Bahn Etiquette – Public Transportation #2

Bahn Etiquette – Public Transportation #2

As I’m using public transportation more and more in Germany, I’ve decided to trying to write more about it.  Hopefully these sections are fairly practical for any readers hoping to use this wonderful service (when they aren’t striking…)

Today I wanted to tackle public transportation etiquette – or at least three tips that I can think of right now.

1. Be prepared before you arrive.   Like I said in my previous post about public transportation, if you are late, there will be someone who doesn’t know what they are doing using the ticket machine in front of you.  The converse of this is that, if you are at the ticket machine with no idea what to do, there will be someone late waiting on you.

The best way to combat this is to know exactly what you need before you arrive.  You can plan your route on Deutsche Bahn’s website and it will tell you the name of the ticket you need and how much it costs.  This will speed along the process. There will still be a bit of a learning curve with the machine itself, but if you give yourself a bit of extra time everything should be fine.

Also someone who looks like they know what they’re looking for is much less annoying than someone staring blankly at the screen.  And English is available – just look for the British flag.

2. Find a proper seat.

Most of the regional trains (my specialty) have most of their seats set up in groups of four.


It is totally fine to sit here alone. Single travelers will grab these sections and then as the train fills, other single travelers or couples will then sit in the row across from them. When two single travellers share one of these sections they generally sit diagonal from each other – as it allows for maximum leg space. Your bag can go onto the seat next to you to deter creepers ignoring the sit across rule, but you should move it to your lap or to the overhead rack if seating becomes scarce.


Seats with two spots follow a similar pattern. Sit near the window if alone and don’t sit next to someone if there are other seats available.

There is also commonly a section with fold down seats.


These seats suck, so they usually fill up last. They are meant for travellers with bikes, strollers, or wheelchairs (under the seats are some straps that can be used to secure things, but I have yet to see someone use them). If someone with one of those three things comes toward those seats, make room for them.

On crowded trains, you may need to stand. That’s life. If you cannot stand for whatever reason, there should be seats near the door indicated for this purpose. If people are seated there, ask politely if you can sit. If they don’t need the spot, they are supposed to give it up.

3. Don’t block the doors

This is a should, but not always a reality. If you do this, you will be making the world a better place.

Let people off the train first. The train cannot leave if the doors are open. You will not get anywhere faster by pushing past people trying to get off.

If the train is crowded and you are standing in the doorway and cannot move back to allow others off and on get off the train. Again, it will not leave while the doors are open. Get off with the people leaving and get back on with the people boarding. Easy peasy.

For the most part, the train experience runs fairly smoothly (when the trains and run – looking at you, Bahnstreik). Just be polite and self-aware, and things are better for everyone.

3 thoughts on “Bahn Etiquette – Public Transportation #2

  1. It’s amazing to me how many people simply refuse to get out of a fully packed train to let the other passengers out. If I am standing by the door and the train is full, I get out and then get back on. I think people are either afraid that they won’t be able to get back on again or don’t want to lose their standing “spot”. I do admit that it sucks to stand in the middle and not have anything to hold on to and then bump into other people when the train suddenly shifts left and right!

    I got on the train the other day and some lady was sleeping across THREE seats in one of those four seaters! (Laying across two and feet up on the one across from her) The train was packed and everyone was standing. I found a seat but the other passengers just stood there looking at her in disgust. An old man then got on the train and walked right up to her and woke her up and sat down. Whenever something like that happens, I always think to myself “this is not a hotel or your bed, be considerate of others, what is wrong with you?!”

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