes for adults travelling in company cost from €385/290 to €910/675 and youth passes (ages 12-27) from €210/155 to €490/360.

German Rail Pass Flexi adult prices, for three, four, five, seven, 10 or 15 days’ travel in a month first/second-class, range between €270/200 (three days) and €690/450 (15 days). Youth passes for first/second-class travel cost from €215/160 (three days) to €550/410 (15 days). Adult twin flexi passes range from €215/160 (three days) to €1030/740 (for 15).

Up to two children aged 6-11 are entitled to child passes for free travel with each adult pass holder (four with a twin pass).

German Rail Passes are valid to Basel in Switzerland and Salzburg, Kufstein and Innsbruck in Austria, on ICE trains to Liege and Brussels and DB trains to Bolzano, Trento, Verona, Bologna and Venice in Italy. Discounts on ICE or TGV travel between Germany and France are also available. Passes confer 20% discounts on Rhine and Moselle cruise ship travel with KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt (see River travel), 20% discounts on the Deutsche Touring Romantische Straße service (see Bus travel), 10% discounts on Bavaria’s Zugspitze rack railway near Garmisch-Partenkirchen and 50% discounts on BSB cruiser boats on Lake Constance/Bodensee.

Eurail Pass

Eurail is for non-European visitors. The varieties valid in Germany are Eurail Global Pass (valid in 28 countries, not including the UK) and Select Pass for adjoining countries (see below). There is no Eurail single-country pass for Germany (instead see German Rail Pass above).

Full conditions and price lists are published at www.eurail.com, with economy shipping to the US and standard shipping to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and several other countries. Tickets bought at the website can also be shipped to eligible travellers at European addresses. There are also comparisons that help decide the best type of pass. Prices in euros should be taken as a guide only (Eurail website purchases can also be made in US, Canadian or Australian dollars). The first day of use must be no later than 11 months from date of purchase.

First-class and second-class adult and first and second-class youth (age 12-27) passes are offered, along with free child passes issued with adult passes (up to two per adult). Second-class passes work out at about 80% of the first-class rate, youth passes about 80% of the adult rate.

Eurail Global Pass

Adult

In first/second class, the following passes are available: 15 days' continuous travel (€597/480), 22 days continuous (€768/616), one month continuous (€942/756), two months continuous (€1327/1064), three months continuous (€1635/1310), five days travel in one month (€468/376), seven days in one month (€570/458), 10 days in two months (€702/563) and 15 days in two months (€919/737).

Youth

In first/second class, prices are: 15 days continuous (€480/391), 22 days continuous (€616/502), one month continuous (€756/616), two months continuous (€1064/866), three months continuous (€1310/1066), five days in one month (€397/307), seven days in one month (€458/374), 10 days in two months (€563/459) and 15 days in two months (€919/600).

Eurail Select Pass

Select Pass is based on five, six, eight or 10 days’ travel over a two-month period for any combination of two to four bordering countries, such as France, Austria, the Czech Republic, or the three Benelux countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, which are treated as one country). Multiple countries can be select, grouped and priced at the Eurail website.

Select Pass - two countries

Germany can be paired with Austria, Czech Republic, Poland or Denmark at the follwing rates (first/second class):

four days in two months (adult €437/352, youth €352/288)

five days in two months (adult €490/396, youth €396/324)

six days in two months (adult €541/436, youth €436/357)

eight days in two months (adult €631/508, youth €508/415)

10 days in two months (adult €711/572, youth €572/466)

Germany can be paired with Switzerland, France, Benelux or Sweden at the follwing rates (first/second class):

four days in two months (adult €511/412, youth €412/338)

five days in two months (adult €576/464, youth €464/380)

six days in two months (adult €636/511, youth €511/418)

eight days in two months (adult €740/594, youth €594/485)

10 days in two months (adult €832/669, youth €669/546)

Select Pass - three countries

Germany can be grouped with Switzerland and Italy, Switzerland and Austria, Austria and the Czech Republic, France and Switzerland, France and Italy, or France and Czech Republic at the following rates:

five days in two months (adult €394/317, youth €317/259)

six days in two months (adult €434/349, youth €349/285)

eight days in two months (adult €507/408, youth €408/333)

10 days in two months (adult €570/458, youth €458/374)

Germany can be grouped with Czech Republic and the Benelux countries or with Denmark and Sweden:

five days in two months (adult €342/276, youth €276/226)

six days in two months (adult €378/305, youth €305/249)

eight days in two months (adult €440/354, youth €354/289)

10 days in two months (adult €497/399, youth €399/326)

Select Pass - four countries

Germany can be grouped with combinations such as Benelux, France and Switzerland; France, Italy and Spain; France, Italy and Switzerland; Austria, Italy and Switzerland; Italy, Austria and Czech Republic, and Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. The prices for these are:

five days in two months (adult €427/344, youth €344/281)

six days in two months (adult €466/374, youth €374/306)

eight days in two months (adult €542/436, youth €436/356)

10 days in two months (adult €619/497, youth €497/405)

Other Eurail benefits include free S-Bahn travel in Germany’s city networks (but not other parts of transit systems), 50% fare discounts on Finnlines ferries to Finland from Travemünde and 50% discount on Finnlines ferries from Travemünde to Malmö in Sweden (cabin charges are extra). Discounts of up to 30% on Stena Line ferries between Germany and Sweden or Latvia apply. Passes valid in Sweden cover travel on the Berlin Night Express overnight ferry-train service from Sweden to Berlin (Apr-early Aug, add the mandatory €29 couchette booking).

Eurail passes also confer 20% fare discounts on Rhine and Moselle cruise ship travel on regular schedules with KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt (see River travel). Discounts of 7.5% are offered on Donauschiffahrt Wurm+Köck Danube cruise fares between Regensburg and Linz.

For Eurail passes valid in the Czech Republic, travel to Prague or Strasbourg on Deutsche Bahn’s IC Buses is included. The same applies for IC Buses to Copenhagen (for passes valid in the countries concerned), Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland Italy and Croatia, as well as the IC Bus from Düsseldorf via Belgium to London. The seat reservation charge is €4.50.

There are also 20% discounts on fares for the Eurolines-Deutsche Touring Romantische Straße bus (see Bus travel) and a handful of sundry specials. Check the Eurail benefits list under Germany.

Interrail Pass

Interrail is for European residents only, but is not valid for the country of the user’s residence (except for the departure trip). Global (for 30 countries including Turkey) or single-country passes are available. Senior passes for ages 60 and over cost about 90% of adult full price and youth passes for ages 12-27 about 75% of full price. Up to two free child passes (ages 4-11) are issued on request with passes for passengers 18 or over. A third child will need a youth pass.

Most high-speed and night trains will demand additional reservation costs. For all conditions and booking links go to www.interrail.eu.

Interrail Germany Pass prices are:

Adult

15 days continuous €562/421

22 days continuous €657/493

one month continuous €850/637

five days in 15 days €358/269

seven days in one month €425/320

10 days in one month €509/381

15 days in one month €626/472

Youth

15 days continuous €449/337

22 days continuous €526/394

one month continuous €681/510

five days in 15 days €286/208

seven days in one month €340/255

10 days in one month €407/305

15 days in one month €501/376

Senior

15 days continuous €507/380

22 days continuous €592/444

one month continuous €767/574

five days in 15 days €321/242

seven days in one month €382/289

10 days in one month €457/344

15 days in one month €563/424

Interrail Global Pass prices are:

Adult

15 days continuous €562/421

22 days continuous €657/493

one month continuous €850/637

five days in 15 days €358/269

seven days in one month €425/320

10 days in one month €509/381

15 days in one month €626/472

Youth

15 days continuous €449/337

22 days continuous €526/394

one month continuous €681/510

five days in 15 days €286/208

seven days in one month €340/255

10 days in one month €407/305

15 days in one month €501/376

Senior

15 days continuous €507/380

22 days continuous €592/444

one month continuous €767/574

five days in 15 days €321/242

seven days in one month €382/289

10 days in one month €457/344

15 days in one month €563/424

Among other benefits, Interrail passes include 50% discounts on Finnlines fares Trävemunde-Helsinki or Trävemunde-Malmö, travel on Deutsche Bahn IC Buses (plus mandatory €4.50 reservation), 30% discount on Stena Line services to and from Germany (Trävemunde-Liepaja, Kiel-Gothenburg, Rostock-Trelleborg, Saßnitz-Trelleborg), 20% discounts on Deutsche Touring Romantische Straße bus travel and 20% discounts on KD-Rheinschifffahrt cruise ships on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Free DJH hostel one-year membership cards are available for eligible travellers.

Deutschland-Pass

The biggest discounts are during summer in the form of a month's flexible travel in Germany with Deutsche Bahn. This has been a year-to-year offer by DB, available from the end of June until August 31, the last purchase date for passes. The last date of validity is September 15, so passes bought late in August cannot run full-term, but might still be valuable given the savings. There is a restriction in that one leg of each journey must be by ICE, IC or EC train. For news keep watch during April and May at the Offers menu of the DB website.

There was no 2016 or 2017 Deutschland-Pass. The 2015 Deutschland-Pass rates in first/second class were €449/349, travellers under 27 (second-class only) €269, travellers under 19 (second-class only) €159. Twin passes were €669/469 first/second-class but these become family passes as up to three children under 15 accompanied by parents or grandparents travel free.

Private train services

Private rail companies running operations on contract in place of DB Regio have a growing presence and online booking of tickets is an important feature, although some companies maintain a few offices or agencies and some have on-board sales or their own ticket machines at DB stations. International rail passes and DB tickets will not be accepted on all these routes (see the Discount rail fares section below) and it is advisable to check before boarding. However for most regional private trains, tickets can be bought at DB stations as well as regional travel authorities (Verkehrsverbünde).

FlixTrain: The bus operator has begun weekend long-distance train services, taking over the Hamburg-Düsseldorf-Cologne route (4½ hours, adult Hamburg-Cologne fares from €15 depending on departure time). Stops include Osnabrück, Münster, Essen and Duisburg. FlixTrain also runs Berlin-Hannover-Frankfurt-Heidelberg-Stuttgart (seven hours, adult Berlin-Stuttgart fares from €39) and there is an overnight Hamburg-Hannover-Freiburg-Lörrach service (12¾ hours, Hamburg-Lörrach from €30). For more information, or to buy tickets, visit www.flixtrain.de.

Weser-Elbe Bahn: On the north-west German coast, the single EVB (www.evb-elbe-weser.de) train service runs Buxtehude-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven. Rail passes are valid between Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven.

Metronom: The services comprise Hamburg-Bremen, Hamburg-Cuxhaven and Hamburg-Hannover-Göttingen trains. Tickets can be booked at the website www.der-metronom.de, which translates tolerably well in some web browsers. Metronom also has an office (M-F 8-19) at the corner of Steintorwall and Steintordamm opposite Hamburg’s central station. Rail passes are accepted.

NordWestBahn: The operator (www.nordwestbahn.de) runs trains in the Ruhr, lower Rhine and Westphalia (Niedersachsen) regions. These include small networks converging on Bremen (including Bremen-Bremerhaven, Bremen-Oldenburg, Bremen-Osnabrück and Bremen-Verden), trains running Osnabrück-Oldenburg-Wilhelmshaven, Osnabrück-Bielefeld, Bielefeld-Paderborn, Paderborn-Kreiensen (with a branch to Göttingen), Duisburg-Xanten, and Duisburg-Krefeld-Kleve trains. Other cities served include Essen and Hildesheim. Rail passes are accepted on most trains (but not between Bremen and Vegesack).

Erixx: The network routes, operating in the states Niedersachsen and Bremen, converge on Soltau, north of Hannover. Trains operate Bremen-Uelzen and Hannover-Buchholz, Hannover-Goslar (with an extension to Bad Harzburg), Brunswick/Braunschweig-Goslar (with an option to Bad Harzburg) and Lüneburg-Dannenberg Ost services. The website www.erixx.de sells tickets. Rail passes are accepted.

Abellio: Abellio Deutschland (www.abellio.de) has three networks, in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Niedersachsen, four states in central Germany and one in development in Baden-Württemburg. Abellio Nordrhein-Westfalen (where rail passes are valid) includes Essen-Siegen, Essen-Hagen, Hagen-Siegen, Wesel-Bocholt, Wesel-Mönchengladbach, Gelsenkirchen-Bochum, Solingen-Wuppertal and a Düsseldorf-Emmerich-Arnhem service stretching into the Netherlands.

The interlinking central German services covering Hesse, Thüringen, Sachsen and Sachsen-Anhalt are: Erfurt-Naumburg, Erfurt-Leipzig, Halle-Saalfeld, Leipzig-Saalfeld, Naumburg-Saalfeld, Halle-Eisenach, Erfurt-Dessau, Leinefelde-Dessau, Nordhausen-Eilenburg, Nordhausen-Heilbad Heiligenstadt and Kassel-Bitterfeld.

Abellio’s WestfalenBahn (www.westfalenbahn.de) train network has three interlinking routes: Rheine-Osnabrück-Hannover Brunswick/Brunswick-Helmstedt, Bielefeld-Hannover- Brunswick/Brunswick-Helmstedt and Münster-Rheine-Emden. Rail passes are accepted.

For Abellio’s developing Stuttgart-Neckar network, see below.

Eurobahn: The Düsseldorf-based Keolis network (www.eurobahn.de) has 15 train routes in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Niedersachsen, including: Düsseldorf-Dortmund-Hamm, Venlo-Düsseldorf-Wuppertal-Hamm, Münster-Dortmund, Hengelo-Osnabrück-Bielefeld, Münster-Rheine, Münster-Osnabrück, Münster-Bielefeld and Münster-Hamm-Paderborn-Warburg.

Regio-Bahn: This tight network (www.regio-bahn.de) of regional and S-Bahn trains in Nordrhein-Westfalen interconnects Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Wuppertal, Hagen, Bochum, Mönchengladbach and Krefeld. Rail passes are accepted.

Enno: The small operation (www.der-enno.com) runs in Niedersachsen with Hannover-Wolfsburg and Hildesheim-Brunswick/Braunschweig-Wolfsburg services. Rail passes are accepted.

Cantus: In central Germany, Cantus (www.cantus-bahn.de) operates interlinking Kassel-Fulda, Fulda-Göttingen, Kassel-Göttingen and Bebra-Eisenach train services. Rail passes are accepted.

Hessische Landesbahn: The HLB network (www.hlb-online.de) interconnects Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Siegen, Gießen and Marburg with smaller towns in Hesse and Nordrhein-Westfalen. Rail passes are accepted on almost all trains.

MittelrheinBahn: TransRegio's MittelrheinBahn runs regular Cologne-Koblenz-Mainz trains on the high-volume route along the Rhine. Tickets are available at the website www.mittelrheinbahn.de and pail passes are accepted.

RheingauLinie: Part of the VIAS company network (www.vias-online.de), this runs trains connecting Koblenz, Wiesbaden, Mainz-Kastel and Frankfurt central station with stops at smaller stations including middle Rhine cruise stops. Rail passes are accepted.

Vlexx: This central German network (www.vlexx.de) converges on Mainz, Bingen and Bad Münster am Stein with services including Frankfurt-Mainz-Koblenz, Frankfurt-Mainz-Saarbrücken, Koblenz-Kaiserslautern, Mainz-Worms and Bad Münster-Saarbrücken. Among others are Koblenz-issembourg/Weißenburg and Mainz-Wissembourg excursion services into France (May-October).

Usedomer Bäderbahn: The UBB Stralsund-Greifswald-Şwinoujşcie trains – with a branch to Peenemünde and an associated bus network – serve the Baltic coastal towns around Rügen and the Polish border. Tickets are available at the website www.ubb-online.com. Rail passes are valid Stralsund-Greifswald-Züssow.

Elbe-Saale-Bahn: This operation (www.elbe-saale-bahn.de) has almost 20 train services in Sachsen-Anhalt, crossing into Thüringen, Sachsen and Niedersachsen. These connect Magdeburg with Brunswick/Braunschweig, Wolfsburg, Erfurt, Leipzig, Lutherstadt Wittenberg and Dessau, run Dessau-Lutherstadt Wittenberg-Falkenberg and interlink towns including Halle, Wolfsburg, Aschersleben and Stendal. Elbe-Saale-Bahn also operates S-Bahn services in Thüringen.

HarzElbe Express: The operator (www.hex-online.de) interconnects the Harz towns with Halle and Magdeburg with Magdeburg-Halberstadt-Thale, Magdeburg-Oschersleben, Goslar-Halle, Goslar-Halberstadt, Halberstadt-Halle, Halberstadt-Blankenburg, Halberstadt-Aschersleben and Halle-Bernburg services. A longer link is the Harz-Berlin-Express, Berlin-Goslar and Berlin-Thale via Magedeburg and Potsdam.

Harz Schmalspurbahnen: This interconnecting steam narrow-gauge tourist network across the Harz mountains has trains running Wernigerode-Nordhausen and Quedlinburg-Eisfelder Talmühle with a connection to the peak Brocken. The website is www.hsb-wr.de.

ErfurterBahn: This operation (www.erfurter-bahn.de) brings together the Süd-Thüringen-Bahn (rail passes valid) and Elster Saale Bahn networks, converging on Erfurt and Gera in Thüringen extending through four states including Bavaria’s northern districts. The 18 services include Leipzig-Gera-Saalfeld, Gera-Hof, Erfurt-Weimar-Gera, Erfurt-Saalfeld, Saalfeld-Blankenstein, Erfurt-Saalfeld, Erfurt-Meiningen, Schweinfurt-Meiningen and Schweinfurt-Gmünden in northern Bavaria. Rail passes are accepted.

ODEG: Ostedeutsche Eisenbahn (odeg.de) runs several rail services in eastern Germany, including trains through Berlin (Wismar-Schwerin-Berlin-Cottbus, Stendal-Berlin (Südkreuz)-Jüterbog and Berlin (Wannsee)-Jüterbog) as well as the regional Rehna-Parchim and Hagenow-Parchim services in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Stendal-Rathenow and Brandenburg-Rathenow services in Brandenburg and the Cottbus-Forst, Bischofswerda-Görlitz, Hoyerswerda-Görlitz and Cottbus-Görlitz-Zittau services in Sachsen near the Polish border. Rail passes are not accepted on Hagenow-Parchim, Rhena-Parchim, Görlitz-Hoyerswerda or Zittau-Cottbus services.

Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn: Five MRB (www.mitteldeutsche-regiobahn.de) train services interlink Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz in Sachsen with Elsterwerda to the north in Brandenburg and Hof in northern Bavaria. These include Dresden-Chemnitz-Hof, Leipzig-Chemnitz, Dresden-Chemnitz-Zwickau and Chemnitz-Riesa-Elsterwerda. Rail passes are valid.

Trilex: This regional network (www.laenderbahn.com/trilex), where Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland join, runs Dresden-Bautzen-Görlitz-Zgorzelec-Węgliniec, where there are connections to Wrocław/Breslau in Poland. Another branch to Zittau allows travel into the Czech Republic at Liberec, and (using bus links) Rybniště and Varnsdorf. The latter two are also linked from Germany by bus at Seifhennersdorf.

KD: The government-owned, Poland-based operator Koleje Dolnośląskie has a website (www.kolejedolnoslaskie.eu) with an English version. Its Dresden-Görlitz service connects with Polish Silesia via Zgorzelec and through its Forst-Wrocław service. From Poland, the network crosses into the Czech Republic at Liberec from a hub at Jelena Góra in Poland.

Süwex: The south-western DB Regio network (www.bahn.de/suewex/view/index.shtml) has five services stretching around the Rhine-Main valley from Frankfurt into Luxemburg and south as far as Karlsruhe. These are Koblenz-Trier-Saarbrücken-Mannheim, Koblenz-Trier-Luxemburg, Koblenz-Mainz-Frankfurt, Mainz-Ludwigshafen-Mannheim and Mainz-Ludwigshafen-Karlsruhe.

Abellio Baden-Wurttemberg: A fourth Abellio network in the Stuttgart-Neckar valley region (www.abellio.de/de/abellio-baden-wuerttemberg) is planned for mid-2019.

Alex: The Alex (www.laenderbahn.com/alex) services, branching into the Czech Republic, are Munich-Regensburg-Schwandorf, Regensburg-Plzen/Pilsen-Prague/Prag, Munich-Hof and Munich-Lindau (with a connecting Innenstadt-Oberstdorf branch). Rail passes are valid on all these lines.

Oberpfalzbahn: This small network (www.laenderbahn.com/oberpfalzbahn) overlaps with Alex extends north from Regensburg as far as Hof with branches into the Czech Republic – notably to Cheb – but the hub is Schwandorf. The routes are Regensburg-Marktredwitz, Marktredwitz-Cheb-Hof, Schwandorf-Furth im Wald-Domažlice (Czech), Schwandorf-Lam and Schwandorf-Waldmünchen.

Vogtlandbahn: These regional trains (www.laenderbahn.com/vogtlandbahn) cover the southern corner of the state of Sachsen, converging on Plauen, with branches into northern Bavaria at Hof and into north-western Czech Republic at Kraslice and Cheb – these connect with the Oberpfalzbahn (above). The four services are Zwickau-Cheb (with branch services to Hof), Zwickau-Kraslice, Gera-Weischlitz, Mehltheuer-Kraslice. Rail passes are accepted, but check validity beyond the Czech border.

Waldbahn: The small east Bavarian network (www.laenderbahn.com/waldbahn) carries travellers into the forests of Bayerischer Wald, starting at Plattling on the main Regensburg-Passau rail line. Passengers can travel Plattling-Bayerisch Eisenstein (near the Czech border, where trains are available to Plzeň) with branching Gotteszell-Viechtach, Zwiesel-Bodenmais and Zwiesel-Grafenau services.

Agilis: This Bavarian rail company (www.agilis.de) has regional trains running services including Ulm-Ingolstadt-Regensburg-Landshut, Neumarkt-Regensburg-Plattling services, the latter extending to a Plattling-Passau link from May to October along the popular Danube cycling route. Rail passes are valid.

SWEG: The company (www.sweg.de) has a dense transit network in Germany’s south-west, among its trains a cross-border Offenburg-Kehl-Strasbourg/Straßburg service on which rail passes are valid. Another train service runs Ulm-Aulendorf.

Bodensee-Oberschwaben-Bahn: This small operator (www.bob-fn.de) runs Aulendorf-Ravensberg-Friedrichshafen (on the shores of Lake Constance/Bodensee). Rail passes are accepted.

SBB: The short Engen-Singen-Konstanz or Seehas train service (sbb-deutschland.de/strecken/seehas) takes travellers to the Swiss border at Lake Constance. The Regio-S-Bahn Basel Zell im Wiesenthal-Lörrach-Basel train (http://sbb-deutschland.de/strecken/regio-s-bahn-basel) crosses into Switzerland. Rail passes are accepted on both.

BOB: The Bayerische Oberlandbahn (www.meridian-bob-brb.de/de/bayerische-oberlandbahn) operates three local services from Munich to Tegernsee, Bayerischzell and Lenggries in upper Bavaria. Rail passes are accepted.

BRB: Three Bayerische Regiobahn www.meridian-bob-brb.de/de/bayerische-regiobahn services operate Augsburg-Ingolstadt, Augsburg-Schongau and Ingolstadt-Eichstätt. Rail passes are accepted.

Meridian: The south-east Bavarian operation (www.meridian-bob-brb.de/de/meridian) has a Munich-Rosenheim service and crosses into Austria with Munich-Salzburg and Munich-Kufstein trains. Rail passes are accepted.

BLB: The Berchtesgadener Land Bahn (www.blb.info) begins at Berchtesgaden and Ostermiething on the German side of the Austrian border and converges at Salzburg before branching further into Austria. Rail passes are accepted as far as Salzburg.

Bus travel

National bus networks are growing quickly in response to Germany’s competition policy. Buses have become a low-cost point-to-point option in Germany, though buses between main cities are not usually as frequent or extensive as rail.

A central bus station is usually labelled ZOB (Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof) on maps and in timetables. This may be the convergence point for urban or regional buses as well as inter-city services but arrangements vary by place.

Long-distance buses

The bus market is in flux and rivalry will remain fierce, although big discounts for junior travellers have all but disappeared. With the pace of change routes should continue to expand and further improvements in bus and station facilities may be expected. Two big operators, MeinFernbus and FlixBus, have merged and bus lines from abroad are testing the German market. Fares vary between discount figures limited to some departures for online bookings (for which passengers will need to print out tickets) to standard rates. Heavy baggage may incur fees.

Wi-fi access is offered free by some operators, but the number of simultaneous connections will be limited. Some buses also carry snacks and drinks.

Short-run specials can be expected to appear from time to time and travellers with flexible schedules should scour websites for comparisons. Tickets can also be purchased from selected travel bureaus listed on company websites.

As well as using websites run by operators, bargain-hunters can also compare and book fares online through comparison portals. The www.busliniensuche.de service (translate through the browser) covers a range of providers including regional operators and places stops on a finder map. Searches also throw up Deutsche Bahn rail services and a sponsored car-share network. At www.busticket.de travellers preferring bus travel can check out possibilities, compare standard and discount fares for about 500 connections, and book. The site www.fernbusguide.de has similar capabilities with booking links to operator sites but only the homepage is in English. Details of routes, bus lines and booking links can also be found at www.busradar.com (in English), www.fernbusse.de, and www.fernbus24.de.

In all cases it is worthwhile first checking the various websites and conditions.

Mid-2018 fares and charges are given below.

FlixBus (www.global.flixbus.de), which has merged with MeinFernbus and Postbus, runs a dense national and European network of 24-hour routes. Booking can be made by phone (tel 030-300137300), agencies or Flixbus ticket offices:

Berlin: Alexanderstraße 1 (M-Su 8-19) and ZOB, Messedamm 2 (M-Su 6.30-23)

Cologne-Bonn airport: Terminal 2 arrivals, Kennedystraße (M-Su 6.30-19)

Dresden: Friedrich-List-Platz 2 (M-Su 8-20)

Frankfurt: Stuttgarter Straße 26 (M-Su 6.30-21)

Hamburg: Adenauerallee 78 (M-Su 6-22)

Hannover: Rundestraße 12 (M-Su 7-20.30)

Munich: Hackerbrücke 4 (M-Su 6.30-22.30)

Nuremberg: Käte-Strobel-Straße 4 (M-Su 8-19)

Fare examples include Berlin-Hamburg (from 3¼ hours direct, more than 100 connections daily, €9.99-44.98 with departures including ZOB Messedamm, Alexanderplatz, Alt-Tegel, Wannsee, Schönefeld airport and major rail hubs), Berlin-Dresden (2¼ hours direct, at least 100 daily, €9.99-23.98), Frankfurt-Nuremberg (three hours direct, about 30 daily, including Frankurt Hauptbahnhof and airport departures, €9.99-33.98), Frankfurt-Würzburg (1¾ hours, more than 20 daily, €5.99-15.99), Frankfurt-Munich (from five hours direct, more than 30 daily, €9.99-33.98), Berlin-Munich (from seven hours direct, almost 100 daily, €14.98-57.98) and Cologne-Bremen (including Cologne-Bonn airport, from 5¾ hours direct, about a dozen times daily, €15.99-42.98). Small discounts on fares are often available for children aged up to 14 (children aged up to three must be in child seats with fixing straps supplied by the carer).

Free wi-fi access is offered on buses and one large luggage item and hand luggage up to 7kg will be carried free (additional items cost €2 and must be booked 48 hours before departure, heavy or oversize luggage could incur a €9 fee) and bicycles at €9 – for both check conditions. Bookings are online or through agencies, or the hotline (tel 030-300137300). UK-based Megabus offers FlixBus fares through uk.megabus.com.

Eurolines-Deutsche Touring (www.eurolines.de, tel 069-7903501) national services cover large cities, offering non-refundable or flexible rates. Fares include Berlin-Dresden (three times daily, €11-34), Berlin-Cologne (five times weekly, €22-57), Berlin-Stuttgart (Monday and Thursday, €27-56), Frankfurt-Stuttgart (daily, €7-34) and Munich-Regensburg (twice daily, €11). There are 20% discounts for students, 10% for passengers under 26, children aged 12-18 and travellers over 60, up to 50% discounts for children 4-11 and 80% discounts for younger children. Full timetables and booking details for all Eurolines buses are available at the website. The line maintains ticket offices at some large bus stations, in all having almost 30 booking sites.

Eurolines’ Deutsche Touring Romantische Straße bus (mid Apr-mid Oct) covers the Romantic Road or Frankfurt-Würzburg-Rothenburg-Dinkelsbühl-Augsburg-Munich-Füssen route daily each way with a hop on-hop off service at a total fare of €108 (bookings recommended). Look under the Eurolines site National Bus Lines menu or at www.touring-travel.eu/romantische-strasse.

DeinBus (www.deinbus.de) operates several routes including Berlin-Leipzig-Frankfurt (once or twice daily, €23-26), Aachen-Cologne (six times weekly, €8) and Frankfurt-Stuttgart (eight times weekly, €25-28). There are also links to Prague, Strasbourg, Paris and into Belgium and the Netherlands. Lower fares are generally for online bookings. Tickets from the bus driver are at full fare and tickets purchased from travel bureaus or by telephone (tel 069-175373200, M-F 10-18) incur a €3 charge. Accompanied children under 15 travel at half-fare. Bicycles or baggage beyond carry-on and one storage item costs €9.

Deutsche Bahn’s IC Bus service (www.bahn.com) has expanded to include German domestic routes. Mannheim and Heidelberg have been added to the Nuremberg-Prague route. Berlin-Copenhagen buses run via Rostock or Hamburg and the Frankfurt-Luxembourg bus in Trier. Bus saver fares start at €9.90. Passengers can also use German Rail, Eurail or Interrail passes (€4.50 seat reservation fee is mandatory). Wi-fi access is available.

Regional buses

The many integrated transport networks (Verkehrsverbünde) operated by large cities and their hinterlands include buses in their regional ticketing systems and provide connecting options for travelling around regions such as Franconia and between neighbouring centres such as Frankfurt and Mainz or Düsseldorf and Dortmund. All these have online presences with maps and explanations of fare systems. Deutsche Bahn also runs bus services such as the OVF Frankenbus network between towns.

Some of the larger regional public transport operations such as VBB (Berlin-Brandenburg, see the Raven Guides Berlin or Potsdam chapters), VGN (Franconia including Nuremberg and Bamberg, see those chapters) and Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Neckar or VRN (www.vrn.de, centred on Mannheim but linked with Würzburg) may offer handy links for some travellers.

River travel

Most river services are sightseeing cruises but some cover significant legs of German rivers and become transport options. For trips on the Spree or Havel see the Raven Guides Berlin and Potsdam chapters, for the Elbe see the Dresden chapter, for the Main the Würzburg chapter, and for the Neckar the Stuttgart chapter.

Rhine

KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt (www.k-d.com, tel 0221-2088318) dominates Rhine cruising and its services between Cologne and Mainz from late April to early October are a restful way of covering territory while taking in the castles, the river towns and the vineyards. The authentic castle stretch is Mainz-Koblenz, though there are also plenty of castles between Koblenz and Bonn. Timetables vary over the cruise season but there are more options during July and August. The key link points are at Koblenz (where between June and October it is possible to join Moselle cruises to Cochem) and Boppard.

Downstream travellers can cruise daily from Mainz to Koblenz in less than 10 hours (including a four-hour change at Boppard) or Rüdesheim-Koblenz in four hours. In July and August (or Sep-early Oct F-M) there is an option to cruise Mainz-Koblenz in 8½ hours (three hours in Boppard). After an overnight stop and a day in Koblenz, travellers can reach Bonn (3½ hours) the following evening.

Travelling upstream (Jul-Aug M-Su, Sep-early Oct Th-Su), there are cruises from Koblenz to Rüdesheim (just over six hours). Between Bonn and Koblenz (5½ hours) twice-weekly cruises operate in July and August, with the possibility of picking up an onward cruise to Rüdesheim the same day.

The Mainz-Cologne single fare per person is €65, Mainz-Koblenz €57.40, Koblenz-Cologne €48.80 (return fares, for fans of the cruise experience, are little more at €71, €64.40 and €53.20). Children aged 4-13 with adults pay only €6 on all routes. Students aged under 27 pay 50% of adult fares and travellers over 60 pay 70% fares with valid ID.

Moselle

KD's Koblenz-Cochem services operate from June to early October (9.45-15, return 15.40-20) at single/return fares of €31/36.40.

Danube

Donauschiffahrt Wurm+Köck (www.donauschiffahrt.de, tel 0851-929292) operates cruises between Deggendorf and Passau most Thursdays and Saturdays from late May until the end of September (2½ hours, €21.50 single). Travellers can link with trains from Regensburg to Plattling and change for a regional train to Deggendorf. For Wurm+Köck cruises on to Linz and Vienna see the Transport - International menu.

Air travel

The variations in price for internal flights can be huge. But budget tickets, comparable with rail fares (and even some long-distance bus fares) are available by shopping online. The Lufthansa no-frills domestic and short-haul arm Eurowings has extended its portfolio consistently and routes have, controversially, been moved from the parent to the low-cost offspring (formerly Germanwings). Other European low-cost competitors also offer discount flights within Germany.

These minimum fares, more commonly but not exclusively for advance bookings, are available online at the ‘BASIC fare’ tab under the Our fares menu at www.eurowings.com.

Schedules are also important and the cost of a connecting bus or train journey might have to be factored into the price-time equation before sizing up the air travel benefit. Schedules can also involve changes of flight.

The Eurowings network includes: Frankfurt, Berlin-Tegel, Hamburg, Rostock, Usedom, Sylt in north Frisia, Hannover, Bremen, Cologne-Bonn, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Münster-Osnabrück, Leipzig-Halle, Dresden, Nuremberg, Karlsruhe-Baden Baden, Stuttgart, Saarbrücken and Friedrichshafen. There are also flights to and from Salzburg in Austria (near the German border) and Basel.

German operator Airberlin ceased operations late in 2017.

Bicycle

The extensive national bicycle network includes about 200 long-distance trails and routes. Road surfaces in some eastern rural areas are still a concern but the general quality is high.

The routes are interactively mapped at www.bikemap.net. For more detail go to the English version of www.radweit.de, where there are notes and explanations of symbols. Regional sheet maps (Radwanderkarten) at 1:75,000 are available from online retailers.

A choice of trails, designated bike lanes or bicycle-friendly routes for Germany can be viewed on Google Maps on enlargement, activated using the menu at top left next to the search window.

The Naviki route map for cyclists, downloadable at www.naviki.org, uses Google Maps to find routes to fixed points and operates well in Germany. This gives route, distance and time, which can be varied for mode including leisure cycling or mountain bikes.

Bikes can be loaded onto most Deutsche Bahn trains (except ICEs) in marked carriages or baggage areas for an additional fare. For details of the Nextbike or Deutsche Bahn Call A Bike systems see the Bicycle section of the Raven Guides Transport - Urban menu. See also the Cycling notes in the Landscapes & outdoors section of the Travel Experiences menu.

Car & motorcycle

There are more than 200,000km of high-quality major German roads. In the road hierarchy route numbers designated by ‘E’ on green labels are European routes. The German federal highways (Bundesstraßen) are designated ‘B’ with a route number on some maps but the numbers appear alone on a yellow shield on most maps and road signs. Landesstraßen (sometimes L-roads) or Staatsstraßen (S-roads) are state main roads. Minor (‘K’) roads (Kreisstraßen) are local.

Most road signs, with some variations, are in line with European standards. A PDF in English displaying German road signs is at the ADAC (German national automobile club) website www.adac.de. At the top of the homepage, search ‘Verkehrszeichen Englisch’ (a short summary of road laws is on the last page). An easy-to-use US Army chart is online at www.ansbach.army.mil/documents/EuropeanRoadSignsPamphlet.pdf. For another summary of German road laws visit the Transport menu at the AngloInfo website (germany.angloinfo.com/transport). The minimum driver age is 17.

Basic speed limits on highways are 100km/h, in urban areas 50km/h, in residential streets often 30km/h. Motorcyclists must wear helmets and show headlights at all times.

It is best to carry an international driving licence, which usually can be supplied by the national automobile club in the traveller’s home country. For car rentals in Germany this is likely to be a requirement.

In winter conditions drivers should ensure the car has winter or all-weather tyres. It is an offence to use the wrong tyres in winter conditions and correct tyres are a condition of insurance cover. All vehicles are required to carry a first-aid kit.

A driver involved in or witnessing a smash is required to stop and if there is injury there is an obligation to render assistance. If there is dispute about liability, or an injury, the police (tel 110) must be called. For an ambulance, call tel 112. Traffic police (Verkehrspolizei) wear white caps with dark bands.

ADAC is affiliated with international automobile clubs including AA and AAA – check with home organisations. Otherwise the basic membership cost is €49 a year and a membership window in English is at the homepage under the Mitgliedschaft menu. ADAC’s vehicle breakdown service hotline is tel 01802-222222 (no prefix dialling from mobiles).

For emissions requirements on cars entering many German cities and towns see the Car section of the Raven Guides Transport - Urban menu.

Autobahns

The 13,000km of German motorways are shown with route numbers on blue hexagonal shields on road signs (sometimes numbers appear on maps with an ‘A’). The blue sign with white road-under-overpass symbol indicates the start of autobahn, the same sign with red diagonal slash indicates its end. Most autobahns have no legal speed limits but an advisory maximum of 130km/h is understood. In some stretches there are limits down to 80km/h. The large speed differentials between cars create problems and drivers should observe the custom of keeping to the right and passing only on the left. Bicycles and pedestrians may not use autobahns.

The German government has targeted 2019 for the introduction of tolls on autobahn use. Travellers driving foreign-registered cars Germany will be able to buy 10-day tolls from €2.50 to €25, depending on the size and environmental friendliness of their vehicle, or a two-month toll of between €7 and €50 on the same criteria. The number plates will be registered and serve as proof that the toll has been paid. Motorcycles and electric cars will be exempt.

Emergency stopping is permitted only on the road shoulders and there is a dim view of drivers who run out of fuel. Some road shoulders may be used in heavy areas to ease congestion (Stau) – these stretches are indicated by blue signs with white vertical arrows. Nearest emergency phones (Notruf) along motorways are indicated by arrow signs at the roadside. Service areas (Raststätte) with toilets and 24-hour fuel stops are at the side of the autobahn at regular intervals. It is wise to use these for breaks, as the unbroken scenery for long periods at steady high speeds can challenge concentration.

If a road smash (Unfall) causes autobahn traffic jams, space must be left in the middle of the road (or between the two left lanes) for emergency vehicles. Electronic dynamic signs in black with red and white symbols are used where possible as warnings or to modify traffic conditions (including speeds) and a red cross of this type indicates a closed lane. Road works are not uncommon and are attended by lane redirection arrows, traffic barriers and reduced speeds with yellow lane markings overriding any white lines.

Petrol prices

There are plenty of fuel stops on major roads. Fuel charges in Germany in June 2018 were about €1.48 per litre for 95 octane unleaded gasoline. Diesel fuel was cheaper at about €1.31 and LPG €0.61. Updates are posted at www.fuel-prices-europe.info.

Car rentals

In Germany the major operators are Avis, Europcar (affiliated with the US network National), Hertz and Sixt and prices and conditions can be compared online. It will likely be cheaper to book and pay online by credit card, which can avoid some charges, but read carefully all conditions and print out all rental documents to take on the trip.

It is common not to get the car requested and in these cases the car provided will usually be larger.

The rental price includes 19% tax, although incremental road taxes may or may not be included, depending on the company. In Germany 20% fees can attach to cars collected at airports and some central railway stations. Picking up cars on Sundays can be expensive or impossible as most rental offices are closed – others are also closed Saturdays, so opening times must be checked. Handing back cars in different countries than they are picked up is possible but adds costs. GPS systems usually add cost and drivers taking cars over borders need to ensure the unit will work in other countries.

Extra charges are avoided by returning the car as full as possible with petrol (keep the purchase receipt). Extra matters such as cleaning or perceived damage might be billed to the credit card later.

Travel insurance will rarely cover rentals and damage. There are traps for collision or theft insurance and sometimes issues surrounding security deposits.

Shared journeys

The German car-pooling institution the Mitfahrzentrale – designed for sharing petrol costs with another traveller driving to the same destination – is not new but has been made easier and more responsive by online listings. The website www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de translates fairly well in web browsers – for von read ‘from’, for nach read 'to', for Zieladresse ‘destination’. The site has lists of point-to-point offers and requests with proposed times, days, prices and number of seats wanted or available.

Registration on the site allows profiles to be viewed and women can specify women. Sometimes the journeys are train journeys, offers to share a group ticket (check Discount rail fares above). Ground rules about meeting times and places and wait times are included and a latest cancellation time can also be nominated. There are also downloadable mobile apps for convenience. The website has begun an optional booking system charging 11% commissions on fully registered journeys, which delivers some safeguards.

Payment, as specified by the driver, can be at the time of meeting, or a pre-payment can be handled through the website. On booking, the partners receive each others’ mobile phone numbers.

The sites www.fahrgemeinschaft.de, www.bessermitfahren.de, www.citynetz-mitfahrzentrale.de and www.mitfahrzentrale.de, the last with a well-functioning inbuilt English option, operate free to private users on similar principles. Some have price-reckoning tools as a start point, with variations on terms and insurance arrangements. The prices discussed are competitive with discount bus fares and in the right circumstances the journeys will prove more convenient, although they are not always between major tourist destinations.

The Berlin Shuttle site www.berlinshuttle.de offers journeys between Berlin and Hamburg by merging the notions of car rental and car pooling. The sites flinc.org, www.drive2day.com and the UK-based www.blablacar.com could also be of assistance, especially in getting to or from Germany.

Hitchhiking

Hitching (Trampen) is not illegal in Germany, except on autobahns. It may be possible to pick up a lift at autobahn fuel stops, although the operators would reserve the right to eject hitchhikers. Trucks, normally a good source of lifts, do not operate between midnight Friday and late Sunday evening. Some tips on hitching in Germany are at www.hitch-hiking.org.