Transport and Driving in Germany
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Germany has a modern and efficient transport system and most people use public transport for getting around, with trains being the fastest and most economical way of travelling in Germany.
Expats living in major cities like Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt won’t need a car for local travel. And on occasions where they do decide to travel through the countryside, they can carpool or hire a car for a few days.
Public transport in Germany
Public transportation in Germany consists of trains and buses. With such a comprehensive railway network, long-distance buses aren't necessary but are a good alternative for expats on a budget.
Germany has an efficient and reasonably priced rail network that covers most of the country.
Trains are the most popular mode of transport in Germany as they're considerably faster than driving. For example, driving from Hamburg to Munich takes eight hours while the equivalent train ride only takes six.
Long-distance and regional trains in Germany are run by Deutsch Bahn and there are various services for expats looking to travel around Germany.
All of the major cities are linked to one another by InterCity Express (ICE) trains. These trains are operated at high speeds of up to 205 mph (330km/h) but tickets are pricey.
Regular InterCity (IC) trains are more affordable. They're not as modern or as fast as the ICE trains but are still reasonably comfortable.
Both ICE and IC trains run approximately every hour during the day on the most popular routes. But expats should be aware that while the network is fast and modern, delays are known to happen – so it's best to avoid booking connecting trains that are less than 20 minutes apart.
If expats are organised and plan their trip in advance they can make considerable savings. Reservations aren't always necessary, but pre-booking seats for travel on weekends or public holidays is a good idea. Ticket prices vary depending on the route and type of train. For those who plan on using trains regularly, getting a Bahn Card is a great investment. It is valid for one year and offers various discounts. Tickets for trains in Germany can be purchased at stations, on board the train and at an authorised vendor. However, for the most affordable rates, expats should purchase tickets online and as far in advance as possible.
There are a handful of intercity bus routes in Germany, and most of them travel to or from the capital, Berlin. The major advantage of travelling by bus in Germany is the price.
For those booking in advance, the Neun-Euro Bus allows passengers to travel on any service connecting Hamburg, Hanover, Kassel, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Heidelberg for a set price.
Domestic flights in Germany
While it's often more straightforward to use trains in Germany, competition between budget airlines can make flight prices very competitive. Sometimes travelling by plane can even be cheaper (and is definitely faster) than the equivalent train journey.
However, expats should be aware that budget airlines often use smaller airports that aren't always conveniently located, so they might end up spending extra time travelling by bus or train to their final destination. For example, many of the low-cost airlines in Germany use Frankfurt-Hahn Airport which is a two-hour bus ride away from Frankfurt’s city centre.
Driving in Germany
Driving in Germany is made easy by the country’s world-famous network of excellent roads and motorways, including the Autobahn. There are no toll fees for cars but taxes mean that petrol prices are high.
Foreigners are allowed to drive for a period of six months on any foreign or international driver's licence before they're required to get a German licence. Expats who plan on hiring a car in Germany should be aware that most cars are manual and requesting an automatic car can be considerably more expensive.
Germany’s national roads are in excellent condition and signage is easy to understand. But parking can be expensive and hard to find in major cities. While there are generally no speed cameras on motorways, there are a large number on smaller roads. Getting caught will result in costly fines. Drunk driving isn't tolerated and law enforcement is particularly strict and visible around holiday time.
Carpooling is also popular in Germany. It's an environmentally friendly way to save money and numerous websites allow people to contact others who are travelling to the same place. Some websites do charge a small fee for their services.