How to Book Tickets on the DB Website

Jump to - booking night train reservations if you will be travelling with a rail pass.

STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BOOKING TICKETS WITH DB:
 

This 'buying tickets' guide will point out the less obvious aspects of booking tickets on DB, the German national rail operator's website on a PC.


Booking on DB Bahn desktop home page

1 -  SELECT YOUR HOME LANGUAGE

9 European language options are available. (All of the examples are taken from the English language version - and on DB the place and station names are translated).



2 - TAKE CARE WHEN CHOOSING YOUR 'FROM' AND 'TO' STATIONS:

You can usually choose to select specific stations, 'Frankfurt (Main) Hbf) etc - useful if the start or end point of your complete journey is close to a specific station.

Although choosing cities can be the better option if you're heading to/from city centres - and will be using public transport to complete/begin your journey.
Do this and the search results will capture a wider selection of journeys.

However, we have deliberately chosen Cologne in the example.

For despite the city having two different stations, with some ICE services departing from one (Köln Hbf) and some departing from the other ( Köln Messe-Deutz) - only the 'city' is offered as an option when selecting Cologne/Köln.
This seems to be consistent across the language options.

It isn't seemingly possible to specifically select Köln Hbf as a 'from' station.

So if you are looking up journeys from Cologne/Köln, pay particular attention to the journey information - see step 5.



Note that in this example it is possible to select 'Frankfurt Main' Hbf as the specific 'To' station - as it is when looking up journeys to/from most major stations/hauptbahnhofs.

Frankfurt (Main) Hbf is the only station in Frankfurt (Main) city centre that ICE trains call at.

Berlin, Cologne/Köln, Hamburg and München/Munich are cities that have more than one station served by express trains (EC, IC and ICE).

If you will be travelling to/from these cities, don't assume that the main station/hauptbahnhof, will be the optimum station for your journey.

Use Google Maps to look up the specific start/end points of your journey - it may be closer to, or have easier connections to, one of the other stations in those cities.

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3 - SELECTING THE TYPE OF TICKET/BOOKING RESERVATIONS

If you want to travel 1st class you can select 1st class/class. 1 - at the bottom left of this home booking page.

(This full home page layout will only appear once you have selected your 'from' and 'to' stations).

If you already have a ticket or rail pass that's valid for the journey and only need to book a seat reservation(s), then click the 'seat only' box.

The steps required for booking a reservation are very similar to booking tickets - you will be taking to an almost identical search results page, from where you can select the specific train departure that you want to reserve a seat (seats) on.

However, if you have a rail pass and want to book a couchette or sleeping cabin on an overnight train, don't click 'seat only' - there is a different method for booking these reservations - see below.

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4 - USING 'FURTHER 'OPTIONS':


The four particularly useful functions of this page, which we have drawn your attention to are:

Add intermediate stops:

IN THEORY you can use this facility so that you can break your journey, when you will be on route to your final destination.

For EXAMPLE, you may want to travel from Frankfurt (Main) to Stuttgart, then on to Munich and then return to Frankfurt (Main).

You couldn't stop over in Stuttgart if you were to book a Frankfurt (Main) to Munich journey, but this facility enables you to add a stop over to your trip.

However, we have tested this on three separate occasions and could not get this facility to work - we have only ever been offered the opportunity to purchase a standard journey, which skips the 'intermediate stop', which we have tried to add to the booking?

Prefer fast Connections:

If you leave this pre-ticked, the usual default is that the journey search results will ONLY  list journey options which involve travelling by express ICE or IC trains for all or virtually* all of the journey.

If you un-tick it, there's a possibility that you will ALSO see slower journey options, which involve spending the majority of a journey on Regio trains - these journey options also tend to involve having to make more connections.

But those slower journeys will usually be cheaper, so if travelling at the cheapest possible price is your main criteria, un-tick it.

*On certain routes, the fastest option can be a combination of taking an ICE train for most of the trip + taking a Regio or S-Bahn train, to complete an end-to-end journey.

Duration of Transfer:

Keep this in mind if your journey involves a change of train within Germany - particularly if you are connecting into an infrequent service, such as an overnight train or an international train.

Express trains in Germany aren't exceptionally punctual, but the DB booking service understandably assumes they will be on time

If you don't alter the 'Duration of Transfer', the journey options you'll see will include direct trains with 0 chgs - if they're an option, PLUS all the end-to-end journeys on which the connecting time between trains is more than 5 - 10 mins.

Meaning that that on some, or most, of the journey options which you'll be shown, you'll have less than 15 mins to make the connection between trains.

Connections of 10- 15 mins between ICE trains are a common feature of the German national rail timetable, which is often arranged so that in alternate hours there are direct trains, followed by hours in which the fastest journeys involve a relatively quick connection.

If you book an end-to-end journey on DB, which involves making a connection between trains at a German station, then if a delay to a train causes you to miss the second train you are booked on to, you won't have to purchase another ticket.

But if you have a train specific ticket, you will need to get it re-issued free or charge, which will probably involve going to a Reisezentrum travel desk.

However, if enhancing the possibility of having a stress-free journey is more important to you than reaching your destination in the fastest possible time, increase this 'Duration Of Transfer'.

Doing so will enable you to identify and target journey options, which will allow you more time in which to change trains.

Though be aware that in those instances, in which the usual timetable has a connection of 10-15 mins between ICE trains, if you increase the Duration of Transfer to 'a minimum of 30 mins', most of the journey options you will then see, will be an hour slower.

Carriage of bicycles:

If you will be travelling with a non-folding bike tick this box, the journey search results should then only feature journey options, which include trains that you can board with a non-folding bicycle.

Only folding bicycles can be taken on all ICE trains except the new ICE 4 trains.

5 - CHOOSING A SPECIFIC DEPARTURE/JOURNEY:


On this example search result, because Cologne/Köln has been selected as the 'from' destination -  note the two different stations, where each journey commences:

(1) Koln Messe/Duetz and (2) Koln Hbf

Also note that
(1) a direct train - 0 'Chg.' 
(2) an indirect train - 1 'Chg.'

haven both been listed -  and the big difference in the price of the 'Savings Fare' tickets.

If you wanted to opt for the €19 price, it's worth clicking the 'show details' link to check the details of the connections between trains.

What we also highlighted, with the yellow circle is that the prices you will see on this page aren't the prices of 2nd class and 1st class tickets.

Instead what is being shown is the price comparison between booking

(1) the more restricted 'Savings Fare' - also known as 'Super Sparpreis' and  'Super Sparpreis' tickets
(2) the more flexible 'Flexpreis' tickets - can be used to travel by any train on your chosen date and can be refunded if you change your travel plans.

More information about how tickets can be used is available on the terms and conditions of each ticket, that you'll see once you have clicked on the red 'To offer selection' button.
how to use earlier or later trains when booking with DB
If you can be flexible with your departure/arrival times then scroll up/down the search results to see more journey options.

Scroll more than a couple of hours before/after the times you entered when searching, and you'll see the 'Earlier' or 'Later' buttons - that you can use to search through the day's departures.

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Also circled in yellow is one of the exclamation marks which you MAY see on the journey options pages.

Exclamation marks on a white background, such as this one, are advisory, they can often alert travellers to the likelihood of a train being busy, hence seat reservations being particularly recommended.

However, if they have a darker background, definitely click on them, as they will be likely be alerting you to alterations to the train's usual schedule.

Targeting Direct Trains:

Note that DB does NOT have a 'direct trains only' facility - journeys with changes of train are often included in the journey results, even if you leave 'prefer fast connections' ticked

But on some routes with comparatively few direct trains, the direct trains may not be visible on the initial results you will see.

So if you can't see them, you may have to seek them out, by using these 'earlier' and 'later' buttons.

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5b  - OR IF THE CHEAPEST POSSIBLE PRICE IS YOUR PRIME CRITERA...



Using the 'saver fare finder' tool is a good option if the price of the journey is more important to you than specific arrival or departure times.

Though as can be seen, you can still specify the approximate times of your journey - but note that departure and NOT arrival times are used on the sliding scale.


Take care when using the 'saver fare finder' tool.

In particular note that:

(i) The search results will include every possible feasible combination of trains between the stations - including journeys that involve up to three changes of train.

(ii) The default results are ordered by price and not by 'D' (departure time).

(iii) The trick to making the most of the 'saver fare finder' tool is to use the filter triangles at the top of each column.

You can then sort the results by the criteria which is most important to you - cheapest price, 0 changes, arrival time etc.

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6  - CHECK THE TERMS/CONDITIONS OF THE TICKET PRICE THAT YOU HAVE CHOSEN:




When you click on a ticket price of your chosen journey/departure you will be taken to this page, that:

(i) Clearly states the terms/conditions of each type of ticket available -- note that if you have chosen the (cheapest) 'Sparpreis' ticket, you will have to pay a €19 fee for changing your booking.

(ii) Makes clear the additional benefits of travelling 1st class which include the seat reservation.

(iii) If you want more flexibility than the 'Sparpreis' fare provides, you can choose the Flexpreis option.

Also if you want to travel 1st class and have missed the previous options to select 1st class travel, you can select 1st class tickets on this screen.


7  - BOOKING WITHOUT/WITH A BAHN CARD


DB sells a range of BahnCards, which entitles the holder of the card to a range of discounts.

The opportunity to purchase these Bahn Cards is built into the ticket booking purchase path, hence we've drawn your attention to it, but you can ignore the info on this page and click on 'Continue'.

Though, if you will be making several journeys within Germany over an extended period of time (meaning that using rail cards won't be an option) - the balance tips in favour of purchasing a BahnCard - as the up-front cost of the card, will be offset against your future discounts.

As can be seen, you can proceed with your booking if you don't have a Bahn Card, but this page also spells out the amount you would save on this journey, if you did have one of these cards.


8  - BOOK WITHOUT/WITH REGISTERING:

As can be seen you don't HAVE to register with DB when booking tickets.

If you will be making a one-off trip to or within Germany, then it can be sensible to conclude that the benefit of speeding up future bookings, by registering as a new customer, is superfluous.

However, a less obvious benefit of registering is that if you do so, you will be sent text messages re: the status of your journey.

If you receive a text message in your hotel room alerting you to the fact that your train is now departing 30 mins late, you'll know that you'll have more time to get to the station etc.

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9  - TICKET DELIVERY AND SEAT RESERVATION

If you opt to book a digital ticket you will be sent an email confirmation.

You can then either;

(i) Open the email on your phone and then save the attachment = your ticket(s), to your phone as a PDF.

You can then show your phone to the conductor on the train - what they will need to see is the square barcode.

(ii) print the ticket and take it with you

(iii) Download the DB Navigator app - once you register with it, your bookings will be contained within the app.

(iv) OR pay the pay fee to have tickets posted to you.

Receiving a code and entering into a ticket machine to collect your ticket, is not an option when booking online with DB, you have to choose one of the delivery options.

Making Reservations and Selecting Seats:

This is also the stage of the booking process when you can make or amend RESERVATIONS.

If you have selected a Klasse.1/1st class ticket, the 'seat reservation box will be pre-ticked and you will see the first step of the seat selection path.

If you have selected a Klasse.2/2nd class ticket, the reservation is optional - it won't be pre-selected, so if you want to add an OPTIONAL reservation, you will need to tick the box beneath 'Our tip: reserve a seat now'. 

If you have opted to add a reservation to a 2nd class booking, or will be travelling 1st class, you will see these options:
Selecting a seating area when booking reservations with DB
(1st class ticket purchasers won't see the 4.50 EUR price).

What we have highlighted in green are the default settings, but this is an opportunity to choose the type of environment you want to travel by.

You can click on other buttons to choose the criteria which will suit you best.

What's been highlighted in yellow, is that ICE trains have 'Phone Zones' and 'Quiet Zones' - so if you don't to be disturbed by your fellow travellers using their mobile devices, you can be pro-active and choose a 'Quiet Zone'.

Once you have selected your preferred environment and clicked on the red 'Proceed' button, you will see this screen below:
Selecting a seat when booking with DB part 1
IF you will be adding an optional reservation to a 2nd class booking, what we have highlighted with the yellow circles, is that the cost of the reservation will be added to the new 'Total'.

Whether you will be booking 1st or 2nd class reservation, don't miss out clicking on 'Select seat', which we have highlighted in green.

Click this and you will see the all-important seating plan:
Using the seating plan on DB
We have turned this into something of a rainbow, but what have highlighted is:

(i) the yellow circles = the default seat which DB has chosen for you, but you can change this by clicking another seat number

(ii) the purple circles - you might conclude that you don't want to sit in this coach (perhaps because it has two family compartments), so you can see which seats are available in other coaches by clicking on these arrows

(iii) the red circles - this particular coach has two special compartments intended for use by families, so this is another opportunity* to select seats in either of these compartments when making your booking.

*If places are available when making a booking, once you have entered the ages of the travellers, you should be automatically prompted on whether you want to sit in these compartments.

(iv) the blue circles = these are tables, so if you want to sit at a table, target the seats on either side

(v) the green circle - you will only see the direction of travel arrows if an ICE 1 or ICE 4 train is being used for the journey you have chosen.

What direction a seat is facing is shown by the darker grey border lines on either side of the seat numbers - if they're to the left of the number, the seat is facing forwards.

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10  - PROCEEDING TO THE PAYMENT PAGE

You don't HAVE to choose any of these other services - though the insurance cover can be worth considering if you have booked a particularly expensive ticket.

If you don't want to choose any of these additional services, you can click, the somewhat hidden 'Proceed' button.

11  - BEGIN THE PAYMENT PROCESS


 

If you register (at step 8), this 'Personal Details' page will be pre-populated when making future bookings.


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BOOKING AN OVERNIGHT TRAIN RESERVATION IF YOU HAVE A RAIL PASS:

If you have a Eurail or InterRail pass and want to book a reservation on a night train from OR to Germany, don't click the 'seat only' tab at Step 3 (above).

Instead search for a night train journey using Steps 1 - 5 above - the same steps you would take if booking a ticket.

Click on the ticket price (at Step 5) - and at the foot of the ticket page you will then see;



Select the 'Pass Offer' and you will be taken to this page...



...which shows each type of accommodation on the night train - and it's respective rail pass reservation fee (and not the ticket price).

Supplement = the rail pass reservation fee.

Note that some types of accommodation (the deluxe sleeping cabins, that have a shower in the cabin) can only be booked by holders of 1. class passes (but 1.class pass holders can also choose from the 2. class options.