German transportation runs with German efficiency, and getting around the country is a snap — although you'll need to pay top price for top speed. The most popular options by far are to rent a car, or take the train.
Domestic flights are mainly used for business, with the train being a simpler and often (but not always) cheaper alternative for other travel. The boom of budget airlines and increased competition has made some flight prices competitive with trains to some major cities. However make sure that you get to the right destination. Low-cost airlines are known for naming small airports in the middle of nowhere by cities 100 km away (e.g. "Frankfurt-Hahn" is actually in Hahn, over two hours away by bus from Frankfurt city).
Germany offers a fast and (if booked in advance) affordable railway system that reaches many parts of the country. Unless you travel by car, rail is likely to be your major mode of transportation. Crossing Germany from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north will usually take around 6 h, while driving by car will take around 8 h.
Almost all long-distance and many regional trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn ("German Rail") , the formerly state-run railway company. DB's website, also available in many other languages, is an excellent resource for working out transportation options not only in Germany.
Inter City Express (ICE).
All major cities are linked by DB's ICE (InterCity Express) and regular InterCity trains. ICE is a system of high speed trains that are capable of speeding with 330km/h, the condition of tracks and signals however allows top speeds of only 160 km/h (usual), 200 km/h (routes with special electronic equipment called "Ausbaustrecke") or 250 km/h to 300 km/h (designated high-speed tracks only called "Neubaustrecke"). The top speed of 330km/h is reached on the journey from Cologne to Paris, France. Although significantly faster than by road (unless you are driving a Porsche), they are also expensive, with a 1 h trip ( Frankfurt to Cologne, around 150 km) costing around €65 one-way (normal price without any discount). However when you book the ticket online in advance, you can get a considerable discount (see Discounts). Reservations are not mandatory but are recommended, especially when you travel on weekends or holidays. This means, that with Interrail or Eurail pass you can use domestic ICE trains without supplement (except for for international ICE trains)
Next are the regular InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains. The latter connect the larger European cities and are virtually identical to the regular ICs. These trains are also fairly comfortable, even if they lack the high-tech feeling of the ICE.
On the major lines, an ICE or IC train will run each hour or so during the day. Before you shell out the money for the ICE ticket, you may want to check if it actually makes a significant time difference. ICE trains travel faster than other IC trains only on specially equipped high-speed routes. There are also long distance trains operated by other companies than Deutsche Bahn, usually running over secondary routes. These are usually comfortable enough (although not as comfortable as ICE) and sometimes considerably cheaper, but most of them stop at almost every station en-route.
Despite being fast, modern and highly profitable, German railways are known for their frequent delays specifically on main lines--trains usually do not wait for one another (most local trains normally do for up to 5 min) you should not rely on connecting times of less than 15 min.
BahnCard is a good choice, if you plan to travel by train a lot. It's valid for one year from the date of purchase and gives you discounts on all standard tickets. Long-distance BahnCard tickets frequently do include one single journey on public transport in many destinations (look out for City ticket). However, you have to keep in mind that once you sign a contract for the card, they will automatically renew your card at the end of its time period unless you cancel it in writing before the last three months of the card starts. The DB employees may not tell you about this stipulation when you buy the card.
The German network tickets are valid for one day in all DB local trains (S, RB, RE and IRE), local private trains and public city transport. They are often a cheaper alternative to single or return tickets, because on many shorter relations local trains are not much slower as long-distance trains (IC, EC, ICE). Check the travel time at the online timetable and select the Only local transport button.
If you need a network ticket for long-distance trains, use some of european rail passes or German Rail Pass.
-Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (translated as 'Lovely Weekend Ticket') lets you travel anywhere in Germany on a Saturday or Sunday until 3 a.m. the following day. If you have time on your hands, it is very inexpensive at just €39 for up to 5 people. The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket is potentially an ultra-cheap form of long distance travel: You can get from Munich to Hamburg for as cheap as €7.80, taking 12 or more hours, but it is still faster and more comfortable than taking the bus.
-Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket is another one-day network ticket valid on working days from 9AM. to 3AM the following day. Ticket costs €42 for one person and €6 for every other up to 5 people.
-If your travel is contained within a single Bundesland (state), then you can buy a Länder-Ticket valid in one state, plus, usually, a few short links across the border. Time validity is 9AM–3AM following day on working days and 0AM–3AM following day on weekends. Tickets cost begin at €17 for 1 person and at €27 for group up to five people.
All network tickets can be purchased online and at ticket machines at railway stations. You cannot buy them from the conductor.
A few long distance bus lines exist within Germany, most of them orientated to or from Berlin. Besides, there is a very useful long-distance bus line, the "Neun-Euro Bus". If booked in advance, you can end up paying just nine euro for any trip on the bus line connecting Hamburg (and the airport), Hanover (and the airport), Kassel, Frankfurt (and the airport), Mannheim and Heidelberg. The bus runs during the night.
Apart from these, there is a very dense network of regional and local bus lines. In rural areas, though, many lines run only once per day. Regional and local express bus line designators usually contain the letter(s) CE (local), E (regional around Hamburg; in other areas, E is used for special runs), S (regional), SB (regional and local) or X (local within Berlin), city bus line designators may contain the letter(s) BB ("Bürgerbus", not integrated within tariff unions), C or O. Always check the departure boards carefully: sometimes, especially at night or in rural areas, you have to order your bus by phone.
Germany has a world-famous network of excellent roads and Autobahn (motorway) with no toll or fees for cars (trucks have to pay), but gasoline prices are kept high by taxation.
Car Rental and Carpools
All German airports offer car hire services and most of the main hire firms operate at desk locations
Car hire and pool cars are also available in most cities, and one-way rentals (within Germany) are generally permitted with the larger chains without an additional fee. When renting a car, be aware that most cars in Germany have manual gearbox (stick-shift), so you might want to ask for a car with an automatic gearbox if you are used to that type. Drivers with an endorsement in their licence that restricts them to driving automatic transmission vehicles will not be allowed to rent a manual-transmission car.
Most car rentals prohibit having their cars taken to eastern European countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic. If you plan to visit these countries as well, you might chose to rent your car there, as those limitations do not apply the other way round.
Another great way to get around without your own car is using one of the popular carpool services. You can arrange many connections over their respective websites if you speak some German or have a friend that can help you out. Making contact is free of charge and getting a lift is often the cheapest way to get around. The two most popular hosts are Mitfahrgelegenheit and Mitfahrzentrale, for second one you have to pay an extra charge.
All foreign licences are accepted for up to six months (or 12 months for a temporary stay only), but a translation may be necessary (http://bit.ly/gSkE01
). If you want to continue driving after this period, you must obtain a German licence. These rules do not apply to driving licences issued in EU member states.
Speed limits are the following in Germany (unless otherwise shown):
-30 km/h in most residential areas within cities (marked with a sign "30-Zone Wohngebiet", 20-Zone and 10-Zone also exist)
-50 km/h inside towns and cities (including "Kraftfahrstraßen" (marked by a sign showing a white car on a blue background))
-100 km/h outside towns and cities
-There is no constant general speed limit on the "Autobahn" or on "Kraftfahrstraßen" if there is any kind of barrier between two or more lanes of different direction. However, it is not an entirely unrestricted roadway as there are sections that are periodically or permanently assigned lower rates of speed. The recommended maximum speed on the Autobahn is 130 km/h, and if you drive on the Autobahn for your first time and are not yet used to the usual heavy traffic, you should not exceed that speed. In addition, if you are legally travelling in excess of 130 km/h and are involved in an accident you can still be held liable for part or all of the damages, regardless of fault on your part.
By recreational vehicle and campervans
German campgrounds (like most others in Western Europe) usually offer a full range of amenities. You always have your own electricity hookup, and water and sewer hookups for each are common,. Every campground has restrooms and showers as well as kitchens, washing-machines and a spin dryer.
The yellow pages of camping, or, if you like, the German camping bible, is the ADAC Campingführer, a campground guide by Germany's largest automobile club ADAC. It lists almost all campgrounds along with prices, type of location, size, opening hours, amenities, you-name-it. Since the guide uses lots of symbols which are explained in a number of languages, it is suitable for travellers from abroad, too.