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Train travel in Germany

Whether you’re just after a quick bit of info about trains in Germany, or you want to know absolutely everything there is to know about travelling by rail in the land of frankfurters, bier gartens and wanderlust, we’ve got you covered.

This page has been put together for anyone and everyone – not just rail geeks! Thinking about a holiday with the family? Head down to our German destinations section. Are you a student heading out for an Erasmus year? Then have a gander at our loyalty cards section. Perhaps you’re a business traveller? Learn all about travelling in Business Class in German trains. If you already know which German train ticket you need, use our Journey Planner above to book now!

Of course, the best way to learn about trains in Germany is to head there and try them for yourself, but by reading this page, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful trip, journey or year!

Below, you can find short summaries of each section on this page, simply select a card to jump down to the relevant section.

Germany train map

The train is the best way to travel in Germany, hands down. Stereotypes about efficiency aside, this rail network is one of the most complete in Europe – have a look below at our German train map to see just how easy it is to get around. Before you know it, you could be waking up in Berlin and tucking into breakfast before taking in the Brandenburg Gate, and still be able to take a high-speed train to Frankfurt well in time for dinner and a spot of exploring.

The main train company that manages most of the rail traffic in the country is Deutsche Bahn (DB for short) – with them, you can get from major city to major city in no time at all, thanks to the amazing high-speed services on offer.

If you plan to explore large portions of Germany in a short amount of time, we recommend doing it by train. Not only will you be able to city-hop like a boss, but you can also even reach other countries in under five hours, which is comparable to air travel when taking into account check-in and waiting times.

Trains in Germany - train companies

Handily, the majority of trains in Germany operate under the banner of Deutsche Bahn, so your brain won’t be too overloaded when looking for the right trains! DB trains can vary from the high-speed Intercity-Express (ICE) models to the slower (though not by much) Intercity and Regional-Express trains.

Other trains in Germany include joint ventures for International routes like DB-SNCF – a collaboration between the main train companies in both France and Germany for oh-so-chic journeys between Paris and cities like Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt (and more) and vice versa.

You might also see several other international trains operating in Germany, including ÖBB (for Austria) and Thalys (for Belgium, The Netherlands and France), while other domestic trains include those run by FlixTrain, who offer popular routes like Hamburg to Cologne and Berlin to Stuttgart.

For full details about each train company operating in Germany, follow the links in the summaries below to their respective pages.

DB

  • Main train company in Germany
  • High-speed and regional trains
  • Airport transfers
  • Ticket types ranging from cheap to flexible
  • Several seating classes available (depending on train type)

DB-SNCF

  • For high-speed cross-border journeys to Paris
  • Catch the train from Ulm, Stuttgart, Saarbrücken, Munich, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt am Main, Baden-Baden and Augsburg
  • Multiple seating classes available

FlixTrain

  • Cheap alternative to DB for high-speed routes
  • Berlin to Frankfurt, Hamburg to Cologne and more

ÖBB

  • For trains from Austria to Germany and vice versa
  • High-speed routes from Vienna to Munich, Salzburg to Munich and more
  • Multiple seating classes available

Thalys

  • For high-speed trains connecting Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Cologne to the continent
  • Destinations include Paris, Lille, Brussels, Amsterdam and more
  • Multiple seating classes available

Types of trains in Germany (high-speed and regional)

German trains represent one of the most effective ways to get around the country – they’re fast, convenient and comfortable. Some of the most popular German train routes include Deutsche Bahn’s Frankfurt to Munich route (which you can do as fast as 3h 10m via ICE train) and FlixTrain’s Berlin to Cologne offering (get there in just 4h 18m).

Learn about all the different German trains below in our comprehensive train types table.

Train Train type Train operating company Route examples (most popular)  Ideal for 
Intercity-Express (ICE) High speed - up to 330 km/h (205 mph) Deutsche Bahn    
  • Business travellers
Intercity Semi-fast - 250 km/h (160 mph) Deutsche Bahn  
  • Same as the ICE trains
 
  • Business travellers / residents
Regionalbahn  Regional train (city – town and vice versa, town – town)

Deutsche Bahn

   
  • Residents / leisure travellers
FlixTrain Semi-fast – 200 km/h (125mph)  FlixTrain    
  • Leisure travellers / Students
Thalys High-speed 300 km/h (186 mph) Thalys    
  • Business travellers / Leisure travellers
ÖBB Semi-fast – 230 km/h (142 mph) ÖBB    
  • Business travellers / Leisure travellers

German train tickets

Booking German train tickets with us is a straightforward, stress-free process. If you live in the UK or have been there before, you’ll be glad to know the German ticketing system is far superior, with fewer variations of tickets – meaning less confusion over the rules. Take Deutsche Bahn, for instance, the country’s main train company. Their tickets are split into two main types, Sparpreis and Flexpreis, with First Class tickets also available.

If you want to buy one of these tickets, simply search for your desired route using our Journey Planner – you’ll usually see Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis tickets as the cheapest options, while Flexpreis tickets often cost more with the bonus of some flexibility to your travels. On certain occasions, however, you may see a Flexpreis ticket as the cheapest option, depending on the date and time.

Find out more about each ticket type below.

Sparpreis tickets

What are Sparpreis tickets? Find a summary below.

  • Ideal for Leisure travellers and Students looking for a bargain
  • Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis are some of DB’s cheapest ticket options
  • Similar to UK Advance tickets
  • Book for a specific date and time (you can’t board earlier or later trains)
  • Board only the train you book a ticket for
  • Refunds and exchanges charge a fee

Flexpreis tickets

What are Flexpreis tickets? Find a summary below.

  • Ideal for Business travellers or those whose schedules may suddenly change
  • Flexpreis tickets generally cost more than Sparpreis (though not always)
  • Catch any train on the selected day of travel
  • Free refunds or exchanges as long as you do this before the day of travel

How to buy train tickets in Germany

You can always buy German train tickets on the day at the station (from either DB ticket machines or counters), but why risk having to pay a higher price for same-day tickets or not having a guaranteed seat to sit in? With our app or website at hand, you can easily book German train tickets in advance – potentially saving money and making sure you get your seat!

Here’s how to book your train tickets with us:

  1. Enter your departure and arrival stations of choice into either our App or Journey Planner at the top of the page. If you don't know the station name, you can also search by city.
  2. Enter the date you’d like to depart (and return if you're buying a return ticket), along with any relevant Railcards/Loyalty cards you have and number of passengers
  3. If you're looking for tickets on our website, hit Search times and prices if you're on our app hit Find times and prices to start your search.
  4. Choose a train time and Class option from our search results. Once you’re happy with your choice, continue to choose your seat preference
  5. On web, enter an email to send your ticket confirmation to, along with the full name of each passenger you’re booking tickets for (the name must match their IDs).
  6. Continue to the checkout and book your tickets!

Seating classes

Germany’s ICE trains aren’t just best in class for speed – they’re best-equipped in terms of facilities too. Wondering whether First Class tickets are really worth the extra cash or not? Check out our comparison below for a summary of what’s onboard. Remember, even though ICE trains are generally more expensive than regional and intercity trains, you may be able to find good deals with us by booking tickets well in advance.

DB trains - what's onboard?

  Regional (Standard Class) Intercity (First Class) ICE (First Class) ICE (Second Class)
Comfortable, wider seats with extra legroom X  ✓✓  ✓
Quiet spaces/carriages X  ✓  ✓
Seat reservations ✓ (at ticket machines only)

 

 ✓
Access to exclusive DB lounges  ✓ X
Unlimited free WiFi X X  ✓ X (WiFi is buyable)
At-seat food and refreshments X X  ✓ X
Free Newspapers X X  ✓

Train travel in Germany

When it comes to train travel in Germany, we’ve got you covered with our Deutsche Bahn train tickets. With DB’s high-speed services, you can easily hop from one city to another in style and comfort, avoiding the stresses of airports and air travel.

In fact, when you take into account the journey times to airports and time spent checking in and waiting ahead of your flight, the train is often the better, faster way to go for city-to-city travel in Germany — wondering how to book these super fast tickets? Look out for DB’s Intercity Express (ICE) tickets in our Journey Planner!

Check out some of the most popular German train routes below.

German rail pass

If you’d rather not think about individual tickets while travelling in Germany, then you’ll be after some sort of German rail pass. Thankfully, such a thing does exist! There are two, in fact, one for European residents (Eurail Pass) and one for those living anywhere other than Europe (Interrail Pass).

Let’s say you want a Eurail pass for Germany – you can simply select the ‘Eurail One Country Pass’ for unlimited use the rail network. There’s also some extra coverage in bordering countries if you fancy exploring even further! And, as a bonus, certain attractions and shops will grant you a discount if you’re a Eurail Pass holder. What’s not to like about that?

If, on the other hand, you’re not an EU resident, you’ll be wanting to grab the Interrail One Country Pass. The premise is similar to that of the Eurail Pass, as you can get up to eight days of unlimited travel throughout the German rail network. There’s nowhere in Germany you can’t go with this pass, and those under 28 can even travel with the further discounted Youth Pass.

BahnCards (Loyalty cards & Railcards)

If you’re moving to Germany or visiting for a few months, it’s well worth ordering a DB card (or ‘Bahncard’). You can order a Bahncard from the official Deutsche Bahn website, though you can come back use it in our Journey Planner when booking tickets for fantastic discounts across the German rail network. Most BahnCards are available for a one-off payment and provide you with a fixed discount on certain ticket types for the duration of their use.

Check out our comparison table for Bahncards!

 BahnCard Valid for Price Discount Applicable ticket types
BahnCard 25 (2nd class) 1 year  €62  25%  Super Sparpreis, Sparpreis and Flexpreis 
BahnCard 25 (1st class)  1 year €125  25%  Super Sparpreis, Sparpreis and Flexpreis 
 BahnCard 50 (2nd class

1 year 

€255 

50%

25% 

50% off Flexpreis, 25% off Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis 
 BahnCard 50 (1st class) 1 year  €515 

50%

25% 

50% off Flexpreis, 25% off Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis 
 Carte BahnBonus Unlimited Free 

Collect reward points

All 

Top German destinations

Germany features over 80 cities with populations of 100,000 people or more, making it so difficult to pick a favourite destination. There really is something for everyone, sausages and beer for the foodies, endless culture for those who are into the arts, and vibrant nightlife for the party animals. If we had to pick just three cities to check out on a short trip to the country, these are the ones we’d recommend you check out.

Berlin

Steeped in unmissable history and culture, Berlin is the capital of Germany, and the largest city in the country to boot. In fact, it’s one of the largest cities in Europe (9 times the size of Paris), so there’s plenty to see!

From the Tiergarten station in the west of the city, visitors can enjoy a pleasant walk through the Großer Tiergarten, the largest and oldest park in Berlin, on the way to the Reichstag building, home of the German Parliament.

The Brandenburg Gate, symbol of the city, stands a few minutes away on foot, and from there it’s easy to reach Checkpoint Charlie, one of the border crossings used to cross from East Berlin to West Berlin during the Cold War. Among the dozens of museums in Berlin are the Jewish Museum, the Topography of Terror and the Pergamon Museum, dedicated to classical art. Make sure you cross all these off your list during your stay!

Trains to Berlin

Main train stations

Berlin Hbf (central train station)

Berlin Zoologischer Garten

Berlin Friedrichstraße station

Berlin Alexanderplatz

Airport transfers

Trains to and from Berlin Schonefeld Airport (Berlin-Schönefeld Flughafen)

Hamburg

A beautiful northern port city, the way of life in Hamburg is dominated by the River Elbe and its many canals that branch out, creating stunning scenes akin to those you might find in Amsterdam, for example.

Make the most of it all by taking a tour of the city by boat – the river is easily reachable from Hamburg’s main train station, Hamburg Hbf. From there, you can also take a stroll to unmissable attractions like the epic Rathausmarkt (central square), the Miniatur Wunderland (featuring its own miniature model railway!) and wonderfully sculpted churches like those of St. Nikolai and St. Petri.

Not unlike Amsterdam, Hamburg even has its own famous red light district, located on Reeperbahn Street – a lively part of town that certainly isn’t for the faint of heart!

Trains to Hamburg

Main train stations

Hamburg Hbf

Hamburg Dammtor

Hamburg Hasselbrook

Hamburg-Altona

Airport transfers

Trains to and from Hamburg Airport

Frankfurt

Take a train to Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital and home of the Frankfurter, for a deliciously exciting trip of a lifetime! It’s not only meaty delights you can look forward to though, as the city combines a futuristic skyline with distinct German culture and architecture.

Take the Römer for instance, a medieval town hall built in the early 1600s, it sits in front of the famous and popular Römerberg Square – but you’ll notice modern skyscrapers rising behind it in the distance if taking a photo! It can’t be a bad thing, though, since Frankfurt is ranked as one of the best places to live for quality of life.

Some of the reasons behind that include its excellent transport infrastructure, its penchant for fantastic museums and a lively culinary scene. So, what’s not to like about Frankfurt? Head there for yourself and let us know if you find anything!

Trains to Frankfurt

Main train stations

Frankfurt (Main) Hbf

Frankfurt (Main) Sud

Frankfurt (Main) West

Frankfurt (Main) Ost

Airport transfers

Trains to and from Frankfurt Airport (Frankfurt M Flughafen)

Good to know

Our goal is to leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting you all the info you’ll need on train travel in Germany. So, with that in mind, here are the frequently asked questions you’ve all been waiting for!

Buying train tickets

Yes, you can. The easiest way is to download our app and purchase your German train tickets there. You will then have the ticket’s barcode at hand ready to show at train stations when needed. You can also have the options of having the ticket sent to your email address or even print them out at home so you can carry a physical ticket with you too.

The answer depends on how much travel you’re planning to do by train. If it’s only a few journeys, then it’s better to buy individual tickets on our app or website. On the other hand, if you’re planning out a full itinerary with plenty of long and short-distance train journeys, you might want to look into a Eurail or Interrail Pass.

Fortunately, children aged 5 and under can travel for free on any Deutsche Bahn train. However, if you want to reserve them a seat, then you’ll need to pay for the extra seat reservation.

Children between the ages of 6 and 14 can also travel for free, as long as a parent or grandparent travels with them and adds their names on to the same ticket. Once again, extra seats should be reserved if needed.

From the age of 15, the full adult fare is applicable.

Deutsche Bahn tickets usually become available 6 months in advance. So, if you’re well-prepared enough, you can potentially arrange all of your trips well ahead of time and save yourself some stress. Booking in advance could also save you money! This is because Sparpreis and Flexpreis tickets can rise in price based on demand, so get in while the goings hot!

On the train

Unless you want to risk standing on a long-distance train journey, yes! If you’re planning out your itinerary and you have some journeys that cross over into peak times, then you should make sure to reserve seats when booking with us as services can be quite busy.

If you’re booking a First Class train ticket, then your seat will be automatically reserved as part of the ticket.

There are no restrictions as such on carrying your luggage onto DB trains, and it’s free of charge. As long as it’s a normal amount of luggage that you can carry and store in the luggage racks in the carriages (and you’re not moving a piano) then you should be fine!

All Deutsche Bahn trains feature toilets, yes.

You can bring pets onboard, but small pets under 10 kg need to be kept in a closed cage or carrier while you’re travelling, while pets over 10 kg must wear a muzzle and be kept on a lead at all times while on the train.

You’ll need to purchase a half-price ticket for your large dog on long-distance journeys. For regional journeys, you will need to buy a full-price adult fare ticket for your dog. For cross-border journeys, you are required to buy a child’s second-class ticket for your dog.

WiFi is usually available, yes, but the way you access it can change based on ticket type. First Class tickets grant you access to free WiFi, whereas you may have to pay to use the WiFi on other ticket types.

Miscellaneous

Trains in Germany are perfectly safe, both in terms of engineering and crime rate. As with anywhere in Europe, there could be the odd pickpocket in the busier stations, so just be sure to keep your valuable belongings safely tucked away as usual.

Intercity Express trains can reach a top speed of to 330 km/h (205 mph), which is pretty damn fast by anyone’s standards!

Like the Intercity Express trains, Intercity trains make long-distance journeys from city to city, just at slightly slower speeds and therefore usually with slightly cheaper ticket prices.

If you’ve bought Sparpreis or Super Sparpreis miss your DB train because a connecting DB train was delayed or cancelled, then you will usually be able to claim a refund for your ticket. Alternatively, you could also try explaining your situation to DB staff at the station to see whether you can hop on the next departing train. If you’ve purchased a Flexpreis ticket, then you’ll be fine to catch the next train departing, just note that if you reserved a seat on the original train, you might lose this on the new one.

If you’re late and it’s due to personal reasons (e.g. slept through an alarm), then you won’t be entitled to a refund with Sparpreis or Super Sparpreis tickets. If you know you won’t make your train, you can try to exchange the ticket for the next service.

The German phrases you should know

As your one-stop-shop for all things German trains, we know you need a few handy phrases to help you get by smoothly on your travels, so here are the most common phrases you’ll need to know for your trip.

Basics

Hello – Hallo

Good morning – Guten Morgen

Good evening – Guten Abend

Thank you – Dankeschön

Please – Bitte

Excuse me – Entschuldigung

Useful phrases for travelling by train

Where is my train? – Wo ist mein Zug?

Where are the toilets? – Wo sind die Toiletten?

Where is the main train station? – Wo ist der Hauptbahnhof?

Do you speak English? – Sprichst du Englisch?

I don’t speak German – Ich spreche kein Deutsch.

German itineraries by train

As if you needed any more persuading to take to Germany by train, our travel inspiration articles are here for your viewing pleasure! We’ve got everything from itineraries to day trips, to Oktoberfest and even a very special David Bowie tour of Berlin. Check them all out by visiting our Germany travel inspiration page.

Learn more about German train travel

So, we’ve reached the end of the road (for our German trains guide, at least). You’ve seen the different types of trains you can travel on, their seating classes and the operating companies in charge, as well as how to buy German train tickets.

You’ve also seen some must-visit destinations, popular routes and a few handy German phrases to help you along your way.

If you’re feeling ready to book those all-important tickets with us, simply head back up to our Journey Planner at the top of the page and get searching!

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