Help with train travel in Germany

Nov 26th, 2006, 05:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 588
Help with train travel in Germany

Your advice is appreciated; we usually rent a car.

DH & I will arrive in Frankfurt on a Sunday AM, travel to Cologne for two days and then proceed to Heidelberg. We will base in Heidelberg for four days, planning to take day trips for two days, then return to Frankfurt and home.

Primary reason for the trip is to visit the Christmas markets. Cologne for me - I want to see the cathedral and other sites. Heidelberg for DH - he's got a romantic feeling about the university and old town.

I think it would be a good idea to take a train from Frankfurt to Cologne - easy to get to the train stations from the airport and our Cologne hotel is within walking distance.

DH feels that renting a car for a week is more economical ($350 - plus gas, parking) vs. train. I'm thinking it would be less hassel to travel by train.

I'm not very familiar with using the website. For example, it looks like a second class ticket from Frankfurt - Cologne - Heidelberg will cost approximately 120 euro each.

There are offers for discount prices, rather than full fare. Is anyone familiar with this option? It looks like I have to register - and maybe have an EU credit card - to purchase?

Also, if we take the train from Frankfurt to Cologne - can we stop at Mainz for a few hours for a daytime visit and then get back on and continue our journey?

Thanks for any help you can give us.

SusanEva is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 06:27 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 583
We are traveling in Germany over the holidays and will be solely using trains. My daughter is studying over there and claims it is easy. A Fodorite recommended dealing with out of Ann Arbor, Michigan for help with Deutsche bahn. We ended up buying German flexipasses which you cannot get over there. I was very pleased with Budget Europe; the man who helped me was very thorough and knowledgeable. I purchased a twin pass for my husband and myself and a student pass for my other daughter. I added 2 days of travel to each pass, so we have 6 days of train tix for 3 for about $300 total. The flexipass is for 4 days and you can add days up to 10.
Good luck!
Happy travels!
AuntAnnie is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:14 AM
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We made our vacation this year in Germany, by train. We bout a twin flexi pass (for two persons travelling together), for any 5 days in a month (month meaning 30 days from the first travel day, not a specific month).
i do not remember exactly, but I think that we paid 260 euro total for this twin pass for 2 persons.
We used it for our travel from Bacharach to Berlin, then Berlin - Cologne, Cologne - Cochem, Cologne - Koblenz and return, Cochem -Frankfurt.
In the day you use it you can do how many stops or travels you want in any directions.

We were very happy with this pass, no worry about buying ticket. more than this, we bought (by internet) extra supplement for some long distance journeys (when we had our luggage) , so we were sure that we have our reserved seats.

But, before you buy it, please check in to see what is the best ticket or pass for you.
valtor is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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I forgot to tell you two things about Cologne:
1. we loved Ludwig museum with its Picasso and Dali collections.
2. A short train ride (15 min) is Bruhl, with the beautiful castle Augustusberg
valtor is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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I used the Die Bahn site this past summer to purchase train tickets from Munich to Basel. The procedure is simple actually.

I registered an account with my credit card number(Capital One), name, details, etc. That procedure established my account. I then selected my tickets and paid for them with my credit card.

The computer at the Die Bahn site sent me a pdf file with my ticket which I printed at home on standard typing paper in my ink jet printer.

I took two copies of that ticket with me to Germany along with the credit card I had used to make the payment. When the conductor came by, I handed him my self-printed ticket and the credit card for verification. He punched the paper like it was a normal ticket and that was the end of the matter.

The drawback to the low fare tickets is that you are limited to the date for which you reserve. In that respect it is like an American airline: you reserve for a specific date and flight.

If you pay full fare, the ticket is unrestricted thus less limiting.

bob_brown is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 09:08 AM
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If you do travel by train from Frankfurt to Cologne there are two routes you can take.

Trains using the so-called "high speed" route from the airport take only 57 minutes to reach Cologne; sometimes they make a stop at Siegburg-Bonn on the way.

Trains on the slower route stop at Mainz, etc., and take longer to get to Cologne.
Dukey is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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Thank you all for this very helpful information!

This is what I need to help convince DH that training could be fun.

He's a true American from the Motor City - says he feels more comfortable having a car at hand.

I'll do some comparison of the twin pass idea vs. the lower fare tickets. Bob, if I understand correctly, when reserving a lower fare, you must travel on the specific date (and time?) reserved at that price? Not a big problem for us, as this is a short trip.

Valtor, thanks also for your suggestion RE our time in Cologne.

SusanEva is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 05:16 PM
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Posts: 657
Should you decide to get a car, take advantage of having it to visit some of the smaller markets. My favorite is near Heidelberg, Bad Wimpfen. check out Michelstadt as well. You could make a loop from Heidelberg to Bad Wimpfen to Michelstadt to Wurzburg and then back to FRA for your flight. The drive along the Neckar is interesting.
weber6560 is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 06:59 PM
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Cologne has a SURF & TRAVEL special for 169 euro per person including 2 nights hotel, roundtrip train & city transportation pass until January 3:

If you need it translated use the AltaVista - Babel Fish Translator. I'll be glad to help if you still have any further question.

Tip: When you buy this offer on the internet, make Heidelberg as your starting point instead of Frankfurt. Frankfurt airport can technically be one of the train stops for a train from Heidelberg. This takes care of your train to Cologne/Koeln and then to Heidelberg. I've done this a few times for different offers and the train conductor never asked/cared where I got on board as long as it was after the city I was supposed to start and somewhere along the route (not from Berlin for example). Here's an example for departure on Dec 12 for two including hotel & Welcome card city pass, train to Koln & Heidelberg for 398 euro.
Radisson SAS is a very nice hotel by the convention center but it's on the eastern bank so you have to cross the bridge to go to the christmas market around the Cathedral. On other days they may have the Renaissance as an option which is on the western bank, I would pick that if it's offered even if it costs 410 euro (12 euro more). Take the underground (covered by the Welcome card) because walking the bridge may be too cold. The Renaissance is a bit of a walk from the train station as well, but I like it better because I can walk through the brightly lit shopping streets (a couple block south of the hotel)to reach the Cathedral. Cologne has a serious shopping area which sprawls throughout old town (btw Renaissance and Cathedral). In any case you can also take a taxi or walk a bit to the underground/bus(covered by the Welcome pass).

If you don't feel comfortable buying the ticket with Heidelberg as the starting city, then buy it from Frankfurt, you still save a lot of money. Then buy round trip tickets to Heidelberg from Frankfurt to continue the journey.

Hope that helps.

DAX is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 06:59 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
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I would suggest not renting a car for a long drive just after an overnight flight. Take the train to Cologne. You can get a direct train from the Frankfurt Airport to Cologne that takes only an hour.

Then after your two days in Cologne (where a car would be a hindrance if your hotel is near the train station) you can rent the car to drive on to Heidelberg and other towns.
Musicteacher is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:15 PM
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BTW the Surf & Travel special must be purchased on the internet with a credit card. It only locks you to the dates not the departure times, so it's ideal. I like the fact that it also includes breakfast every morning.
I tried a different date (Dec 11) and found 3 hotel choices. I wouldn't pick the BW Regent hotel because it is way too far beyond the ring street unless you just want to a nice hotel and willing to sacrifice convenience.

There is a Fall special which cost 29 euro per person to go anywhere one way in Germany but it expires on Dec 9. It's also not as good of a deal as the surf & travel.
There is also Last Minute Offer closer to the date you're leaving. You never disclosed your exact date.
DAX is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:33 PM
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Susan: Just reread your last posting, it looks like the Surf & Travel gives you a choice of taking any ICE train (one hour ride to Cologne).

I just checked Heidelberg to Frankfurt Flughafen/Airport via Mannheim (by S bahn train) costs only 22 euro per person. So even if you start with Frankfurt it only adds 88 euro for the Heidelberg roundtrip for two. If you use Heidelberg as a starting point then you only have to add 44 euro to the whole thing (plus Heidelberg hotel nights). I think you'll outwit your husband on this one.

Driving is really not worth it, traffic btw Frankfurt and Cologne can be very frustrating. I've been caught in bumper to bumper traffic for hours many times (usually adding my travel time by 1-2 hours) that's why I've been taking the train these days. The freeway going south to Heidelberg is often only two lanes per direction which means a slow lane and a superfast lane. It's very stressful when you have to accelerate so much in order not to get hit by the car on the superfast lane or be stuck behind the slow trucks. Both freeways going south to Heidelberg on both sides of the Rhine are jammed on rush hours. That part of Germany is a freeway nightmare in my experience.
DAX is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 11:43 AM
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Back to OP - since you're only going to largish cities in a small compact area i'd hop the train. Cars are a hassle in these cities. Trains are so great in this area - going everywhere it seems every few minutes. And as regards cost - since you are in a compact area you can avail yourselfs of the German Railways incredible cost-effective regional passes, such as often described by TimS and Larryin Colorado and WallyKrugen(sp?) and others.

I did the same thing last December as you seem to be doing. I based in Darmstadt and took trains to Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Karlsrhue, Speyer and even the Black Forest from one base, near the Darmstadt train station.

I see no use for a car with your plans, especially in December when the countryside is rather dreary and days absurdly short.
PalenqueBob is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 07:13 PM
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For a discounted fare, you must ride on the selected train.

However, for this restriction to apply, yu must first find a discounted ticket to purchase on your route. I just looked at Köln - Heidelberg and did not see any discount prices that were available.

If the ticket is normal price, then there are no restrictions that I know of.
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 07:56 PM
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Bob: That's what I like about the Surf & Travel package, it only locks you to the date not the specific train. The deal is good only with 2 nights hotel breakfast & Welcome card, there's no deal for train only.
DAX is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 05:40 PM
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Dear friends,

Sorry, been working overtime and just now able to check all this great advice! Thanks DAX for all of the details - I looked at the Radisson on the web - it looks very nice.

P.Bob - yes, we will be in the same area, I've been reading your posts. Very much looking forward to the trip.

Thanks to all for your help!

SusanEva is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 07:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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take_time_2_travel is offline  

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