A Guide To Getting Around Germany

Germany offers a variety of transportation options, including trains, trams, buses, and boats, providing convenient and efficient travel within and between cities
A train ride is a great way to see the country's stunning landscapes
A train ride is a great way to see the country's stunning landscapesPositiveTravelArt/Shutterstock

With a rich history and cultural trails, Germany has many stories to tell. While many people think of it as the home of Oktoberfest, lederhosen, swish luxury cars, and the Autobahn, the country plays a big role in shaping global cultural norms due to its plurality of regional identities. Sustainability is not just a buzzword in Germany. It's a way of life. One that the local authorities, the hospitality sector, and the locals take rather seriously. Germany's transport system is diverse, extremely well-connected, and includes rural towns and regions. As a result, it offers excellent opportunities for seamless, environmentally friendly, and experience-oriented travel. Here's a guide to the multiple ways you can travel around Germany.

But First, What Is The S-Bahn and U-Bahn?

The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are two terms you'll often encounter when using public transport in Germany. The U-Bahn, short for Untergrundbahn or 'underground railway', refers to conventional rapid transit systems that primarily run underground. On the other hand, the S-Bahn, which stands for Stadtschnellbahn or 'city rapid railway', refers to commuter rail services that may run underground in the city center and have metro-like characteristics. Both provide quick and efficient transportation. S-Bahn stops are identified by the capital S on a green background, while U-Bahn stops are denoted by a capital white U on a blue background.

Tickets for public transportation in Germany can be purchased from machines at stops or through the Bahn app or online. Multilingual ticket machines on platforms or at sales points in major stations also offer tickets. Most public transportation systems in Germany are regional, so a ticket for the S-Bahn is also valid for a streetcar or bus. This means that a ticket purchased at an S-Bahn station can also be used for buses, the U-Bahn, or trams. Find more info here.

Train Journeys

The train platform at the main train station of Frankfurt
The train platform at the main train station of FrankfurtLodapon Wantaarawaiva/Shutterstock

In Germany, trains can be broadly categorized as long distance, regional, and local, such as S-Bahn or U-Bahn trains. Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) high-speed IC and ICE trains are the best way to travel between major towns and cities in Germany. If you book directly with the operator, you can find some really cheap fares for DB's ICE trains. The InterCity Express (ICE) trains are high-speed trains. Regional trains in Germany are designated as R, RB, RE, etc. Among these, RE represents a faster regional express. On DB trains, children under 6 ride for free without a ticket. Children over 6 but under 15 also ride free when accompanied by a paying adult. It's always good to plan your travel in advance. You can check times, prices and buy tickets in advance on the German Railways website. Also check out Flixtrain, a low-cost operator that runs daily trains on the Berlin-Cologne-Heidelberg-Stuttgart and Cologne-Osnabruck-Hamburg routes.

One Fine Day

The Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (Day Ticket for Germany) allows for unlimited travel for one day. It is valid from 09:00 on weekdays or from 00:00 on Saturdays and Sundays until 03:00 the following morning. This ticket is valid on all regional and regional-express trains (RE, RB, IRE, S-Bahn) across Germany. Read more about it here.

Unlimited travel on Bavarian regional trains for a day: Munich, Salzburg, Neuschwanstein, Berchtesgaden... just imagine that. The Bayern Ticket, or Regional Day Ticket for Bavaria in English, is the Länder ticket for Bavaria's regional trains and the ticket to buy for day trips from Munich to Salzburg, Munich to Füssen (for Neuschwanstein castle), or Munich to Berchtesgaden for the Eagle's Nest.

A view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the background
A view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the backgroundCanada Stock/Shutterstock

The €49 Ticket

The "Deutschland-Ticket", also known as the "€49 Ticket", allows for travel throughout Germany. Introduced in May 2023, it can be used on buses, trams, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and regional trains, but not on long-distance buses, IC/EC, or ICE trains. The ticket costs €49 per month and is non-transferable. You can take children up to the age of 6 with you as they are allowed to travel for free. Read more about it here.

Slow And Scenic Train Journeys In Germany

The Moselle Route, From Koblenz To Trier

The 70-kilometre railway route offers magnificent views of the Rhine's tributary, passing through a beautiful landscape from Koblenz to Trier. The journey includes the Kaiser Wilhelm Tunnel and a double-decker bridge near Bullay, crossing the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Upper Middle Rhine Valley."

Hamburg To Sylt

The train journey from Hamburg to the coastal town of Husum offers stunning views of the North German marshland landscapes and includes crossing the North-Ostsee Canal on the impressive Hochdonn High Bridge, which stands at a height of 42 metres. On a clear day, one can see the port facilities of Brunsbüttel on the North Sea. After stopping in Husum, the journey continues towards the island, passing through the eleven-kilometre long Hindenburg Dam, which runs through the Wadden Sea National Park and connects the North Frisian mainland with Sylt.

Offenburg to Singen With The Black Forest Railway

From Offenburg in Baden to the Swabian Sea, also known as Lake Constance, the journey spans 150 kilometres through dense pine forests, deep valleys, and impressive mountain scenery of the Black Forest. Along the way, the train passes over the Hornberg Viaduct and traverses two thrilling double loops near Triberg, covering several kilometres. The train changes direction frequently, making slow progress but steadily gaining altitude. Don't miss the chance to visit the stunning waterfalls in Triberg or the source of the Danube in Donaueschingen.

The Höllentalbahn

The Höllentalbahn, running between Freiburg im Breisgau and Donaueschingen, is renowned as the steepest railway in Germany. Climbing a total of 400 metres over twelve kilometres between Himmelreich and Hinterzarten, this section offers a breathtaking experience. The remaining 76-kilometre journey is equally stunning, featuring passage through nine tunnels and over various bridges, including the 224-metre-long Ravenna Viaduct, which spans the gorge of the same name. Along the way, travellers can enjoy particularly beautiful views of the Black Forest, expansive valleys, and Lake Titisee.

A train stands ready for departure at Feldberg-Bärental on the Höllentalbahn to Villingen route
A train stands ready for departure at Feldberg-Bärental on the Höllentalbahn to Villingen routeJan Wagtendonk/Shutterstock

Road Trips

Driving in Germany is a fantastic experience, with its extensive network of well-maintained autobahns, picturesque country roads, and winding mountain passes. The German Autobahn, or expressways, are excellently designed and allow for swift travel across the country. The country's diverse cultures can be explored by driving through its various regions. The Romantic Road, for example, features historic castles like Neuschwanstein Castle and charming villages such as Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Heidelberg, Bamberg, and Erfurt. Other routes lead to the German Alps in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the famous beer halls of Munich.

The Autobahn offers the ultimate driving experience in Germany thanks to its exceptional engineering. German driving laws are strictly enforced to ensure safe driving in the high-speed zones. Mopeds, bicycles, and pedestrians are prohibited from the Autobahn, as are vehicles travelling less than 60 km/h. Drivers must not pass in the right lane, and they should keep slow-moving vehicles in the right lane. Additionally, U-turns, backing up, parking, and stopping are not allowed.

Here are some things to know about car rentals in Germany. All German airports and many cities offer car rental services at convenient desk locations. To rent a car, you'll need a valid driver's license and passport. Most major rental companies allow one-way car rentals. When driving in Germany, it's important to adhere to the strict speed limits. While it's a common belief that the Autobahn has no maximum speed limit, there are specific sections with speed limits that alternate between 80 to 130 km/h or 50 to 80 miles per hour.


In urban areas of Germany, numerous routes are covered by buses. A bus stop in Germany is usually denoted by an "H". Passengers can purchase tickets online or on the bus. The main bus companies are FlixBus, Eurolines, RegioJet, BlaBlaBus, and ALSA. FlixBus connects to around 380 places in Germany.

A double decker Flixbus bus in Dresden
A double decker Flixbus bus in DresdenOleg Senkov/Shutterstock


Trams, also known as Straßenbahn in Germany, were a popular mode of transportation in Germany from the 1860s until the early 1960s, when they were gradually replaced by buses. Today, trams can be found in 20 major cities in Germany, offering access to areas not served by other modes of transport. Despite being slower than the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, trams operate with high frequency, typically running every 10 minutes, and their stops are easily identifiable by a red sign featuring a tram symbol.

The Schwebahn floating tram in Wuppertal
The Schwebahn floating tram in WuppertalMajonit/Shutterstock

Boat Travel

From the trendy capital Berlin to the sea in Stralsund, discovering the capital from the deck of a ship is absolutely perfect. You will easily catch a glimpse of many famous sights as you sail past. An option is to travel from Frankfurt to Miltenberg, studying the nature of Germany's second-longest river on a river cruise. Medieval half-timbered houses nestled between the hills of Spessart and Odenwald await you in Miltenberg, the ultimate destination. You can also journey from Saarbrucken to Stuttgart. The leisurely journey along four rivers is perfect if you are looking for romance. You will sail past idyllic vineyards, picturesque villages, cosy little towns, and picturesque castles.


Cycling through Mount Fellhorn in the Allgaeu High Alps on an electric bike
Cycling through Mount Fellhorn in the Allgaeu High Alps on an electric bikeUmomos/Shutterstock

You can explore all of Germany on a bike- inexpensively and in an environmentally friendly way. Each of the long-distance cycling routes in Germany has its own unique highlights, with a variety of cycling-friendly accommodation options along the way. There are several scenic cycling routes. For example, the 800-kilometre-long Baltic Sea Cycle Route runs from Flensburg along the Baltic Sea coast to Ahlbeck on the island of Usedom, offering miles of sandy beaches, varied landscapes, seaside resorts, and idyllic fishing villages. The Main Cycle Route follows the River Main from its source to its estuary, covering almost 600 kilometres of the idyllic Fichtel Mountains, Franconian Switzerland, the Franconian Forest, and the vibrant metropolis of Frankfurt.

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