|Population:||1,024,346 (31 December 2008)|
|Motorways:||A1, A3, A4, A57, A59|
Cologne, or Köln in German, is a big city in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Cars number plates starting with the letter K are registered in this locality. While the following are localities in the neighbourhood of Cologne: (LEV - GL - SU - BM) clockwise from the North
The whole Ruhr Area is a well-known pain in the ass for anyone crossing that region. If you observe the motorway system, you'll find out that they zig zag and cross each other in the Ruhr, specially right North of Cologne. There is no "belt" motorway around the city, just those zig zags. The flow of cars is highly difficult to predict because cars go from one motorway to another. There are generally 3-4 possible motorways one can take to travel North/South or East/West. It's the most densely populated zone in Germany, so a lot of transport is local or regional, making it even more difficult. Think about it - if you're passing by, avoid getting dropped there!
South towards Bonn, Koblenz, Frankfurt am Main
To get out of Cologne towards Bonn or Koblenz, the best possibility is to go to the Verteilerkreis Süd, a big roundabout where all vehicles that are heading for the motorway to the South or West are passing by. There is also a petrol station beside it and a traffic light where one can ask people for a lift.
If you're headed to Frankfurt am Main, take the train to the last stop Königsforst (tram U9), walk straight for about 15 min. Then after a right turn you are on a decent on ramp of the A3, most of the cars will go to Frankfurt am Main or can drop you at least on the Rasthof Siegburg (about 20 km South), which is it worth for long-distance rides.
- Frixge: I hitched at Königsforst in August 2011 by chance. And found it hard to imagine that people would stop, because it is outside of town and a lot of people ignore hanging out hitchhikers. But the next times I went there I got a ride in 5 to 30min. Especially it is easier to get southwards, because there is no other option than the A3.
Another possibility for the A3 direction Frankfurt is to take the train “RB 25” from the main station in the direction “Marienheide” or “Overath” for EUR 3.20. Leave at “Stümpen” and turn right and go up to the “Kiefernweg” and turn right. Follow the street that is later called “Dammelsfurther Weg” up to the “Pestalozziweg” for maybe 500 meters and turn right. Now you pass the Autobahn and turn right again in the “Plantage”. Follow this way a few hundred meters through the forest and you will see a service station on the right side. Maybe you have to climb a fence. Now you are on the a station without oil station but much traffic and it's easy to get a ride there. It takes approximately 40 minutes to reach it from Cologne Hbf (main train station).
Furthermore going in direction of FFM you can use the traffic lights at the ramp Köln-Dellbrück (Mülheim/Buchheim) or at the ramp onto the 55a (Frankfurterstraße). Ask the driver to bring you at least on the Rasthof Siegburg. To Köln-Dellbrück you can catch the bus 159 in direction Buchheim to Gronauerstraße for example at Wiener Platz (3 stops). To the ramp at Frankfurterstraße take bus 151, 152 or 153 to Beuthenerstraße.
- Frixge mostly waited between 5 and 15 minutes. But I once waited two hours at Köln-Dellbrück. It was early in the morning. Maybe most of the traffic at that daytime is local.
Hitching in that direction seems to be legendarily difficult unless you take a regional train and walk an hour. Several experienced hitchhikers got trapped countless hours and decided to take a train instead. Nevertheless it's of course possible to hitch out of Cologne, experiences about this vary extremely. So far there are four options:
- Option 1: Close to the city, you may want to try one of the on-ramps in the North East of Cologne. On-ramp Köln-Dellbrück (exit 26 on the A3) seems to be good for hitchhiking in direction Remscheid or further along the A1. Also traffic North the A3 passes here. There's no hard shoulder but some green space to stop cars ~60m behind the Autobahn sign. Another possibility is to ask the drivers directly at the traffic light with an extra lane for the motorway. You can get there by taking the metro U18 to Holweide-Vischeringstrasse, cross the railways towards the main road and to the left you'll find the on-ramp. Or Follow the description for Köln-Dellbrück (see south towards). You just have to walk a bit more. Make sure to have a "Remscheid" or "RS" sign in case of going towards A1 because there is only one tiny resting area ahead of the A3/A1 crossing and as of 06/2011, it is mainly used as a meeting spot for male homosexuals.
- Platschi hitched at Dellbrück in May 2010 and got a ride easily within ten minutes towards Remscheid service station, with even two cars stopping in the meantime but driving northbound.
- artti hitchhiked there in May 2011 and two police cars didn't do anything, but third one nicely asked him to leave, because it might not be safe, because cars don't have actually proper place to stop. He took a U-bahn number 4 to last stop Schlebusch (it is possible without ticket) and about twenty meters away you can catch a bus number 260, if lucky driver doesn't ask you to show ticket, but if you must buy, then ticket to Kaltenherberg Ort is eur 2.50.
- Frixge tried twice to get off at the traffic light at Köln-Dellbrück to Berlin. First time at 15:00-16:00 there was an huge amount of traffic and he just had to walk along and ask the drivers. After 10 min he found someone who passed the service-station Remscheid. Second time at 13:00 he waited for 2 hours at the traffic light. There was few traffic, mostly local. Next time he will try the option 4.
- Option 2: It's also possible to hitch from the South East of the city because there is a petrol station on the A59. The closest bus stop is "Eil Heumarer", bus #152. You can take it from Steinstr. S-Bahn, which is relatively close from the main station.
- Option 3: In case you try to use a ramp from Cologne, a good take-off sign is "Remscheid", because the first service area on the A1 is "Rasthof Remscheid", just before the exit for Remscheid. There are lots of commuters. You can also get there by train from Cologne Dom/Hbf for 6,50 Euros via Remscheid Hbf and walk 5 km to the area (map here). If you're lucky, catch the bus 672 or 673 (valid with your zone 4 ticket) to Talsperre/Mebusmühle or Talsperre/Raststätte (closer but only 673) and avoid the walk. These buses do not pass very often, though.
- Option 4: There is also the possibility to take the bus nr 260 from the central station towards Remscheid. Get off at the bus stop Kaltenherberg Ort, From there you just have to walk for about 2 minutes, the motorway is already visible. All drivers that pass can at least take you to the petrol station in Remscheid which is just about a few kilometres from there. Like that you avoid the ring and are straight on the A1. I never waited long at that place.
- Frixge Taking the bus is a good alternative. By the way the first car in Kaltenherberg took me to the service station. I was surprised because there is not a lot of space on the ramp.
Trying to get onto A4 seems to be as difficult as getting anywhere north-east. Caro tried Mid-July 2010 to hitchhike at the on-ramp in Merheim, giving up after 3 hours using the following spot.
One but long (and maybe worthwhile) possibility is to go to petrol station Aggertal. Take S-Bahn 25 direction Marienheide Bf. Get off at Overath Bf and take bus 310 direction Gumemrsbach. Get off (2nd halt) at Klef/Hotel Lüdenbach and walk 20 minutes to the gas staion. Check map before! From there you can go anywhere eastwards, including long distance rides too.
- janpa suggests to not take the bus, but hitch to the petrol station from Overath Bf. It's probably faster to take a lift to the on-ramp, and then directly to the petrol station, since it is only two kilometres. From Köln it takes about one hour to get to the spot.
North towards Düsseldorf or Nijmegen
Take the tram no. 5 or 13 to Nußbaumer Str.. There is an on-ramp. A lot of traffic goes in your direction, but it is very dangerous for drivers to stop there. Perilisk tried this spot in 2008 but was unsuccessful and uncomfortable stopping cars there. Clint.hotvedt tried this spot a few times in the fall of 2009 and was not able to get out for some hours as well, in the end accepting a ride to Ausfahrt 26 K-Worringen, where it was much easier. At least for direction Krefeld/Nijmegen this user recommends riding the S-bahn to Worringen and try it from there, average waiting time around 30-60 minutes.
West towards Aachen, Maastricht, Eindhoven and Belgium
On the motorway ring around Cologne, to the west of the city, there's the motorway service area Köln-Frechen, Germany's busiest(?) service station. You can reach it by catching a train to Königsdorf S-Bahn (around 20 minutes). Turn right on the stairs at the station, walk through the car park, turn left on Augustinus Straße, walk straight for 2 minutes and then turn right on to Marienhöfer Weg. Keep walking up this path into the forest for 5 minutes. Eventually you will come to a crossroad with the service station on the left.
Another way to get out of Cologne in that direction is to go near the A4, Exit 11a Klettenberg and 11b Köln-Eifeltor. When at the latest, walking slightly North there is an extra lane that looks like an ideal place for people to stop, and slightly South of it is a big truck stop and petrol station where you can try and ask people. To reach these exits from the centre, take the tram U18 to "Efferen" (for 11a) or to "Eifelwall" and then bus 138 to "Güterverkehrszentrum". This option is especially interesting to know if you get trapped in Cologne while trying to cross the Ruhr area.
When you arrive Cologne via the A1, it's difficult to get into the town centre, because the motorway is very far outside. One option is to get off at the exit Köln-Niehl. There is a tram station, close to the motorway, in east direction, 15 minutes walking. At daytime, you can get to the town centre in like 15 minutes.
From the same motorway (A1), you may as well get out at Köln-Lövenich and catch Tram #1 on Aachener Straße direction down town at either Bahnstraße or Mohnweg stops.
You could as well try to catch a ride from the A1 onto the A3. And then get off for example at Köln-Dellbrück. There you walk 5min in direction west, catch the bus 159 to Wiener Platz, where can get a tram.
Coming from the South on the A555 or through the A4, you may as well as the driver to leave you at the Am Verteilerkreis roundabout situated just at the complete end of the A555, at the Kreuz Köln-Süd (Junction A555-A4). The driver can really leave you at a petrol station and gain the motorway back with complete ease. From there, you can walk along the Bonner Straße to catch a bus to the heart of Köln.
- Students and people with a monthly ticket can take one person for free on weekdays between 19:00 and 03:00 as well as on weekends at any time. Ask around tram/bus stops.
- KVB, the local/regional public transportation network has a good route planner. Very useful!