Deutsche Bahn 101 – How to get around the German train system
Ah, Germany, the land of fast trains and punctuality. Well, at least half of this is true nowadays . While the trains are top-notch and incredibly comfortable for long-distance journeys, delay occur every now and then due to the ever-changing weather, constant construction sites or other events that cannot be predicted. If you’re not that familiar with German, this guide will help you get through any kind of situation concerning traveling by train and get you safe and on time to your destination.
Get the App!
The good thing about the Deutsche Bahn app is that it is also in English available and it contains not only all the train connections, but also the buses and subway or Schwebebahn. From there you can input your starting point and destination and it will calculate the best route for you. It usually is pretty reliable and is updated with the latest information, so you know when your train or bus has a 1 minute delay. You can buy directly from here the train tickets, but not the bus tickets, which we will be talking about a bit later.
If you’re not liking the interface there are always other alternatives, such as City Mapper – which isn’t available in all of Germany, the local apps from each city, or plain old Google Maps. I usually recommend a use of two of them to ensure maximum of efficiency. Also with Google Maps you can download areas of the maps beforehand, if you don’t have a lot of mobile date to go on with.
Check your connections (constantly)
We’re in a pretty civilized country, however that doesn’t mean that from time to time a bus or a train isn’t working anymore due to various reasons. What I suggest, at least for really long trips with late train changes, is to recheck the connections before you get off the train.
If your train suddenly skips a station where you should be getting off at or has a horrendous delay, turn to the DB staff and ask them to help you get to the destination. They are more than happy to help and they will provide any information that is needed.
If everything else fails, go to the Information Station
So you’ve tried everything, but find yourself in an unknown train station and would prefer to spend the night in your cosy bed? No worries, here’s what you have to do.
First of all, the bigger the train station you got stuck in, the better, for exemple, Köln, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Frankfurt, etc. Go as soon as possible at the information desk and tell them your problem (train got delayed, missed connection, blocked routes, etc.). Ask them what solution they would suggest.
Most of the time they will give you a free pass to use a train to get to your destination, provide a bus, when there are more people in the same situation, or in the best case (for the traveler at least) they will even provide a cab. Just don’t be shy and ask them directly what you’re supposed to do in this situation. It is in their policy to help you reach your destination when such incidents occur.
How to snatch the best prices for train tickets
Here’s a little tip for the Deutsche Bahn train tickets: try getting them as soon as possible. Usually you can get the cheapest fares if you buy them at least three weeks in advance. For some specific routes I have heard that there are special offers on the same day as the trip, but I wouldn’t count on that.
As for the normal tickets, for the buses and subway, the prices start somewhere at one euro per trip. There are short-ride tickets, normal tickets and connection tickets. With the short-ride ticket you can travel up to maximum three stations, depending on the city. The normal tickets start around 2 euros 50 and are available for about an hour and a half, from when you bought them. In Berlin however you have to validate your ticket before getting on. If you want to spare some money, you can always opt to get a four-ride ticket (you can use the ticket 4 times) or if you know you’re going to make at least 3 trips in the city, go for the day ticket. With a little ahead planning, you can save a lot of money on transport.