last updated January 18, 2018
is such a
compact country that, unless you're going from Munich to Hamburg,
taking the train will probably be the more convenient and
(in my opinion) enjoyable mode of transport. In general,
travel is geared mainly toward business travelers and therefore flying
is not generally a popular means of travel within Germany. However, you
will most likely arrive in and depart from Germany by air,
and you may need to make a short hop from your initial arrival point
(probably Frankfurt) to some other destination, or vice-versa, so
here's what you'll need to know.
On this page:
Overcoming jet lag
are 35 or
so commercial passenger airports (Flughafen) in
Frankfurt and Munich being the two biggest. Altogether, over
million passengers were facilitated by German airports in 2014, with
just under 100
million of those in Frankfurt and Munich alone. Düsseldorf,
Berlin-Tegel, and Hamburg, also had over 10 million
passengers each, with Stuttgart just under that threshold.
airport to consolidate Berlin's two
remaining airports is being built adjacent to the existing
Schönefeld Airport. Originally scheduled to open in 2010, a
series of construction problems, mismanagement, and corruption have
delayed the opening repeatedly. Corrective and retrofitting
work now underway will likely prevent an opening any time before 2019. The project has sadly been nothing short of a national
embarassment for a country known for its efficiency and oversight.
(Photo by FMG)
Germany are operated by government-franchised private companies. The
company that operates Frankfurt airport also operates several other
airports around the world.
airports are generally clean and efficient and feature the
typical duty-free shops, restaurants,
bars, car rental agencies, conference centers, banks, and other
services one would expect to find in modern western airports.
Frankfurt's airport even boasts such services as a
supermarket, clinic, dentist, and kennel.
Arriving in Germany is fairly simple and
you arrive on an international flight, you will be directed from the
arrival gate first to passport control (Passkontrolle).
you are from the US or other non-European nation, use the "Non-EU
National" line. After having your passport stamped, you will
proceed to baggage claim. Once you collect your bags, you
through the customs area (Zoll). If you
have something to
declare, use the lane with the red sign. Otherwise, proceed
through the lane with the green sign where you will alight in the
landside area of the terminal. If you are meeting someone,
is likely where they will be waiting for you.
you are the
one meeting someone who is flying in, remember that the airside section
of German airports is highly secure and only ticketed passengers and
airport workers are allowed in the gate areas and concourses, so you
will have to meet your party in the landside area of the
To do so, check the arrivals board (marked Ankunft)
get to the airport to determine which arrivals exit your party will be
using, then wait near there for them. If the green lights
the flight on the arrival board are flashing, it means that the flight
has arrived. Alternatively, you can plan to have your party
you at an officially designated meeting point (Treffpunkt)
in most airports.
(Photo by Stuttgart Flughafen GmbH)
While arriving is pretty easy, flying out of a German airport
much more elaborate. First, you should plan on arriving at
two hours before your flight.
at the airport for an outbound flight, you will first need to check the
flight information displays (marked Abflug) for two
information: the check-in counter (Schalter) numbers
gate number (Flugsteig) for your flight, as well as
status of the flight. If the green lights next to your flight
flashing, it can mean that they've either started check-in or started
boarding depending on where you are in the airport.
ticketing and check-in counters are numbered. The numbers are
usually located above the counter. You must use one of the
counters noted on the flight information display for your flight and
can only do so when check-in for your flight is open.
Usually, several counters handle check-in for all flights for an
airline, but sometimes specific flights must check-in at a specific
tight, especially for international flights, and you will have to go
through several layers of security checking. Be prepared to
"20 questions" with several airline and airport security
personnel. You will be asked repeatedly about your luggage
travel plans. Unfortunately, sometimes the questioning takes
the rather no-nonsense tone of an interrogation, but just answer their
questions accurately and politely and you'll soon be on your
way. Don't worry if
you don't speak German-- you can ask to be questioned in another
your counter, you will begin the security screening and check-in
process. Sometimes there will be someone at the head of the
who asks you all the relevant security questions. You will then proceed
to the ticketing and baggage check-in. From there, proceed
the designated concourse or entry area for your gate. You
then encounter the first hurdle: the main security checkpoint (Sicherheitskontrolle).
Only ticketed passengers are allowed past the security checkpoint, so
you will be asked to show your boarding pass. Then, go
the familiar metal detector or body scanner and baggage x-ray
area. If you are on an
international flight, you will then be required to show your passport
to an immigration officer. From here, you can now proceed to
gate. In Germany, only passengers on the next flight leaving
a gate are typically allowed into the enclosed gate waiting area (Warteraum).
In some circumstances, once you are in the gate waiting area, you
cannot leave; be sure to take care of any last-minute shopping or "bio"
needs (you know what I mean) before you enter the waiting
Upon entering the waiting area, you will be asked for your boarding
pass and might have to go through one more security
From the waiting area, you will either board the plane directly or
board a bus that will transport you to the plane located further out on
the tarmac (German airports use bus gates much more than most other
Besides rental cars, there are usually a plethora of public
transportation options to get from the airport to the central city or
beyond. Listed below are the major German commercial
airports with connection information to the central railway station (Hauptbahnhof,
"Hbf"), city center, or other important destinations as
indicated. The major international airports are
highlighted. Because you will most likely encounter
airport in your travels to Germany, I have included a special write-up
on it below the other listings. Be sure to see my pages about
renting a car,
public transport, taxis,
and rail transport
for further details of using
those transportation options.
information was correct as of May 2016 and is subject to change
without notice. Check the websites of the individual airports
(links at the bottom of this page) for up-to-date information.
Approx Travel Time
|| Bus 109
and X9 every 5-10 min. to Bahnhof Zoo, or
transfer to U7 at
Jakob-Kaiser-Platz for other city locations
|| Bus 128
to Kurt-Schumacher-Platz every 10 min.,
then U6 to central
TXL to various city locations every 10-20 min.
service, approx. €20
Express (RE7/RB14) to Hbf and other central
every 30 min., S-Bahn S9 to eastern Berlin or S45 to southern
Berlin every 10 min., or RB22 to Potsdam
|| Bus X7
or 171 to Rudow every 10 min., then U7 to central Berlin
services from airport station
service to Berlin, approx. €40
|| Tram 6
to Hbf every 10 min.
service, approx. €10
S2 to Hbf and Neustadt every 30 min
|| Bus 77
to Infineon Nord station every 20 min., then
Tram 7 to Hbf
service, approx. €18
S11 to Hbf every 20-30 min. from station under terminal
services from airport station (reached via
service to Düsseldorf (approx. €20), Essen (approx.
€48), Duisburg (approx. €43), and other area towns
special section below
S1 to Hbf every 10 min.
service, approx. €20 (agree on price in advance)
S5 to Hannover Hbf every 30 min.
|| Bus 470
to Langenhagen every
service, approx. €20
km SE of Cologne
S13 or S19 to Köln Hbf every 15 min.
services from airport station
|| Bus SB
60 "Airport Express" to Bonn Hbf
every 30 min.
service to Köln (approx. €25), Bonn (approx. €40) and
other area towns
km NW of Leipzig
S5 to Leipzig Hbf or Halle Hbf every 10 min.
services from airport station
service to Leipzig and Halle, approx. €35
Franz Joseph Strauss
S1 or S8 to Hbf every 10 min.
AirportBus to Schwabing Nord and Hbf every 20 min.
service, approx. €50
U2 to Nürnberg Hbf every 15 min.
|| U-Bahn U2 to Röthenbach, then R-Bahn R2 or S-Bahn S1 to Erlangen
service, approx. €20
|| Bus R10
to Hbf every hour
service, approx. €20
S2 or S3 to Hbf every 15 min.
service, approx. €30
International (Rhein-Main) Airport
(Photo by Fraport AG)
Serving over 64
million passengers in 2017, Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport (FRA), also
known as Frankfurt International Airport, is Germany's busiest
airport and 13th busiest worldwide.
For a long time Europe's second busiest, it has slipped to fourth in
Europe behind London
Heathrow, Paris CDG, and Amsterdam Schiphol. In addition to
being the world hub for Lufthansa,
Rhein-Main is served by 103 other airlines with about 700 daily
departures to 297 destinations in 104 countries-- the most
international destinations of any airport. Transfers account
over half of the passenger count, making FRA one of the world's most
important international air hubs.
superlatives, it should be no surprise that the gargantuan facility is
currently operating near capacity. A new runway that opened
and an expansion of concourse A completed in 2012
have helped alleviate congestion and provided room for the
airport's continued growth. Construction is also
underway for a
future third terminal to be located on the southern side of the airport
on the former US Air Force base; it is expected to open in
2022. Additionally, FRA was the first
airport in the world to be certified for the monster Airbus A380
superjumbo jet; the aforementioned concourse A expansion as well as
the recently-upgraded concourse D both have gates designed to
facilitate the A380.
is a second "Frankfurt" airport, the much smaller Frankfurt-Hahn, which
is used exclusively by discount airlines. Calling it Frankfurt-Hahn
is a cruel trick, however, as it is laughably located 105 km (65 miles)
Frankfurt and is actually closer to Luxembourg and Bonn than
Located just 9 km (6 miles) southwest of downtown
minutes by rail, a little longer by car), the airport is a monolith
comprised of two terminals and a small city of support
1, which opened in 1972 and got much-needed expansions in the
'90s, 2008, and again around 2012, is the larger of the two terminals
with 103 gates crammed into three multi-level
A/Z, B, and C. There are five levels:
0 is the
underground regional rail station and shopping arcade
1 is the
arrivals/baggage claim level
2 is the check-in and main
3 is an additional international departures
gate level in concourse A (gates there are designated as "Z"
instead of "A") and the arrivals immigration area in
4 is the level for the inter-terminal Sky Line
airy Terminal 2, which opened in
has 42 gates in two concourses labeled D and E on three levels, labeled
to correspond to the levels in Terminal 1:
2 is the arrivals, check-in, and European departures level
3 is the international departures gate level
4 is the Sky
Line train station
waiting area at Frankfurt Airport
areas and check-in counters carry the concourse letter followed by the
number (i.e. Gate C5, Counter A202, etc.) The letter is
dropped from the numbers on signs at the check-in counters, but not at
the gates. When looking for your gate, follow the signs for
lettered concourse first, then look for signs for the gate number once
you reach that concourse. On some signs (but not all), the
concourse letters for Terminal 1 are in orange while those in Terminal
2 are in light blue.
non-European international gates on the upper level of
concourse A were relabeled as "Z" in late 2011. This
ostensibly to create logical numbering capacity for the concourse A
addition that opened in 2012.
divided into the public landside area and the secure airside
area. To enter the secure area, you must have a valid
card and pass through the security screening. The airside
the airport is further divided into two control zones: the "Schengen
zone" for domestic German and most European flights, and the "transit
zone" for international flights. (The Schengen Agreement
for travel between most European countries without passport
controls.) To move between these zones, you must go through
a passport checkpoint. Unfortunately, having these
different zones does confuse things a bit. Most of level 2 of
concourse 1/A, the front half of concourse 1/B, the far end of
and level 2 of Terminal 2 are in the Schengen zone; the remainder of
the airport is in the international transit zone. For the
part, the airport is arranged so that you only have to pass
through passport control if you are crossing between
are connecting from one international flight to another, you should not
have to pass through any immigration checkpoints. However, be
there are additional security checkpoints within the secure zone,
and flights to some countries (including the US) may require an
additional security screening even if you are just
connecting, so be prepared to go through an
unexpected security check.
airport overview map
(Full-size map available from Frankfurt Airport's website; see links
good and is in both German and English along with spiffy international
pictograms; blue signs for the concourses, gates, and other
destinations, gray signs for services. But because there are
many possible destinations and routes to get there, you have to keep a
sharp eye out and know what
you're looking for or you may miss that sign.
Here's what someone said on a travel forum that captures the
signs. Don't think. Don't apply logic.
Just follow the sign. You
will get to your destination. You might have to go through
2-3 times, customs, passport control, tunnels, escalators, elevators,
stairs and you feel that you have just walked to your final
destination. But under no circumstances try to make sense of
it. You will only get lost."
Signage at Frankfurt Airport
large and complex airport, distances can be long-- really long in some
especially if you have to change terminals or concourses. If
gate is at the end of the 1/A or 1/Z concourses, or if you use the
long-distance rail station (or both of the
above), get ready for a long hike, even with the moving
walkways. A walk from the far end of concourse 1/A to the
opposite end of concourse 2/E is a distance of 2.6 km (1.6
number of options to get between the terminals. The fastest
method is the Sky Line train, which whisks you between the terminals in
about 2 minutes; stations are located in concourses 1/AZ, 1/B and
Terminal 2. There is also a free shuttle bus which takes
minutes; catch it in front of the terminals. Of course, you
also walk. There are several walkways and passages
will get you between the concourses, including a tunnel between
concourses 1/AZ and 1/B (use the elevators near gates A15 and B19.)
are several information counters around the terminals to help you with
employees dressed in red uniforms. As
places, the competence and disposition of the staff can vary widely,
but most of the time you'll find helpful and informative workers (if
not overly friendly) who speak English and other languages.
If you encounter
unusually surly or obviously lacking the information you need, just go
find someone else. Keep in mind that German service workers
inherently dispense with pleasantries-- Germans typically regard overt
cheerfulness as fake or feigned. The biggest complaints about
rudeness seem to be about the security personnel, so just be
cooperative and impassive and you'll be on your way.
terminal capacity issues, many short and medium haul flights use remote
parking spots away from the terminal and passengers are bused between
the plane and terminal. In fact, about half of the airport's
gates are these so-called "stand" gates.
of the quirks
about this airport is that there seems to be passageways, gates, and
service facilities tucked into obscure nooks and crannies everywhere,
so much so that it really can feel like a disorganized labyrinth.
This is especially true in Terminal 1 which has been expanded
and reorganized several
times over the years. Many
require you to go up or down a dedicated escalator or staircase, the
entrances to the tunnel between concourses 1/A and 1/B are surprisingly
inconspicuous, and some restroom entrances look more like
closets. Again, carefully watch for and
the relevant signs.
quiet concourse A at Frankfurt Airport
If Tom Hanks' character in the movie The Terminal
choose an airport to be stuck at, this would be a good
choice. This self-contained city has large shopping and eating areas and plenty
of additional services. Indeed, FRA is arguably one of the
airports anywhere in this regards-- it's practically a shopping mall
that happens to have an airport attached. There are a
of stores (over 200 of them) carrying books, perfume, jewelry, clothes,
leather goods, electronics, toys, souvenirs, liquor, candy, convenience
items-- even erotica. In December, you'll also find a
traditional-style German Christmas market on the mezzanine in Terminal
1. Even more good news for shoppers-- the law requires
to maintain typical street prices in their airport outlets.
or thirsty before or after that long flight, you'll find over 70
restaurants, cafes, and bars catering to every taste: fast-food
ubiquitous McDonald's and Starbucks), traditional German food
(including a beer
garden), pizza and pasta, ice cream, sandwiches, Asian cuisines, sushi
hoity-toity French fare. There are also several bakeries and
two supermarkets for the do-it-yourself types.
medical needs, there are several pharmacies, a medical clinic, optician
and even a dentist. Other services to be found are hair
and barbers, a tailor and dry cleaner, a conference and business
center, and a kennel if your dog needs some time to relax. To
a visitor's terrace overlooking the airfield in Terminal 2, nine
play areas, chapels and prayer rooms, and art . (The
casino closed in
2014.) And, of course, you'll find banks and currency
post offices, insurance agents, and car rental and travel
agencies as well as 26 airline lounges.
particularly useful to passengers after a long flight are the shower
facilities located in each terminal. For €6 or $8, you get a
clean, private shower stall with soap and towels. There are
of these facilities: four in Terminal 1 including two in concourse 1/B
(one inside the
transit area on level 3, and one in the landside shopping area,
level, in the WCs to the right as you approach the security checkpoint)
and two in the transit areas of concourse 1/A (near gate A50)
(near gate Z50); and one in Terminal 2,
concourse D (level 3 near the security checkpoint.)
on the airport grounds are a couple of
hotels, gas stations, and train stations.
showers at Frankfurt Airport
all that luggage around? There are lots of free baggage
Unfortunately, in most cases, they can no longer be
the escalators or moving walkways nor on the Sky Line. For
layovers, there are baggage storage offices in each
airport, you'll now find electronic kiosks with airport
information. If they're on the fritz, or you'd just rather
to a human, there are several information centers in each
terminal staffed by red-uniformed employees.
place to relax or snooze between flights? There are several
"leisure zones" scattered around equipped with reclining
One of the best is in concourse 1/B,
level 3 along the walkway to concourse 1/C. Of course,
you have a bag with you, be sure you secure it to your person in some
way before you doze-off so it will still be there when you wake.
If yoga is your preferred form of relaxation, there are two
rooms as well, one in concourse 1/C and the other in concourse 2/D.
if your electronic device needs a charge, there are dozens of charging
stations throughout both terminals.
at Frankfurt Airport
the airport does have some pitfalls. A common
complaint is about small and sometimes not-so-clean WCs,
although in my experiences I've never actually witnessed
Also, many of the shops and services are located in the big shopping
arcade in the landside area of the Terminal 1, so transit passengers
have to clear passport control to use them, then go back through
security and passport control to catch their connecting
flight. There are virtually no services in concourse 1/C.
most of the
terminal areas have now been designated as non-smoking, the smoke from
the smoking lounges (and there are a lot of them) can sometimes waft
considerably further afield.
the age and
extent of the facilities, there are always renovations going on
somewhere in the terminals. It seems like they just keep
the construction work through each of the concourses every few
years. Even with the constant work, a few areas of the
are still rather dated and depressingly dingy, although that's gotten
better in recent years. And more than once I've been in areas
where the heating system has been working too well.
some reason you have an aversion to shiny stainless steel, stay out of
this airport-- it's everywhere.
When you arrive, you will be discharged into appropriate
zone (transit or Schengen). For transit passengers, see the
"Connecting flights" section below. For those arriving in the
Schengen zone, you simply claim your bags (if any) and leave the
airport. Passengers arriving in the transit zone will first
to pass through the passport control area where you simply present your
passport for inspection and the obligatory stamp (which the Germans of
course take to a whole other level.) Note that there are
different lanes for EU and non-EU nationals, so be sure you get in the
right line. Depending on when you arrive, there might be a
considerable wait to get through passport control. If you
have any bags to claim, it might be faster to use one of the passport
checkpoints located in another concourse. If you are trying
catch a connecting flight and must go through passport control, most of
the checkpoints now offer a "Fast Lane" for passengers on upcoming
flights; the flights for which passengers can take advantage of this
shortcut are listed on a display above the lane.
clearing passport control, you can
proceed to baggage
claim. From the baggage claim area, you then
must pass through
a customs checkpoint. If you
have nothing to
declare or are coming from another EU country, this is generally a
non-event-- just proceed through the "green" line and you won't even
have to say anything to the inspector unless you are stopped
for a random check. (Don't ask me why the
for green line is actually shaped like a stop-sign.) After
clearing customs, you will unceremoniously alight in the main
landside zone of the terminal. If you are meeting someone,
should be waiting here. Otherwise, follow the signs to head
public transport (see below), taxis, or the car rental desks.
There are numerous local, regional, domestic and international rail
connections to and from the airport's two (yes, two)
stations. From the regional station (Regionalbahnhof)
beneath Terminal 1, S-Bahn S8 or S9 goes to downtown Frankfurt in less
than 15 minutes, as well as to Mainz and Wiesbaden. The
long-distance rail station (Fernbahnhof), connected
1 by an agonizingly long skybridge over the adjacent Autobahn, serves
mainline GermanRail trains to many domestic and international
destinations. If you arrive at Terminal 1, follow the signs
the appropriate station. If you arrive at Terminal 2, take
direct shuttle bus to the stations or take the Sky Line train to
Terminal 1 and follow the signs from there.
ticketing and information centers (Reisezentrum),
one at the
long-distance station and the other just above the regional station in
the underground shopping area (Level 0) near the center of concourse B.
rail service, there is also regional bus service to several area towns
including Darmstadt and Rüsselsheim. There is also direct
bus service to Strasbourg, Mannheim, Heidelberg, and Talheim.
Most buses leave from the bus station at Terminal 1. From
Terminal 2, take the Sky Line train to Terminal 1 and go down to the
arrivals level. From Terminal 1, the bus station is located
directly outside of the terminal.
of the major
rental car agencies have counters in both terminals. Taxis
also be hired from either terminal. There is 24-hour taxi
to Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Mainz. A taxi ride to downtown
Frankfurt will take 20-40 minutes depending on traffic and should cost
airport Terminal 1 Departure Hall
(Photo by Fraport AG)
You should plan on arriving at least two hours before your
scheduled departure. If you arrive by car or train, follow
signs for departing flights. If you must return your rental
follow the signs for rental car returns. If you arrive by
the long-distance station, check to see if your airline has a counter
there. If so, you can check-in there and then proceed
security and on to your departure gate. Otherwise, once in
terminal, check the large flight display boards for information on the
check-in counter and gate for your flight. Then proceed to
appropriate counter to get a boarding pass and check any
From there, you will be directed to the security checkpoint for your
departure hall. Proceed through the security and passport
checkpoints and then follow the signs to your gate. Be aware
passengers headed for the US, UK, and Middle East face more intense
screening nowadays, so be prepared to put-up with a bit more hassle
than you may otherwise be expecting.
If you are passing through Frankfurt to and from non-Schengen
countries, your transfer will take place entirely within the transit
zone and you should not have to go through customs or passport
control. If your connecting flight leaves from a different
terminal than the one you arrive in, the Sky Line train will allow you
to make the transfer while remaining in the transit zone.
non-Schengen and Schengen countries (including Germany) will require
you to go through passport control. Unlike
many international airports with a single immigration area, you will
find passport checkpoints in each of the concourses. However, you
shouldn't need to seek one out-- just follow the signs to the gate for
your connecting flight and it should lead you to a checkpoint.
are connecting to
another flight with a short connection time (typically less than 45
minutes), you should be able to use the "Fast Lane" service at
passport control stations; eligible flights
shown on a display above the "Fast Lane" counter.
passport control, you
proceed to the gate for your connecting flight. Be sure to
information displays for the latest gate number as flights are sometimes
moved to other gates due to late or early arrivals. If
your connecting flight is in the other terminal, use the Sky Line
train. A tunnel allows you to transfer within the Schengen
of concourses 1/A and 1/B so that you do not need to leave the secure
area; use the elevators near gates A15 and
B19. There is also a passageway inside the
secure zone from
concourse 1/B to concourse 1/C on level 3.
you need a
boarding pass or additional assistance, check-in at your airline's
transfer counter first thing after arriving.
advertises a guaranteed connection time of 45 minutes at FRA. However, based on experience, an hour
is probably more realistic if you're staying within the transit or
Schengen zones and 75 minutes if you have to cross between
Flights from North America to FRA often arrive early, but don't count
on it as any time savings gained from that strong tailwind are
frequently lost due to congestion in Frankfurt's approach and landing
you have a
long layover (more than a couple of hours), you might consider visiting
the spectator's terrace on top of Terminal 2 where for €3 you
can watch the airfield activity, or the free art galleries in each
terminal. Note that these may require leaving the airside of
airport. Long layovers are also conducive to taking a quick
sightseeing trip into Frankfurt-- the S-Bahn train will get you downtown in
less than 15 minutes. (See information under "Arriving"
information about Frankfurt Airport, see their official website:
domestic airline in Germany is Lufthansa. It connects all of
major airports with at least four flights daily. Most
trips are an hour or less in duration. Lufthansa also has a
high-speed rail line, the Lufthansa Airport Express, which provides
links from Frankfurt and Düsseldorf airports to Stuttgart, Bonn,
Cologne, and Dortmund. Germany, and Europe in general, have
invaded by a number of discount carriers in recent years, including
Condor, LTU, Hapag-Lloyd, Aero-Lloyd, Eurowings, and Deutsche BA, a
subsidiary of British Air. German airlines transport 50
passengers a year. About 90 other international airlines have
regularly scheduled flights to Germany, including all of the major US
carriers. From Germany, connections are available to over 300
destinations in 90 countries worldwide.
(Photo by Lufthansa)
sites of interest