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Some German cities are offering drivers free public transport. But there’s a catch

A man passes by an advertising for the Deutschlandticket (Germany Ticket) at a train station in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, May 1, 2023.
A man passes by an advertising for the Deutschlandticket (Germany Ticket) at a train station in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, May 1, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Charlotte Elton
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Some German cities are offering drivers the chance to exchange their driver’s licence for free public transport.


Would you give up driving if it meant free public transport?

Several cities and districts in Germany are offering drivers unlimited travel on all local and regional public transport.

The catch? You have to surrender your driving licence.

The program is a bid to combat traffic congestion and promote environmentally friendly transport. Participants can gain a free Deutschlandticket, usually priced at €49 per month.

The details of the exchange offer vary depending on your location. Here’s who’s eligible.

What is the Deutschlandticket?

The Deutschlandticket launched in Germany in April this year.

The pass - which offers unlimited travel on all local and regional public transport for €49 - was hailed by authorities as the “biggest public transport reform in German history”.

More than three million Germans have purchased the ticket since its launch. France is set to introduce an equivalent pass in coming months.

The €49 German ticket was a successor to the €9-per-month ticket trialled last summer. This ultra-cheap pass saved around 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions during June, July, and August last year.

The driving licence exchange program is a bid to further reduce the environmental impact of transport.

Which countries offer the best public transport?

Public transport is much better for the planet than using a carbon intensive car. 

Germany is a world-leader on public transport infrastructure. In May, a Greenpeace report revealed the state of public transport across 30 European countries. Luxembourg, Malta, Austria, Germany, Cyprus and Spain came out on top with high scores for easy-to-use tickets and discounts.

Luxembourg became the first country in the world to scrap fares on all public transport in 2020. 

Where is the German exchange program available?

Exchange programs are run by local authorities, so they are only available in some regions of Germany. 

Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia

In Dortmund, people who give up driving will be offered a two month Deutschlandticket.

The city described the program as a “small thank you” to those who decide to ditch carbon-intensive driving.

Drivers should hand in their licence to the City of Dortmund – Citizen Services, where they will receive a certificate to pick up a monthly ticket.

Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia

In some cities, the exchange program is only available to older citizens.


Authorities in Leverkusen have offered people over 75 the opportunity to get a free one-year subscription to the Deutschlandticket if they give up driving.

A train at Lubeck's main station. Lubeck is one of the regions which has offered a swap model.canva

Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia,

Nearby Bonn also places an age limit on the exchange program. People over 60 can get a free Deutschlandticket or 'Aktiv60' ticket for six months. You have to fill out a 'Driver Licence Waiver' form, available at city offices.

Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis, North Rhine-Westphalia

In Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis, the exchange program was inundated with interest.

Some 130 people applied for a year of free travel with the Deutschlandticket, from which the district selected 20 people at random in April. It’s a permanent switch - but many residents were eager to take up the offer, said Michael Schäfer of the Road Traffic Department.

"It was difficult for us to estimate demand in advance," he told the Local.


"We are surprised at how many citizens from the district are interested in the offer."

Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein

If you give up your driving licence in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, you can travel free of charge for a year with the Deutschlandticket. However, it’s a permanent switch - you’ll never get it back.

In 2023, a maximum of 1,000 Deutschlandtickets will be issued, and 500 in each of the following two years.

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