The big question, how to get around in a small budget? This chapter provides you with some useful ideas especially for students.
1) Long distance bus – Fernbus
From 2013, Germany offers long-distance buses. These buses provide very good standards. There are equipped with toilets, AC/Heaters, Internet and some of the bus companies even show movies and also offer snacks. Now-a-days busses also have charging ports. These buses are good alternative to the train (as trains are mostly costly) or car and are widely accepted.
The buses connect a majority of cities and are typically a lot less expensive than trains. Trains, on the other hand, might be faster. If you want to save some money when travelling search bus routes on the following sites (also available in English):
- www.busliniensuche.de Button for English in top right corner, comparison between bus, private car and train fares possible
Names of bus companies:
- Flixbus (also offers a train called Locomore)
- Flixbus (also offers a train called Locomore)
Useful to bring along:
- Neck pillow
- Water to drink
Travelling in Europe can be quite expensive. But with long distance buses, it is possible to travel Europe on a low budget.
There are many bus providers, for example FlixBus and Eurolines. They offer buses to many different European countries. The homepages of these bus companies are also available in English, which guide you for bookings to countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal and Spain and many more.
When you are on a tight schedule you can also plan to go by overnight buses. These buses do not stop as frequently as day buses.
2) Trains – (Local and Long distance trains-Deutsche Bahn)
With the trains of the company Deutsche Bahn you can travel all around in Germany and even Europe. The Deutsche Bahn offers different train types such as the rapid train ICE (InterCity-Express), IC (InterCity), IRE (Interregio-Express), RE (Regional-Express), RB (Regionalbahn) and S-Bahn (Local Train). There are also regional providers for trains that collaborate with Deutsche Bahn.
You can also find rest rooms on the trains (except in S-bahn) and on the ICE/IC you usually have also a board bistro
Smoking in trains is forbidden; on the platforms you can find special areas (marked by yellow line) where smoking is allowed.
For journey within Germany and Europe, different Rail Passes are offered such as (German Rail Pass, InterRail Passes and Eurail Pass). There are special saver fares for European countries and overnight trains, as well as for under 25-year-olds.
- German Rail Pass Flexi:
For travelling in Germany, the German Rail Pass FLEXI allows 3 to 10 days of travel within one month. These days do not have to be taken all at one time, but instead spread out over one month of travelling.
- German Rail Pass Consecutive:
For travelling in Germany – Travel for 5, 10 or 15 days non-stop, the German Rail Pass Consecutive is recommendable. This is for travellers who do not want to terminate their journey in between.
- InterRail Pass:
For travelling in Europe use the flexible travelling across 28 participating countries. You can choose the countries, the comfort and the length of validity.
- Eurail Pass:
For travelling in Europe, this pass offers the same conditions as the InterRail Pass, but is entitled only to Non-Europeans.
When frequently travelling in Germany you can make use of different fare types, such as flexible fare (Flexpreis), saver fare (Sparpreis), Group Travel tickets and special fare conditions upon purchasing the BahnCard.
- Bahncard (Flexpreis):
This fare is for spontaneous travellers. You are flexible to take whatever train on the selected day to your chosen direction. When booking a ticket you can click on the option below “Flexpreis”.
- Bahncard (Flexpreis):
- Saver fare (Sparpreis):
This fare is cheaper than the Flexipreis, but can take only the specified train at the specified time. You can additionally combine it only with a discount of 25% when having the “BahnCard 25”.
With the Bahn Card you can save from 25% to 50% on your ticket price. With the trial offer (Probe BahnCard 25-2nd class) you can use this discount for 3 months for your purchases if you like it you can extend it for a year. BahnCard is typically valid for 1 year after which you have to pay a certain price (depending on the type of Bahncard) to renew it.
- Regional Offers:
Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket: Travel all over Germany within one day for about 45€. This is a group offer. With one more person accompanying certain additional cost (approx. 5€) is charged. Upto 5 people can travel together using this ticket. This offer is valid from Mondays to Fridays for one day in DB Bahn’ s regional trains only (expect ICE/IC). Check further regional offers for great possibilities.
- Schönes Wochenende Ticket: If you want to travel for one day on the weekend this is your ticket. The ticket price is about 40€, plus 4€ for each person extra, maximum 5 persons. You can travel unlimited for one day across Germany – 2nd class on all regional trains. This ticket is valid only on Saturday or Sunday, until 3 a.m. the following day. It is popular and widely used among students.
For further information please visit the Deutsche Bahn homepage.
- On the trains people usually do not speak loudly on the phone.
3) Public transportation (Bus ticket/ Semester ticket)
Public Transportation is very good in Germany. Depending on the city, there are trams (Straßenbahn), local buses (Bus), local trains (S-Bahn, U-Bahn), ferries (Fähre) and of course cabs (Taxi). Cabs are relatively expensive so students only use them occasionally. For local buses and trains, there is a variety of tickets and rates ranging from one-way tickets (between 2-3 Euros) to day passes (around 7-8 Euros) and monthly tickets. In some cities or even German states (Bundesländer), local buses and trains are covered by the semester ticket. Check your University’s webpage or ask the International Helpdesk about public transportation inclusion in your semester ticket.
If your University does not offer semester tickets, or if you are not a student anymore you have to know that each state has a different public transportation system (transport association) and different prices. The following page gives you an overview of the various transport associations:
Many students go by bicycle, which is considered both environmentally friendly, cheap, healthy and comfortable due to short distances and a typically moderate climate. Even politicians and professors go by bicycle to make a stand for a clean environment!
- Most of the students buy a second hand bicycle from their seniors or others. You may check the offers for bicycle under following link
- Rent a bike to explore a city especially in summer. Following is a link to rent a bike in Berlin. You will find similar websites for other cities.
So go ahead, explore Germany – wir wünschen eine schöne Reise (we wish you a good trip)!
4) Renting a car
In order to rent a car in Germany or Europe, non-Europeans need a valid driver’s license from their home state or province. Although the legal driving age is 18, drivers usually must be over 21 (sometimes even older) to rent a car.
International Driving Permit
You may drive in Germany with your valid Indian license for the period of up to six months. You are not obliged to obtain an international driver’s license (IDP) for that period of time.However it can be useful to have an IDP, if police asks for it, or if you want to rent a car. Also if you plan to drive a lot outside of Germany, you may want to get an IDP, which is valid in over 150 countries. The minimum age for the IDP is 18.The IDP is a translation of the original license from India or any other home country. You can obtain it prior to your stay in Germany: http://www.wiaaindia.com/international-driving-permit
Once you have stayed in Germany longer than 6 months, you are required to apply for a German driver’s license. Indian licenses are not simply exchanged for German ones, you will be asked to pass a theoretical and practical driving test, there is no license waiver agreement between Germany and India.
The most prominent Car Rental companies are the following:
- enterprise – rent a car
You can search for car rentals here.
When parking in an urban area (business or residential) in Germany, always look for a sign that says “Parkscheine” (“Parking tickets”) and the machine that dispenses them. Do not just assume that parking is free.
You can pay for your parking time with either coins or an EC card (but not a credit card!). You insert coins to pay for the amount of parking time you want, then place your ticket on the car’s dashboard in plain sight. Although you will seldom see a parking meter in Germany and much of Europe, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for parking! Hence watch out for any sign or machine for payable parking.
You can also use a parking garage or parking deck, if you do not find any free parking slots. Usually you just drive in, receive a ticket from a ticket machine. After finishing your stay, you have to put the ticket in a pay and display machine (Parkscheinautomat). There you have to pay for the amount of time you parked, before leaving the parking deck.
5) Car-sharing (Mitfahrgelegenheit)
Since 2012 car-sharing has become very popular in Germany. In particular, it is the sharing of a Group ticket or a car by a few people with the same destination. Mostly it is shared car but it can be a train- or busticket, which is a Group ticket valid for more people.
Usually the driver offers a ride from one to the other city via a website. The online platform “Blablacar.de” has become widely accepted throughout students and young adults because it is the cheapest way to travel. At the same time it is nice for getting to know new people.
Using car-sharing can be fun, interesting and cheap at the same time.
Before planning your first trip you have to sign up online on the homepage www.Blablacar.de, giving your credentials as well as mobile phone number. If you are a woman and want to travel alone, you can make sure that you go with a female driver and travel during the day. It is advisable to book your own journey as even the drivers can choose whom to travel with. It is not appreciated if someone else books the journey and some other person shows up.
German Youth Hostel Association (Jugendherberge)
Throughout Germany there is a wide network (500 Youth Hostels) of the German Youth Hostel Association, where you can stay for a relatively low rate, while exploring Germany.
It is a good and safe place to stay. As the name suggests it is a hostel for the youngsters. Before checking into a “Jugendherberge” you have to sign up as a member. This is very easy to do. Basically you just ask at the reception of a Jugendherberge for the necessary documents, while bringing along your passport, residence permit and cash.
If you do not hold a membership card, you can purchase an International Guest Card instead.
You then have to buy a welcome stamp for each night of your stay at the cost of 3,50 €.
When you have collected 6 welcome stamps, the guest card becomes valid in all hostels worldwide or entitles you to reduced rates for your stay.
Validity is 12 months from the date of issue.
Alternatively, a guest card with immediate international validity can be obtained at 18,00 €.
Usually the youth hostels are situated a little outside of the city center. However, there is always public transport available, so that you can go easily from one destination to the other. You can check the availability of the rooms and make reservations using the English version of their website:
While travelling different cities in Germany you can of course also make use of AirBnB, which is an online platform that connects private people offering an apartment or a room to travellers. This way you can get to know Germans, other internationals, families and many different people, while saving money. Have a look on the entire article under LIVING AND COSTS.
Hotels in Germany can be both expensive and also cheap, depending on the destination, the date of travel or the required comfort. There are a few online sites that provide various useful filters that give you a good overview about the available options. As for example www.hrs.de or Booking.com , you can set the language option to English in the upper right corner of the homepage. On the page itself, you type in the destination, the arrival and departure date and the number of travelers. You can also add other search criteria like proximity.
Couchsurfing.com is an online hospitality exchange platform where you can search for free accommodation in the whole world. First it was a non-profit organization, now it is a for-profit organization. As a guest you can “surf”on the couch of your host, which means that you are given a place to sleep over. Thereby you can get to know different people and their homes. It’s also a nice way to learn the German culture. Of course you can take over the role as a host and invite people to stay at your home.
In order to use the services on the homepage you have to register and pay a minor, annual fee. You also have to give credentials like information about yourself, a photo. By filling out your information you increase the chances that you are invited to be a guest or that people visit you if you decide to be a host.
When you become a member and start looking for an accommodation, you can search for hosts using several parameters such as age, location, and gender. As a guest you discuss the duration, the nature, and terms of your stay in advance with your host. Happy couchsurfing!