Tips for everyday life
Germany has a tightly-weaved transportation network. You have many ways to get around in cities and throughout the country. On weekends it is easy to go to other cities, or strike out to the countryside, the mountains, or the ocean. From Germany you can also explore other countries in Europe.
Bicycles: why students love them
Cycling is affordable and healthy, it is easy on the environment, and is very practical at the same time, especially in the city. The fastest way to get to your destination is often by bike. You can park your bike almost anywhere. You don’t have to buy tickets or refuel. And you don’t get stuck in traffic or have to wait for the bus. Most cities have specially marked paths for cycling and many places where you can lock your bike.
The bicycle is not just used for commuting in Germany. Many like to go on bike tours in the countryside on weekends. There are currently plans to expand the already good network of cycle paths connecting most German cities. Protecting the environment and reducing emissions is a national priority in Germany, and many are trying to do their part.
Public transport: buses and all kinds of trains
Travelling with buses and trains in the city
Public transport in Germany is called öffentlicher Personennahverkehr, or just ÖPNV. It includes buses and trains (underground trains, metro trains and trams). Timetables are posted at all stops. Timetables illustrate which lines go where, and when, and how long they take to get to each stop. Most of the time public transport is punctual. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, busses and trains run less often than on weekdays. You can get a route map from train and bus stations, and the local tourism office. Tickets are required for most public transport.
Depending on the location and means of transport, you can buy tickets via an app, before boarding at ticket machines, or in the vehicle. Sometime machines only accept cash, so be prepared.
Always have a valid ticket
Anyone found travelling on public transport without a valid ticket must pay a fine of at least 60 euros.
Make sure that your ticket is validated! Some tickets are already validated as they come out of the machine, others you still have to validate. Look for posts with validation stamp devices on the train platform, or inside the bus or train. If the ticket is not validated, you are travelling without a ticket.
If you have a semester ticket, you don’t have to buy another ticket. But you have to show it along with your passport or other ID if you are checked.
Across the country by train
Travelling by train in Germany is usually quick and convenient. Tickets for fast trains such as the Intercityexpress (ICE), Intercity (IC) or Eurocity (EC) are more expensive than the tickets for local trains. Local train services include the Interregio (IR), the Regional Express (RE) and the Regionalbahn (RB).
Traveling by train is generally not cheap, especially if you want to travel spontaneously. But you can save money by purchasing your ticket as long in advance as possible. You can do this at the counter at the train station, at machines on platforms, or on the . There are often discounted offers when booking online.
If you take the train frequently, consider purchasing a BahnCard. The card entitles you to a discount of 25, 50, or 100% off the normal fare, depending on which card you purchase. There are also many special offers, such as weekend tickets, which allow up to five people to travel on local transport for a whole day at the weekend. Another offer is the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket. This allows you to travel with up to four friends for a day on all regional trains across Germany.
Coaches: an alternative to trains
There are many long-distance bus routes connecting German cities and destinations in other European countries. The coaches are a budget alternative to the train. You can find connections on the internet, where you can also book tickets.
Other options: taxi, car, ridesharing
Riding in a taxi is relatively expensive in Germany. Prices vary slightly from city to city. You should expect to pay about 1.50 euros to three euros per kilometre. Often there is also a basic price of 2.50 to 3.50 euros for starting the meter. If you can share the fare with others, taking a taxi may be an option, especially if you missed the night bus or the last train.
Taxis can be found waiting at the taxi stands in the cities, or you can hail a moving taxi if it has no fare. You can also book them by phone or online, and order them to a specific location. Check the internet for telephone numbers of local taxi dispatchers.
Travelling by car
You need a valid driving license to drive a car in Germany. Your EU member state driver’s license is generally valid here. Non-EU licenses may be subject to other rules. You can find out at the local driving license office where you are studying, or on the internet page of the .
Consume alcohol with great moderation. The blood alcohol limit in Germany is 0.5. There is an absolute ban on alcohol for people behind the wheel who are under 21. If you exceed the alcohol limit and are caught, you can expect to lose your driver’s license.
Opportunities for ride sharing
Sharing a ride to a common destination is very popular with students. A driver with free seats in their car will seek other riders to share the costs.
Rideshares are very inexpensive, but they are also a great way to meet interesting new people. You can find ride-sharing opportunities on the internet. At many universities there is also a “passenger board” where upcoming rides are posted.