ICE 3 (Germany)

If you will be taking a journey by these ICE 3 trains our guide will tell you all you need to know, from boarding, to making the most of the journey experience.

ICE 3s are the fastest high speed trains in Germany.
They are the only trains capable of using the 300 km/h high speed line between Koln and Frankfurt, so they are mainly found on services that use this line.
These include the ICE services between Germany and both Amsterdam and Bruxelles.

Technically there are three different types of ICE 3 trains:

(1) The 403, which is used on most non-international ICE-3 routes in Germany.

(2) The 406, which is used on the routes between Germany and both Belgium and The Netherlands.
Though from a passenger point of view, the travel experience is virtually identical to being on a 403 train.

(3) The 407, also known as the 'Velaro D', which is used on the Frankfurt - Paris DB-SNCF routes, and on a small percentage of services in Germany.

The on board experience is makedly different on those 407 trains.
Aside from the family compartment, all seats are in open plan saloons and they have a restaurant car - but they don't have the lounges at either ends of the train.


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Few would argue that these train set the benchmark for European high seed trains, both inside and out.
The internal glass walls and sliding glass doors give these trains the wow factor.

However, some ICE3 s are showing signs of wear and the air-conditioning in particular can be temperamental.

Hence the announcement that these trains are to be refurbished over the next couple of years.


The modernised trains have a yellow stripe by the doors on the 1st class coaches.
They also a new seat reservation display - with the occupancy information on the head rests of the seats, facing the corridor.

The trains have new seats and an enhanced bistro area with seating - a similar concept to the restaurant cars on the ICE 1 trains.
Other features include an enhanced family compartment and more space for wheelchairs.

There's no way of knowing you will be travelling on a refurbished train when booking, but around 15% of the trains have currently been modernised and the work is due to be completed by the end of 2020.

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Reservations are now included when booking 1st class journeys by ICE trains.

However, in 2nd class (and for rail pass users in 1st class and 2nd class) they're available - but optional.
1st class = €5.30
2nd class = €4

They can be added when booking 2nd class tickets, or purchased separately - if you already have a ticket OR a rail pass  - either online or at the station at a Reisezentrum ticket desk, or from a DB ticket machine.

'Quiet' and 'Phone' zones are available on ICE 3 trains and when booking 1st class tickets or making a reservation, you can choose seats within these 'zones'. 

If you have not reserved the availability of seats is NOT guaranteed - if need be walk through the train to find available seats

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Seven Things Worth Kniowing When Boarding an ICE-3 train:

(1) Two ICE3 sets are often joined together to make one extremely long 16 coach/carriage train.

Therefore aim to be on the platform/track/gleis at the station at least 5 minutes before departure, particularly if you will be joining the train at an intermediate station.

Give yourself time to figure out where you should wait on the platform/track/gleis prior to boarding.

(2) If you have a reservation before arriving on the gleis/platform/track, check your ticket for the number of the coach in which your reserved seat is located.

Then use the info screens on the gleis/platform, to check in which zone on the gleis you should wait, for easy boarding.

(3) When two trains are joined together, it isn’t possible to walk entirely through the train from one end to the other.

Another good reason for not boarding by the first door you see because you are rushing.

(4) Some coaches/carriages only have one door, while others have two.

(5) A number ‘1’ by the doors indicates that the coach is 1st class, while a ‘2’ indicates second class.

On the yet to be refurbished trains, these numbers are  the only external indication of whether a coach is 1st class and vice versa and they can be hard to spot on a fast arriving train.

Though yellow stripes by the doors are being added to indicate the location of 1st class.

Below these numbers (1 or 2) are electronic indicators which show the destination of the train and the main stations it will be calling at.

(6) If you haven't reserved seats, a less obvious aspect of travelling by ICE 3 trains is that they have 'Quiet' and 'Phone' zones'

So look out for the signs on the exterior and interior of the trains indicating whether a particular coach has these zones.

You can then either target or avoid seats in these areas.

(7) The doors won’t open automatically so you may have to press the green button.


Four Things to be aware of when finding a Seat:

(1) Reservations are indicated by red text next to seat numbers that show the stations, between which the seat has been reserved.

These seat numbers are located on a strip below which runs along the edge of the above seat luggage racks.

So if you board a Dortmund – Munchen train at Dortmund Hbf and see Dortmund – Munchen by a seat number, then this seat will be occupied for the entire journey.

However other seats may only be reserved between Koln and Munchen, so if you’re travelling from Dortmund to Koln you can sit in this seat.

(2) Seat numbers that have no text beside them or have 'bahn comfort' displayed are available for all or the remainder of the journey.

(3) You may see 'ggf. freigeben' displayed which indicates that a seat MAY be free, but avoid these seats if possible, as in our experience it usually means that the seat won't be free for the entire journey.

(4) An unusual feature is that the red text turns itself off 15 mins after the train has departed, from a station from which the seat is reserved.

The logic being is that that if the holder of the reservation doesn’t claim the seat, then passengers without reservations who board at the next station will know that the seat is available.

So if you do have a reservation and are travelling alone, take care to not be absent from your seat when the train calls at stations

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Most seats are in open plan saloons, but some seats are arranged into compartments - one of which is set aside for family use.

There are also seats in lounges at each end of the train, one 1st class and one 2nd class, which give a view down the track.

This view down the track can be particularly thrilling on high speed lines, but only if the driver doesn’t mist the glass between the passenger lounge and the driving cab.

Having the glass misted seems to be more common these days, so if you’re not interested in the track views, avoid these lounges, the main seating saloons feel less cramped.

There are luggage racks by the doors AND in the middle of the 1st class seating saloons.

It can be worth travelling 1st class if you have heavy luggage, as there is more space in which to store it.

Quiet zones:

If you haven't reserved, check whether you happen to be sitting in a 'Quiet Zone', if you are the conductor, or your fellow travellers, will ask you not to make or receive calls during your journey.

Power sockets:

The power sockets can be hard to find on ICE3 trains.

They are in the arm rests, under the control panels for the on-board audio service.


They have Wi-Fi access - but data usage can be more restricted in 2nd class.

On international services you may to have log in again to access the Wi-Fi when the train crosses a border.


Only folding bikes can be taken on board ICE 3 trains

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There is no trolley catering on ICE trains.

If you are travelling 1st or 2nd class you can opt to purchase hot/cold food and drink from the bar/bistro car and then either consume it in the bistro car or bring it back to your seat.

Travelling 1st class:

An attendant will also pass through 1st class taking orders for food and drink to be delivered to your seat – try to avoid confusing them with the conductor who will check the tickets etc.

Be aware that you will be charged for all items that you order at your seat.

If you’re travelling 1st class and are particularly thirsty/hungry, don’t wait for the catering attendant to make their round, go to the bar counter and order in person.

Worth knowing:

On ICE trains glasses and china plates and cups are used and not paper and plastic.

Very classy and probably more eco-friendly too, but take care!

It is not unknown for items to fly off tables when brakes are applied or when trains take corners at high speed

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ICE 3 trains are used on these routes:

(1) Frankfurt Main – Frankfurt Flughafen - Koln Hbf - Aachen – Liege – Bruxelles Nord - Bruxelles Midi/Zuid

(2) Frankfurt (Main) – Frankfurt Flughafen - Koln Hbf – Dusseldorf – Duisburg – Arnhem – Utrecht – Amsterdam

(3) Basel – Freiburg – Karlsruhe – Mannheim – Frankfurt Flughafen - Koln Hbf - (Dusseldorf – Dortmund/Duisburg – Arnhem – Utrecht – Amsterdam)

(4) Munchen – Nurnberg – Wurzburg - Frankfurt Main – Frankfurt Flughafen – Koln Messe/Deutz – Dusseldorf – Essen – (Dortmund)

(5) Munchen – Augsburg – Ulm - Stuttgart - Mannheim – Frankfurt Flughafen – Koln Hbf – Dusseldorf – Essen – Dortmund

(6) Frankfurt (Main) - Halle - Berlin

An overview of train travel in Germany

How to buy tickets for German train journeys

Travelling ON the trains in Germany

Travelling on European daytime trains

Travelling on European overnight trains

International train routes to/from Germany

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Bistro (Hot Food)
Bar (Cold Food)
Double Deck
High Speed
First Class
1 (1.klasse)
Second Class
2 (2.klasse)

Rail passes and reservations

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Other features

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