Can you imagine living in California, and not having a car to get around places? That would make life very difficult for most people (trust me, I’ve been without a car before in San Diego for about two months and it was hard). Luckily in Germany this is not the case, as public transportation is very organized in this country and in Europe in general. For those of you who might be interested in learning about the specifics of it all, you’ve come to the right place as I will explain and tell my experiences of public transportation in Germany.
The first type of transportation that will be discussed is the bus system, which is the type of transportation that I personally use the most. The buses in Germany are incredibly cheap (for example, a bus ride from Tübingen, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland is 7€ or $8.21 one way!) and are everywhere in the country. For example, you can get from Kontanz on the German-Swiss border to Kiel in the very north of the country directly by bus. The good news is that the bus system is incredibly good on timing, from my experience the bus arrives at most two minutes past it’s designated arrival time. While the bus is very useful and affordable, there are some drawbacks to it as well. For short distance rides (for example from my host family’s house to my school) there is no drawbacks, but when you take long distance bus rides, the journey could be incredibly long. For example, the direct bus from Kontanz to Kiel takes 11 hours to do. Now if you are a college student like me, that probably wouldn’t scare you away because it typically is much cheaper than the other transportation systems. But that is the cost of traveling super cheap, and if you decide to take a bus to your destination, you have to really plan around the long drive (which might mean leaving earlier than desired and missing some classes to get roughly about the same amount of time in the city as you would by other transportation).
Another alternative of transportation is the train, which unlike the US is incredibly popular in Europe. Trains are faster than buses and don’t have to deal with traffic like the buses do, which is a big advantage. They are also a big connector to the rest of the country, as the Deutsche Bahn has stations in almost every city in Germany. I have been on a train twice while abroad, once in Moscow and once in Germany and my experiences on the train have been very pleasant, as for me watching the scenery outside entertains me enough. Since it is faster than a bus, that means it is more expensive to ride a train than to take a bus. There are ways to make the train super affordable, and luckily they really are good at catering to the students in the country. They have this card called the Bahn 50 card, and with it you get 50% off every train in Germany for a set yearly price. The regular price for the Bahn 50 card is 255€ (or $299.26), but being a student or under 27 years old you can get that same card for only 69€ (or $80.98)! So really, it may not be as expensive for a student like me to take the train after all.
Of course we could not talk about transportation in Germany without including airplanes! Germany is in a prime location, being right in the middle of Europe and being similar distances from the eastern countries as well the western countries. Because of this fact, Germany boasts some of the busiest airports not only in Europe but the world itself. Frankfurt airport is the busiest airport in Germany, and the forth busiest in all of Europe with 60 million people flying into Frankfurt in 2014 (including myself at one point). Not to mention that Frankfurt airport flies to more countries and destinations than any other airport in the world with the airplanes flying from Frankfurt to 111 different countries (you read that right, 111!). With Frankfurt airport being 120 miles away from where I am in Tübingen, it is super easy for me to get around basically anywhere in the world.
Airplanes of course are the fastest forms of transportation, you can get anywhere in Europe in 3 hours or less (most destinations in Europe in under 2). They are very convenient and make traveling so much easier. Because of all those things in mind, it is typically the most expensive option but keep in mind that I said most of the time. In Europe there are cheap airlines that can get you literally from point A to point B for less than sometimes even a train could do! Lets take a look at Ryan air for instance, which is a cheap European airline that offers super low cost flights. Suppose I want to go from Stuttgart airport in Germany to Manchester in the UK, and suppose I go on a Saturday (typically the most expensive day to fly). No joke, the cost for a one way ticket is $25.98, and I will put a picture on this blog to prove my point, absolutely insane.
Overall the transportation system in Germany is super efficient, whether by bus, train or plane you can live in Germany without a car and be fine, something I’ll have to adjust coming back to California next year.
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