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Travelling in Germany

By Carolin Schlack

Whether you have to move around for work reasons or if you want to spend some free time seeing Germany - Germany's transport network offers flexible, low-cost options for moving around inside or outside the cities and regions.

Travel and Transport© sputnik1964 - Photocase.de
Germany has a fine transport network, comprising of both long-distance and local means of transport. The "Deutsche Bahn" (DB) rail company maintains a close-meshed network of routes reaching even into isolated areas, with frequent trains. Alongside the car, the "ICE" high-speed train is another easy way to cover longer distances in particular. For instance, a trip on the ICE high-speed train from Hamburg to Munich, i.e. from north to south, takes around 6 hours. Covering the 780 km journey in a car on the motorway would take approximately nine hours. If you are travelling to a major city, various airlines such as Lufthansa and AirBerlin, plus other smaller airlines, offer domestic flights.

Across Germany by train

The "ICE" high-speed train usually has very few stops, so there are direct connections between big cities. Apart from the high-speed trains there are also "Schnellzug" and "Eilzug" trains, and local trains. Local trains enable you to reach smaller places. Fares comprise a basic tariff that depends on the length of the journey, plus a supplement that depends on the type of train you take. Supplements are also required when travelling first class or in a sleeper car.

Deutsche Bahn offers a range of fares, and has special offers such as the "German Rail Ticket" and the "Happy-Weekend-Ticket." The Deutsche Bahn website provides a good summary and enables you to select train connections, online tickets, fares or personalised itineraries. All the information can be found at www.bahn.de

Using public urban transport

Anyone wanting to ride a bicycle can use the sign-posted cycle paths. For those using two feet, there are both conventional footpaths and pedestrian zones. In larger German cities you will find both a bus system and rail-based urban transport. For example, cities like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt have rapid transit (S-Bahn) and underground (U-Bahn) systems. Cities with a historic "old town," such as Freiburg, Heidelberg and Bremen, have a tram system. Fares for using public transport are quite moderate. Regional and urban transport companies offer single tickets and daily and monthly passes. You can usually find more detailed information about using public transport, and about fares, on the website of the city or region concerned.

Using a car on Germany's roads

Germany's road network comprises local and national roads and motorways. For cars, there is no charge for using a motorway. On the other hand, there is a relatively high tax on petrol - petrol normally costs around €1.40 per litre (February 2008). There are legal speed restrictions in Germany. In cities and smaller towns the maximum is 50 km/h, while on the open road the maximum is 100 km/h. There is no general speed limit on the motorway, but rather a recommended speed of 130 km/h.

Foreign driving licences in Germany

If you have an EU driving licence you do not need to register your driving licence. An exception is if your licence was granted less than two years ago, in which case you need to register it within six months because of Germany's two-year trial period. If your driving licence was issued outside the EU or the EEA, it can be recognised if accompanied by an international driving licence. If you do not have the latter, your original document is good enough if accompanied by an approved translation. It is important that your driving licence is also valid in your own country and that you are not banned from driving.

Car hire

If you want a car hire company, you can find them in every German city. You will find well-known car hire companies such as Sixt, Avis, Hertz and Europcar at any airport and the larger railway stations. As these suppliers have many branches in Germany you have the option of hiring a car for a one-way trip. The major car hire companies have websites so you can find and choose a car or agency online.

academics.com :: March 2008