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Train travel in Germany – train tickets, top routes and destinations

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.

Our guide to travelling in Germany by train 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 on 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!

Here’s a short summary of each section on this page, simply select the topic you’re most interested in to jump down to the relevant section.

German train tickets explained

There are two main types of train tickets in Germany. Read on for more details.

Sparpreis tickets

Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis tickets are the cheapest ticket options offered by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s main rail operator. Similar to the UK’s Advance tickets, they only allow travel on the specific train you've booked, although if your journey involves a connecting regional train, you can take any regional train on that section of the route. Prices vary like air fares, meaning that tickets are cheaper when you book in advance than when you buy on the day.

You can get a refund for a Sparpreis fare up to the day before departure, but you’ll need to pay for an extra fee. No changes or refunds are allowed from the day of departure onwards. SuperSparpreis tickets are cheaper than Sparpreis, they’re non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

  • Best for budget travellers

Flexpreis tickets

Flexpreis tickets generally cost more than Sparpreis and can be used for any train on your selected day of travel – simply hop on and find any empty unreserved seat. If you want to book your seat on a long-distance IC, ICE or EC train, you’ll need to pay for a small extra charge.

Flexpreis tickets are also refundable and exchangeable for free as long as you make your request before your day of travel.

  • Best for flexible travel

Do I need to buy German train tickets in advance?

Yes

Book your German train tickets in advance if you’re travelling on long-distance trains (IC, ICE and EC) and want to snap up the cheapest fares before they sell out. Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis tickets can start from €19.90 upwards depending on how far ahead you book and how popular that train, day or date is. Remember that if you buy one of these cheap fares you can only travel on that specific train, you can get limited refunds, but you can’t change your travel plans.

No

You don’t need to book your ticket in advance if you’re travelling on German regional trains – they have one fixed-price ticket with unlimited availability and seat reservation is not necessary. You also don’t need to buy in advance if you’re travelling on a long-distance train and are happy paying the relatively more expensive Flexpreis to get more flexibility.

How to buy train tickets in Germany with us

As trusted sellers of Deutsche Bahn, FlixTrain and other cross-border services in Germany, we’ll show you train times, ticket options and highlight the cheapest prices. Here’s how you can book German train tickets with us:

How to book German train tickets online with us

  1. If you're on our website, put your departure and arrival stations into our Journey Planner at the top of the page. If you're on our app, enter them in the Search tab. Don't know the name of the station? You can also search by city
  2. Enter the date and time you’d like to depart (and return if you're buying a return ticket), along with the number of passengers and any relevant Railcards/Loyalty cards you have
  3. If you're looking for tickets on our website, hit Get times and prices. If you're using our app hit Find times and prices to start your search
  4. Select a time and the class you'd like to travel in from our search results. Once you’re happy with your choice, continue to choose your seat preference
  5. 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!

Finding cheap train tickets in Germany

If you’re planning a journey on an IC, ICE or EC train, cheaper tickets are often released up to three months in advance. They are quick to sell out though, so snap them up when you can!

Find out more in our guide to cheap train tickets in Germany, and don’t forget to check out the latest offers in our European train deals section.

German rail passes

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).

Eurail Pass

Let’s say you want a Eurail Pass for Germany – you can simply select the ‘Eurail One Country Pass’ for unlimited use of the German rail network. 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?

Find out more about the Eurail Pass.

Interrail Pass

If, on the other hand, you’re not an EU resident, you’ll need to grab the Interrail One Country Pass. The premise is similar to that of the Eurail Pass, as you can get 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.

Learn more about the Interrail Pass.

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 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. For example, you can get from Frankfurt to Paris and from Munich to Vienna in less than four hours on the fastest services.

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 international trains, including DB-SNCF for routes between France and Germany, ÖBB for routes between Austria and Germany, and Thalys for routes between Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

Deutsche Bahn

  • The main train company in Germany
  • High-speed and regional trains
  • Airport transfers

Deutsche Bahn (or DB) is the main train company in Germany and is well-known for its brilliant levels of comfort and efficiency. Offering both high-speed and regional services, you can easily get from city to city with Deutsche Bahn.

Find out more about Deutsche Bahn.

FlixTrain

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

FlixTrain is a subsidiary of the bus operator Flixbus and is supplementing the bus network with rail connections. Also serving high-speed routes, including the ones from Berlin to Frankfurt and Hamburg to Cologne, it’s a cheaper alternative to Deutsche Bahn, perfect if you need to save on your train journey.

Find out more about FlixTrain.

Thalys

  • International routes between France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany
  • High speed: up to 186 mph (300 km/h)

Thalys trains connect some of the biggest cities in Europe via high-speed rail. These include Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Cologne. Enjoy comfortable and quick cross-border travel on these trains, perfect for if you’re on a country-hopping holiday.

Find out more about Thalys and Thalys First Class.

DB-SNCF

  • High-speed cross-border routes between France and Germany

A joint venture between SNCF and Deutsche Bahn, DB-SNCF offers high-speed connections between France and Germany. The trains connect Paris to 10 German cities: Ulm, Stuttgart, Saarbrücken, Munich, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt am Main, Baden-Baden and Augsburg.

Find out more about DB-SNCF.

ÖBB

  • Cross-border routes between Austria and Germany
  • High speed: up to 142 mph (230 km/h)

The main rail operator in Austria, ÖBB operates on high-speed routes between Austria and Germany. You can get from Vienna and Innsbruck to Berlin, Munich and many other German cities in no time thanks to ÖBB fast trains.

Find out more about ÖBB.

 

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 Popular routes 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

Eurocity Semi-fast - 250 km/h (160 mph) Deutsche Bahn

Business/leisure travellers

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

Seating classes on German trains

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

 

Need more information on First Class? Check out our dedicated page to DB Bahn First Class.

BahnCards (Loyalty cards & Railcards)

Similar to UK Railcards, the BahnCard is an annual card offered by Deutsche Bahn that allows you to get up to 50% off FlexPreis and Sparpreis tickets when travelling by train in Germany. We recommend you get a BahnCard if you’re moving to Germany or are visiting for a few months and want to enjoy unlimited train travel without having to worry about individual tickets.

Check out our comparison table for BahnCards.

How can I use my BahnCard?

After picking the number of passengers in our Journey Planner, simply click on ‘Add loyalty and railcards’ and select the type of BahnCard you’ll be travelling with – the discount will be applied automatically to your booking.

BahnCard Valid for Price Discount Applicable ticket types
BahnCard 25 (2nd class) 1 year €55.70* 25% Super Sparpreis, Sparpreis and Flexpreis
BahnCard 25 (1st class) 1 year €112* 25% Super Sparpreis, Sparpreis and Flexpreis
BahnCard 50 (2nd class 1 year

€229*

50%

25%

50% off Flexpreis, 25% off Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis
BahnCard 50 (1st class) 1 year  €463* 

50%

25%

50% off Flexpreis, 25% off Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis 

 

*Prices correct as of April 2021

 

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, a 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

Airport transfers

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

Airport transfers

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

Airport transfers

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 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 onto 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 Super Sparpreis tickets can quickly sell out, so get in while the going's 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 on board, 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 your ticket type. First Class tickets grant you access to free WiFi, whereas you may have to pay to use the WiFi with 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 (ICE) can reach a top speed of up to 330 km/h (205 mph), which is pretty 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 a Sparpreis or Super Sparpreis ticket and you miss your DB train because a connecting 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 and you bought a Flexpreis ticket, you can try to exchange it for the next service.

The German phrases you should know

As your one-stop shop for all 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. Want to improve your language skills? Why not learn German with a private tutor – you'll benefit from a personal teaching experience where classes are based upon your own interests and language goals. Find out more about the German home tuition programme.

Basics

Hello – Hallo

Good morning – Guten Morgen

Good evening – Guten Abend

Thank you – Danke schön

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 travel 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, you'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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