When they print the next edition of the Oxford dictionary they should put a picture of Germany’s extensive and reliable railway network up as an example next to the word ‘efficiency’. The downside of this can be if you want a ticket at the last minute and you are short on time, thus requiring you to pay the Standard fares (Normalpreise) to enable full flexibility, you will pay fares which at times will induce a nosebleed. However, if you can either pre-plan or can take a more leisurely view on travel (TTR Commandment 3. Thoust shall not rush when travelling, the adventure is sometimes the journey, not the destination) there are several ways to make full use of this efficiency at bargain prices, oh and you may even make a friend…or 4.
German Railways Länder-Tickets (State Tickets)
Länder-Tickets (State Tickets) are handy if you wish to travel in a restricted geographical region of Germany. Länder-Tickets are generally on the market only for travel in a particular federal state; though for smaller states up to 3 are combined in the exact same ticket.
Länder-Tickets are usually group tickets and valid for up to 5 passengers traveling together and prices do vary from state to state with around €30 being the norm.
Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (Weekend Ticket)
The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket was my first introduction to what you can achieve if you are willing to sacrifice a little time. I was in Aachen and on a whim decided I would travel to Berlin, a 540km jaunt almost from the Belgian border to the Polish. Speaking to the conscripted young man who was running the Youth Hostel in Aachen (he wisely had chosen the community service option ahead of the army option for his compulsory 6 months) of my intentions over a nice cold German beer, he told me all about the weekender ticket. Since it was a Friday when this conversation took place (oh and if you like Fridays head over to YouTube and watch this…you will not only then hate every day of the week (but Friday, Friday, Friday the most), you will hate music and the internet even more…. 100+ million hits and growing.. the monster is here and walking amongst us!) I headed to the train station, sat down at the very easy to use ticket machine, typed in where I wanted to go and da dah, I had my 30 DM (currently 39 euros) ticket and the 12 trains I had to catch the next day to accomplish this journey on slow trains (a condition of the ticket). Every train was on time and 11 or so hours later I was standing in old West Berlin. If there had of been anyone staying in Aachen at the time (there was only one other person in the hostel…and I wasn’t going to travel around the block with him, let alone across Germany) they could have joined me, as up to 5 people can use this ticket to travel, so it would now be 8 euros each to complete this journey. That is a bargain.
As a simple comparison, a standard second-class, 1-way fare from Hamburg to Munich (610kms) on an Inter-City-Express (ICE) train, booking in advance and committing to a particular train (with 1 interchange), and a journey time of 5h46m is €79.
Travelling on a weekend and making use of only local and slow trains, a group of five can use the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for €39 total. This journey from Hamburg to Munich will need 5 transfers and last 11h18m.
Other Useful Information
- German train tickets bought on the net or ticket machines are usually €2 less than the exact same ticket purchased from a ticket counter.
- Tickets purchased on trains incur a 10% surcharge and no discounted fares are obtainable.
- Boarding an S-Bahn, or local train without a ticket and where tickets are not sold onboard, incurs a €40 fine per individual, which will be administered with typical German efficiency!
- Depending on how many journeys you intend to take and how long you will be in Germany, Deutsche Bahn has further railway cards (e.g. Bahncard 25% discount) and rail passes that may save more of those precious travelling Euros.
- Discount train fares (Sparpreise) are available. Savings of between 25 to 50 percent are available on trips booked at least three days in advance, though make sure you use the correct train as booked, otherwise your savings will disappear in hefty surcharges.
If you leave your name and email we will attribute your comment to you and add you to our mailing list as well!