Germany Tickets & Rail Passes

Welcome to ShowMeTheJourney's GUIDE to booking train tickets for journeys within and from/to Germany.

What we have set out to provide is some context for the tickets and journey options you SHOULD encounter when making a booking either online or at the station.

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We have striven to ensure that the advice we present is as accurate as possible, but a guide such as this cannot cover every combination of journey options.

Click the questions for instant access for what you need to know.

BOOKING TICKETS ONLINE FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN GERMANY:

Will tickets be more expensive if I buy them last minute at the station?

Does it matter which train I travel by if I buy tickets at a German train station?


What do I need to be aware of when booking tickets at the station?

Will I save money if I book German train tickets in advance?


How far ahead can I book tickets for train journeys within Germany?

How to save money when booking tickets for train journeys within Germany?

What do I need to be aware of when booking discounted 'Super Sparpreis' tickets?

Is it cheaper to take the direct trains when travelling by train in Germany?

Will I save money if I choose an IC train and not an ICE train?

What are Bahn Cards?

What do I need to know about seat reservations on German trains?

What are the terms for child tickets for train journeys within Germany?

How will I receive my ticket(s)?


BOOKING TICKETS ONLINE FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM and TO GERMANY:

What international train services/routes can I book on DB Bahn? Updated

What do I need to know about reservations on international trains from Germany?


Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys from AND to Germany in advance?

What are the terms for child tickets for train journeys from and to Germany?

USING RAIL PASSES WITHIN and FROM and TO GERMANY:

We have produced a separate guide for this HERE.

Follow the advice below and you should save money, time and stress.

Will tickets be more expensive if I buy them last minute at a station in Germany?

Not if you will taking a local train - either an S-Bahn or Regio train, or if you be travelling longer distances* by the Regio trains.

*Some Regio train services to/from Munich/Munchen are an exception.

In contrast tickets for the express IC trains and  ICE trains, will be more expensive if you buy them at the station on your travel date.

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Does it matter which train I travel by if I buy tickets at a German train station?

When travelling between German towns and cities there can be a choice of up to three different train services; (1) Regio trains, (2) IC trains and (3) ICE trains.

This does matter when booking tickets at the station.

The tickets for the Regio train will be the cheapest option - and as tickets for Regio trains usually can't be booked online, it's best to buy them at the station just before boarding.

If you use a ticket counter, the booking clerk may assume you want to take the Regio train and if you use a ticket machine the cheapest price will be for the Regio trains.

Because tickets for the Regio train are cheaper they can't be used to travel on an IC or ICE train.

So once you have booked such tickets you can't just hop on any next train to your destination, you may have to hang back and wait for the next Regio train service to depart.

If you board an IC train or ICE train with a ticket that's only valid for a Regio train, you will have to pay a price difference to the conductor when your ticket(s) is inspected on the train - but it's a scenario that's best avoided!

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BOOKING TICKETS ONLINE FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN GERMANY:

Will I save money if I book German train tickets in advance?

If you're planning to make a long distance journey within Germany by EC trains, IC trains or ICE trains, then you can make big savings if you book online in advance.

Though what soon becomes apparent is the wide choice of departures, routes and prices you will be typically offered  - but use the advice below and you should be able to book and save with confidence!

In contrast you can't usually make savings if you want to travel on the Regio trains, so most of the routes* taken by Regio trains are not sold online on DB's booking service.

*The Regio trains in Bavaria are an exception, so if you will be taking a Regio train from Munchen/Munich, you can book it advance online.

The minimum price for a journey by an ICE train is usually €19.90, so the ICEs aren't good value for comparatively short journeys.

If your journey by ICE is under an hour, it's likely that paying last minute at the station for a journey by Regio train will be cheaper, compared to booking the ICE in advance.
Plus you won't be tied to a specific departure if you opt to take the Regio trains.

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How far ahead can I book tickets for train journeys within Germany?

Tickets for train journeys WITHIN Germany by IC trains or ICE trains or EC trains can now USUALLY be booked 6 months ahead.

Though 
keep in mind that the booking windows can be shorter when LOOKING up journeys in September - November (not when travelling in Sept - Nov).

For tips for how to book tickets AND reservations on the desktop version of the DB (German Railways) website - see our GUIDE.

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How to save money when booking tickets for train journeys within Germany?

The further ahead you book tickets for long distance journeys by EC trains*, IC trains and ICE trains, the more likely it is that you will save money.

That's because limited numbers of discounted tickets are made available online for journeys by IC, IC/EC and ICE trains.


The cheapest advanced tickets for journeys within Germany are named ‘Super Sparpreis’ tickets.

DB also uses 
‘Savings/ Sparangebote’ terminology - depending on which language version of the site you are using.

The extension of the booking window to 6 months ahead, has resulted in the cheapest possible price being only €19.90 for SOME (not all) exceptionally long journeys - such as Koln/Cologne to Berlin or Basel Bad Bf.

However, on the longer routes that do have tickets from €19.90, there MAY not be many of these €19.90 tickets available if you're not booking more than 4 months ahead.

*EC trains can travel for long distances within Germany.

Choose your departure with care:


DB utilises a system of sliding scale prices for discounted tickets and this is seemingly dependent on how popular a particular train is, or is likely to be.

As a result the very cheapest (Super Sparpreis) tickets are not seemingly available on all trains.

Therefore the more flexible you can be re: departure and arrival times on your date of travel, the more you can save (generally).

Search through the departures on the day on which you want to travel to find the cheapest fares.

Or you can use DB saver fare finder tool - though if you do so, take care to check that you are comparing like for like journeys.

DB  offers every possible combination of trains between two destinations, so pay special attention to the number of changes of train and the journey times.

The cheaper prices may only be available if a change of train is involved, or on a less direct and longer
route.

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What do I need to be aware of when booking discounted 'Super Sparpreis' tickets?

Super Sparpreis tickets are train specific, you must travel on the train you have selected.

Also if you subsequently change your travel plans, these tickets can only be exchanged/refunded on payment of a €19 
fee.

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Is it cheaper to take the direct trains when travelling by train in Germany?

Changing trains CAN be cheaper than taking direct trains, particularly when taking ICE trains.

Certain ICE routes have some journey options, in addition to direct trains, which have changes of train factored into the timetables.
The service alternates between direct trains in one hour and journeys with connections in the next hour - a pattern that's repeated throughout the day.

Those journey options with changes of train have theoretically simple connections between trains.
Usually they involve simply crossing a platform from one train to another - and with the second train departing within 10 mins.

However, these connections are NOT 100% guaranteed - though we have seen connecting services held back for up to 25mins.

Though if you miss a connecting train, due to the late arrival of a preceding train - any tickets/reservations can be swapped to a subsequent train free of charge at a Reisezentrum travel desk.

Though the DB ticket booking site has a neat facility to extend the minimum connecting time between trains, when booking journeys that involve a change of train.

When making connections between IC/ICE trains, extending the connection time/ 'duration of transfer' to a minimum of 30 mins is recommended – particularly if you will be travelling long distance at a weekend.

More info about how to do this when booking tickets online on DB, is available on our step-by-step booking guide READ MORE.

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Will I save money if I choose an IC train and not an ICE train?


IC trains and ICE trains share certain routes, but the IC trains departing at popular times can be more expensive than less popular ICE trains, so you won’t always save by taking IC trains.

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What are Bahn Cards?

When booking tickets online with DB you will usually be given an option to purchase Bahn Cards.

If you have a Bahn Card you can make big savings on future bookings with DB - and you don't have to be German to purchase and use them.

Our advice used to be that Bahn Cards would only be worth considering if you would be booking multiple separate journeys, or making a repeat visit to Germany within a year.

However, it's now worth paying special attention to the deals that you will be offered - in particular when booking a long distance journey look out for 'savings on this trip'.

Then compare what you will be saving with the cost of that particular Bahn
Card.

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What do I need to know about reservations on German trains?

Reservations are now automatically included when booking 1ST CLASS tickets on EC, IC trains and ICE trains on DB (the German national rail operator's ticket booking website).

However, reservations are NOT automatically included when booking 2nd class tickets on EC, IC or ICE trains.

You will be given the option to add a reservation when booking 2nd class tickets online and the charge for doing so is €4.50 per seat - if you don't reserve, seats are not guaranteed.

Our guide to how make these reservations online is available HERE.

If your journey involves more than one EC, IC or ICE train, you will only have to pay one reservation fee, as it will cover all the trains you will be taking.

It is possible to book reservations at a later date separately from the ticket booking, both online or by using DB branded ticket machines at stations.

Although if you do book your reservations later and your journey involves more than one train, you will then have to pay for separate reservations per train.


Booking the 'zones' on ICE trains:

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

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 make reservations in the 'Standard/Phone' coaches/zones.

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 a 1st class ticket.

So a benefit of making a resevation is the option to choose between these zones.

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 'phone'' or 'quiet' coach, when that wouldn't have been your preference.

Other positives of booking a reservation:

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

(1) 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.

(2) You can usually choose specific seats on a seating plan and if you will be travelling on an ICE 1 or ICE 4 train, you will also be able to ensure your seat is facing forwards.

Though if you have opted to face forwards be aware that ICE trains reverse direction when calling at the hbf stations in Frankfurt (Main), Leipzig and Stuttgart and that also applies to most trains which call at Koln Hbf.

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What are the terms for child tickets for train journeys within Germany:

Children aged under 15 can travel with a parent OR grandparent free of charge.

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How will I receive my ticket(s)?

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 it 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.

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

OR pay the pay fee to have tickets posted to you.

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BOOKING TICKETS ONLINE FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM and TO GERMANY:

What international train services/routes can I book on DB? - UPDATED:


DB has made major changes to how it sells tickets for end-to-end train international train journeys from and to Germany.

The good news is that the number of countries to which tickets can be booked to and from has been extended - it now sells tickets for journeys* between Germany and
Austria, Belgium Croatia, Czechia/Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, London, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

*Not every route can be booked online, but most can be - we explain how on this GUIDE.

Even better news is that DB now sells end-to-end tickets for many journeys from and to these countries, which involve a change of train outside of Germany.
This has hugely increased the number of journeys which can be booked on the comparatively easy to use DB website.

Though how DB sells tickets, in terms of the booking path you will follow on the website, is now dependent on one of three factors;

(i) whether you will be taking a direct train
(ii) if the journey involves a change of train at a German station
(ii) if the journey involves a change of train and/or at a station outside of Germany.

When looking up a journey you will see red buttons to take you on to the next stage of the booking process - the text on these red buttons will EITHER state 'To offer selection' OR 'Determine Price'.

When the button states 'To offer selection' the end-to-end prices of the journey, will be shown, irrespective of how many connections are required to complete the trip.
Also when you see 'To offer selection,' the booking path is the same as what's followed, when booking tickets for journeys wholly within Germany.

You will see 'To offer selection' if the journey involves travelling by these direct trains:

(i) DB-SNCF trains to/from France

(ii) EC trains to/from Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland and The Czech Republic.

(iii) IC trains to/from The Netherlands and Switzerland

(iii) ICE trains to/from Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands

(v) Railjet trains to/from Austria and Hungary.

You will USUALLY* also see 'To offer selection' buttons for these types of international journey:

(i) those which involve making connections into other trains within Germany - and then a direct train from Germany

(ii) those which involve making changes of train in Germany and/OR MULTIPLE changes of train in the countries in which you will be completing your journey - IF these countries are Austria, Belgium**, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

**If the journey doesn't involve taking a Thalys train service between Germany and Belgium.

(ii) those which involve making changes of train in Germany and/OR no more than 1 x change of train in the countries in which you will be completing your journey - IF these countries are Czechia/Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden.

*The exceptions primarily involve journeys on which a train/route in the other country is provided by a different company to the main national rail operator - though that doesn't apply to journeys within Switzerland.

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In contrast, you will USUALLY see a 'Determine Price' button if the journey involves:

(i) a direct journey by Thalys trains,


(ii) taking an ICE to Bruxelles and then travelling on to France by TGV trains.

(iii) changing trains in Germany and OR changing trains in France, Hungary or Italy,

(iv) journeys which involve multiple changes of train in Hungary and Sweden,

(v) journeys with a change of train in The Czech Republic, when on route to another country,

(vi) travelling on a Nightjet train (most overnight trains from and to Germany are Nightjets).

(vi) journeys which involve taking an international overnight train from Germany and then making onward connections in the other country.

If you see 'Determine Price' then you may or may not be able to book the ticket online with DB -  though if DB IS selling the journey, you will follow a different 'international journey' booking path.

Our guide to using the 'Determine price' booking path is available HERE.

If DB won't enable you to book the journey online, it will offer you the opportunity to make a telephone booking.

Examples of these journeys which seemingly CAN'T be booked online with DB, when you see the 'Determine price' include:

(i) those that involve taking a Thalys train from Germany and then connecting into another train,

(ii) journeys from Germany to Austria or Hungary, which involve changing trains in Czechia/The Czech Republic,

(iii) journeys which involve changing trains in Poland,

(iii) onward connections from an international overnight train,

(iv) journeys on which a company, other than the national operator, provides a train which is required to complete the trip..

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Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys from AND to Germany in advance?

The short answer to this is yes - IF you will be booking a long distance journey by daytime express train, or an overnight train - AND book in advance before the limited numbers of the cheaper tickets are sold out.

The discounted tickets for international journeys are now called 'Super Saver Fare Europe', cheapest of all when available - and 'Saver Fare Europe', the German name for these tickets is 'Super Sparpreis Europa' and 'Sparpreis Europa'.

When looking up an international journey on DB, if you see a 'To offer selection' button, then DB will offer these Saver Fare/Sparpreis types of ticket for the end-to-end journey.

The plus of booking these tickets is that you nearly always won't have to be concerned about making all of the connections - if a train delay causes you to miss a connection, your ticket will almost certainly be valid on subsequent trains.


If instead you see a 'Determine price' button then having clicked on it, if you are ultimately offered the opportunity to book a ticket online, you will then usually be offered a range of prices.

But carefully check the terms and conditions associated with these prices, the cheapest prices will combine discounted tickets for the train from journey AND the most heavily discounted tickets on the onward train(s)

Though what won't be initially obvious, is that later in the booking process, you will ALSO be able to select different types of ticket per train- when different types of ticket are available.

Although even when you're taken down the 'Determine price' booking path, you shouldn't have to pay extra charges if you subsequently miss any specific train you are booked on to in the event of a train delay .

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What do I need to know about reservations on international trains from Germany?

Travelling on daytime trains:


If your journey to/from Germany involves travelling on a train service with mandatory reservations, the seat reservation will be included with your booking on DB, regardless of whether you book 1st OR 2nd class tickets.

This also applies if your international journey involves connecting in another country, into a train service with mandatory reservations - such as a TGV service in France or a Frecce train in Italy.

In other words whenever a seat reservation is required, it will be included in your booking, you won't have to proactively add it.

On the other train services to/from Germany on which seat reservations are available, but optional - if you book a 2nd class ticket(s), you will have to pay a €4.50 reservation fee per person in order to have assigned, guaranteed seats.

The train services to/from Germany, on which the reservations are an optional extra for 2nd class ticket purchases, include:
- the ICE trains between Germany and Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands,
- the Railjets between Germany and both Austria and Hungary,
- the EC/IC train services between Germany and Czechia, Hungary, Switzerland and for most of the year, Denmark.


However, if you book a 1st class ticket(s) on DB, for a train service with 'optional' reservations, you will have guaranteed seats assigned as a complimentary benefit.

So if you want to travel 1st class, it can be worth booking tickets for such journeys on DB (or Loco 2 and Trainline), particularly when travelling to Germany - if you book 1st class on the alternative websites in the countries you are travelling from or to, it's unlikely that you will receive a complimentary reservation.

Travelling on overnight sleeper trains:

The reservations differ on the overnight sleeper trains (when ICE and IC trains are used for overnight journeys, the reservations policy is the same as for the daytime services).

If you book an overnight journey by a sleeper train, a EuroNight or a Nightjet service, DB will initially assign you a seat - because reservations are compulsory on such services.

The first price you will see will be the price of travelling in a seat, the overnight trains convey seats as well as couchettes and sleeping cabins - but if you click the red 'Continue' button, you will be able to select berths in couchettes and beds in sleeping cabins.

Though it's no longer possible to book reservations on the overnight trains separate to the the ticket booking process, meaning that rail pass users can no longer book overnight train reservations on the DB website

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What are the terms for child tickets for train journeys from and to Germany?

On the daytime trains children and grandchildren under 15 years of age travel for free on MOST cross-border services when accompanied by an adult or grandparent.

The terms and conditions differ for night trains.


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USING RAIL PASSES WITHIN and FROM and TO GERMANY:

We have produced a guide to using Eurail and InterRail passes on trains within and from/to Germany which you can find HERE.

It features all the info you need about reserving seats, including when you don't have to, when you do and how to book reservations online and at stations.

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