Germany – Travel Tips
NOTE: We have had limited experience in Germany, visiting Frankfurt, Munich and Passau only. Each of these were only visited for a few days at a time. Please take care with any advice we give.
When ever possible, we used Flixbus (the green ones). There are many bus lines in Europe but many are franchises and the actual operation and reliability depends on the individual operators. Flixbus seems to give a consistently high standard, although sometimes at a higher price. In most cases, the bus stops are near or at the rail station. Modern buses have free WiFi and toilets. On long haul trips, make sure you use the toilets on the bus because the ones at the rest stops always cost 1 or 2 Euros. Bus tickets can be purchased at travel agents or on the Internet. Flixbus accepts electronic tickets on a smartphone. They have an excellent app for buying and storing your tickets.
We also caught a Eurolines bus from Frankfurt to Genoa via Milan. Overall, we were not impressed. The WiFi was unreliable, we were made to change buses in Milan when we weren’t supposed to and they only had one driver, which meant regular lengthy stops so he could sleep.
Train travel within Germany is a cheap and reasonably simple way to go, although somewhat dearer than Italy in our experience. We found that the journeys that involved a cross border trip became much more expensive, making bus travel far cheaper. Internal travel using Regional Trains (lots of stops) is only slightly more expensive than the bus. There is no room for luggage so you just have to take up more seats. There are other services, including Intercity Train with few or no stops and the price goes up. There are fast bullet type trains (AV Trains) between some destinations with three levels of comfort (the highest has food and drink service) that compete with air travel.
Tickets are easily purchased using the ticket machines at any rail station. They have an English mode, selectable at the start. You need to know the names of the start station and end station. Then nominate the day from a time (eg 8:00am) to scan the available trips and prices. The machines take cash (and give change) or credit cards. It was easier to use these than go into the ticket office and battle with language.
Note that the ticket MUST be validated before you get on the train on the day you are going to use it. There are lots of little machines around. Just insert the ticket using the marked arrows and it stamps a time and date on it. You will get fined if you don’t do this.
Accommodation costs vary so much by location it is hard to give advice. We have found both Booking.com and AirBnB to be very reliable services. Note that some locations now charge a tourist tax per person per night, varying between 0.50 and 1.50 Euro. Often but not always, this is payable separately from the bill and in cash, although we can’t get a good explanation for this.
During our times in Germany, we relied on hotel WiFi and free WiFi because we were never there long enough to justify buying a local SIM and roaming charges, although now regulated by EU rules, are still too expensive. We found the free WiFi in the tourist parts of the cities to be very good and surprisingly reliable.
We had no trouble finding affordable eateries in the places we visited, with one exception. We were in Passau on a cold and wet evening, so miserable that everyone seemed to shut down and go home. Sundays can also be a bit difficult in our experience. Simple lunch fare or cheap “fast foods” are in abundance with bakeries, pizzerias and kebab stores being common. Pub food is well priced as well, with Bavarian hotpots and goulash being most welcome in cold weather.
We found that English was quite widely spoken, at least enough to get by. As always, the younger the person the better the English. If we were ever in a situation where we needed help with language, we simply turned around and someone in the nearby crowd was willing (and happy) to help out.