Can you get tickets for the next day from ticket machines?

This is a question I had never really thought about until I was asked it – can you get tickets for the next day from the ticket machines for the trains in Germany?

I think the simplest answer is: “not normally, but it depends on the type of machine”.

Sounds confusing?  I didn’t think it was going to be, until I started looking at the ticket machines in our area a bit closer.

The one that I use most often is for the U-Bahn – the train to Frankfurt.  Here the answer is most definitely “no”.  You can buy tickets for groups and for the whole day, even the so-called “Hessenticket”, but only for the current day.

A ticket machine - this one was out of order

One of the local ticket machines - the destination code is entered using the numeric keypad

However just round the corner is a similar machine for the bus stop.  Strangely, this one has different options, including one to buy a ticket for the whole week, meaning 7 days starting on the day of purchase.  Some machines of this sort even allow you to buy a card that lasts a month, but again starting to day.   In the RMV area a “month” is considered to be until the day in the following month with the same number, so a monthly ticket that starts on 23rd April is valid until and including 23rd May.

And yet, the only machine I know here where I can actually buy a ticket for a future date is at the main station for main-line trains.

Thankfully there are two other ways to buy your local train tickets in advance.  One is via the online ticket shop – assuming that there is enough time for it to arrive by post.  The other, perhaps simpler, is to go to a local agent who can issue tickets for the different zones for the date of your choice.

This not only saves finding the change for the machine, but if you are unsure about which tarif or zones you need, there is someone there to help you as well!

What to do when the ticket machine does not work

When I was a student in Germany, I used to take the train into Frankfurt every few weeks.  The only trouble was, that the ticket machines at the station were often out of order.

I remember that the first time this happened, I asked another passenger what I should do, and they told me to write down the serial numbers of all of the ticket machines, and if anyone wanted to see my ticket I should tell them what had happened and prove it using the numbers.

I was reminded of this the other day, as – just as I was in the process of paying – the only machine at our local station decided that it was not going to issue me with a ticket.  (Incidentally it had also locked in my bank card!)

Out of order

Out of order - Außer Betrieb

So what should you really do in such circumstances?

Writing down the number of the machine is certainly a good idea.  Apparently, if you are checked by a ticket inspector, they write down your name and address and send someone to see if the machine really was faulty (and presumably fix it).

However, I have since heard of people who then received a bill for the “erhöhtes Beförderungsentgeld” (that’s the fine for travelling without a ticket), because the machine was allegedly working.

I always wondered how such things happened – now I know!  Having retrieved my bank card and noted the machine number, we waited for our train to arrive.  After a few minutes, the machine reverted to its normal state and the “Außer Betrieb” notices disappeared.  We bought our tickets with cash and the train eventually came.

Now, supposing the train had been a few minutes earlier and we had been unable to buy those tickets. Anyone going to check the machine the next day would not have found the problem.  (Or do they have audit trails in the software?)

After making some enquiries, I still do not have anything official, but I do have some new advice.  Not only is it wise to note down the number(s) of the machine(s), but you should advise the train driver as well.  It is then up to him or her to either let you travel without a ticket – something they can then vouch for when the ticket inspectors get on the train.  Or they can let you off at the next stop and wait while you buy a ticket there.  I emphasise the wait because normally the time at a U-Bahn stop would not be sufficient.

Finally, if ticket inspectors do get into your carriage, it is important to make yourself known to them straight away and get them to talk to the driver.  Do not wait for them to come to you!

By the way, the machine really does have to be out of order.  If you don’t have the right change, and the machine is not taking notes or bank cards, then that is not considered sufficient to travel without a ticket.

The alternative is to travel a different way – if you can!

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