Public transportation fees go to their respective city and help fix roads, make the transport better, and pay public wages. Always pay for public transportation when you can and help support the city and economy you are in. On the other hand, if you’re not trying to go broke paying for tickets and have no money to begin with, cheating the public transportation will save you a significant amount.
This guide will break down how the different types of transport in Europe — metro, tram, rail, and buses — work, along with general guidelines on cheating them which are below and specific cities worth describing in detail.
Always buy a ticket the first time you ride a public transport. This is how you’ll learn how one works, and having a ticket at all will help either playing dumb when caught or possibly trick a conductor even if its days or weeks old.
Always, always buy a ticket for whatever public transport you are using to leave the city. The last thing you need is to be caught when you are trying to leave and have to pay a bunch of money or be late for a plane or bus or whatever it may be.
If you are caught by a conductor without a ticket, you have a couple choices.
a) Run. Just break out and run. In all places I went, legally at least, the conductors could not physically stop you and won’t chase you. If they are police though they can and might. You’ll know the difference by their uniform or the badge they might flash when asking for tickets.
b) Play dumb. Play the dumb tourist card full-fledged, you don’t speak the language, you thought the ticket worked for more than one ride, more than one day etc, you couldn’t figure out how to buy a ticket, anything. Depending on where you are they’ll let you off with a warning.
c) Fines for not having a ticket are not cheap, they can be anywhere from € 50 to € 250. When caught they will normally ask for an address to send a bill. If you are from America, they don’t actually send the bill all the way to the states as I’ve been told many times.
d) Be honest. This is completely dependant on the situation and where you are, but sometimes not giving the conductor a hard time helps. A conductor asked for my ticket 30 minutes before reaching Venice from Verona on a train and I said I didn’t have one. She asked how much money I had and I lied and said only € 5. Without contempt, she said get off at the next stop and buy a ticket to Venice and get back on, it’ll only be € 5 from that station.
Conductors usually look shifty when they get on a train, looking around a lot, standing by the door etc. It’s not easy to spot them, but specific cities’ conductors look the same or have patterns which I’ll describe below. In general though, if in a closed car you’ll know if there was a conductor within seconds of the door closing. In an open car, just look far down for a rush of people moving, that’s usually from a conductor asking for tickets. Move where the crowd is moving and get off at the next stop and you’ll be fine.
Rush hour and the daytime in general is when conductors will be around the most and you most likely to be caught. Evening and nighttime are much calmer and there are no conductors in my experience.
Generally the longer you stay on a transport the more likely you’ll get caught, more people coming on and off, more chance.
Click here for the different categories of public transport and how to cheat each one.
Click here for specific information on cheating major cities like Rome, Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, etc.