Firstly, as a disclaimer I would like to say I do not encourage anyone to get on a train in Germany without paying, if you choose to do so I take no responsibility for what happens to you.
As a warning now I will tell you that if you get caught on a train in Germany without a ticket you will be fined 40€ or double the train fare (whatever is more) and the fine increases the longer you don’t pay it.
That being said, if I WERE to give it a go …. I probably would follow these guidelines.
Do have your excuse ready. If you are foreign and don’t speak German, when the ticket man comes round just pleasantly ask to buy your ticket. They will probably be ok with it as long as you look fairly touristy.
Don’t get up if you see the ticket inspector approaching. Getting up is a massive flashing light showing that you are guilty, and then you can’t play the innocent card.
Don’t stamp you ticket. On the underground the tickets are only valid if you stamp them, which leaves the day marked on the card. However, if you never stamp you ticket you can use your ticket day after day, and if you do get checked (which is fairly rare for journeys to tourist areas of the city) then you can claim you didn’t understand.
Do remember that you are more likely to get checked leaving a major station. So if you are travelling in a more rural area for only a few stops you are more likely to get away with it.
Don’t try to cheat the system on long journeys. If your journey is more than 30 minutes you are definitely going to get checked. So I wouldn’t even bother trying.
Do carry your passport at all times. Firstly, not doing so carries a 40€ fine. Secondly, for Brits at least your passport has your place of birth but not your current address. When writing you the 40€ fine you obviously can give a false address if it’s not on your identification, where as if you hand over your driver’s license they can find it quickly.
Finally after being a bad influence I thought I might give you my top 3 tips on buying your train tickets in Germany.
While the ICE is fast and luxurious you will save yourself, a pretty penny by travelling Nur Nahverkehr (on the slow regional trains) so ask for this when buying tickets, these ticket prices also don’t fluctuate like the ICE.
The Länder Ticket, available in all German states, is a ticket which is about 20€ for one person or around 30€ for up to 5 people, which you can use from 9am – 3am to travel on regional transport anywhere in your state (which is a very good deal if you are in Bavaria for example.)
The Schönes Wochende ticket which is 40€ for 5 people (valid Saturday or Sunday from midnight to 3am the following day) allows you to go anywhere on regional DB trains and even allows you to go to as far as Poland.