Cash is best. Credit cards from the US do not work in the local transportation ticket machines. This same problem is in other large cities like Berlin or Munich. Credit cards do work for DB tickets though.
Once you buy your ticket, it is good on all forms of transportation in the city. If you have a one-way ticket (einzelfahrt), it is valid for however long it takes you to go from point A to point B, even if it means transferring from S-Bahn, to U-Bahn, to tram and then to a bus. It is NOT valid for a quick round-trip though.
Frankfurt works on the “honor system“, so you do not have to validate your ticket or show it to anyone before getting on the train, BUT they do have controllers who do nothing but ride around all day and night, looking for people who thought they could ride for free. This will cost them 60 € if caught. I have seen these controllers at the oddest times, early morning, holidays and late at night. Sometimes I will go days or even weeks without getting checked and then get checked 3 times in one day. Make sure you keep your ticket until you get out of the station too, as they can control it there too, to keep vagrancy in the stations at a minimum.
* Buses – You may sometimes need to buy your ticket from the bus driver as there are often no ticket machines at the bus stops, but try not to give them big bills. If you are getting on the bus after 20:00, you need to get on in the front and show your ticket. The buses have an electronic sign at the front that tells the next stop, so push one of the red “stop” buttons ahead of time, to ensure that the bus stops. Those with strollers should get on in the middle of the bus. If you are in a wheelchair, the bus driver will flip open a ramp and the bus will actually tilt to one side a bit and after you get on, the driver will flip the ramp back up, though sometimes other passengers will help do this. They prefer that you not bring your bike on the bus during rush hour times as there just is no space. Most of the buses are air-conditioned which can be lovely on a hot day.
* Strassenbahns (Trams or Streetcars) – These run on tracks in the middle of the street and are always above ground. If you have a stroller or wheelchair, they are a bit more difficult to get into, especially if they are the older type. The city has replaced a lot of them with newer ones that are easier to get into, but not all of them yet. The driver does not sell tickets or give out information. I like riding these to get a good view of the city, just hopping on and riding to the end of the line, then returning.
* U-Bahns – All of the U-Bahns run underground while they are in the city center and then emerge from a tunnel and travel above ground. They are easy to get into while underground, but more difficult above ground at certain stations. Wheelchair users might want to take this into consideration. People with strollers will usually have someone offer to help them, but if not, just ask. The driver does not sell tickets or give out info.
* S-Bahns – These also travel underground in the city center, but the difference between these and the U-Bahns is that they go farther out of the city, with one or both of their end destinations being other cities. This is the easy way to get to Mainz, Wiesbaden, Bad Homburg, Hanau or Darmstadt. Late at night, in suburban locations, I advise sitting in the first car, near the driver.
* A single ticket for riding in the city is 3.40 €
*If you are going to be taking more than 2 trips in a day, then buying a Day ticket or “tageskarte” for 6.65 € is a good deal. 2 to 5 people? Buy a Group ticket or “Gruppenkarte” for 12.60 € which will be valid the entire day. These all-day tickets are not 24-hour tickets, they are only valid until the trains stop running, usually around 1 a.m. or so. The names of all people using this ticket must be written on the ticket
* Kids under 6 are free but those aged 6-14 will need a youth ticket for 1.55 €
* The ticket machines will take bills of 10-20 € depending on the price of your tickets as you can buy multiple tickets at one time. If the machine is broken, tell the driver.
* If you are only going a couple of stops, check your end destination on the ticket machine under “Kurzstrecke” or a short trip to see if you can buy a cheaper ticket. If you can, then simply press the Kurzstrecke button on the ticket machine. Cost is 1.60 € or kids are 1.00€. Bus drivers will also sell these, but they will ask you where you are getting off to see if it is a valid Kurzstrecke.
* To change the language on the ticket machines, on the touch screen machines touch the British flag icon.
* From the airport, a one-way ticket is 5.80 €, a single all-day ticket costs 11.30 € and an all-day group ticket for up to 5 people is 19.10 €. The names of all people using a group ticket must be written on the ticket.
Most of the stations in Frankfurt, all of the Hauptbahnhof and all of them at the airport are touch-screen ticket machines. Touch the screen to switch it to English, French, or Spanish.
Enjoy the Ride!
Frankfurt RMV Public Transportation Link