Germany’s 49 euros monthly transport pass, or Deutschland-ticket, has gotten massive global media coverage. That’s because it’s even better than you can imagine. Take it from me … I’ve used it. Friends and family have used it.
So, I’ve put together a comprehensive post with the pros and cons of using the pass as well as with my tips on how to plan your travels … and a few suggestions about where to go.
Germany is made up of 16 states. With so much to see – everything from the sea to lakes to rivers; large cities, charming villages, and mountain peaks – a 49 euro transport pass is a great way to go.
I have been to 14 of the 16 states mainly on trains and have plans to go to the final two.
Why the pass is better than you can imagine
After purchasing the Deutschland-ticket from Deutsche Bahn, the national train system, you can ride regional trains and all types of public transport across Germany for a flat rate of 49 euros per month. For example, you can take buses, trams, the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn commuter rail services), U-Bahn Untergrundbahn underground railway and even ferry boats within, and outside, cities.
Details about the ticket can be found here in nine European languages including German and English.
So, let’s look at the deets:
• Economics of buying a pass. You can potentially make up the price of the ticket in one trip.
• Think of the time and convenience of not having to buy tickets for each type of transport.
• Currently, this ticket is available year-round
• Deutschesbahn trains are (for the most part) well run
• Websites are multilingual and easy to use
• In major cities, transit announcements are bilingual in German and English
• You are in second class, but hey!, I always travel by second class.
• You are limited to regional trains.
• You can’t be in a huge hurry with regional trains. If you are, you can always splurge on a long-distance train such as Intercity Express (ICE), Intercity (IC) or Eurocity (EC) trains operated by Deutsche Bahn at some point, say on your way home.
• This is a subscription system and your monthly ticket will automatically renew if you don’t cancel it by the 10th of the month for the following month. If this doesn’t suit your fancy, you can look for other types of passes as my nephew did in Munich, buying a Day Pass for 27 euros.
Crossing borders on the cheap ticket:
If you are coming from a neighboring country (the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, Czech, Poland, Denmark), you can take advantage of your country’s ticket to cross the border.
For example, from Vienna, you can take a train to Passau, Germany, which is just across the border from Austria. Not only is Passau a beautiful place to spend a day but it can also serve as the landing point for your next destination wherever that may be.
Once when I was in Munich, I stopped in Passau for the night before heading on to Budapest, and then to Vienna.
Here are a few of my train travel tips:
• Book your train trips in advance.
• To avoid super crowded trains, avoid traveling on regional trains during holidays.
• Load the transport app for each city you are visiting. How to find it? Type in the name of the city you are looking for and the words “transit app” on the web or go through your app store searching for the same.
• What if you get stuck in a town you didn’t mean to? Have a meal, take a tour, or book a hotel, and have an unexpected adventure.
• Don’t mess around with German train conductors. Purchase your ticket in advance! (Let me tell you about my time heading home from the Frankfurt airport when I was in a hurry and one of the ticket machines wasn’t working….)
Where to go:
For my next trip, I’m planning on training from Frankfurt to the two regions of Germany I have not been to: Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northeastern Germany. The Brandenburg region surrounds Berlin, and my sights are set on Potsdam and its gardens, lakes and palaces.
Then I will head north to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to see the historic city of Schwerin. If I have the time, I’ll tack on a few more days in Berlin, where I haven’t spent enough time — it has so many fabulous museums and there is so much history.
In Germany, my favorite places include everything from Germany’s biggest cities to lesser- known places. Some of my best memories are from Heidelberg, Freiburg im Breisgau in the Black Forest, Munich, Aachen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bonn, Nuremberg and Leipzig.
From Austria to Germany
My brother and sister-in-law, who are residents of Austria, recently bought D-Tickets for a couple of trips to Germany. Their first was a 10-day trip to five cities in southern and eastern Germany for sights, beer, music, and history (Regensburg, Bamberg, Leipzig, Berlin, and Dresden—I’ve heard great things about the first two and have enjoyed the last three).
They even crossed the Elbe on a ferry from Dresden and went to a national park for the day, all on their 49 euros tickets.
They mostly had positive experiences – only one diversion when a three and a half hour trip became seven hours, and once when a train was unbelievably crowded for an hour.
Their second trip was a 3-day trip to Oktoberfest with my nephew. The tickets enabled them to spend their nights outside of Munich, and day trip in for the festivities. They hopped on transit within the city to go to the Englischer Garten (the English Garden), a beautiful public park, where you can eat, relax, and stroll around.
On their way home, their tickets were used for a regional train from Munich to Salzburg, Austria, which is just over the border from Germany.
From Italy to Germany
Two of my friends from Italy took advantage of the D-ticket by flying into Hamburg and spending eight days there. With Hamburg and a nice studio apartment as their base, they concentrated on the five most northern regions of Germany (Hamburg, Niedersachsen, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and traipsed around Hamburg, Bremen, Luebeck, Wismar, and Lueneberg.
The first four of these regions I’ve been to and recommend. In Hamburg, you can hop on a public ferry down at the port and get a ship-side view of some amazing sights and architecture as well as the many vessels in the harbor, which they did.
I think the Deutschland-ticket is a brilliant idea and can’t wait to head out on my next adventure.
Potsdam and Schwerin, here I come!
Eine gute reise!
Read more about Germany here in Dispatches’ archives.
Mary Porcella is a Europhile who has lived in Germany, Norway, Italy, and the U.S. She is a writer, editor, and photographer. She loves seeing new places, returning to old haunts, and meeting up with family and friends. As of today, her travels have taken her to 20 European countries, and she hopes to visit the rest.