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New in Germany? Getting around by bus and train

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Not only newcomers to Germany often find it difficult to get around on buses and trains. That is why the Consumer Organisation has put together the most important tips.
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Social tickets

Social tickets are available in almost every city, community and district. People who receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act can apply for a social ticket ("Sozialticket" in German) at the job center or social welfare office.

Those who have a social ticket can use it to buy cheaper train or bus tickets, including monthly tickets that are valid within a certain area. To travel outside this area, passengers need a connection ticket or a transfer ticket.

Important note: The social ticket and residence permit must always be shown when requested by ticket inspectors, otherwise the ticket will not be valid and you will have to pay up to 60 euros penalty.

Tickets, please: What to do if something goes wrong

If you travel without a valid ticket you have to pay a 60-euros-penalty fee.

If you feel treated unfairly, you should immediately raise an objection with the transport company. The claim is due at the time of the inspection. The time limit for raising an objection is very short: two weeks from the time you were stopped.

The address for the objection and the identification number of your case (EBE number or FN number) can be found on the receipt given to you during the ticket control. This receipt is very important. It is not enough to wait for mail.

Long-distance travel

You can buy tickets for long-distance journeys online at www.bahn.de, in the "DB Navigator" app and at the station - either at the counter or from a ticket machine. These ticket machines can be operated in several languages. Timetables and connections can also be found online or in the app.

Tickets for the faster Intercity (IC) trains and IntercityExpress (ICE) trains are more expensive than tickets for regional trains (Regionalbahn, RB and Regionalexpress, RE). Regional train tickets are not valid on IC and ICE trains.

Long-distance buses are often much cheaper than trains. Long-distance bus tickets are available online and in some travel agencies. Timetables and connections can be found at www.fernbusse.de or in the app "Busliniensuche - Fernbus App".

The Deutschland-Ticket: local bus and train travel for 49 euros

The nationwide Deutschland-Ticket (D-Ticket) was introduced on May 1, 2023. For 49 euros a month, you can use all local public transport buses, trams and trains throughout Germany.

This special ticket can be purchased via the "DB Navigator" app. This ticket is only available as an online ticket. This means that you can only buy and cancel the ticket online. Some local transport networks make exceptions, but this is not the rule.

The Deutschland-Ticket is only available by subscription. You can cancel it any month. This ticket does not expire after a certain period of time. If you do not cancel the contract, the Deutschland-Ticket will cost you 49 euros for each new month.

In addition, the ticket is always valid from the 1st to the last day of the month. This means that even if you start the Deutschland-Ticket on the 10th of a month, you will still have to pay the full 49 euros and it will only last until the new subscription period starts on the 1st of the following month, at which point you will have to pay 49 euros again.

What you need to know

  • Local transportation includes bus, tram, metro, suburban train and regional train (RB, RE). The white and red IC and ICE trains are long distance. Local/regional tickets are not valid on these trains.
  • Passengers must buy a ticket before boarding. Some trams and subways have ticket machines, and some buses sell tickets from the driver. However, do not rely on these exceptions. It is strongly recommended to buy a ticket in advance.
  • In train stations and at bus and tram stops, from bus drivers, and in certain shops and kiosks where tickets are sold, there is also information about fare zones and fares. These are sometimes difficult to understand for people unfamiliar with the area, so feel free to ask the staff.
  • Many paper tickets need to be validated. You can find validation machines at the station or on the bus or tram. Most one-way tickets from the machines are already validated and do not need to be validated again. If in doubt, you should ask the driver or other passengers whether the ticket needs to be validated or not.
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