In Germany’s urban areas and along railroad lines which connect bigger cities, public transport is a quite comprehensive and efficient system. Because even smaller towns are connected quite well to public transport in Germany, you might even be able to do without a car. Public transport in Germany usually includes trams, buses, underground trains, and suburban express trains in large urban areas.
Public transport in Germany’s bigger cities such as Munich or Berlin often consists of four different, but interconnected systems. The U-Bahn (underground train) and S-Bahn (suburban express train) are usually, albeit not always, the fastest. While the former mostly covers the city centre, the latter operates above ground and includes the outskirts for commuter traffic. These modes of public transport in Germany are usually supplemented by tramlines (Straßenbahn) and buses.
The tram (Straßenbahn or Tram) is probably the oldest form of local public transport in Germany, dating back to the time of horse-drawn public carriages. However, it is still around and supplements the bus and subway system in quite a few urban centers. Trams are often a bit faster than buses since they run on their own tracks in the streets.
Entrances to underground stations are marked with blue-and-white signs, whereas the white letter “S” on a green background indicates an S-Bahn stop. Usually, all lines converge at the city’s central train station (Hauptbahnhof), where you can change from local public transport to regional trains and long-distance services. In Germany, U-Bahn and S-Bahn doors are operated manually. Once they are closing, they will not open again. In order to avoid accidents, you should pay attention to the driver’s announcement: Bitte zurückbleiben! (Please take a few steps back). It means that the doors will shut in a second and the train is about to depart.
Germany’s public transport system is often easily accessible to people with disabilities. Lots of underground stations have a lift for wheelchair users, passengers in mobility scooters, or parents with unwieldy baby strollers. If you are reliant on public transport in Germany and want to know if stations near you are wheelchair accessible, it makes sense to get in touch with your local public transport provider. They may be able to provide you with specific information or a specific network map.
Nonetheless, buses (Busse) are the most common type of public transport in Germany. Quite often, there’s a central bus station (Busbahnhof) next to or near the main train station, where all lines arrive and depart. Normally, bus stops are marked with a post carrying the yellow-and-green sign for Haltestelle (stop). At night and on the weekends, most local transport companies offer so-called night buses (Nachtbusse or Nachtlinien) to take party-goers home safely. They also cover the hours between 1am and 5am when most trains, trams, and subways are not running.
Most small towns and rural areas only offer a regional bus system. Bus schedules may vary between regular to almost non-existent, especially on lines aimed at commuter traffic and children going to school in Germany. Such buses only run three or four times a day. If you live in an area with poor public transport in Germany, you may need to rely on your car after all.
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