Getting around in a city you don’t know can’t be much easier than by just using public transport. Every major town and almost all the smaller ones have such a way of traveling without the need of an own car – is it by U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Stadtbahn, Tram or Bus. The varieties are wide in Germany, and quite often, you will find a mixture of many ways. But don’t miss to buy a ticket – otherwise “Schwarzfahren” (“riding black,” i.e. using the public transportation system without having a ticket) will get you in some trouble.
You need to be aware of local Rules in Public Transport
It can be rather confusing when you are visiting an unknown city for the first time, and you are trying to get a ticket for the Bahn. Whereas in buses you might or even have to buy it at the driver’s, using an U- or S-Bahn can assume a bit of preparation. For example, you should be aware of whether you have to devalue your Ticket before entering the train. As an example: In Berlin, you have to shove your card into a particular yellow machine on the platform before entering the train, in Hamburg, you don’t. It is valid from the moment you buy it.
But what happens when you get caught without a valid ticket? And how do they catch you? There are inspectors wearing uniforms, but also such who don’t. Don’t feel too safe while riding without a ticket when you don’t see any inspectors. They might occur out of nowhere. And don’t expect them to look like the average public officer. They try to look as inconspicuous as possible.
What happens when you get caught without a valid Ticket?
When they catch you, you probably won’t get out of the situation without paying a fee. The inspectors on public transport are used to people who try to talk them out of the situation. Perhaps as a stranger without any knowledge of the language, they might be lenient. Otherwise, 60 Euros will be your fee, payable cash or via transfer. But even if you have enough money, don’t get caught too often: They can give you “Hausverbot” which means that you are not allowed to use the public transportation in this city anymore. If you do, you may get in deeper trouble. Another bad idea would be to fake your identity when asked – it is fraud. So it is better to pay your fee. If you don’t, you can even go to jail.
Any free Public Transport around?
But what’s the deal about free public transportation? Some political parties, for example, Die LINKE in Germany, are willing to introduce it. But as of now, only one city in Germany where you could ride the bus for free is Templin near Berlin. The project thus was stopped in 2003 (here you can find the cities where this is still possible outside of Germany) So better save nerves and money and buy a ticket before you enter the Train, Tram or Bus. People will always be helpful if you just ask them how the system works in that particular city you. Don’t be shy!