Germany Tickets & Rail Passes

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

The info covers the core basics of what you can expect to encounter when making bookings.

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,

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 '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 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?

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 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 price you will be offered for many journeys - but use the advice below and you should be able to book and save with confidence!

In contrast you can't make savings if you want to travel on the Regio trains, so they're not sold online on DB's booking service.

However, for journeys of under 90 mins, it's LIKELY that it won't be cheaper to book in advance for the ICE trains compared to paying on the day of travel for the Regio trains.

That's because the minimum price for a journey by ICE train is usually €19.90, so the ICEs aren't good value for shorter journeys.

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

Tickets for 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 ‘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 Bahn 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 (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 Bahn 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 for a less direct and longer
route.

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

Sparpreis/Savings 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

These 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 - 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 Bahn 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 Bahn.

However, reservations are NOT aumatically 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.

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 on DB Bahn 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.

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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 comfirmation.

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 Bahn:


In addition to the international ICE trains to/from Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland, these international trains can also be booked on DB Bahn;

(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

(iv) Railjet trains to/from Austria and Hungary

(v) All overnight trains from/to Germany.

DB Bahn will sell tickets for DIRECT journeys by these trains for journeys from AND to Germany.


However, DB Bahn will not sell tickets for international daytime journeys that involve more than 1 x change of train outside Germany.

If you will be taking an overnight train from Germany, and then making a connection into a daytime train in another country, DB Bahn cannot USUALLY sell such tickets online.

DB also does NOT sell tickets for the Thalys trains online, or at stations - you can book tickets for these trains on B-Europe and you can save by booking in advance .

You can also compare prices of Thalys and ICE trains between Germany and Belgium on B-Europe.com.

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

Limited numbers of discounted 'Europa Spezial' tickets are available on virtually all international DIRECT trains AND on international journeys that involve a change of train WITHIN Germany.

They're not available on SOME journeys that involve a change of train outside of Germany, including journey options that involve making connections in Italy or Switzerland.

However, Europa Spezial tickets are also usually available for journeys that involve making connections between trains in Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Belgium.

So these cheaper tickets can be made available for Germany to London journeys, which involve taking an ICE train from Germany to Bruxelles and a Eurostar from Bruxelles to London

If your journey involves making a connection outside of Germany then you can often save money if you split the journey.

Making separate bookings for the journey from Germany to the other country and then the journey within that country.


Tips For Booking Tickets AND Reservations On DB Bahn (Desktop) - READ MORE

Travelling to Germany:

It's always worth looking up the journeys on DB Bahn when travelling DIRECT to Germany by the trains listed above, as it tends to have the cheapest tickets available - other booking services usually price match, but it's rare for DB to have more expensive tickets on sale.

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

Seat reservations in both 1st and 2nd class will also be included with the ticket price, no matter which ticket service you opt to use - when taking international trains between Germany and Croatia, France, Italy, Poland and Slovenia (plus Denmark between May and September).

They're also included when booking tickets for the Thalys trains - see above

If you will be travelling 1st class on international trains in either direction between Germany and Austria, Belgium (on ICE trains) Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, The Czech Republic and The Netherlands - an advantage of booking tickets on DB Bahn is that your seat reservation will be complimentary and included in the ticket price.

In contrast, if you use the ticketing bookings service in these countries you MAY have to pay an additional fee for reserving 1st class seats - you will when travelling by Railjet between Germany and Austria and on trains from Switzerland to Germany.


If you travel 2nd class between Germany and Austria, Belgium (on ICE trains) Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands (and Denmark between May and September) the seat reservation will be optional.

You can opt to pay the fee to add it to your booking - if  you don't reserve seats are not
guaranteed.

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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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