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Which foreign countries can you visit with Germany’s €9 ticket?

A number of Germany's regional trains and buses travel across the border to places like Switzerland and the Netherlands. We look at how you can use the €9 ticket to get there.

Salzburg, Austria
The beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg, which y. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Österreich Werbung | G.Breitegger

Germany shares a border with eight hugely diverse European countries, from Denmark in the far north to Austria and Switzerland in the south.

With so many cities and towns lying close to these land borders, it’s not unusual to see people commuting across them each day to go to work or even just to the shops. To cater to this crowd (and the summer holidaymakers), there are numerous cross-border trains and bus services that run between Germany and its neighbouring countries. 

The question that’s been confusing many is whether Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket will be valid on these services after they cross the border into a different country. After all, the ticket is only meant to be valid on regional and local services, rather than long distance trains. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Incredibly enough, it is possible to visit some foreign countries using the bargain travel deal – and you can make it to some surprising destinations.

Here are the places you can visit using Germany’s €9 ticket this summer.

Austria

Reutte, Austria

The mountain rope-bridge in the Tirolian region of Reutte. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Marktgemeinde Reutte

The charming mountains and lakes of Austria are just a stone’s throw from Bavaria, and it takes hardly any time at all to reach them with the Bavarian Regional Rail (BRB).

If you’d like to visit one of Austria’s most beautiful cities this summer, you’ll be pleased to know that the €9 ticket is valid all the way from Freilassing to Salzburg, the picturesque birthplace of Mozart. For this route, you can either take a BRB train or an S3 train run by Austrian Rail (ÖBB). The popular Tirolian hiking regions of Vils, Reutte und Ehrwald can also be reached with the €9 ticket while travelling from Pfronton-Steinach to Griesen (near Garmisch-Patenkirchen). 

Here are the routes that the €9 ticket is valid for:

  • BRB: Freilassing – Salzburg
  • BRB: Kiefersfelden – Kufstein
  • ÖBB (S3): Freilassing – Salzburg
  • DB Regio AG: Pfronten-Steinach – Vils – Reutte (Tirol) – Ehrwald – Griesen

Belgium 

From Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia, it doesn’t take long to hop across the border into Belgium to the small municipality of Kelmis. Kelmis isn’t all that interesting in itself (though it does have an old castle that’s worth a visit). But you’ll be well placed to travel on from there to Liege (in 45 minutes) or Brussels (in one hour and 45 minutes). Of course, you’ll have to buy a new ticket for this last stretch of the journey in Belgium.

  • ASEAG (23): Aachen Bus Station − Preusweg − Kelmis

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

France

If you’d like to spend some time in France this summer, the Alsace Express and the Wine Route Express will both take you over the border from Rhineland-Palatinate to the pretty town of Wissembourg with the €9 ticket. Though the Alsace region is arguably the most ‘German’ part of France, it also represents a fascinating meeting place for the two countries’ cultures, histories and languages – and is certainly worth a visit at least once.

If you find yourself in Saarland, you can also reach a number of locations in France with the €9 ticket on the Saarbahn, including Carling, Creutzwald and Saargemünd.

  • Alsace Express: Mainz – Wissembourg
  • Wine Route/Weinstraßen-Express: Koblenz – Wissembourg
  • Saarbahn (S1): Saarbrücken – Saargemünd
  • Saarbahn (MS2): Saarloius – Creutzwald
  • Saarbahn (184): Bous – Carling

Luxembourg

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, the quaint capital of Luxembourg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Bernd F. Meier

For those in the Rhineland-Palatinate area, hopping across the border into beautiful Luxembourg is also covered by the €9 ticket. The good news is, public transport within Luxembourg is completely free – so once you’re across the border, you’ll be travelling for nothing anyway.

  • VRT Bus 410: Bitburg – Luxembourg
  • VRT Bus 455: Bitburg – Vianden
  • VRT Bus 460: Gerolstein – Clervaux
  • VRT trains to Luxembourg

The Netherlands

OK, it’s not exactly Amsterdam, but there are a number of little towns dotted along near the border with North Rhine-Westphalia that you can reach with the €9 ticket, including Vaals and Kerkrade. In most cases, you’ll need to rely on the Aachen Transport Association trains to get you there, though there are some buses running between Germany and the Netherlands too. 

  • ASEAG (25): Stolberg Mühlener Bahnhof – Vaals
  • ASEAG (33): Fuchserde − Vaals
  • ASEAG (34): Diepenbenden – Kerkrade
  • WestVerkehr Bus (SB3): Geilenkirchen – Sittard
  • Arriva Bus (350): Aachen – Vaals

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Poland

Unfortunately the range of options to travel to with the €9 ticket in Poland are limited, but if you fancy a break on the Baltic coast, you can hop over from Usedom in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania to Swinemünde in Poland at no extra charge. Unfortunately, to get to Szczecin, you’ll have to switch to a regular ticket after the last stop in Germany on the train.  

  • DB Regio AG: Züssow – Świnoujście Centrum (Swinemünde Zentrum)

Switzerland

Basel city centre

The picturesque Swiss city of Basel, which you can visit with the €9 ticket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/KEYSTONE | Georgios Kefalas

The words ‘Switzerland’ and ‘cheap’ don’t normally go together, but if you’ve bought a €9 ticket, you can at least reach one or two destinations in Switzerland on a budget.

The first and most obvious of these is Basel, a charming medieval city nestled close to the borders of both France and Germany. Basel is a popular place to visit for a short city break and is also not far from the Euro Airport, which due to its location serves three different cities in three different countries. You can reach Basel with the €9 ticket on both Swiss and German-run services, as well as some more rural Swiss destinations along the train route from Erzingen to Biesingen in Baden-Württemberg. 

  • SBB: Zell im Wiesenthal – Lörrach – Basel Bad. Bf
  • DB Regio AG: Weil am Rhein – Basel Bad. Bf
  • DB Regio AG: Erzingen (Baden) – Trasadingen – Schaffhausen – Thayngen – Bietingen

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

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‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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