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Transportation costs in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-26
A train of Deutsche Bahn AG


Germany has a famously efficient public transportation system, which incorporates high speed trains, modern urban metro systems, clean buses, trams, and licensed taxis. There's also plenty of opportunities to get on two wheels. The price of public transport in Germany is fairly low in cost, especially when compared to most countries in north and west Europe.

This article will give you a good idea of what you should expect to pay for public transport in different German cities.

Cost of public transportation in Germany

The cost of transportation in Germany is arguably cheaper than the cost of running a car

For those living in cities, public transportation is usually the obvious choice. Large cities have very efficient systems that integrate tram, rail, and bus services. Metros (subways, tube) are called the U-Bahn (underground train), whilst over ground trains in cities are referred to as the S-Bahn.

Regional trains are referred to as the RE (regional express) or RB (regional Bahn). Intercity trains are named IRE (interregio-express) or ICE (intercity express).

Is public transportation in Germany free?

Public transportation is not currently free in Germany, although this is something the government are considering as a way to help combat air pollution. It is, however, heavily subsidized, and the cost of the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams, and buses in major cities is very cheap compared to London, Paris, and Zurich.

Constant efforts are made to keep the prices as low and accessible as possible. Students, regular travelers and children can access even more discounted public transport prices.

What is the price for public transportation in Germany?

Bus and subway prices in Germany are affordable and also comparable to one another (i.e. it doesn't cost more to get the metro than a bus). Single bus, tram, or metro trips usually cost between €1 to €2. Monthly travel cards usually cost around €80 to €90.

High-speed trains between major cities can be pricey, for example a Berlin to Munich train, especially if you book on the day or travel early in the morning. However, advance off-peak tickets can be purchased for as little as €20 between two major cities.

What is the cost of a monthly bus ticket in Germany?

In major cities, residents tend to buy a monthly travel card that covers rail, bus, and tram services (and in cities like Berlin, some ferry services too!). Prices for some different major cities are as follows:

  • Munich €66
  • Berlin €81
  • Frankfurt €89
  • Hamburg €83
  • Cologne €91

How much is a student ticket in Germany?

Students may receive a free travel card as part of their semester fee. If not, students may be able to buy a discounted travelcard. You can also buy a BahnCard 50 discount card which offers 50% from the price of standard off-peak fares. For students who receive a free travel card, a BahnCard 50 Card is only worth buying if you plan on travelling between cities a lot.

Does a German Rail Pass include bus?

A citywide travel card in most major cities will include bus travel too as the systems are integrated with one another. A Bahn discount card, such as a BahnCard 50 or BahnCard 25 will sometimes apply to discounts on buses and coaches as well as trains, but you will need to check with the transport provider first.


Taxi costs in Germany

Taxis are regulated by the local government and drivers need to be licensed

The local authorities set the rates for the city, so there’s no need to ring around or try and negotiate with drivers.

Can I preorder a cab in Germany?

There will be a main taxi company in every town and city, and it is possible to call for a taxi or book one in advance (e.g. for a trip to the airport) if you wish to. The numbers for the cab companies should be easily findable online.

Ordering a taxi like this is advisable if you are not in the center of a major city, if you wish to travel in the middle of the night, or if the timing of your journey is important.

However, in the major cities, you should almost always be able to rely on being able to flag a taxi spontaneously on the street or at a taxi rank. There will be many taxis on the road, and Berlin, for example, has 400 official taxi ranks around the city.

This may only be a little more difficult on a Friday or Saturday night during ‘party hours’ or during huge city events. Just look out for a cab with a lit-up ‘Taxi’ sign on top, which signals that it is free and available to take a new fare.

German Taxis

Unlicensed taxis are much more unusual in Germany than in many neighboring countries, but it's still important to be aware that these do exist and to ensure you only ever enter a licensed taxi.


How much is a cab ride in Germany?

Unlike other costs of living such as rent or eating out, taxis remain fairly consistent in price all over Germany. A 2.5-mile taxi ride (including the base cost) is roughly as follows for different major cities in Germany:

  • Leipzig €8.75
  • Cologne €9.02
  • Munich €9.40
  • Hamburg €9.50
  • Bonn €9.75
  • Berlin €9.90


Car rental costs in Germany

Car rental is rarely the cheapest option, unless you’re going on a multi-destination trip

Especially if you are travelling with friends and can share the cost of the car rental. Car rental in Germany isn’t hugely expensive however, when it’s compared to other European cities. Weekly car hire (pick up from Munich airport) is on average €567 a week, compared to €813 for Italy (from Milan airport) and €840 for London (from Heathrow).

Driving in Germany is considered a pleasure, thanks to the excellent condition of the major roads that connect major cities and towns, as well as the fact that there is no speed limit on the motorway (Autobahn).

It’s also worth being aware of very short-term and spontaneous car rental apps, such as Miles which operate in Germany. Once signed up to such a service, you can use the app to find available cars parked all over a city. You can just hop into one and use it for a journey, for which you will usually be charged for (directly to your linked account) by the kilometer. This is great for those who wish to sometimes drive within the city but do not wish to own a car.

Another option of car rental for long trips is MietwagenCheck, there you can rent a car starting from only €4 per day.

Driving in Germany

Remember that driving in Germany is on the right side of the road!


Conclusion and Tips

What is the main transportation in Germany?

Residents in Germany make good use of a wide range of public transportation including trains, trams, buses, and coaches. In cities, bikes are increasingly popular as well.

The most bicycle friendly city is Münster, but even in cities which are not considered as ‘bike friendly’, such as Berlin, cycling is still hugely popular.

In comparison to the US and even other European cities, the use of both public transportation and bikes is high. This can be attributed to both its low cost and a dedicated country-wide effort to cut emissions. Germans do love their motor cars though – after all, Germany was the birthplace of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche.

How to ask for a bus ticket in German?

The system for purchasing a bus ticket changes from town to town. You can normally buy it from the driver, but it’s advisable to have correct change. In most German cities, whatever ticket you buy is valid for travel in one direction for up to two hours on any mode of transport.

For example, a ticket bought on a Berlin bus can also be used on a Berlin U-Bahn, S-Bahn or tram for that same journey.

How much is a student ticket for public transportation in Germany?

Students should find out whether their semester fee (usually €200 to €500 every six months) includes a free travelcard before purchasing any other travelcard or buying a discount card.



Cheapest way to get around

If you’re not a student, or your university does not provide a free travelcard, then the cheapest way to get around is by bike. Cycling is very popular in Germany, especially in cities with large student populations such as Münster, so it’s usually easy to buy a second-hand bike. There may even be a free bike checking service at your university.


Choosing transportation

Wherever you are in Germany it's usually easy to find a reliable method of public transportation to get you where you need to be. Do your research when you first arrive. Check to see whether transport is integrated in your new city (e.g. a travelcard covers buses, trams, and metro).

And also try to work out whether a travelcard will be cost-saving for you or a bundle of single tickets would be better (depends on how often you use public transport). The latter may be a cheaper option for those who plan on cycling.

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