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Train Ticket Guides Using Rail Passes in and to/from Germany
How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in German

Using Rail Passes in and to/from Germany

All that's good to know about using Eurail and InterRail passes on German train journeys and on international trains to and from Germany

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Welcome to our guide to using InterRail and Eurail Passes which are valid for train travel in Germany.
Having used rail passes to travel more than 3500 of kilometres around Germany by train in the past two years, we've anticipated the questions you are most likely to have - we hope.

So either use the Content menu to jump straight to the info you need, or spend 10 mins (ish) reading all of our insights.
They should save you save you time, money and confusion!

How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in Germany

On journeys within Germany:

(The 'rules' for how rail passes can be used and booked on the international trains FROM/TO Germany can be different; hence the info dedicated to international trains further down the page).

Can I hop on any train?

The short answer to this question is 'yes'!
Eurail and InterRail passes can be used for virtually any train journey within Germany operated by DB (Deutsche Bahn) which is the national rail operator in Germany.
This is includes the full spectrum of DB services, from the high speed ICE trains to the local S-Bahn trains including the IC trains and the Regio trains.
How to travel on German trains with an InterRail or Eurail Pass

You don't HAVE to reserve before boarding any German train, though on busy trains spare seats AREN'T guaranteed.
So when travelling within Germany by EC, IC and ICE trains be wary of assuming seats will be available; other travellers may have reserved all the seats, including in 1st class.

The fact that seats reservations are now automatically included when booking 1st class tickets has resulted in spare seats in 1st class becoming harder to find if you board an EC, IC or ICE train with a 1st class rail pass; and haven't opted to reserve.

How likely are seats to be unavailable?
Well on my 18 most recent journeys by ICE and IC trains with a 1st class pass, no seats were available twice, and 2nd class will always be busier.
On three other journeys I had to move seats because they had been reserved for later stages of the journey, but when I boarded, they were the only seats available.

Optional reservations (and the fees):

Worth knowing is that seats cannot be reserved on MOST Regio trains; the exceptions are the Regio services in Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein and reservations for Regio trains in these regions can be booked at stations.

The price per reservation on IC and ICE trains is €5.30 in 1st class; €4 in 2nd class; and if your journey involves more than one train the fee will be charged per end-to-end journey, so you won't be charged extra if your journey involves a change of train.

You can either book seat reservations online before you arrive in Germany, or book them at a station in Germany using a Reisezentrum travel desk or a ticket machine .

Booking online: You can purchase seat reservations on the DB (German national railways) booking website here up to 6 months ahead of the travel date - without paying a booking fee.

At the station:

You won't be charged a booking fee if you use a Reisezentrum travel desk.

On balance booking reservations at the station is a better option; you can avoid being tied to specific trains before your travel dates.
In the fairly unlikely event of seats being unavailable on your first choice of train, alternative options will always be available.

How do I book reservations using a ticket machine?

If you're at a station that doesn't have a Reisezentrum desk, or if the Reisezentrum desk is particularly busy, you can purchase rail pass reservations from DB ticket machines.
Though the steps you need to take aren't particularly obvious.
On some machines you will see this screen:
How to book Eurail and InterRail reservations when using a ticket machine at a German station
and if you do see this screen, then the steps to take are fairly obvious; click 'reserve seats without purchasing tickets' and the logical process is very similar to buying tickets.

However, on some ticket machines you will see this screen...
How to book Eurail and InterRail reservations when using a ticket machine at a German station
...and if you see this screen, click the 'offer categories'.

When you click the 'offer categories you will see...
How to book Eurail and InterRail reservations when using a ticket machine at a German station

...so click the 'Services and add-on tickets' button.

Do that and you will then see...
How to book Eurail and InterRail reservations when using a ticket machine at a German station
...click on the 'Reservations for day and night trains' and the process then becomes fairly logical.

Worth knowing if you want to avoid reservations:

It can be worthwhile looking up a journey on the DB booking website, as though you were going to buy a ticket, because the journey option shows how busy a particular departure will be
Checking to see how busy an ICE train will be when using Eurail or InterRail in Germany

On this example the train to target would be the 12:30 departure and the train to avoid would be the 13:37 departure, three red passengers means a very busy train.

In general try to avoid making particularly lengthy journeys on Friday and Sunday afternoons, especially in the summer, as that is when the express trains tend to be particularly busy.
Also avoid travelling on ICE trains away from major cities between 16:30 and 18:30.

Comparing one country passes with railcards:

DB offers multiple types of Bahn Cards which are railcards which can be used to obtain a 25% or 50% discount when booking tickets for train tickets in Germany.

Various types of Bahn Card are available, but what's particularly useful if you will be planning a holiday with numerous rail journeys in Germany is that Bahn Cards valid for 3 months are available, which are given the name of Trial Bahn Cards.
The prices are:

  • A Trial Bahn Card 25 which gives 25% off 2nd class journeys = €17.90
  • A Trial Bahn Card 25 which gives 25% off 1st class journeys = €36.90

If you're happy to commit in advance and book non-flexible, discounted Super Sparpreis tickets for specific departures, the prices of many long-distance German rail journeys in 2nd class start at €17.90.
Therefore you need to make only four trips with a card which gives 25% off 2nd class journeys, for the Trial Bahn Card 25 card to be a money saver.
However, those €17.90 ticket prices can be hard to track down if you're not booking more than a couple of months in advance, so prices of €39-49 can be more typical.
At those prices you only need to make two long trips (one return journey) for the card to be worthwhile.

For illustrative purposes, a round Germany trip of Cologne → Hamburg → Berlin → Munich → Freiburg → Cologne by ICE trains in early July, when booking 2 months in advance, at adult 2nd class rates was researched .
The total cost of a Trial Bahn Card 25+ five tickets was €218; with a saving on the ticket price of around €60.

In contrast a one country InterRail pass and a one country Eurail pass for Germany, valid for 5 days of travel at the Adult rate, is €241.

Seat reservations on German express are optional, so if you want to reserve the same rates are payable whether you book tickets or travel with rail passes.
Though if a stopover in Bamberg was taken on the Berlin → Munich journey and a stopover in Bonn on the Freiburg → Cologne journey were both factored into the trip, the rail passes then become better value for money.

Travelling on the international services:

The 'rules' around making reservations when travelling with Eurail and InterRail passes on journeys to and from Germany, depend on the specific train service you will be travelling by.

The services which don't require reservations:

You obviously won't have to pay reservation fees on trains from/to Germany on which reservations aren't available. so this includes the local and regional trains,

But it also applies when reservations aren't mandatory, which includes these four express train services from/to Germany:
(1) international ICE trains between Germany and Austria, Belgium*, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
*rail pass users should target the ICE trains and avoid the Thalys trains when travelling between Germany and Belgium.
Using rail passes on international ICE trains
(2) on the EC (EuroCity) trains between Germany and Austria and Czech Republic/Hungary and Switzerland (and between Germany and Denmark, but not between mid June and mid August);
(3) on the Railjets between Germany and Austria/Hungary;
(4) international IC trains between Germany and Austria, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

But the advice is the same as for long distance train journeys within Germany; the availability of seats isn't guaranteed on these trains.

Booking the optional reservations

The price per reservation on all of the train services when it is optional (all of the international services listed above) is €5.30 in 1st class; €4 in 2nd class .
If your journey involves more than train within and/or to/from Germany you will only be charged once.

You can book seat reservations online before you arrive in Germany, on the DB (German national railways) booking website here UP to 6 months ahead of the travel date, with no booking fees.
Or book them at a station in Germany using a Reisezentrum travel desk, you won't be charged a booking fee either..

We particularly recommend booking reservations for journeys that involve a making a connection between trains OUTSIDE of Germany at Reisezentrum travel desks; only reservations for trains within, and from/to Germany can be booked online on DB.
Paying these optional reservations fees will ensure a stress-free journey.

In our experience we particularly recommend reservations for 2nd class pass users, if you DON'T want to take the first and last trains of the day on THESE FOUR routes (especially between June and September).
(1) Berlin Praha/Prague/Prag
(2) Berlin Amsterdam
(3) The ICE trains to/from The Netherlands.
(4) The EC trains to/from Denmark (reservations are compulsory between September and May.

The services on which reservations are mandatory:

How to use rail passes on international trains from and to Germany

Reservation fees have to be paid in advance of boarding, on trains that DO have mandatory reservations and this includes these FOUR services:

  1. DB-SNCF trains to/from France
    Or you can avoid having to pay these fees at all, by following alternative journey options when travelling to Paris from Berlin, or from Munchen/Munich.

2. EC trains to/from Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia - (and the trains to/from Denmark, but only between June 12th and Sept 4th).
Though DB no longer sells reservations online for the trains between Germany and both Denmark and Poland

  1. Thalys trains (so target the ICE trains for journeys between Germany and Belgium)
    When travelling to Paris you can avoid these fees by taking alternative trains from Cologne/Koln.

4. All overnight trains from/to Germany.

What are the reservation fees for these trains with compulsory reservations?

Example reservation fees for DAYTIME trains:

Paris Frankfurt/Stuttgart/Munich (DB – SNCF) = €30 1st; €13 2nd;

Brussels Cologne (Thalys) = €25* 1st; €15 2nd (no compulsory fess on the alternative ICE trains)

Paris Cologne (Thalys) = €35* 1st; €25 2nd - can be booked on B-Europe here up to 4 months ahead of the travel date

Marseille Karlsruhe/Frankfurt (DB - SNCF) = €30 1st; €13 2nd; Can be booked online on DB here up to 4 months ahead of the travel date

Warszawa Berlin (EC) = €4 1st and 2nd;

Munich **↔ ** Verona/Bologna/Venice (EC) = €20.50 1st; €14.50 2nd
The fees on these EC trains have recently increased in price by more than 40%, but there are alternative journey options available when travelling from Munich to Bologna and Verona, or to Venice.

Example reservation fees for the OBB Nightjet trains between Germany and Austria/Switzerland:

Seat: = €14
Berth in 6-bed couchette = €34
Beth in 4-bed couchette = €44
Bed in standard 3-bed sleeping cabin = €54
Bed in standard 2-bed sleeping cabin = €74
Bed in standard 1-bed sleeping cabin = €114
Bed in deluxe 3-bed sleeping cabin = €74*
Bed in deluxe 2-bed sleeping cabin = €94*
Bed in deluxe 1-bed sleeping cabin = €134*

*=1st class pass required for booking.

1st class pass holders can also pay the same fees as 2nd class pass holders, for the seats, couchettes and standard 2nd sleeping cabins

How to book these mandatory reservations:

Online (day trains only):

The usual option is to book them online on the DB seat reservation only booking path**
Though if your end-to-end journey involves making a connection between trains OUTSIDE of Germany the best option is to book these journeys at the station; at Reisezentrum travel desks.

What can't be booked online with DB:

The two main international daytime services, for which DB doesn't sell seat reservations online, are the Thalys trains, (reservations for these trains can be booked on B-Europe) AND the DB-SNCF services between Paris and Frankfurt (Main), Stuttgart and Munchen/Munich.

Reservations for these trains are no longer sold online by DB, so the booking options for rail pass users on these trains are:
(1) Book at a station in France at a 'SNCF boutique', OR
(2) Book at the Reisezentrum travel desks in Germany, OR
(3) You can also book reservations online by using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service - though you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.

Avoid booking rail pass reservations for the EC trains to Italy online on DB-Bahn; the reservation fee for these trains online does NOT include the 'supplement' for journeys to/from Italy.

DB also no longer sells rail pass reservations on the overnight sleeper trains from and to Germany online.
OBB, the Austrian national rail operator and provider of the Nightjet network, now enables rail pass users to book reservations online for any journey by Nightjet night train to/from Germany- how to do this is explained here
If you will be travelling on other night trains, an option is to use the Eurail/InterRail Rail reservations service - but you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation.

DB's online booking system also no longer sells seat reservations for trains between Germany and both Denmark and Poland.
On the trains between Germany and Denmark rail pass reservations can be booked through the DSB Danish railways website (the tech is provided by the B-Europe reservation system); 30kr = approx €4.

At the station; the day AND night trains:
Make use of the Reisezentrum travel desks when using rail passes in Germany

You can book reservations for the majority of international day and night trains at a major German station, a hauptbahnhof.
All hauptbahnhofs house Reisezentrum travel desks and they are a fantastic resource for all rail pass uses.
They don’t charge booking fees for any rail pass reservation and they can arrange reservations on any train service within and to/from Germany – AND on most trains that DON'T travel through Germany.

So if you will be travelling through Germany before travelling on to Eastern Europe, you’ll find it a generally easier process to book reservations for these trains in Germany.
(though booking reservations on Polish EIP trains in Poland is now a cheaper option).

If you’ll also be taking international trains from Switzerland on which reservations are compulsory, later on your itinerary, you can avoid the fairly expensive booking fees charged at stations in Switzerland.
If you'll be taking an EC train to Italy you should also use the Reisezentrum desks.

The Concierge Service can help with planning a rail pass itinerary, both for using one-country passes to travel around Germany and for including Germany on a multi-country Global Pass itinerary.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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