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Trip Report Our 40th Anniversary Trip to Germany-Vienna: Part 3, Trains

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Our 40th Anniversary Trip to Germany-Vienna: Part 3, Trains
We used the Deutche Bahn (DB) rail system throughout our vacation. Let me start by saying we primarily used it for long-haul (2-6.5 hours) travel. If you plan to be in one location and used the trains for local travel, these comments may not apply to you.
Before we left for vacation, we bought a 2-country (Germany-Austria) Eurail pass for 5 days of travel. You should do this about a month before you leave. (Eurail says to allow 2-weeks for delivery but we bought ours through the Rick Steves’ website, same price, and we got it in 5 days). The pass was valid for 6-months. It had to be activated at the train station the first day we used it (don’t forget to take you passport). Once we took our first train trip we had a 2 month period to use the additional 4 days – not a problem since we were there for 18 days. We purchased a 2-adult pass: both adults had to travel at the same time. A couple of perks to know: first, the DB also owns many of the Rhine River cruise ships. That allowed us to cruise the Rhine and use the local trains as one of our days; second, if you use your Eurail pass after 7:00 p.m. (the 7:00 p.m. rule) and the train arrives at its destination after 4:00 a.m., you can use your pass the entire day of arrival. For example, we left Vienna at 10:45 p.m. and arrived at Bregenz at 9:15 a.m. the next day. We used our pass the entire day in the Bregenz area. For us, the cost was about $65 per day per person. In other words, if the train fare for the 2 of us to travel was $130 dollars or more, the Eurail was worth it. We saved money 4 of the 5 days we used it; 1 day, we broke even.
The pass is for second class travel. I am 6’3” and well over 200# and I found the seats to be comfortable and roomy. There was plenty of room overhead or nearby for our suitcases and carry-ons. We got reservations for most of our travel and the cost was an additional ~10 Euros each – worth it to sit together. When you get reservations, ask for a middle of the car seat where the views are better. We didn’t do that; on one of our trips we were in the first seat behind the engine with limited window view. It was comfortable and roomy but the only real scenery was the passenger across the aisle.
We upgraded to an overnight sleeper for 2 on our trip from Vienna to Bregenz. The upgrade was comparable to the cost of a hotel and breakfast. The perk was we did not lose a day traveling.
Every train station platform had schedules posted for arriving and departing trains. These schedules included the towns the trains stopped at. We had 3 mishaps using the trains; none were really serious. First, we couldn’t get on our train from Koblenz to Cochem at rush hour because the train was full. The posted departure schedule showed the next train would be there in 10 minutes – it was! Second, we were using local trains in the Rhine/Mosel area since our Eurail pass was used up. We had an 18 minute window of time to buy a ticket in Koblenz and make our connection for the next train. Unfortunately, the automated ticket machine would not take a 50 Euro note (only 5s and 10s) and we had to wait in line for 20 minutes. The next train came in 1 hour. The good news is that there is a wonderful pub right outside and to the left of the main doors of the Koblenz station where the beer and wine are just as good as anywhere in Germany! Third, the day we left Oberwesel to go to the Frankfurt airport we missed our train. Oberwesel is a very small town and the station is not staffed – it’s all automated ticket machines. We bought our tickets the day before. We were there in plenty of time. The train came and we didn’t get on since the banner said “Koblenz” and we were going to “Mainz.” Since no trains came for another 15 minutes, we started to worry. My wife asked a railroad maintenance worker for help and he told us the train had left already. We told him the banner said “Koblenz.” He said, “I guess someone forgot the change the banner.” The bottom line, we called our hotel and they told us what trains to use. We got to Frankfurt 1 hr and 45 minutes before our flight took off. In other words, no problem.
If you plan to use the rail system throughout Germany (we also used it to get to Vienna and back) we found it easy to use, comfortable, convenient, and timely with posted schedules easy to read to adapt to unforeseen problems. Don’t worry so much about the name of the train, ICE (intercity express), RE (regional express), RJ (railjet), etc. We focused on the shortest time to destination and found that it was often a mixture of these types of trains that got us there fastest. One special comment: we took a side trip from Munich to Vienna. On Railjet it took 4 hr, 57 min. Well worth the time. (See my comments above on the trip back from Vienna to Bregenz.)

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