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Taxis and transit apps for Belgium/Germany

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    Taxis and transit apps for Belgium/Germany

    I finally rescheduled my trip to Belgium and northern Germany, which fell through last fall. And because of my new Project Fi phone, I am supposed to have a working smartphone with a data plan while I'm there, which will make things easier.

    So, according to news reports I've seen, Germany doesn't like Uber so much. I'm not sure about Belgium. Are there any Uber-like apps that can be used to call a taxi? Or do people hail taxis in the street or go to cab stands? I mostly walk places, but sometimes it is easier to take a cab, particularly if the weather is bad.

    I'm looking into the German Rail Pass*, which seems like a good deal. And this leads to my second question: What is the best way to research train timetables and details? Apps I've tried so far:
    • Rail Planner - Offline Timetable for Eurail and InterRail Passes - very easy to use for an English speaker. Offline, of course, which is nice. But it doesn't include all trains. For example, when I looked up Dresden to Görlitz, it offers nothing, while this route clearly exists according to the Deutsch-Bahn site.
    • DB Navigator - seems like the official app from Deutsch Bahn; not offline
    • Rome2rio - a general search site for travel all over the world. I wouldn't trust it without verifying with a more official source, but it seems pretty accurate, and offers greatly useful general info, such as telling you that trains leave hourly from a given place, or providing an overview of options (bus, train, airplane, rideshare...)


    I will keep these on my phone, but please let me know if I'm missing anything obvious, that would also be helpful.

    Danke!


    ----
    * One note about the German Rail Pass: it doesn't seem cheaper than buying point-to-point, individual tickets, but it does seem a lot easier for an English speaker who will be unfamiliar with how to use the German ticket machines. I've discovered in my travels that having a stress-free experience makes me a lot happier.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 01-10-2016, 05:59 AM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

    #2
    So funny: when ever I see a question about Germany it feels like I should be able to answer them. But often enough I find that I cant either because I do not know the region or I do not use much public transportation.

    As for Taxis: there are "picup-aerias" in front of bigger touristy sights like the trainstation, museums... You fo to the first Taxi in the row and enter. Or any receptionist will call you one. If you see a Taxi driveing by with the taxi-sign glowing you can wave it over.

    Sadly I have not traveld by train much in the last years. If I want to I go to DB Bahn: bahn.de - Ihr Mobilitätsportal für Reisen, Bahn, Urlaub, Hotels, Städtereisen und Mietwagen they have in the top row a pulldown which shows a worldmap and Deutschland (Germany). There you can select English version of that webside.


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    By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

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      #3
      Taxis and transit apps for Belgium/Germany

      Ha totally new to tabatalk... Premeture send.

      On the left side you can enter where you are, where you want to go and when. Than it will give you options. On big trainstations announcments will be in English also. We are very pro English so you will have NO problems. Just speak slowley because for most people the tempo is the main issue in inderstanding diffeculties.

      Oh how exiting!!

      Hope this helps
      Ilkyway


      Gesendet von iPhone mit Tapatalk
      “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

      By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

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        #4
        Thanks, @ilkyway!
        It has been raining all weekend so I buried myself in the travel research. It is very exciting for me!
        Part of my reason for wanting to take the trains in Belgium and Germany is to see how efficient they are. We don't have anything like it in my country! We have a decent train system up and down our East Coast, but it does not connect all over the country like the German rails do.
        Beth
        ----
        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
        Edmund Burke

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          #5
          For some reason, the apps never seem to work as well as the actual websites.

          DB Bahn is probably the best resource for European timetables. I use the actual website. In fact, when researching any train trip in Europe I first go to DB BAhn to look at the schedule and will then go to that country's train website for pricing.

          Rome2Rio is also excellent just be aware that for some complicated routes, it doesn't always give the best directions.

          As for taxis......any large hotel or major tourist site will probably have a taxi stand. I don't know of any apps.

          In regard to the pass, if point to point is cheaper you might want to reconsider. The ticket machines should have a choice of language with English being one of them. (And with point to point you have a choice of first or second class. With a pass only first class.)

          My suggestion would be to go over to the Rick Steves Travel Boards and you will find real experts regarding trains in Germany and Belgium. They will tell you anything you need to know. TripAdvisor's forum is another good resource.
          Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers.

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            #6
            Thanks, Frank! This is very helpful.
            Yes, I'm confirming anything Rome to Rio tells me with the DB Bahn site. It has a very nice interface but I don't completely trust it.
            The pass I'd be getting is from Germany rather than Eurail. They do offer the choice of first or second class. I will have to go back and compare costs of the two methods. The cheapest point to point tickets are the advance fares, and I don't want to commit to certain times in case my plans change.
            And I agree that the Rick Steves site is wonderful. I posted a question there and received a lot of useful feedback. And I'm learning quite a bit reading other threads.
            ----
            All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
            Edmund Burke

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              #7
              If you want the freedom to go as you please, then a pass may be the way. Compare full fare point to point tickets to the cost of the pass and see if there is a big difference.

              If you face a long train ride from Belgium to Germany, not sure which cities you are traveling between, don't forget the discount air carriers. It may be cheaper to fly than to train.

              I'm putting together my own 9 week jaunt in Europe this spring and then another 9-10 weeks in the fall. I'm learning it's sometimes better to spend a little more to make travel a little easier. It helps relieve some of the stress.
              Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers.

              Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

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                #8
                The German ticket prices are sooooo complex that we Germans do not understand them. You always have the "standard" fee which is what you get at one of these ticket machines but than there are a ton of ways to save money and they are all complicated. I think with a (second class) "go wherever you like ticket" you are better off.

                "Funfact" we have a kind if commitee of Deutsche Bahn customers (Pro-Bahn) and they just recently stated again, that the ticket priceing is way too complicated with way too many choices.

                Ilkyway


                Sent from my phone
                “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

                By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

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                  #9
                  That's reassuring, @Ilkyway. I am glad I am not the only one confused! Actually the Deutsche Bahn site is quite good once I have practiced with it for a while.
                  I did compare the pricing for the German Rail Pass to the option for buying each ticket at the time of travel, and it does seem like the pass will save money. Our famous travel guru Rick Steves recommends the German Rail Pass, too. So I'm going to buy it.
                  ----
                  All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
                  Edmund Burke

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I definitely saved money with a rail pass last May. I was traveling with a partner so we got a 5-day "twin" pass that gave us five trips in 30 days for 260 Euros (check the "offers" page to see if there are any promos that work for you - the one we got was for non-EU residents and had to be mailed but it arrived quickly). I roughly worked out the travel days ahead of time and only counted long distance travel towards what I would need on the pass - I figured we'd pay for short hops as needed. We did a big southern loop of Heidelberg>Freiburg>Munich>Nuremberg>Frankfurt and some of those tickets were close to 100 Euros each. The pass allows you to get on any train, including the ICE (high-speed) trains. While there ARE saver fares with low rates, they are for specific trains at specific times and having the freedom to get on the next available train was worth every penny. Especially when the train drivers went on strike and trains and saver fares were cut (though one train was so packed, they didn't check tickets at all).

                    I used the DB Bahn website for general planning, but the kiosks in the train station were the most helpful. When I got to a station, I would take a moment to punch in my next travel day/destination and print off a couple of different train options (they print on handy little passport-sized cards). The day before travel, I'd double check the website to make sure my first choice was still running (see: train driver strike). I'd still check at a kiosk in the station just before traveling to make sure there hadn't been any platform changes. I bumbled through the touch screen the first time, but quickly got the hang of the options (with "English" being the first button I pressed).

                    Second-class was really nice, but you probably got that from Rick Steves as well. I was impressed with the ease of travel, even during the strike.

                    I'm glad you're finally taking the trip! When are you going?

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                      #11
                      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, @binje! It's good to know about the kiosk printouts. With the exception of one long overland stretch, for which I decided to take an EasyJet rather than an overnight train, I LOVE the idea of train travel. I definitely think the pass is the way to go. And I was super-excited to discover that Deutsche Bahn has a dedicated English-speaking customer service section, so I was able to call directly and ask some questions.

                      But someone needs to pat me on the head and reassure me, in a deep soothing voice, that there will be no strikes while I am in Germany. Also, please, not on my Lufthansa flight home. Those pilots seem to strike at the drop of a hat.

                      I'll be there mid- to late-March. Can't wait! I already have lists of places people have recommended me to see -- more than is humanly possible, but I'll try.
                      ----
                      All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
                      Edmund Burke

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                        #12
                        For taxis, I remember sometimes that if I called a taxi and said "come now", the meter started running when the driver was on his way to me. So it was better to go to a taxi stand. The exception was if I called a taxi to go to the airport, and reserved it in advance, then the meter started at zero.

                        All the train ticket kiosks I used in Germany had an English option (tap the British flag).

                        I always spent a few extra Euros to make a specific seat reservation. I hate walking through a crowded train looking for a seat. On the DB web site you will see a "seat reservation only" option.

                        Even when Lufthansa strikes, often mainly the German city to German city flights are affected. A lot of times the long haul flights to the US still run.

                        For the DB strikes, I recommend using your best "these aren't the droids you are looking for" voice to say "these aren't the days you want to strike" My local S-bahn would strike when DB strikes. But still they ran 1 train an hour instead of the normal 2 or 3, so I wasn't completely out of luck.

                        And you probably know this but just in case... remember to check public holidays. Some are national, some are state by state. You are hitting Bavaria and Baden Würtemberg at least it seems. So be aware many stores will be closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday both (and stores are often closed Sundays). Grocery shopping around Easter always took planning... I could go Thursday, then again Saturday, and then stores reopened on Tuesday. https://www.bundesbank.de/Redaktion/...ublicationFile
                        What's better than o-rings? More o-rings.

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                          #13
                          I didn't know that about the English customer service - that's good information. The strike wasn't bad - it only affected one union, so trains still ran. Just less frequent and more crowded at times. I'm sure your trip will be strike-free, though.

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                            #14
                            Google Maps (which has transit directions) and the DB app are the best overall. Don't bother with the "DB Ticket" app.

                            Figure out the transit authority for each city/region you're visiting and look for their app. Sometimes they will have more specific information and/or the ability to buy tickets via the app. This is especially useful if you're not sure if/when you'll be taking a local train or bus—when it happens, just open the app and buy a ticket and you're all set, no need to find exact change or a ticket machine.

                            This app Ally - Your local transport app works well in Cologne, for example, but it doesn't cover a whole lot of cities. Nice interface, though.

                            For offline maps, I like Galileo the best and I've tried a bunch. Unfortunately if you make custom Google maps you have to import then manually, they don't automatically update, and the icons won't match. My Pins has that functionality, but it's not offline and has some other quirks, so you might as well use the official Google Maps app if you want icons and live updating (e.g. if you add/remove points of interest during the trip, or if you carefully organize POIs into restaurants/sights/etc).

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                              #15
                              bchaplin, you travel a lot so you probably know this, but for those more new to foreign travel...

                              This doesn't help with your long distance travel question, but for travel within a city I love the public transport info from good old Google Maps. Put in your starting point and destination, and it tells you which U-bahn (subway) line to take, IN WHICH DIRECTION (key information I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to write down when I am reading a map), and how many stops you are going.

                              I usually research this at home/hotel. Then I take a screen shot on my phone, so I don't even need to be online when I need the information.

                              I also set up custom walking tours with Google Maps. I put in things I want to see. Then I rearrange them til they are in an order I like, usually without too much backtracking. I forget how many stops you can add to the itinerary, maybe it's 9? Make sure you choose the pedestrian option so that it gives you an estimated walking time. Then I mentally add in how much time I plan on spending at each location and that's how I plan my day.

                              Of course I remain open to serendipity and the wonderful discovery en route, but I find this helps me maximize my limited time in a city.
                              What's better than o-rings? More o-rings.

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