Your guide to public transport in Germany

Your guide to public transport in Germany

by Mary Del Rosario
Stripes Europe

Tired of driving on unfamiliar roads? Planning your next three-day weekend getaway? Then relax and soak up the views of beautiful Europe as a passenger.

Traveling across Germany is easy because, much like the beer here, German public transportation systems are anything but subpar. As someone who has been commuting to work via public transportation for more than a year, I have become an expert on public transport in Germany and nearby European countries.

Compared to the States, Germany’s rail systems are efficient, comfortable and affordable.  You can go to Paris for as little as 44 euros if you know where to get the best deals. The Deutsche Bahn (DB) railway system is first-rate, and you can choose from four types of trains depending on your destination, schedule and budget.

  • The S-Bahn (Suburban Train) stops at every lantern post.
  • The Regional Bahn connects smaller cities and towns.
  • The Regional Express (RE) connects regional destinations with larger cities.
  • The Inter City Express (ICE) connects to major European cities, such as Munich, Hamburg and Paris. It is usually the quickest way to get from point A to point B.

Buses are also efficient and will get anyone in the Kaiserslautern area to the K-town city center for just 2 euros one way. If you live farther from the city center, the prices range from 2 to 10 euros. The bus commutes almost once every hour and even more often during rush hour in the nearby areas.   

Helpful websites and apps
If you are skeptical about public transportation, check out these apps or websites to make your travels in Europe a piece of cake.

  • DB Navigator: Available for your iPhone or Android, this free app comes in handy (handy is the German term for cellphone), and makes your train commute go more smoothly.  With this app, you can book tickets, get up-to-date information concerning delays/canceled trains, and, best of all, use the fare saver finder to look for the cheapest fares available.  
  • VRN Companion: This free app is available for Apple and Android products and gives real-time schedules for regional buses, pedestrian routes, ticket prices and local traffic. You can find out which bus number to take, when it departs and where to get on/off.
  • This website helps those who want to calculate taxi fares between two destinations. For example, the estimated fare from Ramstein Air Base to Kaiserslautern is 30.69 euros. 
  • With this English-language website, you can navigate the National Society of French Railways (SNCF). This French railway company works together with Deutsche Bahn to provide ICE services in France. The ICE train will get you to Paris in 2.5 hours; driving takes almost twice as long.

Germany offers a variety of ways to get people where they need to be. Though the ICE trains can be a little pricy, they are a great alternative to over-priced parking and the hassle of driving in crowded, busy and unfamiliar cities. When considering the train, research discounted group fares. Going to Heidelberg from Kaiserslautern costs about 7 euros round-trip per person (up to five people) for the day.

Tips for your trip
Always carry cash, including small bills. Unless you have a credit card with a chip and pin, you will only be able to pay in euros at train and bus ticket stands. Often these machines will only accept small euro bills.

Purchase rail tickets for long-distance travel at your local station, and use a value-added tax (VAT) form to save 19 percent on fares within Germany. If you have travel flexibility, check out the last-minute deal section of the Deutsche Bahn website

Note: Many public transport companies require you to wear a mask on board. Check their websites for restrictions.)

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