Public Transport System
Bus, Strassenbahn, U-Bahn (bus, tram, subway)
Germany has a very efficient public transport system. It is encouraged to use this system and leave the car at home. All towns have a comprehensive bus network and even the tiniest village can reached by bus several times per day at regular intervals. Busses are usually much more comfortable than South African busses are. In many cities, busses are supplemented by Strassenbahnen (trams), which run on their own rails. They are independent of the car traffic and thus faster than busses. Metropolises like Hamburg or Berlin operate a subway train network in addition, called U-Bahn and being the fastest means of travel in urban areas.
The German railway network – operated by Deutsche Bahn - covers almost 50.000 km of track and links basically all cities and towns in Germany. Travelling through Germany by train is relaxing, enjoyable, fast and inexpensive. The fastest train, theICE (InterCityExpress), speeds of up to 300 km/h and is most comfortable. It operates between many German cities at hourly or two-hourly intervals and even goes as far as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. Cross-platform interchange from ICE trains all come with a bistro and restaurant with various breakfast menus or à la carte main dishes. The service crew on the train takes orders for taxis or porters who will then be waiting at the destination. Railway tickets are usually cheaper if booked at least 3 days in advance. Non-residents qualify for a German Rail Pass which is valid for unlimited travel for up to 30 days.
All major German cities – such as Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, Düsseldorf, Köln, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Nürnberg, Stuttgart or München can be reached by air. Not only Lufthansa but many other carriers operate domestic flights today, e.g. Air Berlin, Deutsche BA, German Wings or Eurowings. Sometimes, air tickets are cheaper than train tickets.
Taxis are expensive in Germany. Usually luxury sedans are used. Taxis are metered and cost between 1 and 2 Euro per kilometre, at night sometimes even more.
Travelling by car is the most independent way to see the country. The 11.000 km network of Autobahnen interlinks all major cities and allows for short travel times. There is no general speed limit on these freeways with 4 or 6 lanes. Cars speeding at 200 km/h or more are quite common although a 130 km/h limit is recommeded. Secondary roads are called Bundesstrassen. Speed is limited to 100 km/h on these roads, within towns to 50 km/h. German roads generally are in excellent condition and toll-free, except for trucks.
Petrol prices are just shocking, due to the high percentage of tax included in the price and the currently high oil price. You will pay more than 10 Rand for a litre of petrol, Diesel is slighty cheaper.
Road rules: Germany drives on the right-hand side and uses standard international signs. Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. Children under 4 years need to sit in child seats or – if between 5 and 12 years – on a seat cushion. Using a handy while driving is strictly forbidden. Alcohol consumption for drivers is limited to a blood-alcohol level of 0,05% (1 glass of wine). There is a much higher police presence on German roads than you are used to in South Africa. Fines are also much stiffer.
Car hire: To hire a car, a South African driver’s license is normally sufficient. Drivers need to be at least 21 years of age.