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I'm going to be taking a trip to Germany in a few days. I will be in Munich and I was considering taking the train to somewhere in Austria (Innsbruck maybe?) so I could see the Alps.

I'm wondering how difficult it is to travel between countries for something like this? Do I need to go through the whole customs process or is it pretty much like traveling within Germany since they are both part of the EU?

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    Both being part of the Schengen zone is more significant for ease of travel. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 6 at 15:37
  • @PatriciaShanahan - ok so is it basically just like taking the train within Germany then? Do I even need to bring my passport? – Abe Miessler Aug 6 at 15:59
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    You should, because even if both countries are in Schengen, there still can be border controls, and there have been more in the last few years because of an increasing number of migrants. Although practically those controls are not that the train stops at a certain point and everybody is checked, but rather by using foot patrols in the trains. – dunni Aug 6 at 16:29
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    @dunni: At the Danish border (opposite end of Germany from the OP's plans) the usual implementation seems to be that the train is stopped at first station on Danish soil, where the police walk through the train and demand passports before the train continues. (From recent personal experience, they are not happy with people who jump out of the train immediately and start running down the platform in the hope of managing to buy an onwards ticket while the train is stopped, rather than wait two hours for the next train ...) – Henning Makholm Aug 6 at 19:16
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    If your objective is visiting the alps, might I suggest one of the many hiking routes in the German alps near Munich : hiking-buddies.com/routes/routes_list. Most of the routes are can be reached in ~2-3 hours by train from Munich. Also inside Germany, look out for regional day ticket offers if you are in a group. bahn.de/en/view/offers/regional/regional-day-tickets.shtml – Tejas Kale Aug 8 at 17:36
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As long as you stay within the Schengen Area, you should be able to travel freely without any systematic passport checks, so in most cases, it looks exactly like domestic travel.

The Schengen Area is composed of 22 of the 28 EU member states, as well as some other non-EU states such as Switzerland. Germany and Austria are both part of the Schengen Area.

Random spot checks may still happen, and in some cases systematic checks have been temporarily re-introduced, mostly due to the migrant crisis, but also sometimes for security reasons. Switzerland is also known to have a peculiar interpretation of "no systematic checks".

Even if there are no checks at the border, you should still have your passport and other paperwork with you, as you may be checked in other circumstances.

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    Switzerland is also known to have a peculiar interpretation of "no systematic checks". I went to Germany, Austria and France by train multiple times, I never got any border check, ever. Except when there was the following of the terrorist attacks in Paris and it was FRANCE who reintroduced the border checks. Verify your facts. – Bregalad Aug 7 at 7:24
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    @Bregalad: Your comment did not make any sense to me, until I checked your profile and discovered that you are from Switzerland. :-) – Heinzi Aug 7 at 7:30
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    The Bavarian police is known for lengthy spot checks of foreigners who don't look European. – Simon Richter Aug 7 at 8:07
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    @Bregalad Some of my colleagues report being checked every time they drive into Switzerland with Romanian or Polish plates. I have never experienced this with British or Baden-Württembergisher plates. That feels like a "systematic check" to me. – Martin Bonner Aug 7 at 13:01
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    @Knu8 what gives you that idea? Just last year, even as an EU resident, I had trouble boarding a plane from Berlin to Brussels because my ID got stolen in Berlin and there was no time to get a replacement, so I only had the report from the police. – AsheraH Aug 7 at 18:27
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You should always have your passport with you when out of your own country.  Within Schengen, you’ll not likely be asked for it, but it’s possible, and if you don’t have it when asked, definitely a hassle or worse.

You can probably book train trips on whatever site you use within Germany, but you can also easily do it at Loco.

There are probably other sites.  Rick Steves has some good informational pages about trains (and other travel info) in Europe.

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    The first sentence is a bit too general. I am a US permanent resident. Inside the US, I carry my green card but not my passport. I take my passport with me if I plan to cross an international border. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 6 at 18:48
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    It is still good advise. Even when you do not need to have your passport on you in the country, you should have it near, certainly border crossing. As a PR you are in 'your' country. – Willeke Aug 6 at 19:47
  • Well, I agree with Willeke that a permanent resident IS in her own country. but I agree with Patricia in a way: within EU/Schengen, for a resident of one of those countries, it is quite reasonable to carry your ID instead of your passport. – WGroleau Aug 7 at 5:48
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    @Bregalad, That’s almost what I already said, but since you removed the qualifications, you are incorrect. If person P is not a legal resident of country C and is confronted by authorities in that country, and is unable to show a valid passport, in many cases, a valid ID card will not avoid a hassle. – WGroleau Aug 7 at 13:54
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    ID card is equivalent to a passport for those EU citizens who have them. Having neither handy is when you may get into trouble. – Willeke Aug 7 at 15:09
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The train between Munich and Innsbruck through Kufstein has spot checks. It doesn't stop but the border police enters the train a few stations before Kufstein and walks through the carriages.

If you look suspicious, they want to check your identity so have your passport at hand. There are no customs checks.

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It is extremely easy and there is no check.

As a non-Schengen national I took the train between Austria and Germany twice in the last few months, and there was no suggestion that passports might be checked. I also took a bus tour that crossed the border and we were not even advised to bring passports. There are not normally checks when crossing the border between Schengen countries - that's the point of the Schengen area.

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    According to German law, you are supposed to carry identity documents (passport or national ID) at the border and present them to competent authority on demand. According to Schengen regulations, this demand should not be routinely made, but it can be made in a non-systematic manner. – o.m. Aug 7 at 5:26
  • @o.m I thought you were required to carry identity document at all times (not just at the border). Is this wrong? – Martin Bonner Aug 7 at 13:02
  • @MartinBonner It depends. E.g. Belgium does require valid passport or ID-card for anyone at all times (, but it is rarely checked unless police really wants to hassle you). The Netherlands (and Germany as far as I know) only require ID to be presented when needed, but they consider (for their own citizens) a drivers-license already sufficient ID for non-border checks. I'm Dutch and I never have passport on me, just drivers-license, even when traveling in Belgium, which I do almost daily. Never had a problem even though I get a spot-check at the border 4-5 times per year. – Tonny Aug 7 at 14:32
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    @MartinBonner Germany requires German citizens to hold a valid ID, not to carry it around with them, while in Germany (Gesetz über Personalausweise und den elektronischen Identitätsnachweis (Personalausweisgesetz - PAuswG) § 1 Ausweispflicht; Ausweisrecht if you wanted to look it up. – Marianne013 Aug 8 at 9:51
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    @MartinBonner In Germany, you are required to have an ID, but you're not required to carry it at all times (although it might result in a bit of hassle not having it ready when it's needed -- irrespective of that, having s.th. like a personalized public transit ticket might require you to carry an official ID while travelling). OTOH, crossing any border in the EU requires you to carry your ID (NL police watched a friend crossing just a few meters into NL, then asked for ID, he didn't carry it, they fined him ... then DE police fined him for crossing in the other direction.) – orithena Aug 8 at 11:12
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That's possible, and very easy.

so is it basically just like taking the train within Germany then? Do I even need to bring my passport?

Sadly, it is not just like taking a train within Germany. In theory, it should be. In practice, due to developments since 2015 onwards, no. You may be, and should expect to be controlled at the border. And you had better had a passport on you then.

Regardless, you should carry your passport anyway. While at least in Germany there is no general obligation to carry ID at all times (or passport in your case, since you are not a Union member, so you have "Passpflicht", not "Ausweispflicht" -- which means ID is not sufficient), you are required to be able to prove proper ownership of a passport and you are to present it upon being asked by police in due time. Well, whatever that means... in due time (it's not defined, I am assuming something like "Sure, let me go inside my room and fetch it" would do, but "Uh, I left it in another city" might not). Not having your passport on you doesn't mean you're going to get sentenced to death, but well, it means trouble which is not really necessary during your holiday.

Plus, when crossing borders, carrying your passport is a strict requirement.

somewhere in Austria (Innsbruck maybe?) so I could see the Alps.

If the intent is to literally see the Alps, you can do that just fine even without leaving Munich. Or, you can do it from a ton of very lovely nearby places all over the region which are easier to reach (Tegernsee or Chiemgau come to mind, or even some nearby places which you can actually reach by subway or suburban train, Munich area is quite awesome in that respect).

I'm not saying you shouldn't go to Innsbruck, it's definitively a good choice. Though depending on your luck, and depending on how late you buy, you may be surprised how much Deutsche Bahn can charge for a ticket.

Also, there's actual Alps in Germany (think e.g. Zugspitze), so you do not absolutely need to cross a border to see (in a sense of walking them) the Alps. It's somewhat closer (half an hour train time less), too.

If Kufstein (Austria) would also do instead of Innsbruck, you can possibly save quite a bit of money by getting a "Bayernticket". That's a very interesting option in any case because it's a 24-hour do-what-you-want ticket (no ICE, all within all of Bavaria, plus almost -- but not quite -- to the Lake Constance (2km short, that's probably on purpose!), plus some locations in Austria -- Kufstein and Salzburg among them, but not Innsbruck) for a very reasonable price, and if you travel with family or friends, you can add them to the ticket for a small extra charge, which makes it very worthwhile.

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Travelling regularly between Germany and Italy I usually get stopped at custom when entering Switzerland, a Schengen Area country but not part of the EU, but never happened when crossing Austria. There should not be any barrier except due diligence police controls on trains and at boarding in the train station.

Edit: corrected as Switzerland is actually part of Schengen Area but not part of EU Schengen info

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    Note that Switzerland, while part of the Schengen Passport-free area, isn't part of the European Customs Union, so there are frequently customs checks when crossing the border. – Joe Malt Aug 7 at 1:12
  • Couple of years ago I had the opportunity of taking a lot of train trips from Switzerland: Swiss-France, Swiss-Italy and Swiss-Austria. The police would make a round of the carriages at the border stations randomly asking for passports but I don't remember undergoing any customs checks. – RedBaron Aug 7 at 6:05
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If your intention is to cross the border from Germany to Austria, that is easy once you are legally inside the Schengen area (includes all of the continental EU except Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, plus non EU members such as Switzerland and Norway). Systematic border checks have been abolished and the entire EU is a single customs union so there should be no ID checks and there are never customs checks regardless of whether you are on an aeroplane, on a train, in a car, on a bicycle or on foot. With the refugee arrivals of 2015, ID checks have been temporarily reintroduced at some places such as Freilassing but even if you are subject to inspection it should be a rapid one. You should, border checks or not, always have your passport with you when you leave your hotel/accomodation as both Germany and Austria have some form of ID requirement: by law, you don’t necessarily have to carry it with you at all times (at least in Germany) but you should be able to produce it rapidly upon request.

I can attest that Innsbruck is a beautiful city and should be visited. However, if your goal is really just the Alps then:

  • they can be seen from Munich in the correct weather conditions (Föhn wind)
  • they can be seen on any sufficiently clear day from somewhere just south of Munich such as Seeshaupt on Lake Starnberg, Weilheim i. OB. (denoted as Weilheim(Oberbay) by DB) or Murnau. Aside from the Alps there is also beautiful nature in that area.
  • they extend into Germany so you can get the full mountain experience by remaining in Germany. I suggest visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen which in itself is also a beautiful town (not legally a town though) and features the ski jump arena used for the Vierschanzentournee, the Partnachklamm gorge and various ropeways/one rack railway up onto the various surrounding mountains. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also at the foot of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain (although the mountains you can see in Austria are higher).

Concerning your rail trip, if you’re going to Innsbruck directly, the fastest route is (sadly) the one via Rosenheim and Kufstein. This route goes through the flat land north of the Alps to Rosenheim and then through the wide Inn valley into Innsbruck. However, the train passing Garmisch-Partenkirchen also connects to Innsbruck via the Karwendelbahn. It may not be as fast but it offers wonderful scenery on your descent from Hochzirl down into Innsbruck central station. Furthermore, this trip leaves the flat country sooner and goes through smaller valleys via Farchant and Mittenwald. A discounted ticket exists to go from Munich via Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Innsbruck (but I am too out of the loop right now to give you the definite cheapest option).

Disclaimer and source: My family lives between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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    And if they do take the scenic train they should sit on the right hand side from Germany to Austria for the best views. – mdewey Aug 8 at 12:27
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Adding to what others have said, theoretically there are no systematic border checks between Schengen countries. However, there are frequent "random" checks. I live in Germany and have travelled 4 or 5 times in the last year to Poland and Czech Republic via train and have been checked for a passport twice.

With respect to Austria specifically, there are temporary border controls in place between Austria and Germany until November of this year. There's some diplomatic language in there about under what circumstances they will be in force, but suffice it to say, its not unlikely that you could be checked.

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