Europe is famous for its good train connectivity. Among those countries, Germany stands as one of the top destinations with faster, frequent, cleaner, and accessible trains in the continent. The main advantage for avid traveler is the online portal of this country allows foreigners to book online train tickets too.
Here is a complete guide to explore Germany with trains.
Buying Train Tickets in Germany
You can buy tickets from numerous third-party and government sites. The government site is Deutsche Bahn. Most of these online sites including the government webpage accept international credit cards. The tickets are sent electronically. Thus, you need not print the tickets.
If you are choosing long distance trains or high-speed trains, it is important to book in advance. The prices for most of the train are dynamic. Thus, early booking will fetch best price. In many high volume trains, the ticket price on the departure date is four time the price of the ticket that is purchased two or one month in advance. Common trains that need advance booking are InterCity Express, Eurocity, InterCity, and ICE Sprinter.
If you are trying to book regional trains, advance booking is not essential. Such trains have fixed ticket price. You can buy the tickets for the train at the station, whenever needed. You can also book such tickets from online sites too.
When to Book Tickets?
The tickets for domestic trains open six months prior to the departure date. This booking time span is less for trains running on second Saturday of June and December, due to change in the yearly timetable.
The name for the train classes varies with types of trains. In general, there are two types of standard tickets.
This is full-price ticket, which offers flexibility to the tourists to choose any train for travel. This is a costly option, but a convenient one.
This is a cost effective option. This ticket is available only in advance and might be sold out a few days before the departure date. This ticket is brought for any specific route. Under this, there are two classes of tickets
- First Class – Expensive option with lounge access in station, more legroom, comfortable seats, and others.
- Second Class – Less expensive with limited perks. Always check the price of second and first class before choosing one. In some trains, the price of first and second class tickets will be almost the same. Thus, with just a little more money, you can enjoy all the perks of the first class.
How to Carry Your Tickets?
If you are buying online, you will receive your tickets in electronic form. If you are buying it from the station, you will receive a physical ticket with QR code. The train conductor scans the code to verify it.
If you are carrying an electronic ticket, download it as PDF file and save it in any device. You can also choose to take a printout of the PDF file. You can download any app in your mobile for storing the train tickets. Some train stations in the country have options to print your ticket. You need to submit the ticket code and it will print the ticket out for you.
A few tourists prefer mail-order tickets. You will receive your ticket in a mail for an additional cost of 5 Euros. However, it would take a considerable amount of time to reach you.
- 28 and Older – If you are more than 28 years old, you should buy first class pass. It is an expensive option, but there are numerous perks to it. However, if you are buying 2nd class single tickets, it would be cost effective option than the rail pass.
- German Rail Twin Pass – If you are buying two rail passes together, you can get 50% discount. This goes for both second class and first class pass. However, under this pass, you both have to travel together as you will be receiving one pass with both names in it.
- Interrail Germany Pass – This pass is for European citizens and residents. You can choose 3 to 8 days of unlimited travel in second or first class. This pass is valid on all trains except private trains.
- German Rail Pass – This is for foreign visitors. It gives 3 to 10 days of unlimited travel in second or first class. This is not available for private trains.
- At least be 20 minutes early to the train station. If you are travelling for the first time, it would take considerable amount of time to find the right platform.
- ID proof is essential for online tickets.
- If you are choosing to print your tickets in the machine at the station, reach earlier than 30-40 minutes from the departure time.
- Once you have found the right platform, find your train and the right car in the train, as per your ticket. If you couldn't find the right car, you can choose to sit in the non-reserved seats too.
- The luggage room is found above or beneath the seat. In some trains, there is a designated luggage rack at the end of train car.
- A conductor will check your ticket after you are seated.
- The signs and the ticket machines have English instructions along with German.
- Most of the cheap tickets are non-refundable and it is not possible to change the date, on the departure date. The fee for ticket change is also very high.
- Travelers can bring food and alcohol in the train.
- No weight limit for luggage in the trains.
- Major cities have more than one train station. Unfortunately, the names of the stations would sound similar to a foreigner. Double check the station name prior to travelling.
- Make sure not to miss your changing or destination train station on your route. The stations are quite far away.
- It is best to choose a travel insurance to cover any misfortunate problems in your travel and to cover the cost of the non-refundable tickets during such scenarios.
If you are planning to explore the country with trains, rail passes are convenient and cost-effective options. The best advantage of the rail pass is that there is no need for reservations even in high-speed trains (not available in overnight trains). The train pass is not always the best option. To know whether or not to by rail pass, find the cost of the rail pass and divide it by the number of trains you are planning to take in a day.
Now, check the individual train tickets of those trains and make a calculation. Remember that if you buy the individual train tickets in advance, the cost will be considerably less. Usually, the single tickets are cost effective that rail pass, if you are booking two months in advance. However, you will not have the flexibility in choosing the trains. Rail passes are good options if you do not have a specific plan to cover Germany.
Children Ticket Cost
Children below 6 years can travel free in the train. Children between 6 and 15 can travel free if they are travelling with one adult. Thus, each adult can bring in one child to travel free with him.
Special Tickets for Exploring Germany
Querdurches Land Ticket
This is a weekday ticket, which gives full day access for unlimited train travel in any regional express and regional trains from 9 am to 3 pm. Five passengers can travel with one ticket. Base price is 44 Euro and for each additional passenger, 8 Euro is added.
This is an unlimited travel ticket for regional trains alone.
Also called Bavaria ticket, this is unlimited train travel ticket between Munich and Salzburg, Fussen, or Berchtesgaden. For single traveler, the ticket is 25 Euro. For two travelers, it is 32 Euro, 39 Euro for three travelers and so on. This ticket also covers buses in Bavaria.
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