German train system

Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:27 AM
  #1  
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German train system

Hi there
I am planning a trip in December that includes Dusseldorf, Koln, Munich, Salzburg and Frankfort, and am trying to determine what is the most cost effective way of using the train system to get from one city to another. I've looked into the German Railpass, which seems like a good deal, but am unsure about how you would book a reservation with the card on www.bahn.de. I don't want to have to pay twice. So my questions are:
1) Is the German Railpass the best option for 2 people? I'm considering the 4 day because that would be how many days we'd actually be traveling in between cities. Is this correct or should I add on local travel days too?
2) how do you make reservations in advance
3) I see online that they mail the Railpass to you. For those living in the US, how long did it take for you to get your pass?
4) any tips or tricks you care to throw out would be most helpful!

Many thanks!
mindyjw is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:31 AM
  #2  
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for number 2, I meant to ask how do you make reservations in advance if you have the Railpass? There is a field for Bahn Card on the site but not for railpass.
mindyjw is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:14 PM
  #3  
 
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Making reservations works just like booking tickets. Look up connections and proceed just as if you wanted to book tickets. At a certain point the system will ask you: do you want a) ticket with seat reservation, b) ticket without seat reservation or c) seat reservation only without ticket. Select the third option.

Correct spelling of place names is essential, though:
Düsseldorf or Duesseldorf if you cannot type the u with the two dots
Köln or Koeln (ditto, "Cologne" will also be understood on the English website, but "Koln" is wrong and won't work)
Frankfurt(Main) (Frankfort is in Kentucky, but there are two Frankfurts in Germany)
quokka is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:23 PM
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I have been riding German trains for decades and always with a railpass (not just German pass but a Eurailpass) and nearly no trains require reservations, which are option. I always have a first-class pass and never in years of annual train traveling here do i remember not finding empty seats in first class - but 2nd class can get SRO at times - not usually but you never know.
The way the pass is priced first class is a much better deal vs regular prices, which you can find at bahn.de
Efficacy of a pass depends on whether you wish total flexibility or not - fully flexible 'at-will' travel - just show up at the station can cost a fortune and on your itinerary i have little doubt a pass would be a boon for that type of travel. but if you do the advance discounted typicallyt 39 euro or so tickets then that would be cheaper but at the expense of flexibilty and sponteneity. the more days you use a German Pass the cheaper per day it becomes - like $23/day per person on a Twin or so for exgtra days above the 4 minimum. For loads of great info on German trains and passes (and to order from a U.s. vendor at usually similar prices, simplying the mail time question - i always point out: www.seat61.com

I have been riding German trains for decades and always with a railpass (not just German pass but a Eurailpass) and nearly no trains require reservations, which are option. I always have a first-class pass and never in years of annual train traveling here do i remember not finding empty seats in first class - but 2nd class can get SRO at times - not usually but you never know.
The way the pass is priced first class is a much better deal vs regular prices, which you can find at bahn.de
Efficacy of a pass depends on whether you wish total flexibility or not - fully flexible 'at-will' travel - just show up at the station can cost a fortune and on your itinerary i have little doubt a pass would be a boon for that type of travel. but if you do the advance discounted typicallyt 39 euro or so tickets then that would be cheaper but at the expense of flexibilty and sponteneity. the more days you use a German Pass the cheaper per day it becomes - like $23/day per person on a Twin or so for exgtra days above the 4 minimum. For loads of great info on German trains and passes (and to order from a U.s. vendor at usually similar prices, simplying the mail time question - i always point out: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id9.html; www.ricksteves.com
Palenque is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:37 PM
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On most main lines in German, trains run at hourly intervals and are rarely fully booked in advance. The busiest times are around weekends and public holidays. If you're there around Christmas, you'll find lots of people travelling to spend the holiday with their families.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 01:25 PM
  #6  
ira
 
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Hi mi,

If you look for the discounted specials (about 60 days out) on www.bahn.de you might find that you can buy Point-to-point tickets for less than a railpass.

ira is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 06:32 PM
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In 1988 I went to Germany. I had a German Rail pass, $160 for 16 consecutive days! Great deal. When I finally returned in 2000, I instinctively bought another German Rail Pass. Not such a good deal. Considering the trains I rode, it might have paid off (been less than std fare), but not by much, and I learned that there were other trains I could have taken for less. Since then, seven trips, 14 weeks, in all, I have never bought another railpass. Before every trip I evaluate that option, but it never comes close.

First, use what's called an "open-jaws" air ticket (called "multiple destination" on some websites). Fly into Düsseldorf and out of Munich (or visa versa). That way you will avoid unnecessary back-tracking. Düsseldorf to Köln will be a locale (Rhein-Sieg) ticket for much less than a day of the railpass. Munich to Salzburg in one day for two people can be done with a €28 Bayern-Ticket. Köln to Frankfurt(M) might be done by regional trains either with a Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket, €39 for two people on a work day, or a €37 Schönes-Wochenend-Ticket on a weekend. Take the regional train from Köln to Koblenz and then on to Mainz. It's much more scenic that way. The view of the Rhein gorge and the castles is worth the extra time.

That leaves Frankfurt to Munich. For that I would commit to a specific time and train in order to use a Dauer-Special-Ticket (as low as €29 pP). Buy the Dauer-Spezial-Ticket before you go over from the Bahn website (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en). You can pay with you credit card and print out the ticket at home.

These fares are all in 2nd class, which is all I ever use.
Larryincolorado is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 06:34 AM
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If you look for the discounted specials (about 60 days out) on www.bahn.de you might find that you can buy Point-to-point tickets for less than a railpass.>

this is true but the value to me at least of a railpass is to hop any train anytime and look at bahn.de for such fully flexible fares and just a few longish train trips can make the pass pay off. Don't just judge the value of a pass in dollars and cents but in dollars and sense IMO - it depends on what you consider a priority - pre-booked train-specific non-refundable non-changeable (i think) online discounts or just getting down to the station and then hopping any train anytime - and if doing enough of the 39 euro or so online discounts then the price differential goes down - extra days on a Germany Railpass over the minimum to start are i think about $25/day or about 15 euro/day.
Palenque is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 08:17 AM
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Last November I spent two weeks in Germany (Mosel, Harz, Schwarzwald). I had four major legs of travel; the rest were inexpensive, short hops. Using Rheinland-Pfalz-Tickets (2) and Dauer-Spezial tickets (2), I spent a grand total of $143 on those four days. A 4 day German Rail pass costs $260. Although I didn't need them (plenty of seats on all three trains), I had reservations for three ICEs as part of the Dauer-Spezial fares; reservations for a rail pass would have cost another €8. So I saved over $120 vs. a pass.

Two of the legs, as I said, were Rheinland-Pfalz-Tickets, which are hop on/off tickets - fully flexible.

Yes, I lost a little flexibility with the Dauer-Spezial-Ticket, but I had room reservations on either end of the legs, so I would have traveled that day regardless. The train was not randomly selected by the Bahn; it was the train a wanted to be on. It was about the only train that left late enough in the morning that I wasn't rushed but got in early enough to get to my accommodations.

Would it have been worth an extra $125 for a little more flexibility. No!
Larryincolorado is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 12:50 PM
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Yes Larry for your type of travel - dwelling in a regional area your formula is no doubt the best - you can even use public transports not covered by a railpass. But for the average say first-time tourist going like say Frankfurt-Berlin-Munich-Frankfurt then i'd either go online and try to nab the limited in number i believe 39 euro or so fares (regardless of distance it seems) but even three of those would be about 120 euros or about $200 - not much less than a railpass and you lose flexibility - i like to take my time getting up and meandering to the station - not having to rush (i always rush when i must meet a deadline) for a specific train. And then once you get to a place like Berlin the same day you can use your pass on most of the S-Bahns or commuter rail lines that in those three cities are most useful for the tourist as they run thru the hearts of those towns. And for first-class travel the price differential i think is even less and though you like second class i find in years of riding trains in Germany that there are likely many more empty seats in first class - not always true in second class - there are tourists who do not want to risk standing, etc. or like i have on regional trains seen second class all of a sudden get chock full with school kids using it as a school bus. You and others do a valuable service in highlighting all those various regional passes, etc. but for the common traveler it all may be daunting - the convenience of just going to the station and hopping on the next train is priceless to me and i suspect others too. And again the $120 you saved vs a pass is not what the average first-time traveler to Germany would do - intensive travel in a compact regional area. Folks only going to Bavaria yes should use the bargain Bavarian Pass sold locally, etc. but for a trip between say Frankfurt - Berlin - Dresden- Munich - Rothenburg - etc will find the pass price competitive i believe - and again the more days on a pass the cheaper per day the pass becomes - i'll have to check prices and see what say the 5th, 6th, etc days cost. Anyway Prost! And as always have a Gute Fahrt on your next German trip.
Palenque is offline  
Nov 5th, 2009, 12:56 PM
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I spent a grand total of $143 on those four days. A 4 day German Rail pass costs $260.>

Yes but most typical tourists will be traveling in pairs and p.p. for a German Twin Pass the cost in 2nd class is $195 p.p. - just $50 more than what you paid and for completely unlimited train travel on any train anytime and not just regional trains like the Lander Passes i believe are restricted to. Not saying the Lander Passes don't have their pluses but if traveling more than a few days the passes may stack up better for the average traveler who typically moves between regions (Lands or states)
Palenque is offline  
Nov 6th, 2009, 07:40 AM
  #12  
 
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And there is currently a 20% off German Railpass sale so that say a 4-day flexipass in 1/month costs for a solo traveler now just $214 and p.p. on a Twin $156 p.p.

$156 p.p. is about $40/day or about 25 euro/day - cheaper per day even then the usually online discounts i see at 39 euros. And though you must buy the pass by Nov 20, 2009 you can use the pass at these rates for the following seven months - pass only has to be activated for the one-month flexible travel period within six months of issue - so you can travel on these bargain (esp for fully flexible use at will travel) thru June 2010 - a great deal IMO even compared to the non-changeable non-refundable online discounted tickets and a whale of a deal compared to full fare fully flexible tickets.
Palenque is offline  
Nov 6th, 2009, 02:35 PM
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I had to laugh when I read the Mauerfall special. You have to buy the ticket by Nov. 20 and validate it within 6 month. So you have to be in Germany by May 20 to use it. Not very useful for most travelers who go in the summer. But, then, that's RailEurope.

And, I should also point out that this is a one time deal, not the regular price for a rail pass. This should not be used to justify rail passes in general.

But, never the less, what about this specific situation. $156 pP is $312 for two, $78 per day.

A local transit authority (VRS) ticket from Duesseldorf to Cologne would cost $28.80 (€19,20) for two, so, if you used you rail pass for this day's travel, you lost $49.

With a Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket you get to see the Rhein gorge and it's castles for $58.50 (€39), so you just lost another $20 (that's $69 too much you've spent with a rail pass so far).

Round trip from Munich to Salzburg would be $42 (€28), so you spent another $36 too much, $105 so far.

It should be pointed out that all of the tickets so far have been open tickets, valid on any train. True, they are regional trains, but Köln to Frankfurt and Munich to Salzburg are probably on modern, double deck REs, which are not bad trains.

You are already down $105 for the three leg using a rail pass. But you'll make it up with the Frankfurt-Munich leg, right?. Well, maybe not. I checked four days at random in mid-December, one a Saturday, and found some €29 fares available for three of them. There were also plenty of €39 fares for all days.

Of course, if it were I, and I understand everyone doesn't travel like me, if I couldn't get a favorable Dauer-Spezial fare from Frankfurt to Munich, I would spend the extra 3 hours for regional trains and use two local tickets to Kahl am Main for €14 and a Bayern-Ticket to Munich for €28, €42 total ($63) and save yet more money. But that's just me. Go to the Bahn website and see if you can get a Dauer-Spezial fare for a low enough cost to make it worth while. If your total cost is close to a rail pass, get a rail pass.

With my method, you spend two extra hours going from Köln to Frankfurt but get to see the Rhein castle instead of flying through relatively boring scenery on the high speed line. You'll spend an extra hour, total, round trip to Salzburg, and have to commit to a specific train from Frankfurt to Munich, but you'll save close to $100 (30%) on rail transportation.

Put another way, if you had already figured out the way, for $216 for the entire trip, and someone came along and offered you two hours faster to Frankfut, an hour faster RT to Salzburg and back, and flexibility for the Frankfurt to Munich trip, all for $312, $100 more, would you take it?

I've gone to Germany 8 times since Aug. 2000. A lot of my friend say, "Larry, how can you afford to go to Germany so often? Are you rich?" I just say no, I just don't waste a lot of money on thing I really don't need - like rail passes.
Larryincolorado is offline  
Nov 10th, 2009, 12:30 PM
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I just say no, I just don't waste a lot of money on thing I really don't need - like rail passes.>

I will heatedly disagree that for the average tourist going on a rail trip around Germany a railpass is a waste of money - for you, having been there so many times and now dwelling in compact areas it is - but for the dictates of most IMO it is not.

We disagree - i however say your way is good for you and you say a railpass is always a waste of money - well for the typical traveler wanting flexibility, etc. the German Railpass IMO is an absolute bargain. And when you say $260 in a few posts above that is for a single traveler but most will take the Twin Pass route at $195 p.p. - a big difference in your calulated savings - yes for a single traveler the pass is much more expensive - most travelers however travel in paris.

We agree to disagree but to say a railpass in Germany is always a waste of money is IMO bad info. For folks like you it is but you are not the typical rail tourist IMO
Palenque is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 07:45 AM
  #15  
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I decided to just go with the Dauer-Spezial-Ticket prices for my long trips from Cologne to Munich, and later from Salzburg up to Frankfurt. They were each 78 euro for 2. The other train trips I take I'll pay as I go, because there won't be much more than that. The trip from Dusseldorf to Cologne should be inexpensive, and I plan on taking a tour from Munich to Salzburg, which includes rail. Yes, it is rigid, but I am a planner and I like knowing where I'll be when. Plus I also like being guaranteed a place on the train, although I don't know if they sell out or not. Thank you very much for all your great advice!
mindyjw is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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mindyjw - yes for what you require you got a great deal - cheaper than any German railpass - even the current 20% off special - and thanks to folks like Larryincolorado's advice and experience who share them here. German trains cannot really sell out as since reservations are not obligatory like in some countries and they do not let folks without seat reservations on trains in Germany you can always board a train but of course that does not guarantee you a seat and in 2nd class i have seen SRO trains - usually not for very long until someone gets off, etc. but possible. Never have seen that in first class but first class also costs a whole lot more.

as the signs say in German train stations have a Gute Fahrt (good journey!)
Palenque is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 03:56 AM
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We are headed to Germany for the 5th time in 2 weeks and we are using a SelectPass for first class travel. For us, it is a good value and we appreciate the flexibility it offers.

We went once without and bought point to point tickets. We did not save any money and we lost the flexibility to adjust our travel at the last minute. We also use Rail Passes for travel in other parts of Europe.

I agree with Palenque that they are a good value for some travelers like us and we will continue to use them for our travels in Europe - travel is not one size fits all.
kfusto is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 12:13 PM
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One reason a pass can be good for folks like me and kfusto is the complete flexibility to just show up at the station and hop on a train and except for a very few ICE Sprinter trains on the Frankfurt-Hamburg route (perhaps other routes) no trains in Germany require reservations before boarding and you can always board. In first class in decades of using passes i can never remember not having empty seats and often many in first class - i always have a place for my luggage next to me and usually can score an aisle and a window seat - an isolated seat with a window on the left and an aisle on the right. In some countries however, most noticeably Italy and France and Spain to board most inter-city trains with a pass you still need to get a seat reservation - an an extra fee not covered by a pass and you have to stand in line to get them as the auto machines inevitably don't seem to do it. And in France it can be problematic getting a pass-holder seat on some popular TGV lines. But in Germany a value of a pass is still just being able to show up and board any of the usually twice-hourly or more trains going everywhere.
Palenque is offline  
Nov 13th, 2009, 12:13 PM
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To see how a fully flexible travel at will ticket can make a pass pay off quickly the normal walkup fare in 2nd class Frankfurt Airport to Berlin is 113 euro or about $180 - for one trip. And you can take any train that is convenient after you land and clear customs - not having to point for any train-specific online discounted fare.

I check random dates for a month out - cheapest was 59 euros and for Dec 21 the cheapest was 89 euros, discounted rate and only available on a few trains.

So yes if your travel plans conport to the days and times you can get on the 29 euro train and you act really early as soon as these limited in number fares come on the system (German Rail is a business - it will sell seats at whatever price they can get, much like an airline) then you could save some money and if you do not want or need flexibility

But for full fare the Frankfurt Airport to Berlin journey alone is currently about $30 more than a 4-day Twin Pass and even after next May would be only $15 less than a 4-day Twin Pass for unlimited travel on any 4 days in a one-month period.

And after getting to Berlin you can ride the S-Bahn lines that run thru the heart of Berlin for free with your pass.
Palenque is offline  
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