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How are fines collected?

Just a curious question: the RS guidebooks reference not to ride this train/tram/u-bahn etc without a valid ticket or else you'd pay a hefty fine given to you by plainclothes inspectors. My Q is: how would they ever possibly collect this fine? If I dont have a passport or ID on me and no Euros, what are they going to do? Demand that I return to my hotel and provide it to them? Take me to a police station? Dont get me wrong, I'm not planning on going abroad & breaking the rules on purpose, but i was just wondering how they ever make these fines "stick". It's bound to happen that youre in a foreign country, where you probably cant read or speak the language, and you dont have the right kind of pass, or think its covered by youyr railpass and its NOT, etc.....

Posted by
32244 posts

Ashley, Hypothetically speaking of course, there could be various consequences for not having a ticket or reservation for the train you're riding on (some of which I've observed). > Ejected from the train at the next stop. If you don't have any funds on you, it could be "problematic" to get where you're going or even back to your Hotel. > From what I saw last year, it won't be a "plainclothes inspector" but rather a uniformed Conductor that you'll be dealing with. Many these days are carrying wireless debit / credit card terminals so if you have ANY kind of card on you, you'll have to pay an expensive fine on the spot! > Especially close to border areas, there are often Police on the trains, so flaunting the rules could have some "unpleasant consequences" that will NOT be a pleasant travel experience. I suspect they DON'T CARE that visitors are in a foreign country and can't speak the language. The assumption is that if you're travelling there, you should know the rules. As the old saying goes "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Someone posted here recently that the officials in Italy especially are "cracking down" on this sort of thing. Whatever action is taken will be unpleasant. Cheers!

Posted by
188 posts

Just curious about this "hypothetical" question. Why would you ever leave your hotel without some sort of ID and some cash or means to access to cash (ATM card etc)? As for the fine collection, I did have a local tour guide in Prague tell me if that I could not pay on the spot, I would be escorted to the police station and allowed to make a call.

Posted by
16695 posts

Yes, they do make the fines "stick". My guess is they would take you into custody if you have no ID and no means of paying the legitimate fine. Leaving your ID and cash/ATM card/CC all in the hotel is a really BAD idea.

Posted by
19149 posts

What do you think would happen to you in this country if you were caught speeding, say 20 over, and you didn't have a drivers license or any other form of ID?

Posted by
91 posts

Fyi, my main objective here was to find out how to deal with the situation should it occur (which it hasnt in the past) but simply trying to be the most informed traveler I can be, by hearing of other's experiences. The last thing I want to do is break the rules, and I also know ignorance of the law is never an excuse -- and I would never play that card...but we all know what happens to the "best laid plans" whist traveling...

Posted by
19149 posts

According to Wikipedia (for what it is worth) many European countries require citizens, and particularly foreigners, to have ID on them at all times. If you are in one of those countries and you don't have a ticket and then tell the official you also don't have an ID, you have probably just committed another fine-able offense. I found this on the State Dept website, " In Switzerland it is expected that citizens and visitors carry an I.D. and/or a passport. Should the police stop you, and you are without an I.D., it is possible that you may be taken in for questioning."

Posted by
6898 posts

Once on an Italian train, a person across the way did not have a valid ticket. He was fined 50E on the spot. He paid it and no further issue. In Venice, the police occasionally ride the vaporettos to do spot checks for valid tickets. Its my understanding that if caught, the police will fine you on the spot. If not enough money, they will escort you to the nearest ATM for you to withdraw the cash. I read this last part in the paper.

Posted by
9363 posts

"i was curious how you would dispute the fine if they told you it was a 50 Euro fine, but youre just sure that the RS guidebook (edition 2011) said only 20 Euro....?" This question seems to imply that someone attempting to collect a fine might try to charge you more than is legally due. The RS guidebook is as accurate as possible when it goes to print. But even if you have the newest edition, fines and other prices can change at any time. Just because you see them in a guidebook, it doesn't mean that that is the final authority, or that there is any guarantee that it won't be more at the time of your offense.

Posted by
6788 posts

Many years ago, on my first trip to Europe, I was driving in Spain and was pulled over by a policeman. He said I violated some traffic regulation and demanded I pay a hefty fine on the spot. This was before I had credit cards (and before their use and acceptance was so ubiquitous). It was also before the advent of a common currency. I had just driven into Spain from France, and I protested that 1. I was an ignorant (but respectful) foreign visitor. 2. I had no money to pay the fine - only travelers checks in US dollars, and a handful of leftover Francs in my pocket. He would have none of that. I had to pay the fine, in Spanish Pesetas, or else he would take me to jail (although I pretended otherwise, I actually spoke Spanish pretty well, so when he started talking about el carcel I understood what he was threatening). Despite my protesting and pleading for mercy, he insisted. We drove to the nearest town (his police car following immediately behind me), found a bank that would cash my travelers check, and I paid the fine (yes, I did request a receipt, and got one). I was quite convinced that if I did not pay, I would have gone to jail, at least for a while, and that was not part of my plan. Breaking the law - any law - in a foreign country is not something to be taken lightly. Imagine yourself a foreign visitor here, and a cop stops you for a violation. Imagine the cop is having a bad day. Imagine the things that could happen next.

Posted by
960 posts

I've cleaned out a few of the comments on this thread. While this question just avoids our guideline referring to not helping anyone break the law, she poses a legit travel question. There were not any particularly damning comments here, but some of them could have been perceived as being disrespectful. I also removed some comments that were no longer pertinent after the questionable content was removed. Thanks, as always, for the many helpful comments from our community.

Posted by
171 posts

This happened to me in Basel, coming from Germany with no Swiss francs to put in the automatic ticket machine. My sister and i were approached by a pair of uniformed guards with the demeanor of INTERPOL agents. There is nothing, no excuse, no good reason, NOTHING you can do to avoid paying the fine, which was 40 euros. It was our own fault for taking the advice of a couple of local teenagers who told us that people did it all the time (not pay the fare). It was pretty upsetting.

Posted by
16695 posts

I've never (at least in the last few years) met an automatic ticket machine that didn't take credit or debit cards. The ones in the Zurich train station also take euros. Yet another reason to carry your credit card and not leave it behind. But to turn this into a helpful discussion, we can talk about the situation when you absolutely cannot buy a ticket, even if you have the correct currency and/or credit card. This can happen at small unmanned stations or trackside stops, when the ticket machine is out of order. The trains will be local or regional trains. If this happens, get on the train and go find the conductory-don't wait for him or her to come to you. Explain that the ticket machine was out of order, and ask if you can buy a ticket now. This has worked for us (and the need was legitimate). Same with the vaporetto in Venice-you may be at a stop with no one at the window for buying a ticket. As you board the vaporetto, say to the boarding official "senza biglietti" (without a ticket) and make sure he or she acknowledges you. Then wait nearby and they will come around and sell you a ticket. Again, this has worked for us, no fine applied. On the other hand, watch out for the Swiss trains with the big yellow "eye" symbol. These are "SelbstKontrolle" or honor system. You are expected to have a ticket before boarding and there is no way to buy one on board. They rarely check tickets, but if they do, there is a whopping fine. The train from the Zurich airport to the main station is this type (but there is no excuse for boarding without a ticket, as the machines are all working and the ticket windows manned nearly round the clock.)

Posted by
4535 posts

I expect it's quite common. At least the part where tourists don't have a valid ticket. The not having ID or money is unrealistic. But it's feasible to not have enough cash. But to answer the question based on my observations and experiences, when fined you are expected to pay on the spot. Sometimes officials will let it slide if you're just a tourist, especially say if you have a ticket but didn't know to validate it. But it depends on where you are and the personality of the official. If you can't pay, expect to be at a minimum kicked off the train/bus and very likely escorted to the police station. If you're short on cash, they will escort you to an ATM or now they often have portable CC machines. Scams can occur (or corruption) so always demand to see identification and if you're the only one they check be suspicious. Ask for a receipt. If you really think it might be a scam, simply demand to go to the police station to sort it out and get a translator.

Posted by
1579 posts

My sister got a fine on the Rome metro. She had a ticket but was holding it against a sweating water bottle and it would not read in the inspector's machine. She had the choice, pay up on the spot or go to the police station. She paid (and got a receipt). She saw the same thing happen to an Italian family.

Posted by
76 posts

Something similair happened to us once when we traveled from Florence to Monterosso du Mare. If I remember correctly, we had bought Intercity tickets and accidently got on a faster Reginal train. When the uniformed conductor came around to check tickets he caught it and only charged us the difference in ticket price. (Like 21 Euros total) An innocent mistake, but I was happy no additional fine was imposed.

Posted by
813 posts

I ride the city train a few times a week in Stuttgart, Germany and they check 1 in 5 times I'm on the train, both regional and city ones. For the most part, 3-5 plain clothes people will walk on the train, once the doors close they announce who they are, whip out their ID and start moving through the car checking tickets. Just FYI, they are plainly armed. When they find someone with a problem, students with expired passes usually, they fine them to pay on the spot, let them get off to buy another ticket, etc. In other instances I've seen them escort people off the train.....not sure what happens to them. Germans are required to carry ID at all times, so if you're an adult, have no money and no ID and are riding the train with no ticket, and the ticket checkers come across you, you're most likely going to have a conversation with the Polizei, escorted by armed ticket checkers.

Posted by
91 posts

Thank for the info, Kathy, and everyone else! I am just trying to know what to expect as far as how the tickets will be checked, etc..... I will make sure to keep mine safe and secure and away from sweaty water bottles and the like!

Posted by
337 posts

Germans are required to carry ID at all times No, we're not. (At least not in Germany)

Posted by
83 posts

Over the years I have observed travelers try to negotiate themselves out of these situations. Forget about it.

Posted by
4535 posts

John - while I don't condone informing people here of how to avoid the law - I can admit I have frequently talked my way out of ticket fines (metro and the sort - not full fledged rail). It's all a matter of where you are and the mood of the checker. Some places are non-negotiable, but not all...