From Autobahns to Zugspitze: How You Should Get Around Germany On Your Amazing Vacation

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Taking a journey through Germany can be the adventure of a lifetime, and figuring out the best ways to get around is a crucial part of the experience. This article will be your companion in unraveling the tapestry of German transportation, simplifying the complex network into easy-to-digest options that fit any traveler’s needs.

Germany’s transportation network is a marvel of efficiency and variety, offering the intrepid traveler an array of options that balance speed, comfort, and cost. Whether you’re aiming to cruise along the autobahn, whiz between cities on a high-speed train, or navigate the historic streets of cities by tram, each mode of transport comes with its own set of charms and advantages.

From Autobahns to Zugspitze: How You Should Get Around Germany On Your Amazing VacationPin

Understanding the nuances of getting from A to B is key to a hassle-free vacation, and that’s what you’ll find here: simple explanations, a sprinkle of insider tips, and a straightforward breakdown of travel modes and tips to help you choose the right path for your journey.

So pack your bags, grab your sense of adventure, and let’s dive into the logistics that will make your German holiday as smooth and enjoyable as the journey itself.

Did you know you can use public transport in Germany for 49 Euros a month? Don’t miss our guide to the 49 Euro Deutschland ticket here.

Traveling to Germany? Click here to download your free Germany Trip Planning checklistWe’ll help you get ready for your trip! 

How To Get Around Germany On Your Vacation

Car Hire

autobahn GermanyPin

Renting a car can be an ideal choice for travelers seeking freedom and flexibility while exploring Germany. With a hire car, you can set your own schedules, take detours, and visit off-the-beaten-path locations that might be difficult to reach via public transportation.

Germany’s renowned Autobahn network enables rapid inter-city travel, connecting the entire country through high-speed motorways. Some routes may incur tolls, mostly for trucks, but generally, cars can use the autobahns toll-free.

However, when driving within cities, it’s important to consider that many urban centers may have traffic restrictions, limited parking options, and extensive pedestrian zones that make navigation trickier. Additionally, environmental zones (‘Umweltzone’) exist in many cities, requiring cars to have a special sticker indicating their emission category.

Nonetheless, hiring a car is a great way to experience Germany’s rich landscape, from its rolling countryside to the panoramic routes along rivers and castles, giving the traveler a distinct and personal connection to the land.

Click here to check out car hire prices and options.

Pros: Great for getting to gorgeous little villages which are tricky on public transport and stopping along the way on travel days. Handy if you have a lot of luggage.

Cons: Can be annoying within cities with problems parking, restrictions and more.

Read our full guide to driving in Germany here which is full of tips or read more about Germany’s famous autobahn here.

Train

Frankfurt Main Train stationPin
Frankfurt Main Train station

Germany’s rail system is among the world’s most efficient, making train travel a top choice for navigating between cities. Deutsche Bahn, the primary German railway company, operates an extensive network, including high-speed ICE trains that connect major cities like Berlin, Munich, and Cologne in a matter of hours.

InterCity and regional trains cover smaller towns and rural areas, ensuring that nearly every destination is accessible by train. While traveling inter-city by train, passengers are offered a range of services and comforts, including dining cars, family compartments, and Wi-Fi.

Trains not only offer convenience and punctuality but also the opportunity to enjoy Germany’s scenery in a relaxing manner.

Moreover, with the prevalence of saver fares and group tickets, train travel can also be quite cost-effective, particularly if booked in advance.

In terms of environmental impact, trains offer a sustainable alternative by reducing carbon emissions per traveler, aligning with Germany’s eco-conscious ethos.

Check out train fares, times and more here.

Pros: Great for speed between major towns and cities. Easy, comfortable and affordable.

Cons: To places off the main ICE tracks or traveling between two places that don’t have a direct line, it can get time consuming.

Read more about the different types of trains in Germany and what their differences are here.

Find train discounts here.

Bus

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Buses in Germany are a popular alternative for budget-conscious travelers, offering extensive coverage and competitive fares. For inter-city travel, the coach network is well-developed, with companies like FlixBus operating a large fleet of buses connecting numerous cities and towns across the country.

Buses can provide a more economical option compared to trains, albeit usually with longer journey times due to inevitable road traffic and rest stops. Additionally, buses can have amenities such as free Wi-Fi, power outlets, and air conditioning.

Within urban areas, local buses cover extensive routes, reaching suburbs or attractions not directly accessible by tram or train. They can be particularly useful in regions where rail services are less frequent or non-existent, ensuring that even the most remote locations are connected.

The bus system offers a seamless travel option, often integrating with other public transportation services to enable easy transfers and comprehensive accessibility.

Pros: Great for getting to places off the train tracks. They can also be faster than trains when no direct train service exists.

Cons: They can stop more often and for longer with more time wasted. Not as easy as trains.

Domestic Flights

Frankfurt International AirportPin
Frankfurt International Airport

Domestic flights within Germany offer a fast and efficient way of traveling between distant cities. While the excellent ground transportation options often make flying domestically less necessary, flights can be a significant time-saver for routes such as from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north, which are nearly 800 kilometres apart.

German airlines, including the flagship carrier Lufthansa, as well as several low-cost carriers, provide frequent services between major and even some smaller cities, ensuring that even the furthest corners of the country are well connected. These flights facilitate business travel, support tourism, and provide an essential link for more remote regions.

Airports in Germany typically offer good public transportation links to city centers and beyond, making transitions from air to ground travel relatively seamless.

However, travelers may choose trains over flights for short to medium distances due to factors like environmental concerns, the convenience of city center to city center travel, and the competitive travel times of high-speed rail – Its often faster.

Pros: A solid choice for long land journeys like Munich to Hamburg.

Cons: Usually faster to take a train or drive.

Public Transportation (Trams and Metro)

Tram in DresdenPin
Tram in Dresden

Within Germany’s cities, public transportation systems are well-organized and efficient. Many major cities, such as Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt, feature extensive metro networks that facilitate quick and straightforward inter-urban travel, which is ideal for commuting and getting around for tourism purposes.

Suburban trains (S-Bahn) complement the metro service by connecting nearby towns and the city outskirts, expanding the accessible area for residents and tourists alike.

In cities where a metro system isn’t available, trams are very common and provide a similar level of coverage and convenience. Trams, in particular, are a charming way to see the city, as they often pass through scenic areas and historic districts, offering panoramic views and a sense of the local pace of life.

Onboard tariffs are generally reasonable, and day or group tickets can provide unlimited travel for a set period, making these modes of transportation both cost-effective and convenient for visitors.

Pros: Great for getting around a city. Can be less stressful than driving and will get you virtually anywhere.

Cons: They don’t always go exactly where you want in one trip which can add to your journey time.

Read more about the S-Bahn and U-Bahn here.

Bicycle

Cycling BerlinPin

Cycling is not only a popular form of daily transport for many Germans but also an appealing way for visitors to explore both cities and the countryside. Germany boasts an impressive network of well-maintained cycle paths, making it safe and enjoyable to travel between adjacent towns or to simply meander along scenic routes that crisscross the country.

Within cities, the bike infrastructure is taken seriously, with marked bike lanes, ample parking, and bike-sharing schemes like Call a Bike making it easily accessible.

Biking in urban areas offers an intimate look at local life and the freedom to stop whenever and wherever one pleases. It’s common to see cyclists at all hours, as this mode of transportation is considered not only environmentally friendly but also a healthy and practical way to get around.

For travelers, cycling can be a unique and invigorating way to discover Germany’s diverse regions, whether following the winding paths of river valleys, exploring the lush countryside, or navigating the buzzing streets of its dynamic towns and cities.

Pros: Great for cycling enthusiasts who don’t want to travel long distances and don’t have much luggage.

Cons: Hard work to do this across the country.

Ferries

Hamburg ferryPin

Considering Germany’s numerous rivers and lakes, ferries serve as a practical and scenic mode of transportation, particularly in regions such as the northern part by the Baltic Sea. They provide a pivotal service for both inter-city connections, where they supplement bridges and tunnels, and within cities, by forming part of the local public transport system.

For instance, in a major port city like Hamburg, ferries are integrated into the public transport network, offering both residents and tourists an alternative and picturesque way to travel. These can be used to reach different quarters of the city or to simply enjoy a ride along the Elbe River, taking in landmarks from an aquatic vantage point.

Besides their functionality within urban contexts, many travelers appreciate ferry trips on larger bodies of water for the leisurely pace and the views they afford.

Additionally, ferries are invaluable for accessing some of the more remote islands off the German coast, making them a crucial element of Germany’s broader transportation landscape.

Pros: Great option when they are available for a fun experience. Necessary for visiting some islands.

Cons: Not an option in most places.

How To Decide What Mode To Take?

The good news is that you can’t go too wrong with what mode of transport you pick. Germany has great options. Which is best really depends on your travel style and preferences.

Car hire can be the best choice if you cherish the freedom to explore at your own pace. The highways are yours to command, allowing spontaneous detours to quaint villages or hidden natural gems. Just remember, navigating city streets can be tricky, and parking can test your patience.

I tend to hire a care when I’m traveling in Germany with my family. It’s much easier with three kids and plenty of luggage to have us all together. Train stations can get stressful with all of us!

However, when I’m traveling by myself, I prefer train travel. It is tailor-made for those who love to sit back and savor the scenery without a care in the world. It’s generally punctual, it’s fast, and it connects major cities with efficiency that’s hard to beat. Think of it as your chance to relax between the vibrant experiences each German city has to offer.

Click here for more information on train travel.

ICE first class train carriage GermanyPin
Inside my awesome first class carriage between Nuremberg and Stuttgart

Public transport is great if you don’t want to think about parking, German road rules, navigating cities and more.

For the budget-savvy adventurer, buses are a wallet-friendly alternative, serving up savings that leave more in your pocket for those must-try German delicacies. You’ll have to trade speed for frugality, but the landscapes observable from your window seat make it a worthy compromise.

Flights are a good choice if you are traveling a long distance at once, like from Hamburg to Munich. Otherwise, you may not find it faster and it’s definitely more hassle than taking a train.

Cycling enthusiasts and eco-conscious travelers will revel in Germany’s extensive bike paths. They offer an intimate connection with the city streets and countryside lanes alike, pairing exercise with exploration. If you’re keen on seeing Germany’s green side, this could be the way to go.

To get an idea of journey time differences for choices such as train vs car, take a look at Google Maps. It will give you an approximation for both. Which is best may also depend on your itinerary as if you want to visit lots of smaller towns and villages, a car may be your best option for sure.

Ultimately, it’s about matching your preferences with practicality. Consider what matters most to you—speed, convenience, cost, or adventure—and let that guide your decision. The beauty of Germany is that it caters to all, ensuring your journey is as delightful as the destinations you explore.


As we’ve traversed the landscape of Germany’s transportation options, it’s clear that efficiency and convenience are at the heart of travel within this fascinating country. Whether by land, sky, or the intricate web of public transit, each route offers a unique lens through which to view Germany’s rich culture and stunning vistas.

With the right mode of transport selected to suit your travel desires, you’re well on your way to an unforgettable German adventure. So take a moment to map out your journey, then step forward with confidence and a readiness to embrace the rhythm of German travel, where the beauty of the journey often matches the splendor of the destination.

Don’t miss our guide to the 49 Euro public transport pass here. Learn what apps you should download for your trip here. Learn more about what you’ll eat in Germany with this guide to German sausages. You can also find all our guides for planning your Germany vacation here.

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Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!

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