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do you REALLY have to buy regionaltrain/bus tickets in Europe?

I just have to post this question...we just got back from Germany, Austria and Italy for 3 weeks and with all the hundreds of euros we spent on local busses, trains, etc. ( we didn't do passes, we were actually mostly motorhoming it, but had to take regional trains and busses into cities nearby campgrounds), we never, and I mean, NEVER, were asked to show our tickets. We know its not right not to pay, and we know that there is a hefty fine if you get caught, BUT we felt like we could've toured Europe much cheaper and even if we were caught it would've been cheaper than all the money we spent on the tickets. Just want to see what others say about this...not condoning it or anything.

Posted by
21329 posts

It is called honor system. The first time you try it, you will get caught. The number of times we have been checked is in frequent but we have been checked at least once during each trip. We were on a walking tour with another couple in Lisbon a couple of years ago when the private tour guide actually suggested that we didn't need to buy tickets because they never check. Got on the tram to go five stops. You can buy you tickets from a machine on the tram near the front. We had ticket from an earlier ride. The other couple didn't. And, of course, you know the rest of the story. At the third stop a pair of uniform ticket checkers got on at the back door. The front door was locked and the tram sat there until each person was checked for a ticket.

Posted by
127 posts

Two years ago, I used the u-bahn and tram in Vienna and the metro and buses in Budapest. Shortly after I boarded the S-bahn (faster and more direct train to downtown) in Vienna, from the airport, a conductor came through to check all tickets. A few weeks later, in Budapest, nobody ever checked tickets on the Pest side, but officials always checked tickets when exiting the Metro on the Buda side.

Posted by
4566 posts

I've been on local transit multiple times where an inspector has come on board at a stop and checked tickets. It may not seem like it happens often (remember, most of us only spend a few days in a particular city), but they do check and they do fine.

Posted by
4524 posts

They absolutely do check. Not always, but often enough that you will likely get caught at some point. The fines are expensive and typically you have to pay on the spot. It's a good way to ruin a vacation day (I unfortunately know from experience). This thread seems to border on a guidelines violation. We NEVER encourage people to disobey local laws and rules. If people rountinely didn't pay for transit, the systems would be an even greater drain on the tax system and fares would rise. Europe is not a free playground for North American tourists...

Posted by
6898 posts

Only once in Italy have I seen a conductor come through and check on the Regional train. The person across from us did not have a ticket and was fined 50Euro on the spot. I have also witnessed a passenger on the vaporetto in Venice, where they also don't check, walked off the boat to an ATM to get the 50Euro fine. According to an article I read, there is a small population of passengers that do this on a regular basis. The articile didn't indicate whether the rare 50Euro fine was less expensive or not over the long haul.

Posted by
2828 posts

Would you shoplift? Or sneak into an expensive concert without showing a ticket? It's about morals first, and the hefty fines later.

Posted by
9110 posts

Maybe try something similar with ATMs ? Think of all the money you could save if you withdrew cash with a crowbar instead of a card.

Posted by
18055 posts

Anyone who has read my post or my travel blogs knows that I travel mostly by regional trains, and sometimes buses, in Germany, et al. I have a pile of train tickets and bus tickets from my recent trip to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. They all have conductor stamps except the bus pass that I had to show every time to get on a bus. Sometimes there might have been one leg of travel, usually a very short leg, during the day when they didn't have time to check everyone, but all my tickets were checked at least once, most multiple times. The first day, when I boarded my train there were a bunch of US college student on the platform who were obviously going to us Bayern-Tickets (I heard their advisor telling them to stay in groups of five). Part way through the trip I walked back to the WC and saw them standing around in the first class compartments. The conductor had checked their tickets. Because they did have tickets, they weren't fined, but they did have to move. The only time I have ever been in Italy, on a regional train, my ticket was checked.

Posted by
2154 posts

Well, gee, our trips would be a lot cheaper if we stole the money to pay for them. Using transportation without buying tickets is just as wrong.

Posted by
3142 posts

And americans wonder why they are called ugly ?

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks, just wanted to see what everyone had to say about this, AND to clarify.....not condoning it....we always bought our tickets, I just wondered how many people getting on the buses and trains had really paid. I didn't post this to try to skirt the system, I was just curious if people really did pay, or risked the chance of getting caught. It's not a thread about ME being dishonest...... thanks

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi, If you are asking if people who ride without paying (that's what it comes down to, ie., schwarzfahren ) get caught, yes, I have seen this myself on trains and the subways in various cities in Germany, France and Austria. It's funny to watch the culprit, surrounded by usually two guys and a woman (the controllers), come up with various ways to talk his way out of his predicament. playing dumb, not understanding the language being spoken to him, etc. The controllers don't fall for it. The hefty fine is now usually 60 Euro. I've seen the controllers board from both ends at once so that no wise guy is going to slip out of the back door. I recall one instance from a couple of years ago on a regional train from Dortmund to Hamm that the controllers got on and quickly the school kids became attentive and compliant by getting their appropriate pass to be kontrolliert...try that in SF !!

Posted by
12040 posts

"It's funny to watch the culprit, surrounded by usually two guys and a woman (the controllers), come up with various ways to talk his way out of his predicament. playing dumb, not understanding the language being spoken to him, etc. The controllers don't fall for it." There's a similar scenario to this that I see quite frequently... people traveling on an ICE or Thalys with a rail pass who did not read the fine print. "But I have a rail pass!", they usually insist, quite loudly...

Posted by
3901 posts

We were heading into Paris fr the outskirts on the subway (well, above ground) and I noticed this guy kinda peering thru the windows on the door between cars, then he all of a sudden beat a hasty retreat down the train...then thru the doors came the ticket checkers...I'm guessing he jumped out at the next stop...

Posted by
2916 posts

On a recent visit to Bordeaux, we took the tram a few stops, and police got on and checked tickets. A woman seated near us didn't have a ticket, and a fine was written up on the spot and she paid with a credit card. I don't know what the fine was, but it seemed like she just took it in stride, figuring it was the risk she took. Maybe it worked out financially for her never buying a ticket and just paying a fine when she gets caught.

Posted by
3696 posts

@Robert... I have witnessed a few of these incidents as well... and the 'culprits' seem to have no shame. Their sense of entitlement is astonishing.... I don't think I would ever get over the humiliation.
I have been checked about 10% of the time.

Posted by
199 posts

In 2002 I was fined €50 on the RER B heading to CDG to catch my flight back to Detroit. I bought a ticket and placed it in my bag. When the controllers came through I couldn't find my ticket. I was told to pay or get off at the next stop. Lucky for me my buddy had cash with him and he paid the fine for me. Three months later I was shaking my travel bag to get the dirt and dust out and guess what landed on the floor?

Posted by
11275 posts

This is like asking, "when we file our taxes, do we REALLY have to tell the IRS the truth? It's so much cheaper to not disclose all our income, and to take extra deductions we're not entitled to." Of course you can put down "anything" on your tax forms - until you get caught. Just because you never saw a ticket inspection doesn't mean they don't happen, as all the stories on this thread illustrate. I have been inspected in Paris repeatedly, in Frankfurt twice in one day (a Sunday evening, which I think they may have picked because the S-Bahn was less crowded and so easier to check), in Perugia once (they caught a guy without a ticket and he looked scared when they hauled him off the bus), and in Budapest CONSTANTLY (seriously - don't even think of "riding black" in Budapest). I know I'm forgetting some places, too. One thing you didn't mention, but I've seen come up elsewhere: "I see that all the locals don't have tickets, so it must not be a problem to ride black." What you are seeing is that the locals aren't buying or validating tickets for that individual ride. They do have them, in the form of monthly passes, that don't need to be purchased or validated before each trip. When the inspectors come around, they all pull out their passes, and if you didn't buy and validate a ticket properly, you'll be in trouble. Of course, some locals do ride black - see the opening of Run Lola Run for proof. And if you think I'm exaggerating about Budapest, they've made a whole movie about Budapest ticket inspectors - Kontroll. Both are good movies for reasons other than their transit education value, as well.

Posted by
2949 posts

Tom, what do you mean by railpasses? Because Eurail and German passes are valid on all ICE trains except for the ICE-Sprinter - and even then they're valid, you just need an additional reservation. Regional passes and schoenes wochende tickets aren't valid on the ICE trains (which I legit didn't know the first time I used one! Luckily the DB were understanding and let us off with a warning) but everything else is. I find that on actual regional transit (i.e. not within-city transit like U-Bahn and S-Bahn) tickets are almost always checked. There's only been once or twice when they weren't. If you're on a high speed train, it WILL be checked. And regional trains almost always. With city/suburban transit, it's rare. I've had to show my ticket maybe 5 or 6 times in the year and a half I've lived in Stuttgart, and I take the U-Bahn at least every other day. And it's never been checked while traveling to other cities that use the honor system. And I know of people who don't buy tickets, because they've averaged out that the 40 Euro fine they get occassionally would add to the same amount as the tickets they'd have to pay for. I think that sucks, though. It kills me when I miss a train because I have to buy a ticket, but I'm just too scared of being caught, and making Americans look bad. I'm a guest in this country and I want to represent myself well. That means following the rules.

Posted by
2916 posts

Someone mentioned validation of tickets. I think a lot of people, particularly tourists, forget to validate their tickets, or just don't realize they have to. That happened to me many years ago on a French SNCF train. The ticket taker told me to make sure to do it in the future, at those machines at the entrance to the platform. On trams and buses where you have to do that as you enter the vehicle, the press of passengers often makes it difficult. On the same tram in Bordeaux where I saw a woman seated near me get fined for not having a ticket, several people had a ticket but hadn't validated it, and were told to do so. But it seems the authorities are pretty forgiving about validation.

Posted by
2828 posts

Ticket inspections in Netherlands are quite frequent. Now, cheating is more difficult because of the obligation to use an RFID card to pay for all urban transportation (even paper ticket for intercity trains will be phased out in 2013).

Posted by
265 posts

In the eighties in Copenhagen, fines were not very high and checks quite infrequent. This lead some people to speculate in not paying and just pay the fine when caught. And it was a good deal not to pay. Actually even clubs were made, where people pooled for each others' fines. This was cheaper than paying for transportation. The transport companies then rised the fines and made checks more frequent, so now, very few do not pay. The fine for cheating in Copenhagen bus, trains or metro is now DKK750, equivalent to 125 USD, and checks are quite frequent. I would estimate that you are checked on one in 5 rides. The moral: Don't do it!

Posted by
337 posts

" And I know of people who don't buy tickets, because they've averaged out that the 40 Euro fine they get occassionally would add to the same amount as the tickets they'd have to pay for. " I apologize for the following lecture, but that kind of thinking pushes one of my buttons. The 40 Euro they pay isn't technically a "fine" in the criminal sense, it's an "increased transportation fee." That's purely a matter of civil contract law, not of criminal law. And if that were the only cost persistent fare dodging would produce, their calculation would probably be correct. Unfortunately for them however the German legislator opted to make fare evasion an actual criminal offense. It's § 265a of the German Penal Code to be precise. And that offense isn't some kind of puny infraction eigther the theoretical maximum punishment is one year in jail. That will almost never happen, but true criminal fines are way higher than 40 Euro. To be sure the offense needs "intent," so for a single case "I don't know how this ticket business works!" or "I forgot my monthly pass at home!" are valid defenses. But case law has well established that repeated offenses are prima facie evidence of intent. In other words: if one routinely engages in fare evasion the long term costs are - 40 Euro "increased fare" for each time caught, - additional criminal fines (of approximately one to three months of income) for every time caught beyond the third to fifth time, and - the resulting criminal rap sheet (with all the hassle this entails), and
- most likely a ban from the premises of the public transport provider (and the resulting charge(s) of trespass if ignored). It's simply not a profitable long term strategy, even for a totally amoral Homo economicus...

Posted by
2799 posts

Yes you REALLY have to buy tickets for regional trains and buses. You are paying for a service. Whether anyone checks them or not is irrelevant.