Travelling on German Trains

ICE 3, single deck IC, Twindexx IC and Regio trains

Welcome to our guide to German trains and the international trains to/from Germany.

It explains the differences between the types of train services, shows what trains operate on each route and gives an insight into how frequently the trains operate on the major routes.

Click the questions to jump to the info you want or need to know.

OR grab a coffee and discover all the most pertinent info that will help your German train travel experience to be as fabulous as possible!

GERMAN TRAINS (domestic journeys within Germany):

What are the train services/types of train in Germany that are operated by DB (Deutsche Bahn)?

What are the key things that are good to know about ICE and IC trains? 

Which type of ICE train operates on each route? 

Does DB (Deutsche Bahn) operate all trains within Germany?

What is good to know about Regio trains?

What is good to know about S-Bahn trains?

What's good to know about the infornation that will be available on the trains?

What do I need to know about German train timetables?

Are German trains particularly punctual (if that's not a stupid question)?


INTERNATIONAL TRAINS FROM/TO GERMANY:

What are the key things worth knowing about international trains from/to Germany?

Which trains operate on the international routes from/to Germany (what train will I be travelling by)?


GERMAN TRAINS (domestic journeys within Germany):

We try not to be biased, but we're big fans of German trains, the ICE1 and ICE3 trains in particular are some of the most impressive trains on planet earth.
 

What are the train services/types of train in Germany that are operated by DB (Deutsche Bahn)?
 

Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the national rail company in Germany and the train SERVICES it operates include:

(1) ICE trains – all of of which travel on a high speed line for at least part of a journey.

There are now five different types of ICE train which operate on different routes within Germany.

(2) IC trains – long distance express trains that tend to be slower than ICE trains (they rarely use the high speed lines)

New double deck 'Intercity2' trains have been introduced on some routes.
Intercity2 train
(3) S-Bahn – local commuter trains that operate within the major cities and also link some cities (but they stop at every station that they pass through)

(4) Regio (RE) trains – that are a mix of

(a) long distance commuter trains - can be an alternative to IC, ICE trains between closely spaced cities.

When travelling between cities they are usually slower than IC or ICE trains, but faster than S-Bahn trains.

(b) trains that link smaller towns - some of these services can travel fairly long distances

(c) local trains in rural areas.

Back to the list of questions.

What are the key things that are good to know about ICE and IC trains? 

(1) ICE trains don’t operate between every city.

(2) IC trains and NOT ICE trains provide all or the majority of the express train services on these routes:
German IC train
(i) Hamburg – Bremen – Dortmund - Cologne/Koln

(ii) Cologne/Koln – Bonn – Koblenz – Mainz – Mannheim – Heidelberg – Stuttgart

There are ICE trains between Cologne/Koln and Stuttgart which take an alternative route

(iii) Leipzig – Halle – Magdeburg – Hannover – Bremen – Oldenburg – Norddeich Mole

(iv) Stuttgart - Zurich

(v) Hamburg – Rostock – Stralsund

(vi) Nuremberg – Stuttgart

(3) Wi-Fi is now available on most ICE trains (and a few IC trains including the new double deck IC trains) - the portal is free and comparatively easy to access.

(4) Book a 1st class ticket(s) for a journey by ICE or IC train and your seat reservation is included in the ticket price, but if you book 2nd class tickets - seat reservations are optional, the price of reserving a 2nd class seat = €4.50* per seat.

*If you're end-to-end journey involves more than one ICE or IC train, you will only pay for one reservation when booking tickets**, but your seats will be reserved on all trains.

**But not if you subsequently opt to add a reservation(s).

(5) In addition to ensuring that you can remain in one seat for your entire journey, there are two less obvious benefits of making a reservation on IC and ICE trains, whether you will be travelling 1st or 2nd class.

(i) You can select from options for the location of your seat, which in addition to window or aisle seats, can include compartment seats and seats at tables.

(ii) you can usually choose specific seats on a seating plan, though what you won't be able to do is ensure your seat is facing forwards*, though you can choose a seat by, or away, from the exits to the seating area.

*The most likely reason for this is that IC and ICE trains have to reverse direction when making many station calls in Germany, so even if you could opt to choose a forward facing seat, it's highly possible that you wouldn't actually be facing forward for the entire journey.

(6) If you book 1st class tickets or 1st/2nd class reservations on ICE trains you can choose in which 'zone' on the train that you wish to travel by.

A less obvious aspect of travelling by ICE trains is that there are three types of seating zones/areas in both 1st and 2nd class - 'Standard', 'Quiet' and 'Phone'

Travellers are not supposed to use their phones in 'Quiet' coaches/zones, the conductor or your fellow passengers will ask you not to do so.

While if you know that it's likely that you will be making multiple calls during your journey, DB is suggesting that you book tickets in the 'Phone' coach/zone.

If you have no preference re; the amount of noise your fellow passengers are likely to generate when using their phones, you can select 'any' when booking a seat reservation, or 1st class ticket.

If you haven't reserved you'll be less likely to be aware of these 'zones' when boarding a train and looking for seats, you may unwittingly find a seat available in a 'mobile' or 'quiet' coach, which wouldn't have been your preference.

(7) ICE and IC trains reverse direction when calling at Frankfurt (Main) hbf, Leipzig hbf, Munchen hbf and Stuttgart hbf - and this also applies to the majority of long distance trains that call at Koln hbf.

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Which type of ICE train operates on each route? 

This is not a comprehensive list, it's a summary of the type of ICE train USUALLY used on each of these routes - in both directions

Note that multiple types of train share some routes.

ICE 1 routes:
ICE1 train

(1) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (a few departures)

(2) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart (some departures)

(3) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Zurich (all departures)

(3) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Bern - Interlaken (all departures)

(4) Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen (all departures)

(5) Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Bern - Interlaken (all departures)

(6) Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) (Sud) - Frankfurt Airport (all departures)

ICE 2 routes:
ICE2 train

(1) Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Dortmund - Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf (all departures)

(2) Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Wupppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf (all departures)

(3) Hamburg/Bremen - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (a few departures, particularly the departures which divide or join to serve both Hamburg and Bremen)

ICE 3 routes:
ICE3 train

(1) Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne (Messe-Deutz) - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (all departures)

(2) Dortmund - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne (Messe-Deutz)  - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (all departures)

(3) Dortmund - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen (all departures)

(4) Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen (most departures)

(5) Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim -  Kalrsruhe - Basel (all departures)

(6) Amsterdam - Utrecht - Arnhem - Oberhausen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) (all departures)

(7) Bruxelles - Liege - Aachen - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) (all departures)

(8) ICE 'Sprinter' Service: Berlin  - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) (all departures)

(9) ICE 'Sprinter' Service: Berlin  - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munhcen/Munich (all departures)

(10) Stuttgart - Mannheim - Frankfurt Flughafgen/Airport -  Seigburg/Bonn - Koln-Messe/Deutz - Dusseldorf - Essen - Dortmund - (Bremen - Hamburg) (all departures)

ICE T routes:
ICE T train

(1) Hamburg - Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munchen (some departures)

(2) Hamburg/Bremen - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (a few departures)

(3) Koln/Cologne - Koblenz - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna  (all departures)

(4) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna  (all departures)

(5) Berlin - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna  (all departures)

(6) Dresden - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Weisbaden  (all departures)

ICE 4 routes:

(1) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen (most departures)

(2) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart  (some departures)

(3) Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen (some departures)

(4) Hamburg - Berlin - Leipzig - Nurmberg - Munchen (most departures) 

Back to the list of questions.


Does DB (Deutsche Bahn) operate all trains within Germany?

DB (Deutsche Bahn) is the German national rail operator, but it doesn't manage all of the train services in the country.

Regional services in particular can be operated by other companies, but train tickets are interchangeable.

Meaning that if you book a ticket at a station valid for a Regio train then it will be valid on any 'Regio train', no matter which company is providing the service.

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What is good to know about Regio trains?
Regio Trains Germany

DB (Deutsche Bahn) used to distinguish between faster and slower Regio train services - the faster services that link towns and cities used to be branded 'Regio Express'.

But now all local trains outside the cities and semi-fast services share the same Regio branding.

But some Regio services between towns and cities CAN be still be faster than others.

So check the timetables (the yellow Abfarht sheets at stations) before boarding Regio trains -  taking the next Regio train to depart MAY not be the quickest option.

A later, but faster train, can overtake the slower service.

Back to the list of questions.
 

What is good to know about S-Bahn trains?
S-Bahn trains

Two things in particular are worth knowing about S-Bahn trains:

(1) In Berlin, Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg and Munchen/Munich they penetrate further into the city centre than other train services.

So the fastest city centre access option in these cities can be connect into an S-Bahn train and not the metro (U-Bahn).

(2) S-Bahn trains always call at every station on their routes and some of these routes between cities can be particularly long.

So when travelling between cities, targeting the Regio trains instead, will usually be a faster option - even if the next Regio train won't be departing for another 15 - 20mins.

Back to the list of questions.

What's good to know about the infornation that will be available on the trains?
Info screen on German IC train
On train announcements can be in German only - they're usually made in English and German on the ICE trains, but when a train is delayed any pertinent info is usually then only delivered in German.

ICE trains and the new IC trains also have electronic info screens in each coach which will feature info about the journey.

However, what is unique to journeys by ICE and IC trains are the paper journey info guides that you will find on the seats.

They SHOULD be specific to the particular train you will be travelling by and are particularly useful if you will be changing trains - as they have details of the connections available at each station that the train will be calling at.

Back to the list of questions.

What do I need to know about German train timetables?

German trains USUALLY depart to fixed interval timetables, particularly during the day.

Fixed interval timetables mean that on routes taken by ICE trains and IC trains there is USUALLY a train departure every hour OR every other hour.

On routes taken by Regio trains, there is usally 1 x train per hour.

S-Bahn trains depart every 20 mins, every 30 mins or hourly - the longer distance routes tend to have 1 x train per hour.

ICE FREQUENCY SUMMARY:

Note that many services extend beyond the cities at either end of these routes - but these extensions are less frequently served.

(1) Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Dortmund - Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf/Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Wupppertal - Koln/Cologne = 1 x train per hour

(2) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen = 1 x train per hour

(3) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart = 1 x train every other hour

(4) Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Zurich = 1 x train every other hour

(5) Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen = 1  x train every other hour

(6) Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Bern - Interlaken = 1 x train every other hour

(7) Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt Airport = up to 5 x trains per day

(8) Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne (Messe Deutz) - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen = 1 x train per hour

(9) Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim -  Stuttgart - Munchen = 1 x train every other hour

(10) Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim -  Kalrsruhe - Basel = 1 x train every other hour

(11) Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) = 1 x train per hour

(12) Berlin  - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) = 1 x train every other hour

(13) Hamburg - Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munchen = 1 x train per hour

(14) Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna = 1 x train every other hour

(15) Dresden - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Weisbaden = 1 x train every other hour

(16) Stuttgart - Mannheim - Frankfurt Flughafgen/Airport -  Seigburg/Bonn - Koln-Messe/Deutz - Dusseldorf - Essen - Dortmund - (Bremen - Hamburg) = up to 6 x trains per day

Back to the list of questions.

Are German trains particularly punctual (if that's not a stupid question)?

Not a stupid question at all because the answer is 'No'.

We're being a bit cheeky here because long distance ICE trains and IC trains aren't particularly less punctual than the express train services in other large European countries, such as Great Britain, France and Italy.

But the British media seem to be a tad obsessed with the notion that British trains are particularly awful and inefficient compared to German trains and that simply isn't true.

German express train punctuality is very similar to the levels of punctuality achieved by British express trains.

Back to the list of questions.

INTERNATIONAL TRAINS FROM/TO GERMANY:
International trains from Germany

What are the key things worth knowing about international EXPRESS trains from/to Germany?

(1) International trains when operated by DB (Deutsche Bahn) are referred to online, at stations and on timetables as IC or ICE trains.

A a general rule is that EC (EuroCity) is used in Germany when another country is operating the train.

So that if you board an EC train in Germany heading to Switzerland, you will be usually travelling on a Swiss train.

OR board an EC train heading to The Czech Republic and you will usually find yourself on a Czech train etc.

 

(ii) Thalys is the only direct train service between northern Germany and Paris - but Thalys tickets cannot be purchased at stations in Germany or on the DB booking site - for the moment.

(iii) On international ICE trains the DB Wi-Fi portal is only available in Germany.

(iv) On board announcements are multi-lingual.

(v) Overnight trains still link Germany to Austria, Hungary Italy, Croatia, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland and The Czech Republic.

However, in recent years the overnight train services to Denmark, France and The Netherlands have been withdrawn.


Back to the list of questions.

Which trains operate on the international routes from/to Germany (what train will I be travelling by)?
 

The primary international DAYTIME train services are listed below - not all trains call at stations in brackets.

Services marked with an* require compulsory reservation - seats will automatically be assigned when booking tickets, but rail pass users will need to reserve prior to boarding.
 

Routes that have a minimum of 3 x departures per day:
 

(1) Thalys: (Dortmund – Essen – Dusseldorf) – Koln – Aachen – Liege – Bruxelles Midi/Zuid – Paris Nord*
 

(2) ICE 3: Frankfurt Main – Koln - Aachen – Liege – Bruxelles Nord - Bruxelles Midi/Zuid
 

(3) ICE 3: Frankfurt (Main) – Koln – Dusseldorf – Duisburg – Arnhem – Utrecht - Amsterdam

(4) EC: Hamburg – Lubeck – Nykobing – Coenhagen/Kobenhavn (reservations are compulsory in summer and highly recommended on all journeys)
 

(5) EC: Berlin – Frankfurt Oder – Poznan - Warszawsa*
 

(6) IC: Berlin – Hannover – Osnabruck – Rheine – Deventer – Amersfoort – Amsterdam
 

(7) EC: (Hamburg) – Berlin – Dresden – Decin – Praha/Prague – (Brno – Bratislava – Budapest)
 

(8) ICE 1: Hamburg – Hannover – Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) – Baden Baden – Freiburg – Basel – Zurich – (Chur)
 

(9) ICE 3: (Amsterdam – Utrecht – Duisburg – Dusseldorf) – Koln/Cologne – Mannheim – Freiburg – Basel
 

(10) ICE 1: Berlin – Kassel – Frankfurt Main – Mannheim – Freiburg – Basel – (Bern – Interlaken)
 

(11) EC: Hamburg – Bremen – Dortmund – Koln/Cologne – Bonn – Koblenz – Mainz – Mannheim - Freiburg – Basel – (Bern – Interlaken)
 

(12) IC: Stuttgart – Singen – Schaffhausen – Zurich
 

(13) ICE T: (Koln/Cologne – Bonn – Koblenz – Mainz) – Frankfurt (Main) – Wurzburg – Nurnberg – Linz – Wien/Vienna
 

(14) Railjet: Munich/Munchen – Salzburg – Linz – Wien/Vienna – Budapest
 

(15) EC: Munich/Munchen – Lindau – St Gallen – Zurich
 

(16) EC: Munich/Munchen – Innsbruck – Bolzano – Trento – Verona – (Vicenza – Padua/Padova – Venice/Venezia) OR Bologna)*
 

(17) EC: Frankfurt (Main) – Darmstadt – Stuttgart – Ulm – Augsburg – Munchen/Munich – Salzburg – Bad Gastien - Villach - Klagenfurt
 

(18) DB/SNCF: (Munich/Munchen – Augsburg – Ulm) – Stuttgart – Karlsruhe – Strasbourg – Paris*
 

(19) DB/SNCF: Frankfurt (Main) – Mannheim (– Karlsruhe – Strasbourg) – Paris*

There are only 1 or 2 x departures per day on these routes:

(1) EC: Hamburg – Frederica – Arhus
 

(2) EC: Munich/Munchen – Salzburg – Villach –Ljubljana – Zagreb*
 

(3) IC – Munster – Koln /Cologne – Bonn – Koblenz – Mainz – Mannheim – Stuttgart – Ulm – Lindau – Bregenz – St Anton – Innsbruck

(4) DB/SNCF: Frankfurt (Main) – Mannheim – Karlsruhe – Baden Baden - Strasbourg – Mulhouse – Lyon – Avignion - Marseille*

(5) EC: Frankfurt (Main) – Mannheim – Karlsruhe – Freiburg - Basel - Luzern - Bellinzona - Lugano - Como - Milano (this direction only)

Milano - Stresa - Big - Visp  - Spiez - Thun - Bern - Basel - Freiburg - Karlsruhe - Mannheim - Franfurt (Main) (this direction only)

Reservations are required when travelling to/from Italy by this train.

Summaries of ALL international routes taken by trains from and to Germany:

A summary of virtually all of the routes which international trains take from and to Germany is available HERE.

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