The various long-distance bus companies are a cheap alternative to trains and flights. They connect most major cities in Germany. The stops are often called "Bus-Bahnhof" or "Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB)" and can be found near motorways. You can buy bus tickets at the central bus station or also online on the website of these bus companies. On www.busradar.com you can find a comparison between different bus companies in Germany.
How can I move around without a car?
To be mobile in Germany you do not necessarily need a car and a driving license. There are different ways to get from one place to another.
Buses, subways, suburban trains and “Straßenbahnen” (in some cities called "Tram") are called "öffentliche Verkehrsmittel" in Germany. To use them, you have to buy a ticket. There are ticket machines which look different from city to city. In many buses the tickets are sold by the driver, but try to have cash money to buy the tickets. Therefore, it can be better to buy the ticket beforehand at a kiosk or special shops. They mostly have the same logo as the transport company or service of the city. In some cities you can also buy tickets with an app.
There are different types of tickets. Some are valid for a few hours like a one way ticket or two way ticket, others for a whole day ("Tagesticket"), week or month. There are also differences for the distances ("Tarifzonen"). After you have received a ticket that is only valid one hour, in many cities you have to stamp it to validate. If you buy the ticket from a ticket machine, sometimes the date and time is already written on it, so you don’t need to validate it again.
There are discount tickets for children, students, pupils and also for retired people and asylum seekers in order to have access to public transport. These special tickets are usually available at ticket machines, but sometimes only at the shops of the transport service.To buy such a ticket you should ask which kind of document you need to get these tickets.
Traveling inside Germany
Intercity Bus ("Fernbus")
Car sharing ("Mitfahrgelegenheiten")
Every public transportation service has special rules, like where to put the baby stroller or bicycles. There are also rules on whether you are allowed to eat and drink and in the bus and which door you can use to get in and out. People may not always follow these rules, but it is good to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
What happens if I travel without a valid ticket?
There are ticket inspectors in every public transport. Sometimes they wear uniforms and sometimes they are dressed like the other passengers. The ticket inspectors must prove with an identity card from the transport company or service that they are really the responsible people to check the tickets. They ask you “Fahrscheinkontrolle” or "Die Fahrscheine bitte". If you don’t have a valid ticket, they will ask for your name and address to send you a bill for a fine. The fine differs from city to city, but it is between 40 to 80 Euro. If you are in such a situation don’t try to run away, as the controllers are fast, will go behind you and call the police. If you receive the fine by post there might be written something like “Beförderungserschleichung”, which is the official term for “Schwarzfahren”. Traveling without ticket can potentially put your asylum application at risk and if repeated, lead to deportation.
If you are new in Germany and still have to follow the domicile requirement („Wohnsitzauflage“ or „Residenzpflicht“) you are not allowed to travel without a permission.