Travelling by train in Germany


General information


This is the coronavirus information page published by DB, the German national rail operator.

Which train services are available can be looked up on the DB online timetable though DB hasn't apparently yet introduced a revised timetable for the the ICE and ICE trains.

Ticketing:

This is the info on the DB website.


Customers who no longer want to travel due to the corona virus can have their tickets booked up to March 13th, 2020 converted into a voucher for the value of their tickets with a travel date by April 30th, 2020. This also applies to super saver prices, saver prices and group tickets. We accept the application for reimbursement by June 30, 2020.
(This info is particularly pertinent to for discounted 'Sparpreis' tickets).

Passengers with a Flexpreis or Flexpreis Business have the option of canceling their tickets free of charge, regardless of the current special tolerances.

Other types of ticket sold by DB (the full price tickets) can be refunded in any event without charge.

Ticket exchanges can be processed by using the form on this page but as this system wasn't designed to handle a high volume of claims, DB is working towards an automated solution which it hopes to have available on April 2nd.

So it may be worth holding back from submitting a claim form, DB is being is open about the fact that it is struggling to cope with the volume of submssions - and instead look out for news of new refund and exchange systems, which will appear on this page.

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International Train Service Amendments:

The German national rail operator DB lists all current changes to train services on its journey information page, so any future amendments as a result of the Coronavirus will also be added.
The Corona information page on the DB website.

Most international trains from and to Germany have been impacted and this list of available international train services may be subject to chnage - but it is correct as of Saturday March 21st.

The train services between Austria and Germany are comparatively unaffected, still operating are these routes (some specific departures MAY be cancelled):
- ICE trains
- the Railjet trains on the Munich/Munchen - Salzburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna - Budapest route
- the IC and EuroCitytrains between Germany and Klagenfurt.
- the Railjet trains on the Munich/Munchen - Salzburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna - Budapest route
- -the Nightjet train between Wien/Vienna and Koln/Colgne and Bruxelles
- presumably the Hamburg <> Wien/Vienna Nightjet service is also still operating (can't find it on any list of cancelled services).
(Only Hungarian citizens can travel to Hungary and only German citizens/residents can travel into Germany).

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The Germany <> Belgium ICE services are reduced to 3 x trains per day in each direction
Germany <> The Netherlands: 3 x ICE trains per day on the day on the Amsterdam <> Frankfurt route and the daily Amsterdam <> Basel via Mannheim service.
The IC trains on the Amsterdam <> Berlin route (but they won't be travelling on the Dutch section of the route from Monday March 23rd).

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The regional trains between Flensburg in Germany and Fredericia are still operating, but they will be stopped at the border for extensive checks and DSB is warning that these may cause delays of 30 mins or more.
For those that absolutely have to travel by train between Germany and Denmark, connections to Kobenhavn and Aarhus will be available into these trains at Fredericia and connections will be available at Flensburg from trains from Hamburg.
Only German citizens and those holding resident permits in Germany can travel into Germany on these trains.

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All other international train services to and from Germany have been suspended.

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Welcome to the guide onn how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in Germany by train.
Click the links below for instant access for the info you need.

Or if you would like help with planning a train journey within or to/from Germany or want to add some German destinations to a European train travel itinerary, take a look at ShowMeTheJourney's new Concierge Service.

THE TRAINS      l           THE STATIONS   


THE TICKETS
      l         USEFUL LINKS

Travelling by train in Germany can be an incredible experience.
It can boast some of the fastest and most fabulous trains in Europe, has impressive and efficient stations and offers a multitude of spectacular journeys.

The Top SIX Things Worth Knowing about travelling by train in Germany:

1
. DB (Deutsche Bahn) is the German national rail operator, but it doesn't manage all of the train services in the country.

Regional (Regio) services in particular can be operated by other companies, but train tickets for these services are interchangeable.

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

2. DB has embarked on an investment program in which railway lines are being renewed across the country, meaning that certain sections of route can be closed for weeks or months at a time, with trains being diverted on to longer, and therefore slower routes while the work is carried out.

The most impactful upcoming alteration to train service is the temporary closure of the high speed line between Mannheim and Stuttgart, which will be occurring from April 10th to October 31st.

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3. The cheapest type of discounted tickets for journeys by the express, ICE and IC services are the 'Super Sparpreis' tickets.

They can be booked from 6 months ahead of your travel date - the further ahead you can book, the cheaper the prices will be.

4. If you book 1st class tickets for journeys by IC or ICE trains, seat reservations are complimentary, so are included with your booking.
However, they are an optional costed extra when booking 2nd class tickets.
Seat reservations are not available on Regio trains.

5. If you will be buying tickets at the last minute, looking up the train times on the DB website, before you set off for the station can be a good idea.

On most ICE routes the trains depart no more than hourly - and this also applies to some IC routes, and on most Regio routes too.

Though between some destinations the direct trains only depart every other hour - and some very long distance IC services only operate once per day.

6. Tickets whether booked online or at a station are restricted to whatever type of train SERVICE you have opted to travel by.

Meaning that if you have opted to travel by a Regio train service, you can't then decide to board an ICE or IC service instead.

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Six Things that are good to know about German train services:

1. German train services are placed into these four categories - ICE, IC, Regio and S-Bahn.

The ICE services = express trains that spend some of their end-to-end journeys travelling on a high speed line.


ICE trains travel on high speed lines for most of the journey between these cities:

- Berlin <> Hannover
- Hannover and Wolfsburg <> Frankfurt (Main) and Wurzburg
- Leipzig/Halle <> Erfurt
- Erfurt <> Nurnberg*
- Nurnberg <> Ingolstadt (on route to Munchen/Munich)
- Koln/Cologne <> Frankfurt Flughafen/Airport*
- Mannheim <> Stuttgart
- Karlsruhe <> Offenburg

*Trains regularly travel at more than 285 km/h on these lines, but up to 270 km/h is the more usual speed on the other lines.

Note that there are no high speed lines between these cities:

- Koln/Cologne <> Hamburg
- Koln/Cologne <> Hannover
- Hamburg <> Hannover
- Hamburg <> Berlin
- Stuttgart <> Munchen/Munich

but ICE trains still operate on those routes.

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The IC services = more conventional express trains which are mainly used on long cross country routes, which don't involve travelling on the high speed lines.
Though IC trains can use the high speed lines for comparatively short sections of their journeys.

When there are no high speed lines between cities, the IC services share the route with ICE services.

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The Regio services = A broad swathe of services come into the Regio trains category, but they can be summarised as providing these three types of service:

(i) Longer distance 'commuter' routes from/and to major cities including Berlin, Koln, Hamburg and Munchen.

Regio services often share these routes with IC and ICE trains and when they do so, they can be a cheaper, but slightly slower alternative, to taking those express trains.

(ii) The local and branch line services outside the major cities.

(iii) Journeys of up to three hours which link smaller towns to regional capitals.

On these routes some Regio services can be faster than others because they skip more stations - and those faster trains are usually designated as 'Regio Express' (RE) services.

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

The S-Bahn services = local trains in urban areas of Germany.

Similar to the RER trains in Paris and Thameslink trains in London -  in Berlin, Frankfurt(Main), Hamburg and Munich/Munchen - the S-Bahn trains travel across the city centre, providing faster alternatives to the Metro.

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2. International EuroCity (EC) services provided by other national rail operators are slotted into the regular German train timetables.

If you will be taking a train journey between Berlin and either Dresden or Hamburg, you could be travelling on a Czech or Hungarian train.
Or if you make a journey between north-west Germany and south-west Germany, you could find yourself boarding a Swiss train.
And these are just some examples of when this can occur.

3. The type of train service you will be travelling by is only a broad indicator of the type of on-board experience you will have.

Five different types of ICE trains are used on those services and there are broadly two different types of train used for the IC services - one of which is the new double deck Intercity2 trains.

A multitude of trains are also used for the Regio services, though double-decked trains are more common on the longer distance routes.

4. If you book 1st class tickets for journeys by IC or ICE trains, seat reservations are complimentary, so are included with your booking.

However, when booking 2nd class tickets they are an optional extra and cost €4 - but if you don't add a reservation to your booking, seats may not be available for your entire journey,

If you will be using a rail pass on trains within Germany, seat reservations are optional in both 1st AND 2nd class on IC and ICE trains  - but the availability of seats isn't guaranteed if you haven't reserved
Seat reservations are not available on Regio trains.

5. 'Quiet' and 'Phone' seating areas/zones are available on all ICE trains and on most IC services

You can choose whether you wish to travel in these zones when booking 1st class tickets, or making a reservation for 2nd class.

6. Some form of on board catering will be available on all ICE and IC services and on the EC trains within Germany - but not on Regio services:

In summary:

Restaurant cars = some ICE trains and the EC trains,
Bar/bistro counter = all ICE trains, all EC trains, some IC trains
Trolley services of refreshments = some IC trains (those which don't have bar/bistro counters).
On demand at seat service in 1st class = all ICE trains

A more detailed overview is available on our GUIDE to using German trains.

OR for more info on a specific train click the orange 'Trains' button below.

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Using German Stations - Six Things that are good to know:


1. The main central stations in Germany cities are named ‘Hauptbahnhofs’ and this is universal across the country.

The names of landmarks or notable people etc are not used for the names of hauptbahnhofs.

'Hauptbahnhof' is usually shortened to 'hbf' on timetables, departure screens and the DB website

2. In some cities including Berlin, Hamburg and Munchen/Munich, long distance trains can call at other stations in the city, before they arrive at the hauptbahnhof/hbf.

So avoid seeing the name of the city on the signage at a station and assuming you've arrived in the city centre.
In German cities anything but 'hbf' in a station name indicates that the station is NOT the main, city centre station.

3. All hauptbahnhofs house Reisezentrum (travel desks) at which tickets and reservations on most European international trains can be arranged - without paying booking fees.
European train services that can be booked at a Reisezentrum desks include trains that DON'T travel to/from Germany.

Reisezentrums can be a great resource if you're following a Eurail or InterRail pass itinerary.
You can avoid the booking fees payable on the Eurail and InterRail online reservation services - AND the booking fees payable when arranging reservations at stations in Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

4. You won't go hungry at a hauptbahnhof.
The largest German stations usually house 'food courts' with multiple dining options - though 'fine dining' restaurants are less common.
Numerous take-away outlets will sell food that is of better quality than you will find on any train.

5.  All hauptbahnhofs have coin operated left luggage lockers, which can be accessed during the stations opening hours

When depositing bags you must pay for an initial 24 hours - even if you will be only depositing a bag for a couple of hours.
Then on collection you pay the balance - the charge will rise per day, but keep in mind that you may have pay in excess of 20 euros in coins, you can't use cards or notes.

Change machines for converting notes into coins can be available, though in our experience they tend to be unreliable.
What we do is to collect coins during a trip and put them wherever we have stashed the key, which will open the locker.

6. The German word for platform/track is 'gleis'.

At non terminal stations the gleis will be divided into zones.
There will be information on the gleis showing in which zones each coach on the trains using that gleis will be located.

So if you have a reserved seat, or want to travel in a specific part of the train, then you can wait in the corresponding zone.

You can usually only find out the specific zone info when you are on the platform/track/gleis.

TRAINS FROM BERLIN   


TRAINS FROM HAMBURG


TRAINS FROM FRANKFURT   


TRAINS FROM KOLN


TRAINS FROM MUNCHEN


More information, including how to find your train, is available on the using stations in Germany guide.

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German Train Tickets for journeys WITHIN Germany - 10 things that are good to know:

1. Tickets for journeys by S-Bahn and nearly all Regio trains aren't discounted so they cost the same if you buy them last minute at the station.

2. When you book tickets at a station it will be train service specific.

Because tickets for journeys by Regio trains are cheaper when booked at a station, they can't be used to travel on an IC or ICE train.

So once you have booked tickets for a journey by Regio train, you can't then just hop on any next train to your destination - you can only take a Regio train.

3. Limited numbers of discounted tickets will be available for journeys by IC, ICE and international express trains.

So you can save if you book tickets online for journeys by these express trains, in comparison to the price you would pay if you booked last minute at the station.

4. You can now book online on DB for journeys within Germany by IC or ICE trains up to 6 months ahead of your travel date.

5. On the majority of ICE and IC journeys within Germany the cheapest 'Super Sparpreis'  ticket price is now €17.90, this is a newly lowered price.

Whether these prices will be available when you book depends on how quickly the tickets at the lowest prices sell out.
On the longer distance routes those €17.90 fares can be hard to find if you're not booking at least 3 months ahead.

6. Super Sparpreis and Sparpreis tickets are train specific, you must travel on the train you have selected - and this applies if you haven’t reserved.

7. The availability of the cheapest tickets is limited, the further ahead you book, the more likely it is that they will still be available.

They will sell out fastest on the most popular departures, so trains leaving at different times on the same day can have different ticket prices.

Therefore if you can be flexible re: your departure times then it’s usually worthwhile searching through ‘earlier/later’ departures to find the cheapest fares – or use the ‘Saver Fare’ facility on the DB website.

You might save more than €40 by taking trains that are departing earlier or later in the day.

8. Often making a change of train can save money in comparison to taking the direct ICE trains
The connections are usually designed to make the changing of trains as simple as possible.


On many routes taken by ICE trains, the timetable is set up so that in one hour there will be a direct ICE train between cities.
Then in the alternate hours, a 5 – 10 min connection between ICE trains is required to complete a journey.

However IC and ICE trains AREN'T exceptionally punctual, so allowing a minimum of 30mins to make a connection between long distance trains can be the best option.

9. If your journey involves making a connection between two trains at a Hauptbahnhof - and you miss the connection due to a late arrival of a train - tickets and reservations can be re-arranged for a subsequent train free of charge at a Reisezentrum travel desk.

10. Standard (non-folding) bicycles can be taken on all DB trains except the ICE 1, ICE 2, ICE 3 or ICE-T trains, but special tickets usually have to be purchased prior to boarding.
ShowMeTheJourney's guide to booking these bike tickets for German train journeys is available here.

More detailed information is available by clicking the clickng the green 'Tickets & Passes' button below.

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Taking trains from and to Germany: -

A list of routes taken by trains from and to Germany is available HERE.

Two other things that are good to know about buying tickets and making reservations on these international trains.

1. Making reservations is OPTIONAL on some international train services/routes, including:

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

(ii) EC trains to/from Denmark (outside summer months), Hungary, Switzerland and The Czech Republic.

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

(iv) Railjet trains to/from Austria and Hungary

However, reservations are automatically included when booking 1st class tickets.

2. However in contrast reservations ARE compulsory on -
 

(i) DB-SNCF trains to/from France

(ii) EC trains to/from Croatia, Denmark (summer only), Italy, Poland and Slovenia,

(iii) All overnight trains from/to Germany.

These compulsory international train reservations are automatically INCLUDED when booking 1st AND 2nd class tickets online or at stations

However, rail pass users have to book reservations before boarding these trains.

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