Travelling inside Germany – do it the right way with these tips

On your next castle vacation you will probably want to visit more than one castle and for that reason you need to use some sort of transportation. Gladly, Germany has an awesome network of railways and you can get from one side of Germany to the other in a matter of hours. Then again there is the comfort of a rental car that gives you the flexibility to stop wherever you like, go wherever you like and drive however you like.

I will split this post into two parts. The first will explain what kind of train categories there are in germany and how you can make best use of them. What special tickets there are and which you should consider buying. The second part will contain information about German highways, rent-a-cars and traffic.

 

1. Travelling by train in Germany

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This may be a really nice experience, especially if you are travelling together with a group of friends. Hint: As you may know drinking alcohol in public in Germany is not forbidden, and nobody will mind you having a beer or two with friends while watching the scenery out of the train window.

In Germany there are the following train classes:

S-Bahn: Usually connecting two larger cities in the same state. It stops at every possible station in every village in between. Usually this is the slowest way to travel by train, but sometimes your only option to get to a specific smaller town, since none of the higher class trains stops there.

Regional Bahn (RB): Connects two big cities located in the same state or in two neighbouring states. Stops usually only at the larger towns and cities and skips smaller villages.

Regional Express (RE): Same as the RB, but with fewer stops

Intercity (IC): This is a long distance train, usually connecting main and big cities. This train stops mainly at some big cities on it’s way. First class is equipped with internet connection and other nice extras.

Intercity Express (ICE): are those arrow-like trains that travel really fast and stop even less than the IC. This is one of the fastest ways to cover huge distances by train in Germany. Tickets for it are expensive, but if you book early months ahead, you are likely to get a pretty nice price (for example 30 Euros for Frankfurt – Berlin). Both IC and ICE can be distinguished by their white coloured wagons.

 

There are also some state specific train types, that are basically the same as the S-Bahn, the RB and the RE, but are being hold by companies other than the Germany Railways (Deutsche Bahn). Such a train type is for example the VIA in Hessen.

The RB, RE and S-Bahn form the so called “Nachverkehr” or in other words these are the slow speed trains. Usually if you have to cover a larger distance you have to switch trains 4-5 times. However, they are cheaper. A single trip between the train’s origin and final destination may cost you around 10 Euros. What is really cool about this is that you get special tickets if you travel with a group. Usually the group tickets are for up to 5 people (or in some cases 2 people with unlimited amount of children under 12 years of age). Each state offers a state ticket which is between 30 and 40 Euros and can get your group of 5 or less anywhere you like – the whole day. Unlimited trips throughout the day and as a bonus you get to use city transport everywhere free of charge.

 

In some cases though, you may need to cross states. This is where the weekend ticket Schönes Wochenende-Ticket) comes into play. It costs 45 Euros and can get your group anywhere in Germany as long as it is weekend. However the name of the ticket is a bit misleading, since it is valid only for ONE single day in the weekend (Saturday or Sunday).

So if you have bought weekend ticket on Saturday and need to travel on Sunday as well, you will have to buy another weekend ticket for your group.

You might now wonder “What about travelling during the rest of the week?”. Well, I have a good news for you – there is a solution to that as well, although it might get another 10-20 Euros more in comparison to the weekend ticket. This ticket is called “Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket” and basically functions the same way as the weekend ticket, but is valid for a single day from Monday to Friday. The pricing here is a bit different, because there is a base price of 45 Euro for one person, after which every person joining has to pay additional 6 Euros.

 

Note that all these special are NOT valid for IC and ICE, but only for S-Bahn, RB and RE. I personally have travelled a lot with those tickets and I can assure you it is a lot of fun if you have a big group of people with you to chat and have fun on the way. If you are alone though, you may always ask people at the train station to team up. Or you could join a group with fewer people that has already bought the ticket for themselves.

 

2. Travelling by car

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Germany’s highway network is also awesome and kept in a perfect condition. You might not know though, that there is no general speed limit on open first-class highways. You could drive with 100 km/h or with 260 km/h and nobody will say anything. Of course there are sections where there is a limit of 120 – 130 km/h, but overall you can really enjoy pressing the accelerator pedal and feed your need for speed. This is one of the things you should consider when you rent a car. Almost all rental companies offer sport models that you can speed up on the highway. Another thing to know is that when you rent a car, you rent an insurance package as well. Usually this package costs 30-40 Euro a day and covers damage after a given amount. This means that if you scratch the car and they notice that when you get back, you will have to pay the repair cost up to that predefined amount and the rest will be covered by the insurance. This is called “Selbstbeteiligung” in German (or “self-participation”). However, some companies offer the option of lowering that limit to 0 Euros. In that case your insurance raises at least two times, but you can be safe that you will not have to pay anything extra if something is to happen.

My personal experience with car rentals is germany is totally in favor of sixt. Other companies like Hertz cheat with the amount of gas in the tank and charge you extra for gas you did not spend. But after all it is up to you.

Another rather unusual way of travelling by car is hitchhiking. This is not illegal, but you should beware that if you stand on the highway, most likely the first car that will stop to pick you up will be the police. Radio stations all over Germany warn if there are people walking on the highway. That is why if you decide to take that option – stick to gas stations for finding your next driver.

 

Conclusion

As usual if you had any experience or interesting story to share, please do at the comment section below.

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