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Local Transport and Taxis in Germany
Tickets and Fares
In Germany, you need to purchase your ticket before boarding a bus, tram or train. Only in rural areas can you still buy a ticket from bus drivers. Single tickets (Einzelfahrten), and day passes (Tageskarten), as well as weekly and monthly tickets (Wochenkarten and Monatskarten) are usually available at vending machines. Some cities also offer short-haul tickets (Kurzstreckentickets) for short travels at a cheaper price. If you want a ticket which comes with a discount, such as student tickets, you might have to visit a ticket office in person. Some ticket offices have English-speaking staff who can help you choosing the right kind of ticket. Unfortunately, these offices often have limited opening hours and long queues. In the countryside, drivers and staff at ticket offices often do not speak English or other foreign languages. Thus learning German makes getting around much easier.
Validating Your Ticket
In some cities, single tickets or day passes need to be validated either before or upon getting on a tram, bus, or train. For this purpose, there are small machines for punching your ticket at the entrance to a station, at a stop, or onboard the bus or tram. At night, you may have to show your ticket personally to the bus driver.
Even though actually validating your ticket is largely based on the honor system, dodging the fare can quickly become an expensive habit. Ticket inspectors in plain clothes randomly board buses and trains on working days, and they are generally not very receptive to any excuses. Not even the fact that you are a foreigner and do not speak German will soften them. They will just make you leave the transport at the next stop, take your name and address (as verified by an official ID) and send you a bill of around EUR 40 .Unless you’d like to try your luck, simply remembering to pay the fare will be a lot cheaper.
How to Choose Your Ticket
Tickets are usually valid for all means of public transportation. However, as we have mentioned above, there are different kinds of tickets. Some come with a discount for children, students, or elderly people, for instance. But even if none of these discounts apply to you, you should pay attention to the different areas or zones through which you travel, as they determine which kind of ticket you need. You can look up the tickets and fares online pay the nearest transport service center or info booth a visit for more information. Here are just a few factors to take into consideration:
- Where you want to go: Local transport networks are often divided into rings and/or zones, and long-distance tickets are more expensive than those for the inner city.
- Whether you’d like to take someone with you: Sometimes, there are reduced group tickets for up to five people or special prices for families available.
- Your age and occupation: Children, young adults, students, and senior citizens often pay less. There may also be reduced fares for the unemployed or for those dependent on public welfare.
- How long you will be in town: For instance, if you have come to a major German city for a short business conference, you could buy a three-day visitors’ pass for instance.
- What you need the ticket for: There are ticket subscriptions for commuters, tourist offers with reduced entrance fees for famous local sights, customer cards for young trainees, and other special offers.
If you are in a hurry, have a lot of luggage with you and quite a bit of money to spare, a taxi might be the best choice for you. You can either call the taxi company or turn to one of the taxi stands around town. In Germany, it is rather unusual to just hail a taxi in the street, although you may stop one if the light on its roof is switched on. German taxis are fairly easy to recognize since they are all Mercedes cars in a light yellowish color. By the way, if you are an expat woman and would feel more comfortable with a female driver, you should phone the company directly and make an according request.
Unfortunately, taxis are rather expensive and will only increase your cost of living in Germany if used regularly. No matter if you call a taxi or pick one at the taxi stand, ever driver charges you a basic fare. This basic fare varies from city to city. The same applies to the metered fares which you have to pay for every additional kilometer travelled. For longer trips, it is also customary to pay the driver a 10% tip.
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