Brian's Guide to
Getting Around Germany

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[!] Warning From 15 July to 14 December, the main rail line between Frankfurt and Mannheim will be closed for reconstruction. This will result in numerous service changes and likely delays. More details (in German) here.
Intercity Transport
Airports and Air Travel

This page last updated June 6, 2024

Germany is such a compact country that, unless you're going from Munich to Hamburg, taking the train will in most cases be the more convenient and (in my opinion) enjoyable mode of transport. However, the increase in low-cost carriers over the past couple of decades has increased domestic air travel, and, of course, many people arrive in Germany by air. Below you will find a guide to what you need to know to navigate Germany's airports.


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There are 35 or so commercial passenger airports (Flughafen) in Germany, with Frankfurt and Munich being by far the two biggest. Altogether, about 227 million passengers were facilitated by German airports in 2019, with about 117 million of those in Frankfurt and Munich alone. Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Köln/Bonn also each had over 10 million passengers.

Frankfurt, as the main hub for Lufthansa, is Germany's busiest airport and one of the largest European hubs. In 2019, it served over 70 million passengers and has the most non-stop destinations in the world.

Munich, which is Lufthansa's second hub, is Germany's second busiest airport, serving nearly 48 million passengers in 2019, which was almost twice as many as then-third place Düsseldorf.

Berlin's new, walnut-paneled Willy Brandt Airport opened on October 31, 2020. Built to consolidate the city's two remaining outdated Cold War-era airports Tegel and Schönefeld, it was originally scheduled to open in 2011, but a series of construction problems, mismanagement, and corruption delayed the opening repeatedly. The project was sadly nothing short of a national embarrassment for a country known for its efficiency, engineering, and Ordnung. Reviews of the airport after a year of operation were mixed, but more recent reports seem to indicate that it has worked out its initial teething issues. In 2022, it served just shy of 20 million passengers, becoming Germany's third busiest airport.

Munich airport (Photo by FMG)

Munich airport
(Photo by FMG)

Most airports in Germany are operated by government-franchised private companies. The company that operates Frankfurt airport also operates several other airports around the world.

German airports are generally clean and efficient albeit somewhat stark, 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 and Munich airports even boast such services as supermarkets, medical clinics, dentists, and casinos.


Arriving in Germany is fairly simple and straightforward. If you arrive on an international flight and are not transiting to another international flight, you will be directed from the arrival gate first to passport control (Passkontrolle). If you are from the US or other non-European nation, use the "Non-EU National" line. The immigration officer may or may not ask you questions; either is normal. When questions are asked, they're usually regarding the purpose and duration of your visit and if you have a return flight.

After having your passport stamped, you will then proceed to baggage claim if you are at your destination airport. Once you collect your bags, you proceed through the customs area (Zoll). In Germany, this is generally a non-event. If you have something to declare, or if you aren't sure, use the lane with the red sign (see the German customs website for information on permitted imports.) Otherwise, proceed through the lane with the green sign where you will then alight in the landside area of the terminal. If you are meeting someone, this is likely where they will be waiting for you.

If you are the one meeting someone who is flying in, you will meet your party in the landside area of the airport. To do so, check the arrivals board (marked Ankunft) when you get to the airport to determine which arrivals exit your party will be using, then wait near there. Alternatively, you can plan to have your party meet you at an officially designated meeting point (Treffpunkt) found in most airports; these usually have signage throughout the airport, making them easy to find from anywhere.

Berlin airport gate

Berlin airport gate waiting area
(Photo by Brian Purcell)


While arriving is pretty easy, flying out of a German airport is much more elaborate. First, you should plan on arriving at least two hours before your flight.

When you arrive at the airport for an outbound flight, you will first need to check the flight information displays (marked Abflug) for two pieces of information: the check-in counter (Schalter) numbers and the gate number (Flugsteig) for your flight, as well as the current status of the flight. Gate numbers sometimes are not assigned until an hour or so before the flight; if so, the display will typically indicate when the gate number will be assigned.

In Germany, 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 counter.

Once you find your counter, you will begin the security screening and check-in process. Security is very tight, especially for international flights, and you may have to go through several layers of security checking. Be prepared to play "20 questions" with several airline and airport security personnel. You may be asked repeatedly about your luggage and travel plans. Unfortunately, sometimes the questioning takes on 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 converse in another language.

After checking-in, proceed toward the designated concourse or entry area for your gate. You will then typically encounter the next hurdle: the security checkpoint (Sicherheitskontrolle). Only ticketed passengers are allowed past the security checkpoint, so you will be asked to show or scan your boarding pass. Then, go through the body scanner and baggage x-ray area.

If you are on a non-Schengen flight, you will next go through passport control. In some cases, you may actually clear passport control prior to the security screening. As with arrivals, you may or may not be asked questions about your stay before your passport is stamped and returned to you.

Many airports now have an automated passport control which are open to travelers from specific countries (these will be indicated on a sign.) With these systems, you place your passport on a glass plate where it is scanned, then follow the directions to allow the system to take a photo of your face, which is then compared against your passport photo. If it matches, the gate will open and you can proceed through.

From here, you can now proceed to your boarding gate. Unlike US airports where all the gates are typically located on one level, German airports often have gates on multiple levels, so you may have to go up or down stairs, escalators, or elevators to reach your gate. This stacking of gates is done to allow for faster turnarounds, to provide space for both bus and jet bridge gates (Germany uses a lot of bus gates), and/or to separate Schengen and non-Schengen passengers.

Flights to the US sometimes have a second security screening, either at the gate or en route. Sometimes this is a full screening, sometimes just another passport check and question and answer session. Most German airports with US flights now have a section dedicated for those flights with a security checkpoint to enter it. However, in some cases, a US-bound flight may instead just have an enclosed secure gate waiting area (Warteraum). In those cases, once you are in the waiting area, you typically cannot leave, so be sure to take care of any last-minute shopping or "bio" needs (you know what I mean) before you enter the waiting area, although these gates will usually have their own restroom facilities.

From the waiting area, you will either board the plane directly via a jet bridge or board a bus that will transport you to the plane located further out on the tarmac.

Munich airport gate

Boarding gate at Munich airport
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

Ground transportation

Ground transportation
Besides rental cars, there is 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 passenger airports with connection information to the city center/central railway station (Hauptbahnhof, "Hbf") or other important destinations as indicated. Most airports have additional public transportation options to other local and regional locales; check the airport's website or inquire at the information desk at the airport. Some airports also have mainline rail and long-distance bus services to take you further afield; these are noted below.

Service intervals shown are typical weekday daytime schedules and may vary during the day and on weekends and holidays. Check the website of the specific transit provider or use the transit planning feature on Google Maps or Apple Maps for specific schedules.

The major international airports are highlighted. Because Frankfurt's airport is by far the busiest in Germany, I have included a special write-up on it below the other listings. Be sure to see my pages about renting a car, urban public transport, taxis, and rail transport for further details of using those transportation options.

All information was correct as of June 2024 but is subject to change without notice; be sure to check the airport's website (links at the bottom of this page) before your flight for up-to-date information.

Transportation options
Berlin (BER)
Brandenburg Willy Brandt
20 km SE
1 hour
Note: Options in italics serve both Terminal 1-2 and Terminal 5 stations; others serve only Terminal 1-2 station

Rail service • Airport Express (FEX) to Ostkreuz, Gesundbrunnen, and Berlin Hbf every 30 min.
• Regional trains RE7 and RB14 to Berlin Hbf and the other major central Berlin stations, or RB22 to Potsdam every hour
S-Bahn S9 to Berlin Hbf, Spandau, and other central Berlin stations, or S45 to southeastern Berlin and Südkreuz every 20 min.
• Mainline services from Terminal 1-2 station
Bus service Bus X7, X71, or 171 to Rudow every 5 min., then U-Bahn U7 to central Berlin
Taxi service 24-hour service to Berlin, approx. €65
Bremen (BRE)
3 km S
20 min.
Rail service Tram 6 to Bremen Hbf every 10 min.
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €18
Dresden (DRS)
9 km N
20 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S2 to Dresden Hbf and Neustadt every 30 min
• Bus 77 to Infineon Nord or Bus 80 to Käthe-​Kollwitz-Platz every 20 min., then Tram 7 to Hbf
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €40
Düsseldorf (DUS)
8 km N
20 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S11 to Düsseldorf Hbf every 20-30 min. from station under terminal
• S-Bahn S1 to Düsseldorf Hbf and to Duisburg, Essen, and Dortmund every 20 min. from airport mainline station via Sky Train
• Mainline services from airport mainline station via Sky Train
Taxi service 24-hour service to Dusseldorf (approx. €29), Essen (approx. €72), Duisburg (approx. €60), and other area towns
Frankfurt (FRA)
See special section below
Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN)
100 km W of Frankfurt
90 min.
Bus service • Flibco coaches to Frankfurt and Mainz ~10x per day
• Intermezzo coaches to Saarbrucken and Saarlouis 1-3x a day on Tue and Thu-Sat
• Public transit to Bullay (line 750), Koblenz (line 615), and Simmern (line 660) every 2 hours
Taxi service Service to Frankfurt, Mainz, and Wiesbaden, expect to pay €100-150 to Mainz/Wiesbaden and €150-200 to Frankfurt; negotiate fare before departure
Hamburg (HAM)
9 km N
25 min.
Rail service S-Bahn S1 to Hamburg Hbf every 10 min.; change at Ohlsdorf for U-bahn U1 to other central Hamburg stations
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €40
Hannover (HAJ)
11 km N
20 min.
Rail service S-Bahn S5 to Hannover Hbf every 30 min.
Bus service Bus 470 to Langenhagen every hour
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €40
Köln/Bonn (CGN)
Konrad Adenauer
14 km SE of Cologne
25 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S19 to Köln Hbf every 20 min.
• Regional trains RE6 and RB 27 to Köln Hbf hourly
• Mainline services
Bus service • Bus SB60 to Bonn Hbf every 30 min.
• Flixbus and other long-distance bus services
Taxi service 24-hour service to Cologne (approx. €40), Bonn (approx. €65) and other area towns
Leipzig/Halle (LEJ)
12 km NW of Leipzig
30 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S5 or S5X to Leipzig Hbf or Halle Hbf every 30 min.
• Mainline services
Taxi service 24-hour service to Leipzig and Halle, approx. €50
Memmingen (FMM)
Allgäu Memmingen
100 km WSW of Munich
90 min.
Rail service Mainline regional services hourly to Munich and Augsburg from nearby Memmingen station via Airport City Shuttle every 20 min.
Bus service • Allgäu Airport Express to München Hbf every 1-2 hours
• Flixbus long-distance bus services
Taxi service 24-hour service to Munich and Augsburg, expect to pay €200 or more; negotiate fare before departure
München (MUC)
Franz Joseph Strauss
28 km NE
45 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S1 or S8 to München Hbf every 10 min.
• Mainline regional services to Regensburg, Passau, and Landshut from airport station
• Other regional mainline connections from nearby Freising station via express train ÜFEX every hour or Bus 635 every 10 min.
Bus service • Lufthansa Express Bus to Schwabing and München Hbf every 20 min., also to Nuremberg and Innsbruck
• Flixbus and other long-distance bus services
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €50
Nürnberg (NUE)
Albrecht Dürer
5 km N
15 min.
Rail service U-Bahn U2 to Nürnberg Hbf every 10 min.
Bus service Bus 33 to Fürth Hbf and Bus 30 to Erlangen every 40 min.
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €30
Saarbrücken (SCN)
16 km E
20 min.
Bus service Bus R10 to Saarbrücken Hbf hourly
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €35
Stuttgart (STR)
14 km S
30 min.
Rail service • S-Bahn S2 or S3 to Stuttgart Hbf every 15 min.
• U-Bahn U6 to Stuttgart Hbf every 10 min.
Bus service Flixbus and other long-distance bus services
Taxi service 24-hour service, approx. €50


Frankfurt International (Rhein-Main) Airport

Frankfurt airport terminals (Photo by Fraport AG)

Frankfurt airport Terminal 1
(Photo by Fraport AG)

Serving nearly 50 million passengers in 2022, Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport (FRA), also known as Frankfurt International Airport, is Germany's busiest airport and 18th busiest worldwide. For a long time, it was Europe's second busiest, but it has slipped to sixth in Europe behind Istanbul, London Heathrow, Paris CDG, Amsterdam, and Madrid. A major expansion currently underway, though, should allow it to grow substantially in the next few years as passenger volumes continue to rebound after the pandemic. For comparison, FRA handled 70 million passengers in 2019, and early passenger counts for 2023 are up about 60% over 2022.

In addition to being the primary world hub for Lufthansa, FRA is served by 97 other airlines with about 700 daily departures to 294 destinations in 93 countries — the most international destinations of any airport. Transfers account for over half of the passenger count, making FRA one of the world's most important international air hubs.

Given these superlatives, it should be no surprise that the gargantuan facility is frequently operating near capacity. A new runway that opened in 2011 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 on a new terminal, Terminal 3, located on the southern side of the airport on a former US Air Force base. The first concourse in Terminal 3 was expected to open in 2021; however, due to the pandemic, the plans were changed and the entire terminal is now expected to open in 2026.

FRA was the first commercial 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.

Fake Frankfurt
Beware that there 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) west of Frankfurt and is actually closer to Luxembourg and Bonn than to downtown Frankfurt.

Orientation and navigation
Located just 9 km (6 miles) southwest of downtown Frankfurt (about 15 minutes by rail, a little longer by car), FRA is a monolith comprised of two terminals and a small city of support facilities. A third terminal is under construction across the airfield from the existing terminals and is scheduled to open in 2026.

Terminals and concourses
Each terminal has multiple concourses (Flugsteig). The terminals are numbered (1 and 2), while the concourses are lettered (A-E and Z.) On signage, the concourse designations are paramount; the terminal numbers are mostly incidental. For example, if you're headed to gate D15, which is in Terminal 2, look for and follow the signs for "D" regardless of where you are in the airport.

Terminal 1, which opened in 1972 and got much-needed expansions in the late 1990s, 2008, and again around 2012, is the larger of the two terminals, with 103 gates crammed into three multi-level concourses labeled A/Z, B, and C. There are five levels:

The airy Terminal 2, which opened in 1994, has 42 gates in two concourses labeled D and E on three levels, labeled to correspond to the levels in Terminal 1:

Frankfurt airport gate area

Gate waiting area in Terminal 2 at Frankfurt Airport
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

Numbering system
Gates, arrival areas, and check-in counters carry the concourse letter followed by the number (i.e. Gate C5, Counter A202, etc.) The letter is usually 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 the lettered concourse first, then look for signs for the gate number once you reach that concourse. On some older signs, the concourse letters for Terminal 1 are in orange while those in Terminal 2 are in light blue.

The non-European international gates on the upper level of concourse A were relabeled as "Z" in late 2011. This was done ostensibly to create logical numbering capacity for the concourse A addition that opened in 2012.

Security zones
The terminals are divided into the public landside area (pre-security) and the secure airside area (post-security.) To enter the secure area, you must have a valid boarding card and pass through the security screening. The airside area of the airport is further divided into two immigration control zones: the "Schengen zone" for domestic German and most European flights, and the "transit zone" for international flights. (The Schengen Agreement allows 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 A, the front half of concourse B, the far end of concourse C, and level 2 of Terminal 2 are in the Schengen zone; the remainder of the airside is in the international transit zone.

For the most part, the airport is arranged so that you only have to pass through passport control if you are leaving or entering the transit zone; if you are connecting from one non-Schengen international flight to another, you should not have to pass through any passport checkpoints. However, be aware that if you are connecting from a non-Schengen international flight to a Schengen flight, you will have to go through both passport control and a security screening. Flights to some countries (including the US) may require an additional security screening even if you are connecting from a Schengen flight, so the upshot is to be prepared to go through an unexpected security check.

Frankfurt airport overview map

Frankfurt airport overview map
Full-size map available from Frankfurt Airport's website; see links section below.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign
Signage is extensive and is in both German and English along with spiffy international pictograms; blue signs for the concourses, gates, ground transportation, and other destinations, and gray signs for services. Some signs are dynamic and are changed to help manage passenger levels throughout the terminals.

Because there are so 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 sentiment:

"Just follow the signs. Don't think. Don't apply logic. Just follow the signs. You will get to your destination. You might have to go through security 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."
Frankfurt airport signs

Signage at Frankfurt Airport
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

Distances and concourse connections
Being such a large and complex airport, distances can be long — really long in some cases — especially if you have to change terminals or concourses. If your gate is at the end of the A or 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 A to the far end of concourse E is a distance of 2.6 km or 1.6 miles! Fortunately, although possible, you don't actually have to walk that entire way.

There are a 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 AZ, B, C, and Terminal 2. There is also a free shuttle bus which takes about 5 minutes; catch it in front of the terminals. Of course, you can also walk. There are several walkways and maze-like passages that will get you between the concourses, including a tunnel between the Schengen zones of concourses AZ and B (use the elevators near gates A15 and B19) and a long, mostly deserted corridor connecting concourse C to Terminal 2. (The photo above was taken in this corridor.)

One 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 gates require you to go up or down a dedicated escalator, staircase, and/or elevator, the entrances to the tunnel between concourses A and B are surprisingly inconspicuous, and some restroom entrances look more like closets. Again, carefully watch for and follow the relevant signs.

Because of 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. The holding areas for these gates are frequently located in out-of-the-way places, often on the ground level.

Information desks
There are several information counters around the terminals with employees dressed in red uniforms to help you. As in most 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 someone 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.

In addition to the staffed information desks, there are 12 digital "InfoGate" kiosks scattered throughout the terminals. These connect you virtually to an airport employee who can answer questions and give directions.

Finally, if you're still nervous about navigating the airport, the airport offers a personal guide service for €89. Book it at least four days before your arrival on the airport's website.

Frankfurt airport concourse A

Concourse A at Frankfurt Airport
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

Passenger services
If Tom Hanks' character in the movie The Terminal could 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 best airports anywhere in this regards — it's practically a shopping mall that happens to have an airport attached. There are a multitude of stores (over 200 of them) carrying books, perfume, jewelry, clothes, leather goods, electronics, toys, souvenirs, liquor, candy, convenience items — even erotica (this is Europe after all.) 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 businesses to maintain typical street prices in their airport outlets.

If you're hungry or thirsty before or after that long flight, you'll find over 70 restaurants, cafes, and bars catering to every taste: fast-food (including the ubiquitous McDonald's and Starbucks), traditional German food (including a beer garden in concourse A), pizza and pasta, ice cream, sandwiches, Asian cuisines, sushi, and even hoity-toity French fare. There are also multiple bakeries and even a supermarket for the do-it-yourself types.

If you have medical needs, there are several pharmacies, a medical clinic, optician, and even a dentist. Other services to be found are hair dressers and barbers, a tailor and dry cleaner, a conference and business center, and a kennel if your dog needs some time to relax. To pass the time, you'll find a visitor's terrace overlooking the airfield in Terminal 2, nine children's play areas, chapels and prayer rooms, and art. (There even was a casino, but it closed in 2014.) And, of course, you'll find banks and currency exchanges, post offices, insurance agents, and car rental and travel agencies as well as 26 airline lounges.

One service that may be 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 five of these facilities: four in Terminal 1 including two in concourse B (one inside the transit area on level 3, and one in the landside shopping area, departures level, in the WCs to the right as you approach the security checkpoint) and two in the transit areas of concourse A (near gate A50) and Z (near gate Z50); and one in the transit area Terminal 2, concourse D (level 3 near gate D5.)

Tired of lugging all that luggage around? There are lots of free baggage carts which can be rented for €1, but note that the fee must be paid with a credit or debit card. Unfortunately, in most cases, they can no longer be taken on the escalators or moving walkways nor on the Sky Line. For longer layovers where you may wish to leave the airport, or if you need to store something that you can't take through security, there are baggage storage offices in each terminal.

Looking for a place to relax or nap between flights? There are several "leisure zones" scattered around equipped with reclining chairs. Of course, if you have a bag with you, be sure you secure it to your person in some way before you doze-off.

For a more private nap experience, there are sleeping cabins called "NapCabs" (€17) in the transit zone of concourse B near gate B9. There is also a small hotel located inside the transit zone of concourse Z near gate Z25. The hotel has 59 small rooms (about 9 square meters or 100 sq. ft. each) that can be booked for a stay of 3 to 24 hours. As both of these are the transit zone, guests must be traveling from or to a non-Schengen destination to access them.

A couple of other hotels are elsewhere on the airport grounds outside of the terminals.

If yoga is your preferred form of relaxation, there are two yoga rooms as well, one in concourse C and the other in concourse D. There are also two prayer/devotional rooms in the transit areas of concourses B and D.

The airport also has three "Movie World" areas in Terminal 1 where you can watch free movies and documentaries, and three "Gaming Worlds" where you can play free video games. For smaller travelers, there are no fewer than nine playgrounds scattered through the terminals.

Finally, if your electronic device needs a charge, there are dozens of charging stations throughout both terminals.

Frankfurt airport lounge

Lounge at Frankfurt Airport
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

All that said, 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 this. Also, there are virtually no services in concourse C.

While 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.

Given the age and extent of the facilities, there are always renovations going on somewhere in the terminals. It seems like they just keep rotating the construction work through each of the concourses every few years. Even with the constant work, a few areas of the airport 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.


When you arrive, you will be discharged into appropriate control zone (transit or Schengen.) If you're connecting to another flight, see the "Connecting flights" section below. Otherwise, for those arriving in the Schengen zone, you can simply claim your bags (if any) and leave the airport. Passengers arriving in the transit zone will first have to pass through a passport control checkpoint. Note that there are different lanes for EU and non-EU nationals, so be sure you get in the proper line. At the counter, present your passport for inspection and the obligatory stamp (which the Germans, of course, take to a whole other level.) The officer may or may not ask you questions about your visit; either is normal. If asked, just answer honestly.

Depending on when you arrive, there might be a considerable wait to get through passport control. In some cases, it might be faster to use one of the passport checkpoints located in another concourse.

After clearing passport control, you can proceed to baggage claim.

From the baggage claim area, you then must pass through a customs checkpoint, which is far less of an impediment than passport control if you have nothing to declare (see the German customs website for information on permitted imports.) In that case, 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. If you do have something to declare, use the "red" lane, where you will then speak with a customs officer.

After clearing customs, you will alight rather unceremoniously in the main landside zone of the terminal. If you are meeting someone, they may be waiting here, or you can arrange to meet at the meeting point (Treffpunkt) located in the Arrivals B area in Terminal 1 or the Arrivals E area in Terminal 2. Otherwise, follow the signs to head to public transport, taxis, or the car rental desks (see below.)

Ground transportation

Ground transportation options
There are numerous local, regional, domestic, and international rail connections to and from the airport's two (yes, two) railway stations.

From the regional rail station (Regionalbahnhof) beneath Terminal 1, S-Bahn S8 or S9 whisks you to downtown Frankfurt about 15 minutes, and also heads to Mainz (S8 only) and Wiesbaden. A few regional trains (RB and RE) also call here heading to Frankfurt, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Rüsselsheim, Hanau, and other regional destinations.

The glass-shrouded long-distance rail station (Fernbahnhof), connected to Terminal 1 by a somewhat long skybridge over the intervening Autobahn, serves mainline GermanRail trains to many regional, domestic, and international destinations.

If you arrive at Terminal 1, follow the signs to the appropriate station. If you arrive at Terminal 2, take the direct shuttle bus to the stations or take the Sky Line train to Terminal 1 and follow the signs from there.

GermanRail has two ticketing and information centers (Reisezentrum), one just above the regional station in the underground shopping area (Level 0) near the center of concourse B, and the other at the long-distance station.

In additional to 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.

All of the major rental car agencies have counters in both terminals. The rental car center for Terminal 1 is located in the underground shopping center (Level 0) near at the concourse A end. In Terminal 2, the rental car counters are located just outside baggage claim.

Taxis can be hired from the front of either terminal. There is 24-hour taxi service to Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Mainz. A taxi ride to downtown Frankfurt will take 20-40 minutes depending on traffic and should cost about €50, and slightly more for a trip to Wiesbaden or Mainz.

Frankfurt airport B departure hall

Iconic departure board in Frankfurt Airport Terminal 1 departure hall
(Photo by Brian Purcell)


You should plan on arriving at least two hours before your scheduled departure.

If you arrive by car or train, follow the signs for departing flights. If you must return your rental car, follow the signs for rental car returns. If you arrive by train at the long-distance station, check to see if your airline has a counter there. If so, you can check-in there and then proceed directly to security and on to your departure gate. Otherwise, proceed to the terminal and check the large flight display boards for information on the check-in counter and gate for your flight. Then proceed to the appropriate counter to get a boarding pass and check any bags. If you arrive by train or if you return a rental car, you will arrive in Terminal 1; if your flight is departing from Terminal 2, follow the signs for the D and E concourses — these will lead you to the Sky Line train which will whisk you to Terminal 2.

After you check in, you will be directed to the appropriate departure hall. Proceed through the security and passport checkpoints, and then follow the signs to your gate.

Be aware that 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, including a secondary security screening at or near the gate.

Connecting flights
Connecting flights
If you are passing through Frankfurt to and from non-Schengen countries, your transfer will take place entirely within the transit zone, which in most cases means you will not need to pass through a passport checkpoint (although not always.) You may or may not also have to pass through a security screening depending on your origin and/or destination, and there are occasionally random security checkpoints in the terminals.

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.

Transfers between 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 you will pass through a checkpoint somewhere along the way.

If you 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 the passport control checkpoints; eligible flights are shown on a display above the "Fast Lane" counter.

After clearing passport control, you will likely have to pass through a security screening. From there, you can then proceed to the gate for your connecting flight. Be sure to check the flight 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 also allows you to transfer within the Schengen zones of concourses A and 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 transit zone from concourse B to concourse C on level 3. This passage also connects to concourses D and E, but it's quite a hike.

If you need a boarding pass or additional assistance, check-in at your airline's transfer counter first thing after arriving.

Lufthansa 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 90 minutes if you have to cross between them. 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 sometimes lost due to congestion in Frankfurt's approach and landing slots.

If you have an extra long layover, you might consider visiting the spectator's terrace on top of Terminal 2 where you can watch the airfield activity. There are also plenty of places to shop, eat, or relax between flights; see the "Passenger Services" section above for more details. Extended layovers (at least four hours) are also conducive to taking a quick sightseeing trip into Frankfurt — check your bags at one of the baggage storage offices, then take the S-Bahn train which will wisk you downtown in less than 15 minutes (see information under "Arriving" above.)

For even more information about Frankfurt Airport, see their official website:

Frankfurt airport T2 departure hall (Photo by Fraport AG)

Frankfurt airport Terminal 2 departure hall
(Photo by Fraport AG)


The major domestic airline in Germany is Lufthansa. Its main hub is at Frankfurt, with Munich serving as its secondary hub.

Germany, and Europe in general, have seen the rise of a number of discount carriers in the past couple of decades. In Germany, those include Condor, LTU, Hapag-Lloyd, Aero-Lloyd, Eurowings, and Deutsche BA, a subsidiary of British Air. German airlines transport 50 million 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 about 90 countries worldwide.

Lufthansa jet (Photo by Lufthansa)

Lufthansa jet
(Photo by Lufthansa)

Other sites of interest

Berlin airport
Bremen airport
Cologne/Bonn airport
Dresden airport
Dusseldorf airport
Frankfurt (Rhein-Main) airport
Hamburg airport
Hannover airport
Leipzig/Halle airport
Munich airport
Nuremberg airport
Saarbrucken airport
Stuttgart airport