Public Transport in Germany
Because the German public transport is so efficient, you won't need a car in Germany. Although we had two cars back home in Canada, we decided to give German public transport a try and not buy or rent a car during our stay here. We never regretted it.
From our home, we have access within 10 minutes walk to buses, S-bahn (equivalent to city trains) and regional Bahn. During rush hour it is faster to use the trains (and sometimes the buses, as they have their own lanes) than a car. As we glide by in the S-bahn, we can see the cars sitting in long, long traffic jams.
Many major cities also have the U-bahn, the subway. Again if you live in a big city or near it, it is faster and less troublesome than the car. It is also, of course, far less expensive: no maintenance, no parking to find and pay for, and no gas and expensive insurance to buy. And as the price of gas is already pretty high in Europe and keeps on increasing, the use of public transport makes more sense to us.
It is also much better for the environment and the air quality, as Germany is one of the most densily populated countries in the world (over 82 million people in a land slightly smaller than Montana).
You can buy tickets for the day or a monthly pass or a yearly pass. They also have special prices for groups or families good for one to three days, and weekends specials too.
Most regions also have web-sites where you can get information about the buses/trams/city trains circuits and the prices. You simply enter your departure and destination and they tell you which circuit to take, where and when.
Most Public Transport is well-equipped to handle the needs of handicapped persons, although this varies considerably from one region to another - if this is an issue of importance to you, make enquiries with the regional transport authority.
In the best cases, the buses can be "lowered" to pavement level, and a special platform extends outside the bus to permit access to wheelchairs. There are also places in the buses reserved for parking of wheelchairs, with no seats or with retractable seats, in these areas.
Most train stations also have elevators which makes the whole public transport system wheelchair-friendly in most cities.
The long distance train system or
is also very efficient and usually punctual. So much so that people start to be impatient if the train is one or two minutes late. There are four main types of trains in Germany: the S-bahn (city service that I already mentioned earlier), the regional, the old-fashioned inter-city train and the new-age ICE (pronounce Etseh, interCityExpress) that looks like the front of a plane and can go faster than 400km per hour.
You can go just about everywhere by trains from Germany throughout the whole of Europe and I know of no village or small town that is not accessible either by train or public transport in Germany.
The Deutsche Bahn web-site is very well done and is in English as well as in German. You can also get information on other countries' train systems through it. They give you info on schedules, price, special price for groups, and maps, and you can buy the tickets directly on the web.
You can also buy tickets at the automatic Deutsche Bahn tickets machine, the Fahrkarten machine. But we have found these to be not so convenient; even though some of the info is in English, it reverts to German when it is time to pay for the tickets.
As mentioned in the section about Pets in Germany animals are welcomed in trains and all public transport.
Another mode of transportation that is very popular in Germany is the bicycle. They are everywhere and they have their own traffic lanes in most cities. There are also hundreds of biking trails throughout Germany, from the top of the mountains to the edge of the seas.
Everyone bikes; from very young children to very elderly people. It`s a lifelong pastime for many Germans.
You can also bring your bike in most trains. Usually this is the very first, and/or the very last carriages of each train. Look for the bike emblem fixed on the side by the door; inside you may see a big open space where you can sit beside your bike.
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