On foot and by bike
In villages and smaller towns you can usually reach most destinations on foot. Many people in Germany cycle to the supermarket or to work. There are cycle paths on many roads. Where there is no cycle path, adults must cycle on the street. Children under the age of 8 must cycle on the pavement. Children under the age of 10 may cycle on the pavement. There are other rules applying to pedestrians and cyclists in traffic: for instance if you cross on a red light. Or your bike light is broken. If the police see you, you have to pay a fine.
Using public transport
In cities there is public transport such as regional trains (S-Bahn), underground railways (U-Bahn), trams (Straßenbahn, or Trambahn in South Germany) and buses. You usually buy the ticket from a machine at the stations and stops. There are ticket offices in stations. Sometimes you can also buy tickets on the bus. You can also buy a travel pass for a week, a month or a year. It works out cheaper if you use public transport regularly. Children, students, disabled passengers and the elderly are often entitled to concessionary rates. They pay less. There are ticket checks in buses and trains. If you don’t have a ticket when you are checked, you have to pay a fine.
You can also find the timetables at stops and stations. The timetable shows when the buses and trains depart and their destinations. But you can also get this information from the transport company website.
Many people also travel around town in their own cars. Many towns have car-parks and multi-storeys: there are signs at the side of the road to show you these parking facilities. You frequently have to pay for these car-parks. If you drive a car, you must always carry your driving licence and vehicle registration document. If you are stopped, the police will ask to see them.
Travelling further afieldDo you want to travel to other German cities or abroad? You can do this by train, plane and bus. The pick-up point for buses is near the main railway station in most towns/cities. You usually use Deutsche Bahn for long-distance rail travel. Savings are often available: if you book early, you can get cheap tickets. The same applies to air travel. Large ships also sail to the islands in the North Sea and the Baltic.
Frequently asked questions
I have brought my own car with me to Germany. What should I look out for?
Check whether your driving licence is valid in Germany. Driving licences from countries outside Europe are only valid for 6 months in Germany. After that you have to take a German driving test. Your car must be registered at a German vehicle registration centre. And you have to have a vehicle safety inspection carried out by TÜV. TÜV checks the mechanical soundness of your car. If it is roadworthy, you will be given a TÜV sticker for your registration plate. You should also make sure that you are aware of the highway code. You can find more information on this subject under the heading “Mobility” on the “Make it in Germany” website.
Make it in Germany: Mobility
How fast am I allowed to drive my car in Germany?
In towns and cities you are allowed to drive at 50 km/h, in some zones this is restricted to just 30 km/h. On the open road you are generally allowed to drive at 60 to 100 km/h. Sometimes there is a speed limit sign on motorways. If there is no speed limit sign on the motorway, you are allowed to drive as fast as you like.
I want to travel by train from Cologne Central Station to Berlin Central Station. Where can I find information about departure times and prices?
You can get information from the ticket offices and machines at the train station. Or you can look on the Deutsche Bahn website. Go to the www.bahn.de website. At the top left, under “Information and booking” you will see the “from station/stop or location, street …” box. You enter “COLOGNE” in this box. In the “… to station/stop or location, street” box you enter “Berlin Hbf”. Under that you can type in the date and time you would like to travel. Then click “Search”. You will see a list of connections and prices. You can buy the ticket at the station or online. It is cheaper if you buy it in advance.
How does public transport work? Where can I find a timetable?
Would you like to travel by train? You can purchase a ticket at any Deutsche Bahn machine. The machines are identical throughout Germany and all function the same way. They can be found everywhere at train stations. You must enter your destination at the ticket machine. You then pay for the ticket using either cash or an EC card. You also have a choice between single trips, day tickets or group tickets, for example.
Would you like to travel by bus? Sometimes you can buy a ticket directly from the bus driver. In larger cities you can buy the ticket at a ticket machine at the bus stop or at the train station. Often, there are also ticket machines directly on the bus. However, these mostly only take coins as payment. To discover how this works, you can also have a look at the „Im Bus“ episode of our mini-series “Erste Wege in Deutschland” in the “Practice your German” section.
You can find out more about the timetable at train stations or online at www.bahn.de.
Erste Wege in Deutschland: „Im Bus“