Major airports and airlines
The main airports are Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Munich (IATA: MUC) and Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS). Berlin-Tegel (IATA: TXL), Cologne (IATA: CGN), Hamburg (IATA: HAM) and Stuttgart (IATA: STR) also have numerous international flights. Frankfurt is the main German hub (and also one of the main European hubs) and the destination for most intercontinental flights. Munich is a secondary hub that is growing rapidly. Travellers can easily fly from most parts of the world and then connect with Germany’s largest and most respected airline, Lufthansa, which is a member of the Star Alliance. The second largest German airline is Air Berlin, a member of oneworld and also affiliated with Etihad Airways, which also flies to many destinations in Germany, Europe and North America from several airports.
Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn airports are connected to InterCityExpress high-speed lines. Leipzig Halle Airport (IATA: LEJ) is connected to a high-speed line, but is currently only served by local trains, but is scheduled to be served by ICE trains again after construction work is completed in December 2016. Most other airports are either connected to the urban transport network or have their own suburban train stations. However, this is not always the case for smaller “regional” airports, which are often used by “no-frills” airlines. A particular example is “Frankfurt”-Hahn, which has no rail connection and the only means of public transport is a bus, which takes about 2 hours to get to Frankfurt. Lufthansa passengers travelling from Frankfurt Airport have the option of checking in at the Cologne or Stuttgart train stations and taking an ICE connection at Frankfurt Airport and dropping off their luggage directly at the long-distance train station at Frankfurt Airport. In this case, make sure that you book the train journey as a Lufthansa connecting flight (i.e. in advance, at the same time as the flight), otherwise you may be held responsible for a missed connection. All major German airports and most airlines also offer the rail&fly programme, which allows you to purchase a ticket to/from the airport and any place with a connection to the German rail network. In most cases, this ticket must be purchased at the same time as the flight ticket, but with some airlines you can also buy it later in addition to the flight ticket. For more information on this topic, see Rail and Air Alliances
Small and low-cost airlines
Flying can be the cheapest way to get to Germany and from there to other European countries. Before booking a cheap flight, you should compare carefully, as their destinations are often a bit off the beaten track and after adding all fees, taxes and additional bus tickets to get to their airports, you may end up paying even more than for a discounted ticket from Lufthansa or Air Berlin. According to a 2013 study by the VCD (Verkehrs Club Deutschland), flights within Europe are more expensive than a rail ticket for the same day in more than 80 % of cases.
The main airports for commercial traffic are Berlin-Schönefeld (IATA: SXF), “Frankfurt”-Hahn (IATA: HHN) (130 km from Frankfurt) and Weeze (IATA: NRN) (85 km from Düsseldorf), as well as smaller airports with less choice of destinations such as Memmingen (IATA: FMM) (110 km from Munich). Low-cost airlines are known to change airports at short notice and many airports that used to operate dozens of flights per day have been converted to general aviation.
Some of the smaller airports are former military airports from the Cold War era. They are located far away from urban centres. Don’t let the name fool you: Frankfurt-Hahn is actually 120 km from the city of Frankfurt. Düsseldorf-Weeze was forced to change its name by a court ruling because Düsseldorf is 70 km further south-east.
There are low-cost flights from Germany to almost all European cities. The main low-cost airlines in Germany are easyJet, Ryanair (which now also offers a limited number of flights within Germany), Eurowings (also for flights within Germany) and Wizz Air (for flights to Eastern Europe), all of which offer several routes to many European countries. The main hubs of easyJet are Berlin-Schönefeld and Dortmund, for Ryanair Hahn and Weeze and for Eurowings Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart. Most of these airlines also serve other airports, but with a mostly limited choice of connections. When planning your trip, please bear in mind that low-cost airlines can change airports within a short period of time for economic reasons and depending on local politics.
For (low-cost) flights to European holiday destinations, e.g. around the Mediterranean, the most important German airlines besides Air Berlin are Condor (Thomas Cook) (also for the most important destinations worldwide) and TUIfly. There are also a number of international destinations in Germany.
Regular trains connect Germany with all neighbouring countries. Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (e.g. Italy and Hungary) are quite well connected by “EuroCity” trains. They are a bit slower and sometimes a bit less comfortable than European high-speed trains, but still reach up to 200 km/h. They are an interesting means of transport, not only for low-budget travellers (although budget airlines are sometimes cheaper) or landscape lovers (especially the Rhine valley railway). Deutsche Bahn offers very reasonable prices for many European destinations under its “Europa-Spezial” brand, with tickets starting at 39 euros (or less for short “hops” across the border) for a one-way trip (you can usually book no earlier than 91 days in advance); however, you can’t change trains or travel dates, and refunds are limited. If you miss the train, it usually means the ticket becomes worthless.
Several European high-speed trains run in and out of Germany:
- The ICE takes you from Frankfurt (3.25 hrs), Cologne (2.5 hrs) or Düsseldorf (2.25 hrs) to Amsterdam at a speed of 300 km/h. The train journey from Frankfurt to Paris (320 km/h) takes about four hours by ICE, the train journey from Hamburg to Paris can take eight and a half hours. There is also an ICE line from Frankfurt via Cologne to Brussels.
- The Thalys takes you from Cologne to Paris in about four hours and to Brussels in about two hours.
- The TGV takes you from Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg to Frankfurt and from Paris and Strasbourg to Munich.
- Travel between Stuttgart and Milan with a stop in Zurich, the fastest transalpine rail connection. This connection will be even faster after the full opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will be in operation in December 2016.
Normal rail fares are quite high, but there are a number of special fares and discounts – see the section “Getting around” for more information. In particular, the Bahncard discount applies to the entire journey, provided it starts or ends in Germany. If you have some time, it may be cheaper to take a local train to the border with a domestic ticket, especially to/from the Czech Republic and Poland.
There are international ferry routes, especially to Scandinavia. Some of the most popular routes are listed below:
- Lübeck and Sassnitz are connected to Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Russia. Sassnitz is also connected to Rønne, Denmark, and Trelleborg, Sweden.
- Kiel has connections to Gothenburg, Sweden, Klaipeda, Lithuania and Oslo, Norway.
- Rostock has connections with Helsinki (Finland), Trelleborg (Sweden) and Gedser (Denmark). Rostock-Warnemünde is the busiest cruise port in Germany.
- Travemünde has connections with Helsinki (Finland), Malmö (Sweden), Trelleborg (Sweden), Ventspilsand Liepaja, Latvia.
- Puttgarden is connected to Rødby, Denmark. This ferry also brings the ICE to Copenhagen.
There are dozens of international bus companies in Germany, including Touring. Some of the new routes, which mainly offer domestic services, also provide connections to neighbouring countries as well as to London. For more information on the very volatile market (as of 2016), which has established a quasi-monopoly on domestic routes but still has some competition on international routes, see Fernbusreisen in Deutschland.