Frankfurt Commuting guide for Expats

Bas

Mar 04 • 4 minute read

Frankfurt is the #2 most commuted city in the country, with around 370.000 commuters moving in and out of the city on a daily basis. How come? Frankfurt as a city is a well-connected hub this is easy to reach by car, train or plane. It is also one of the most expensive cities in Germany, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that not everyone can or wants to live in the city itself. So, is commuting an option for expats too? What are the best commuter towns and what is the most efficient means to commute into the city? Let’s find out!

Commuting by Car

Commuting by car is quite common in Germany, as it goes hand in hand with a relatively strong car-culture in the country. Additionally, Germany is pretty darn large but with infrastructure to match, making a car a much more worthwhile investment for many Germans. Commuting by car gives you freedom and utility beyond just the commute to work, but generally comes at a higher cost as well.

One of the most important things to keep in mind if you intend to commute by car as an expat is that Frankfurt is a major city while also not being all that big. That means that parking can be tricky and can get expensive fast if you don’t have a parking lot or designated parking space provided by your employer.

The Autobahn offers a lot of freedom in terms of travel speed, but like most major cities, rush hour traffic can always present itself as a problem if you choose to commute by car. It does open up a much wider array of possibilities in terms of housing, as you’re no longer dependent on the reach of public transport arteries, allowing you to live further and more out of the way, saving money on housing expenses in the process.

All in all, if you can easily convert your license to a German one and you’re providing for your family, possibly even with kids, then the additional cost in fuel, insurance, etc would definitely be outweighed by the sheer utility and mobility that a car brings you.

Commuting by Train

Rather than learning how to drive or, if you already know, investing in a car can be a costly endeavour that not every expat has room to make. The good thing is that working in Frankfurt, you might not even need your own car. Frankfurt has an excellent public transport system, the crown of which is worn by the city’s S Bahn train system.

It’s the S-Bahn network that connects Frankfurt to the rest of Germany, courtesy of the nearby airport! The S-Bahn will take you to many of the nearby towns on the agglomerate edges of Frankfurt, where you’ll trade a 20-30 commute for a more affordable (compared to the Frankfurt proper) housing situation.

If you’re really looking a little further away, then there are the ICE high speeds trains, that will take a 1 hour trip by car and turn it into around 30 minutes by train, making cities like Mannheim or even Giessen a viable option for Frankfurt commuters. On top of all this, German trains are excellent! They’re clean, comfortable and heated in winter and airconditioned in summer. As a train commuter myself, it’s a low-stress way of getting into the city and allows you to build up a reading habit to startup and close off your workday!

Popular commuting towns around Frankfurt

So, if you’re looking to work in Frankfurt, but you’re not looking to live in Frankfurt itself, what are some popular options that are within 30-60 minutes of the city? Here’s a list of nearby towns that are within commuting distance:

Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden is a city around 45 kilometres west of Frankfurt north of the Rhine bend, which has an excellent train and autobahn connection to the city. Wiesbaden is the biggest city in the Hessen area (after frankfurt) with around 280.000 inhabitants.

Connections:

  • Car: There are 3 main routes (via A66, via B43 and B43 + A3) to Frankfurt by car, taking you anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes to get to Frankfurt.
  • Train: By train you have 2 options, taking either the Frankfurt S9 line into the city in about 45 minutes. The S9 to Frankfurt departs around every 20 minutes. If you’re looking for a faster route, you can take the high-speed ICE train that will take you to Frankfurt in just about 34 minutes.

Mainz

Across the river Rhine from Wiesbaden, you’ll find the slightly smaller city of Mainz, which has just over 220.000 inhabitants. Unsurprisingly, Mainz and Wiesbaden share a similar route to Frankfurt, with the commutes from Wiesbaden being slightly shorter.

Connections:

  • Car: The car trip from Mains is a little longer, with your commute lasting around 40 minutes minimum. You could carpool with a colleague or friend from Wiesbaden, as the route via the A66 takes you through southern Wiesbaden.
  • Train: Mainz actually has the advantage by train, as it’s also a stop for the ICE line that goes directly to Frankfurt. If you take this train, you could be in Frankfurt in around 20 minutes! The regular train line takes you to Frankfurt in around 30-40 minutes.

Hanau:

Hanau is a smaller town 30 km northeast of Frankfurt, counting around 100.000 inhabitants and is known as the birthplace of the Grimm brothers and footballer Rudy Völler. It’s also quite close to Frankfurt, which makes it popular among commuters!

Connection:

  • Car: By car, you have a route over or under the river Main. Whichever route you pick though, this is one of the routes that see some traffic issues, meaning you generally get to Frankfurt in around 25 minutes, but on a really bad day it could take you up to 55 minutes. But, for most commuters, the connectivity of Hanau and the lower cost of living is worth the extra time.
  • Train: Again, Hanau has the advantage of having access to both the regular S-Bahn lines as well as the high speed ICE trains, putting trans travel times anywhere between 14 and 30 minutes, depending on which line you take.

These cities would be the top 3 commuter towns, as they are large enough to have a city atmosphere themselves, without being as expensive as Frankfurt proper. Honourable mentions would be Mannheim (by ICE), Darmstadt and Bad Homburg, a smaller town surrounded by other car commuter villages known as the Taunaus commuter belt.

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