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Travel advice Trains in Germany

 

Travelling from London to Germany by train is easier than you’d think. Hop on a Eurostar service from London to Brussels in 2h 01m. Change on to a high-speed Deutsche Bahn ICE service to Köln (Cologne) in 1h 50m and from there, you can reach Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin on another slick ICE train.

How to book trains to Germany

Booking train tickets abroad can be daunting. You have to contend with a different language, unfamiliar place names and new train companies. Luckily, Trainline makes it simple to book trains to any German destination, in English.

Using our Journey Planner above, follow these steps to book your train tickets to Germany:

  1. Enter your origin (where you’re travelling from) and destination (where you’re travelling to).
  2. Pick a date and time you’d like to travel.
  3. Select how many passengers are travelling and whether you’ll be using railcards.
  4. We’ll show you the prices and times for the route you’ve chosen. Select your preferred train and whether you want to travel in Standard or First Class.
  5. Enter the full names of all passengers you’re buying tickets for (name must match their IDs) and an email address to send your tickets to. 
  6. Continue to the checkout and book your train tickets to Germany!

Visiting Germany

Travel to Berlin

Located on the winding rivers of the Spree and Havel, this captivating capital is known for its rich history, its legendary party scene and its laidback lifestyle. Berlin is a hotspot for tourist attractions, hosting important monuments like the Brandenburg Gate, a potent symbol for German reunification, The Reichstag, the meeting place of the German parliament, and the Berlin Wall, the remains of the infamous wall that split the country in half between 1961 and 1989.

Berlin is well connected to both the rest of Germany and Europe via several train stations in the city. This includes Berlin Ostbanhof and Berlin Zoologischer Garten, but the busiest passenger station in the city is Berlin Hauptbanhof, whose name translates into Berlin Central Station. You’ll notice that many German cities have a ‘Hauptbanhof’ station – that means it’s the main station in the city.

Travel to Munich

Located on the River Isar, just north of the Bavarian Alps, is Munich – the capital city of the German state of Bavaria. The third-largest city in the country, Munich attracts a considerable number of tourists thanks to its popular Oktoberfest celebration and the Hofbräuhaus, one of the most recognised beer halls in the world. However, if there’s one thing you have to see while in Munich, it’s Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace located an hour outside of the city.

Munich is easily accessible from the rest of Germany. The main railway station in Munich is München Hauptbahnhof, located close to the city centre in the Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt borough.

Travel to Hamburg

The exciting city of Hamburg is not only the second-largest city in Germany but also a major European port, an impressive research hub and a centre for culture. Hamburg is home to attractions like the Speicherstadt, the world’s largest warehouse district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kunsthalle Hamburg, a major art museum, Reeperbahn, one of the best nightlife spots in the city, and the Hamburg Rathaus, the Neo-Renaissance style city hall.

Easy to reach from both German and international destinations, the main railway station in the city of Hamburg is the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof – the busiest station in Germany and the third busiest in all of Europe. Hamburg Hauptbahnhof is situated on the Hamburg Wallring, a semi-circular ring road which runs around the centre of the city.


Trains in Germany

Germany as a country has an excellent railway network which connects cities, regions and states with ease. There are different train services based on the length of the journey and the destination, all of which are run by Deutsche Bahn. The most commonly used train types are the InterCity Express, the InterCity Express Sprinter, the InterCity, the Eurocity, the Regional Express, the Regional Bahn, the InterRegional and the S Bahn trains.

High-speed services

For high-speed travel between cities in Germany, there are three major types of trains to consider. The most common of these is the InterCity Express, otherwise known as ICE, which is a type of high-speed train that connects major cities all over the country. The fastest trains in the ICE family are the so-called 'ICE-Sprinter' trains, connecting the key cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Hamburg. Both the ICE and ICE-Sprinter services contain an onboard restaurant and a drinks and snack service. First Class carriages also have power sockets, video screens and newspapers.

You might also find yourself on an InterCity (IC) or EuroCity (EC) service. IC trains are slower than the ICE and ICE Sprinter services – making more stops – while EuroCity (EC) trains are the same as IC trains but travel from Germany to international destinations like Prague, Vienna and Copenhagen.

Regional services

Regional trains are slower and stop more frequently than high-speed trains, often feeding into the high-speed network. Firstly, Regional Express (RE) trains connect regional destinations to cities. RE is the fastest of the regional services. Secondly, Regional Bahn trains are used to connect local towns and are slower than the Regional Express service. InterRegional trains are used when travelling between different regions in Germany. Lastly, there are S-Bahn trains, which link up different parts of metropolitan areas. Often used by commuters, S-Bahn trains are a quick and easy service for getting around town.


Train ticket types

Deutsche Bahn tickets

Realistically, if you’re taking trains in Germany you will most likely find yourself on Deutsche Bahn services. We’ll focus on DB ticket types here – for more information on other train operating companies, visit our Flixtrain, OBB, Thalys and Alleo pages.

DB ticket types are a trade-off between travel flexibility and price. There are three main tickets valid on DB services:

  • Flexpreis – the most flexible but also the priciest tickets. You are not bound to taking a specific train, you can apply for a full refund up to one day before the travel date, and you can break up your journey – meaning you’re free to hop off the train and complete the trip on a different one later.
  • Sparpreis – these are DB’s ‘Saver’ tickets – a cheaper alternative to Flexpreis. If you’re taking a long-distance train, you will have to take the specific train listed on the ticket (ICE, IC, EC etc.). For regional and local trains, you’re not restricted to certain trains. If you request a refund, there will be a €10 fee and it will be issued as a voucher rather than cash.
  • Super Sparpreis – the ‘Super Saver’ ticket. Slightly cheaper than the Sparpreis, you’re under the same restrictions of having to take the specific train listed on the ticket. However, there are no refunds with Super Sparpreis.

Keep in mind that there’s a limited number of Saver tickets available. As such, Saver tickets work like airline tickets – becoming more expensive as the departure date approaches. On the contrary, Flexpreis cannot sell out and the price is fixed, meaning it costs the same on the day as it does two months in advance.

A good way to save on train travel is by purchasing a BahnCard, a railcard which grants discounts on Deutsche Bahn services. There are three types of BahnCard. The BahnCard 25 entitles you to a 25% discount on tickets, whereas the BahnCard 50 gives you a 50% discount and the BahnCard 100 allows for ticket-free travel across Germany. You must choose whether you want your card to be valid for 3 or 12 months. There are also BahnCards available for youth travellers and business travellers. You can buy one online directly from Deutsche Bahn’s website.

For more information on train travel in Germany, visit our Trains in Germany page.

Interrail and Eurail Passes

If you’re planning a long rail trip to Germany, a great solution to buying lots of separate tickets is the Interrail Pass or Eurail Pass.  There are several options for both passes, depending on how many countries you want to visit. The Eurail Pass is available for non-Europeans wanting unlimited travel around Europe, whereas the Interrail Pass is a pass for European residents. There is also a German Rail Pass, which provides discounts on a huge variety of the country’s train services and is available for different customers – Adult, Twin or Youth (aged 12-27).

You can buy an Interrail and Eurail Pass directly through Trainline.


London to Germany train

Taking the train from London to Germany might not be the fastest option, but it is a great option if you’re conscious of the environmental impact of your travels. Research conducted by Eurostar found that travelling by high-speed rail rather than airplane can reduce your carbon footprint by 90%!

It’s easy to get to Germany by train from London. The journey is made up of two legs: London to Brussels and Brussels to Cologne. In total, it takes just over 4 hours. That’s the same time it takes to get to Edinburgh from London!

The first leg, from London St Pancras International to Brussels Midi, is a 2-hour journey on the Eurostar. Remember to bring your passport as you’ll have to go through customs at St Pancras. The train speeds through the south of England, through the Channel Tunnel before turning east towards Brussels. Eurostar trains are modern and comfortable, with three classes to choose from. For more information on each class, visit our Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier pages.

The second leg from Brussels Midi to Köln (Cologne) Hauptbahnhof takes around 1h 50m. You’ll catch a high-speed Deutsche Bahn Intercity Express train direct to Cologne. ICE trains are the pride of Deutsche Bahn’s fleet, with newer models capable of reaching speeds of 300km/h. Trains are split into First Class and Second Class carriages plus a restaurant carriage. Alternatively, you can take a direct Thalys service to Cologne. We’ll show you which train you must catch in your booking confirmation.

And voilà! You’re into Germany. The adventure doesn’t stop at Cologne, however. Here are some of the most popular train connections from Cologne to the rest of Germany:

Route Fastest journey time Changes High-speed?
Cologne to Berlin 4h 17m Direct Yes
Cologne to Frankfurt 1h 02m Direct Yes
Cologne to Munich 4h 31m Direct Yes
Cologne to Hamburg 4h 5m Direct On some connections
Cologne to Dusseldorf 20m Direct Yes

 

For the latest departures from Cologne, visit our station page for Köln Hbf.


Visiting Germany from the USA?

Germany is a fabulous place for English-speaking tourists to visit. If you’re coming from the USA, you’ll find it a hugely varied country (the lederhosen and beer stereotypes only apply in Bavaria!), but very warm and welcoming. However, there are some useful things you should know before visiting Germany. Read our helpful tips below if this is your first time in the country.

Firstly, the currency in Germany is the Euro (€). In major cities, you’ll have no problem paying with a debit or credit card at most establishments, but this won’t the case with smaller vendors or in more remote areas. Always carry a bit of cash with you. When it comes to paying the bill, tipping customs in Germany vary quite significantly from that in North America. You’re not expected to tip as much in Germany as the USA as servers tend more adequately compensated in their basic wage. If the bill is small, simply round up to the nearest Euro or leave an extra 50 cent coin. For bigger expenses, such as a family meal, you might consider leaving up to 10% on top of the bill if the service was good.

You’ll find lots of people who speak and understand English in Germany. While it’s hard to apply a general rule to an entire country, you’re most likely to meet English speakers among the city-based youth. Bear in mind that many Germans will understand the language better than they can speak it, so provided you’re patient and polite you should be able to get your message across! People working in service industries will also speak a decent amount of English. It’s certainly worth learning a few German phrases to be able to communicate with older Germans - it’ll also show that you’re receptive to German culture which will always be appreciated.

Germany has a good public transport system. In cities, you can get around on buses, trams, S-Bahn trains and on the subway. For longer distances, Germany’s rail network is excellent. Though we’d love you to travel exclusively by train, we recognise you may rent a car while you’re out there. In Germany you drive on the same side of the road as the US. Just make sure you don’t hog the left-hand lane!

Finally, as a party to the Schengen Agreement, Germany allows US citizens to stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa. Just make sure that your passport is valid for at least three months beyond the point you plan to return to the US.

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