So the train isn’t for everyone, or you’ve waited till the last minute and there aren’t any cheap fares left. That’s okay, because there are lots of Germans looking for passengers at the last minute. Ride sharing, what Germans call Mitfahrgelegenheit, is another way to beat high rail prices. It’s safer than hitchhiking but less reliable and sometimes slower than the train. But at 1/6 to 1/2 of the price, how picky can you be? Here’s how you do it.
Log on to www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de and put in your starting location, your destination, and the (range of) date(s) you’d like to travel. The site will bring up drivers, listed in chronological order by departure time, who are traveling your way. The closer you get to the departure date, the more drivers will have posted their rides. Clicking on the links will bring up the driver’s name, phone number, license plate number, smoker or no, how many places they’re offering, what model of car they drive, etc. They generally also list the price they’re asking and the exact pick-up/drop-off locations. You can compare drivers by your own criteria and contact those that seem most promising. If nothing seems to be coming up, you can post seeking a ride once you register with the site.
Ride sharing is best for individual travelers or couples with little luggage, as European cars are generally smaller than U.S. cars and with multiple passengers, trunk space is limited. Sometimes you run into a station wagon, and there are also some individuals turning a profit on ride-sharing businesses using 10-12 passenger vans. The latter sort of defeats the positive environmental impact of packing a car full of people, but there is obviously demand for the service, and I suppose better a full van than a half-empty bus. But I digress.
I use ride sharing quite a bit to supplement train travel and find it a generally reliable and safe alternative form of transportation. It’s also a great way to experience the German Autobahn without having to drive 100 mph on foreign roads yourself. Passengers with mix CDs, snacks and a good mood during traffic jams are always welcome!
Rather take the train? Check out the money-saving tips in Getting Across Germany Cheaply, Part One.