Frankfurt Airport is the main gateway for transcontinental flights, although Düsseldorf and Munich also receive their share of overseas air traffic. Until the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, scheduled for 2020, flights to Berlin will arrive at its two smaller international airports, Tegel and Schönefeld. There are also sizeable airports in Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart, and smaller ones in such cities as Bremen, Dresden, Hanover, Leipzig-Halle, Münster-Osnabrück, Baden-Baden and Nuremberg.
Airports & Airlines
Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com), Germany's national flagship carrier and a Star Alliance member, operates a vast network of domestic and international flights and has one of the world’s best safety records. Practically every other national carrier from around the world serves Germany, along with budget airlines easyJet (www.easyjet.com), Flybe (www.flybe.com), airBaltic (www.airbaltic.com), Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) and Eurowings (www.eurowings.com).
Germany's airports include:
Timing is key when it comes to snapping up cheap airfares. You can generally save a bundle by booking early, travelling midweek (Tuesday to Thursday) or in low season (October to March/April in the case of Germany), or flying in the late evening or early morning.
If you're coming from Australia or New Zealand, round-the-world (RTW) tickets may work out cheaper than regular return fares, especially if you’re planning to visit other countries besides Germany. They’re of most value for trips that combine Germany with Asia or North America.
Departure tax in Germany costs between €7 and €40 (depending on the distance flown). The tax is usually included in the price of a ticket.
Germany's excellent road, rail and bus connections make for easy overland travel. The country is very well connected to the rest of Europe.
Bringing a bicycle to Germany is much cheaper and less complicated than you might think.
Eurotunnel bike shuttle service through the Channel Tunnel charges £25 to £30 one way for a bicycle and its rider. You need to book at least 48 hours in advance to ensure your bike travels on the same train as you.
A dismantled bike under 85cm tucked into a bike bag may be carried on board a Eurostar train as part of your luggage allowance. During peak travel periods, make sure there is sufficient space on the train before you complete your booking.
Deutsche Bahn charges €10 for transporting a bike internationally. You need to buy an Internationale Fahrradkarte and make reservations at least one day ahead.
On ferries, foot passengers can usually bring a bicycle, sometimes free of charge.
Long-distance coach travel to Germany from such cities as Milan, Vienna, Amsterdam and Copenhagen has become a viable option thanks to a new crop of companies offering good-value connections aboard comfortable buses with snack bars and free wi-fi. Major operators include MeinFernbus, Flixbus, Megabus and Eurolines. For routes, times and prices, check www.busliniensuche.de (also in English).
A backpacker-geared hop-on, hop-off service, Busabout runs coaches along three interlocking European loops between May and October. Passes are sold online and through travel agents.
Germany is part of the north loop. Within Germany, the service stops in Berlin, Dresden, Munich and Stuttgart.
You can opt for a Stop Pass, offering the best value for short trips, which lets you select three to 15 cities to visit (ticket prices begin at £299), or the Unlimited Pass (£949), giving access to all routes and 46 cities over a six-month period.
Car & Motorcycle
When bringing your own vehicle to Germany, you need a valid driving licence, car registration and proof of third-party insurance. Foreign cars must display a nationality sticker unless they have official European plates. You also need to carry a warning (hazard) triangle and a first-aid kit.
There are no special requirements for crossing the border into Germany by car. Under the Schengen Agreement there are no passport controls if entering the country from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Poland.
From the Eurotunnel
Coming from the UK, the fastest way to the Continent is via the Eurotunnel. These shuttle trains whisk cars, motorbikes, bicycles and coaches from Folkestone in England through the Channel Tunnel to Coquelles (near Calais, France) in about 35 minutes. From there, you can be in Germany in about three hours. Loading and unloading takes about one hour.
Shuttles run daily round the clock, with up to four departures hourly during peak periods. Fares are calculated per vehicle, including up to nine passengers, and depend on such factors as time of day, season and length of stay. Standard one-way tickets start at £30. The website and travel agents have full details.
Rail services link Germany with virtually every country in Europe. In Germany ticketing is handled by Deutsche Bahn. Long-distance trains connecting major German cities with those in other countries are called EuroCity (EC) trains. Seat reservations are essential during the peak summer season and around major holidays, and are recommended at other times.
Deutsche Bahn work in cooperation with ÖBB (www.oebb.at) to provide a night rail service to major European cities, such as Basel, Zürich, Vienna, Milan, Venice, Zagreb and Budapest. There are three different levels of comfort:
Schlafwagen (sleeping car) Private, air-conditioned compartment for up to three passengers; the deluxe version (1. Klasse) has a shower and toilet.
Liegewagen (couchette) Sleeps up to six people; when you book an individual berth, you must share the compartment with others; women may ask for a single-sex couchette at the time of booking but are advised to book early.
Sitzwagen (seat carriage) Roomy reclining seat.
Thanks to the Channel Tunnel, travelling by train between the UK and Germany is a fast and enjoyable option. High-speed Eurostar passenger trains hurtle at least 10 times daily between London and Paris (the journey takes 2¼ hours) or Brussels (1¾ hours). In either city you can change to regular or other high-speed trains to destinations in Germany.
Eurostar fares depend on carriage class, time of day, season and destination. Children, rail-pass holders and those aged between 12 and 25 and over 60 qualify for discounts. For the latest fare information, including promotions and special packages, check the website.
If you want to cover lots of territory in and around Germany within a specific time, a rail pass is a convenient and good-value option. Passes cover unlimited travel during their period of validity on national railways as well as on some private lines, ferries and riverboat services.
There are two types: the Eurail Pass, for people living outside Europe, and the InterRail Pass, for residents of Europe, including residents of Russia and Turkey.
Eurail Passes (www.eurail.com) are valid for travel in up to 28 countries and need to be purchased – on the website, through a travel agent or at www.raileurope.com – before you leave your home country. Various passes are available (prices quoted are for 2nd class):
Global Pass Unlimited travel for 15 or 22 consecutive days, or one, two or three months. There are also versions that give you five days of travel within a 10-day period or 10 or 15 days of travel within a two-month period. The 15-day continuous version costs €480.
Select Pass Five, six, eight or 10 days of travel within two months in up to four bordering countries in 1st or 2nd class; a 2nd-class five-day pass in four countries costs €344.
Regional Pass Gets you around two neighbouring countries on four, five, six, eight or 10 days within two months. The Germany–Austria Pass for five days costs €247 in 2nd class.
Groups of two to five people travelling together save 15% off the regular adult fares. If you’re under 26, prices drop 35%, but you must travel in 2nd class. Children aged between four and 11 get a 50% discount on the adult fare. Children under four travel free.
The website has details, as well as a ticket-purchasing function allowing you to pay in several currencies.
InterRail Passes (www.interrail.eu) are valid for unlimited travel in 30 countries. As with the Eurail Pass, you can choose from several schemes.
Global Pass Unlimited travel in 30 countries, available for 15 days (€472), 22 days (€493) or one month (€637) of continuous travel; for five travel days within a 15-day period (€269) or for 10 travel days within a one-month period (€381).
Germany Pass Buys three/four/six/eight days of travel within a one-month period for €192/218/262/297. This pass is not available if you are a resident of Germany.
Prices quoted are for one adult travelling in 2nd class. Different prices apply to 1st-class tickets and for travellers under 26 or over 60. Children under four travel for free and do not need a pass. Up to two children under 11 travel free with a child pass if accompanied by at least one person with an adult pass.
www.raileurope.com Detailed train information and ticket and train-pass sales from Rail Europe.
www.railteam.eu Journey planner provided by an alliance of seven European railways, including Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn and France's SNCF. No booking function yet.
www.seat61.com Comprehensive trip-planning information, including ferry details from the UK.
Germany’s main ferry ports are Kiel and Travemünde (near Lübeck) in Schleswig-Holstein, and Rostock and Sassnitz (on Rügen Island) in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. All have services to Scandinavia. From Kiel, there are also services to Klaipėda in Lithuania, and from Travemünde you can reach Liepāja and Ventspils in Latvia (saving much time on the roads in eastern Poland). Timetables change from season to season.
Return tickets are often cheaper than two one-way tickets. Some ferry companies now set fares the way budget airlines do: the earlier you book, the less you pay. Seasonal demand is a crucial factor (school holidays and July and August are especially busy), as is the time of day (an early-evening ferry can cost much more than one at 4am). For overnight ferries, cabin size, location and amenities affect the price. Book well in advance if you're bringing a car.
People under 25 and over 60 may qualify for discounts. To get the best fares, check out the booking service offered by Ferry Savers (www.ferrysavers.com).
International Ferry Companies
By Sea from the UK
There are no direct ferry services between Germany and the UK, but you can go via the Netherlands, Belgium or France and drive or train it from there. For fare details and to book tickets, check the ferry websites or go to www.aferry.co.uk or www.ferrysavers.com.
|Via France||P&O Ferries||Dover–Calais||www.poferries.com|
|Via Belgium||P&O Ferries||Hull–Zeebrugge||www.poferries.com|
|Via the Netherlands||P&O Ferries||Hull–Rotterdam||www.poferries.com|
|Stena Line||Harwich–Hoek van Holland||www.stenaline.com|