As you guys know, I’m currently on vacation in Germany. This country is not new to me – I live in Spain, but I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life in northern Germany, so I know how things work here. However, the other day I managed to get a 60€ charge for riding without a train ticket. Even though I actually had one.
Let me explain. I’m staying at my dad’s at the moment, in the south of the country, close to Frankfurt. In northern Germany, most trains work the same way – you buy a ticket, you get on the train, someone checks the ticket, and that’s it. Here, however, I discovered that some tickets work differently.
I had spent the day in the city and felt really good because I’d managed to find a nice, black sweater for 3€ (reduced from 19€), my feet hurt from all the walking, and all I wanted was to get home and go to bed. I got my ticket at a city rail stop and got on the train, not even bothering to read the info on my ticket. Who does that, anyway? You get the ticket and start your train journey, that’s it. About five minutes from my stop, a ticket inspector walks up to me, so of course I hand him my ticket. Keep in mind at this point I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it – so imagine my surprise when he says my ticket isn’t valid. I was confused for a second, thinking I had misheard him, and then I said something really intelligent, like “uuuuhhhh … what?”.
He started to explain how there are some tickets that you have to validate when you board the train. Basically, you buy the ticket outside and you can use it whenever you want, not just on the day you bought it. When you decide to use it, you pass it through some kind of machine on the train, and it’s valid for that one journey. It’s kind of like checking in at the airport, just 100% more useless.
At this point I was still somewhere between “uuuuhhh” and “what the heck?”, so for some reason I didn’t realise I was actually getting charged. The guy asked if I had any ID on me (I didn’t), and then I had to write down my details. My brain thought this must be a formality, that they were writing my details down for some weird reason – you have to understand that I’m basically the most legal person in the world, I would never board a train without a ticket, so I didn’t even consider I could be charged. What, charged? Me? Haha, yeah, right.
Well, lesson learned I guess. I was charged, with 60€, which I had two weeks to transfer. I was still a bit confused when the guy walked away, and the realisation that I had been charged started to dawn on me when I left the train and walked back home. I suddenly felt like a criminal, like I had been to jail or something. I couldn’t believe I had a record now, that the train people could look up my name and see that I’d ridden without a valid ticket.
I had explained the situation to the ticket inspector on the train, saying that I was used to normal tickets and hadn’t known I had to validate mine, and he’d told me I should try calling a certain number and explain the situation there – maybe something could be done. So the next day I called the train-centre-thingie, and the phone was fortunately answered by a really nice guy who listened and understood my problem. He looked up my details and said he couldn’t erase the charge, because I had made a mistake, but he could reduce it. So I had to pay 15€ instead of 60€, which honestly made my day. I was incredibly thankful, and once again happy that I had never ridden a train without a ticket. The main reason my charge was reduced was that I had a clean record.
My dad transfered the money that same day, so the problem should be done and over with now. I guess in the end it all went rather well.
Has something like this ever happened to you guys? Do you have any bad experience with trains or public transport in general? I’d love to hear about it.
‘Till next time and happy reading!