The VRN has a unified ticketing system with a range of options, such as 6-month and 12-month tickets, Rhein-Neckar Tickets for frequent travellers, Job-Tickets, Maxx-Tickets for school students, Semester-Tickets for university students, and Senior Tickets for passengers who have reached 60 years of age. In addition to single fares, there are also 1-day and 3-day tickets.
Passes can be purchased at any VRN counter (opening hours vary according to the station), at selected ticket machines and at many news kiosks. You can either buy your tickets for individual trips at one of the many automated ticketing machines or purchase passes valid for a full day, a week, a month or even an entire year. The longer the time period, the better the deal.
VRN passes are all transferable, allowing you to loan them to friends or family members when you do not need them. In addition to being a better bargain, the monthly and yearly cards include the bonus option that after 7 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, one adult and all children under age 14 can travel free with a pass-holder.
The VRN doesn't have a system of conductors to check tickets. Like most other German municipalities, VRN uses a modified honor system for travel on public transport. That means you buy your ticket or pass before you board the train, and you usually do not even have to show it when you enter. The exception is with buses, where after 8 p.m. you have to board at the front of the bus and show your ticket or pass to the driver as you enter..
Do not think, however, that the honor system is an open invitation to ride for free. It is, as we say, a modified honor system, and those who prove themselves not honorable can expect to pay a penalty. Teams of ticket inspectors, most often in plainclothes, travel around the system, prepared to catch miscreants traveling without a valid ticket or pass. Because inspectors wait until the train or bus has started rolling, there is no way you can disembark and escape being caught.
If you are caught "traveling black" (schwarzfahren), you will be asked to pay a fine of 40 euros on the spot. If you cannot pay right then and there, you will be handed a ticket with your fine listed on it and where you can go to pay that fine.
If you do not pay within the time period listed, you will get a notice at your address (that is why ticket inspectors insist on seeing your passport or some form of personal identity) with an increased fine.
Each time you ignore paying the ticket, your fine will increase until, finally, you will be required to appear in court. It is best just to buy the ticket in the first place. If you feel you have a valid excuse for not paying your fine (just about the only one is that the ticket machine at your station was not working), you can bring it up with the official at the payment office.
Do not try arguing with the inspectors; they are trained to disregard all pleas and sob stories and to leave the matter of appeals to the people at the payment office.
The payment office has a chart which lists all the ticket machines that were out of operation on a particular day, so make a note of the machine number or the station where it is located. If the date and time on your fine do not match their records, you pay the fine; if it does, they waive the fine and apologize for the inconvenience you have suffered. However, the cost of travelling to the payment office will not be refunded.
The first time you buy a ticket, it might seem complicated, but you'll soon master it. Just follow these steps:
- Select your destination from the alphabetical directory on the machine.
- Use the keypad to enter the destination number.
- Select the ticket you wish to purchase based on passenger age [adult or child (between 6 and 14 years of age)]. One paying adult can take as many as three children under the age of 6 at no additional cost.
- Pay the amount displayed. Bank notes of 5, 10, 20 and 50 euros are accepted. Some of the newer machines also accept debit/credit cards.
Other options include a day ticket or group ticket .
Bus tickets can be purchased from the driver. Train personnel will sell tickets to passengers if the automated machine is defective.