The 10 cheapest ways to travel in Germany
When you are a student or a backpacker in Germany you will often find yourself grinding your teeth over the high costs of regular travelling inside of Germany – here are 10 ways to save some money when looking for transport.
It’s vastly believed to be dangerous, but me and many of my friends have been exercising this discipline for many years. It is still unbeatably the cheapest way to travel – it’s totally free. But not every destination is as easy to reach as some others, generally heading to big cities is the easiest task, while getting out of them requires some tips or experience. Overall the elaborate highway system brings you pretty fast into any corner of the country, but you should always bring a lot of time and unluckily, as we are talking about Germany, good clothing for all possible weather conditions. You can find more advice here.
A lot of people who travel between different cities/smaller towns of the country by their own vehicle offer a ride in their car for a fixed rate to cover some of the petrol money. You can search according to travel dates and prices on a variety of web pages, but the two most popular ones you find here and here. It’s not one hundred percent reliable as in maybe 5% of the cases either party won’t show up, but overall it’s a great system for everyone to benefit from.
Generally, the regular tickets of the Deutsche Bahn are so incredibly expensive, if you don’t plan your journey weeks in advance and grab some special offer, that I mostly don’t even consider taking the train. But there are a few reasonable deals on the market!
a) Weekend ticket: Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket: This ticket is only available on either Saturdays or Sundays, but for 42 Euros a group of five people can travel all over the country. But note that you are only allowed into the smaller regional trains, which means that any long distance travel will mean that you have to change your train 3-7 times and that the journey will take your complete day.
b) All across the country ticket: Same as a) there is the so-called Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket, which is valid on any day of the week for 44 Euros per person. But note: Every additional person will only add another 6 Euros to that ticket (up to 5 people total), so you can save a lot of money, if you find people to share this ticket.
c) Alternative train services: Nowadays, only operating between Leipzig-Berlin-Rostock-Warnemünde there is an independent train service, which offers regular tickets at a much lower rate. Check it out here. Since 2012 there is a second independent train service running daily between Hamburg and cologne with several stops on the way. The complete distance costs on a weekday about 28 Euros and will only take you four hours! You can check out the side here.
d) Last-minute train tickets: Not so much known, there is a last-minute offer for not booked seats on all fast long-distance trains, for 26 Euros per ticket. The tickets can be only booked between 1-7 days before the train departs, but with a bit of luck, you get yourself a real steal here! They additionally offer now internation train tickets for 35 Euros if you are lucky to get a not booked seat 3-14 days before departure. Like this you will for example be able to travel from Berlin to Paris for a mere 35 Euros!
There are a couple of bus services all-over the country, a decent and pretty extended one you will find here.
Generally considering that Gemany is not such a big country and that overland travelling is fast and convenient I would recommend to avoid flying for nature’s sake. But if you really can’t avoid it, check out German Wings, Air-Berlin, Tuifly and Ryanair. Whenever I end up booking a flight I use my favourite search engine, which saves me a lot of time roaming the web-pages individually.
a) Overland cycle trips: From March to November cycling is a great way to explore Germany's beautiful countryside. There are loads of well maintained cycle pathes (here you can find an online route planner) all over the country and there even is a network similar to the couchsurfing one to provide free accommodation for tired cyclists. While this option of course requires more of your time it will mostly be a very well worth it experience. Additionally you might want to consider to combine your journey with a group train ticket for one way - again check out the above mentioned options a) and b) for tickets! While you might argue that it will be too expensive to get the required equipment, you will have a variety of possibilities such as hiring the bicycle or investing some time to get cheap equipment on Germany's fleamarkets. We have managed before to get our complete equipment (bicycle: 30€, Cycle bags at a supermarket offer: 12€, Helmet and Cycle pants: 18€) for a steal of 60€!
b) Inner city cycling: While any city will offer you bicycles for rent at a variety of costs, a very flexible new model now are the "Call a Bike" cycles of the German train service. You rent these bikes via your mobile phone and pay per minute. That is a great way to get home if you missed your last train after a party!
Wishing you all a safe and happy journey!