You can reach every destination in North Rhine-Westphalia by public transportation. Especially in the Ruhrgebiet the railway network is very dense. But be aware that the “Deutsche Bahn” is usually late. So if you have appointments, plan some extra time for travelling. There are different types of trains in Germany, not all of them are suitable for travelling e.g. long distances or outer regions of a city. In general the easiest way to find the best and fastest route is with the “DB-Navigator” an app (free and in English available). The app also shows if your train will be late.
The white trains called ICE/IC are for long distances in other parts /states of Germany. They only stop in larger cities and you need a special ticket to use those trains (monthly or semester ticket not valid).
RE/RB: Those usually red colored trains are the easiest to use for travelling between cities. They are usually used by commuters and are very overcrowded during the rush hour. There is a first class in these trains that costs extra. These trains also have toilets, which are usually very dirty and often out of order.
S-Bahn: These also red colored trains are stopping at many smaller stations inside of cities. They also travel through a lot of cities, but are much slower. So, not recommended to use for longer distances.
Straßenbahn/U-Bahn and Bus: Larger cities also have trams or subways (recommended e.g. in cologne) but usually busses will bring you closer to your destination.
Tickets: have a ticket when you enter the train. You can`t buy them inside, except for bus tickets. Some tickets for the train you buy at the machines at the station but you also need a time stamp on it (the stamp machine is in the train station – not in the train).
It is allowed to eat and drink in trains but not in busses. (There might be some local differences). To travel by public transportation is safe. However, be aware of pickpockets! Watch your bags/luggage for pick pocketing.
There are also some baggers and bottle collectors in many trains. Just ignore the baggers (they sometimes give you small stuffed animals with a massage attached and then expect you to give them money). Bottle collectors may not smell like having had a shower recently, but they are just looking for empty bottles in garbage cans or will ask you if you have an empty bottle for them. They are not dangerous. Please also see our article: (Grocery) Shopping in Germany and the part of Deposit for Bottles.
Written by Maike Becker