Travel in Leipzig
Leipzig's main form of public transport is the tram; this is supplemented by a few bus routes as well. In addition, night buses run throughout the city, throughout the night. They are all operated by LVB, whose website includes a good journey planner. You can also print out the timetables for your nearest stop from the website.
Students get a great deal on public transport here, including an inclusive evening/weekend tram/bus ticket for all registered students. Full details are available from Haus der fünf Kontinente.
Leipzig is flat and compact and very cycle-friendly (including the attitude of motorists towards cyclists!). If you fly Air Berlin you can bring your bike (flat-packed) on the plane with you for a very low additional fee (20 euro). Alternatively you can buy a second hand-bike when you get here - try an "An- & Verkauf" shop or look for adverts in the university or on dsb. Alternatively, consider the Leipzig city lost property office's auctions of bikes, which happen a few times a year, at locations such as the MoritzBastei, or the Speisesaal at Prager Str 28 (Tram: 15 to Gutenbergplatz). The dates of the next auctions, of bikes (Fahrräder) or other things, is listed at the bottom of the Stadt Leipzig's Fundbüro page.
Make sure you are aware of the different road rules in Germany (see below). Also, note that there is a requirement for your bike always to be fitted with lights, even during the daytime, and you can be fined at a police spot-check if you don't have them. There is no requirement to wear a helmet, and indeed few do, but it is still a good idea!
Travel in Germany
The German rail network is modern and for the most part still reliable and punctual. Although it has been partially privatised, most routes are still operated by DB or one of its subsidiaries. Within many cities and regions, a Tarif- or Verkehrsverbund sets the fares and local tickets are valid on DB trains, most other trains, buses, trams and underground (where applicable). In Leipzig (and beyond) the Verkehrsverbund is MDV.
Non-DB trains are still listed on the timetable and website, although usually marked "no fare information available". You have to go to the individual operator's website, where you will usually find that the fares are very low indeed.
You can get a discount on all standard fares by buying a BahnCard, which is available in variants of 25, 50 and 100, as well as both second and first class.
The second-class BahnCard 25 costs 51.50 euro, and the second-class BahnCard 50 costs 206 euro (103 euro for Students under 27 years of age).
- BahnCard 25 gives you 25% off standard fares as well as advance-purchase saver fares.
- BahnCard 50 gives you 50% off standard fares, but not saver fares (see below).
Note that when you buy your BahnCard you need to bring a passport sized photo. The small print will also sign you up to automatically renew your ticket unless you cancel well before it expires.
Very Cheap Tickets
You can also save money on local trains by purchasing a Länderticket or a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket. (NB: No BahnCard discounts apply.)
A Länderticket (eg SachsenTicket, BayernTicket) is generally valid for one whole day on any local trains within the Bundesland concerned. In the case of Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen, the ticket is valid in all three. Prices vary by Bundesland. Usually Ländertickets are valid for groups of up to 5 people, which can make them incredibly good value. One person has to write their name on the ticket for it to be valid, and may need to show ID. Additional people are not supposed to join the group once the journey has started.
Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Note that an SWT is only valid for one day: for the whole weekend, you need to buy two. These are also valid for groups of up to 5 people, this time on local trains throughout Germany.
Local trains are those whose numbers are prefixed S, RB, RE, IRE as well as some private companies' trains. Often, SWT and Ländertickets are also valid on some services entirely within a Verkehrsverbund. Within the MDV, they are only valid on trains in the region (i.e. not trams or buses). In a few Verkehrsverbünde these tickets are not even valid on the trains. Check!
You can save money on return journeys on long-distance trains by booking ahead. There are Sparpreis25 and Sparpreis50 tickets available on a limited availability basis, with 25% and 50% discounts respectively. The Sparpreis50 has more conditions attached, eg you must stay away for the Saturday night. Note that you can combine a BahnCard25 discount with a Sparpreis25/50 discount, but not a BahnCard50 discount. This may mean that the BahnCard50 card is not worth the money, unless you are not able to book ahead.
As if there weren't already enough options, the newer Dauerspezial tickets offer non-flexible flat fares of €29, €39, €49, €59 or €69 for a one-way journey, with no additional BahnCard discount. The distance is unlimited but the number of tickets at each fare on each train is strictly limited. So, these are great if you can plan a long time in advance, but once they're gone, they're gone.
You can book a journey or get connection information at bahn.de and this site will always offer you the cheapest available long-distance return (round-trip) tickets. Note that it may not offer you the best local ticket. You can have your tickets posted to you or print them out yourself (in which case you need to travel with the card you paid for the ticket with).
You can also get connection information or buy tickets at stations, either at a machine or over the counter. Note that most tickets sold over the counter are a few euro more expensive than the same ticket sold by a machine.
In Leipzig, most long-distance ticket machines take only ec (maestro) cards, but the machines on platforms 12 and 16 also take coins.
You can get train times from any landline phone in Germany (not mobiles) by dialling 0800 1507090 and doing battle with the automated voice recognition system.
Check this page at bahn.de for information (which sadly may or may not be up-to-date) on all of the above.
Germany has a very trusting (and apparently safe) system of organising lifts for people on longer journeys. Most major towns and cities have a Mitfahrzentrale (MFZ), whose telephone number is usually 19440, eg in Leipzig it is 0341-19440.
It works like this: people who are planning to drive from A to B notify the MFZ in town A, and people who wish to get a lift also register their request at the MFZ in town A. The MFZ then links the two together and agrees a meeting place. Passengers pay a small fee to the MFZ and a small fee to the driver, who gets some petrol money and some company for the journey. It can be a fun and cheap way to travel, and because the MFZ keeps the details of passengers and drivers it's somewhat safer than hitchhiking.
Some German cities operate car-sharing schemes, whereby you sign up and pay a deposit, and then book a car of the size you need for the number of half-hour blocks that you need it. You then pay per kilometre used, and petrol is included. If you are staying a year or more in one place this may well be worth joining up with: for short journeys in town it is quite cost-effective, eg for a late-night airport collection of a friend, or book a van for a couple of hours to move a piano.
In Leipzig the scheme is called TeilAuto and it has bargain rates for students.
Rules of the road
Germany (as with many continental countries) has slightly different road rules than the United Kingdom. Drivers from even further afield (eg Australia) will find many signs confusing and should research thoroughly before getting behind the wheel. The major things to note are:
- Pedestrians: often pedestrians are shown a 'green man' symbol allowing them to cross (it is illegal to do so when the 'red man' is lit) even though traffic may be turning into their road. If you are turning right or left and there are pedestrians on or entering the road, you must stop and allow them to cross before proceeding.
- Vorfahrt Rechts: unless you see a sign to the contrary (yellow diamond with a white border) you must give way to any vehicle entering your road from the right. In practice this only applies to minor side roads, since all major roads are signposted to indicate priority. But this makes it even more difficult to remember since you will come across it less often. What it means is that even if your road feels like it is the bigger one, if it is not marked, you need to give way to anything on your right-hand-side (even cycles). Accordingly, everything to your left will give way to you, even if you are only on a cycle.
- Lane discipline: in towns and cities, you can overtake on either the left or the right on multi-lane roads, and expect other drivers to do likewise.
- Speed limits: 50km/h within city limits unless otherwise stated.
- Trams: these often stop in the centre of the road even though the passengers are waiting at the side of the road. Cars must stop and allow them to board and others to alight safely. Once this has happened, you may proceed with caution (although it's best to wait until the tram's doors have closed).
- Right on red: (particularly in the former East). If the traffic lights are fitted with a painted green right arrow, you are allowed to turn right on a red light if it is clear, provided you come to a complete stop first.