Deutsche Bahn is a German rail corporation that belongs to the state and runs the majority of the rail network in Germany and its border regions. It consists of a number of companies, including DB Regio which is in charge of local public rail transport, DB Fernverkehr which runs long-distance rail traffic and DB Cargo which controls freight traffic. Every year Deutsche Bahn carries several billion passengers across its rail network. Deutsche Bahn is the primary train operator and most train stations in Germany are exclusively serviced by the corporation's trains.
ICE - Intercity-Express
Deutsche Bahn's high speed train has a maximum speed of 205 mph. The ICE runs between big cities within Germany and connects them with neighboring countries such as Austria, France and Denmark. The carriages are equipped with air conditioning, a dining car or snack bar, power sockets positioned next to the seats and a special carriage for families with small children. Furthermore, there are work spaces that offer amplified mobile reception that make phone calls possible even at 200 miles an hour as well as specific quiet zones where passengers are asked to avoid loud conversations and phone calls. If you're planning on working during your train trip or would like to enjoy some peace and quiet, make sure to book a ticket for those special carriages. All ICE trains offer free WiFi on board.
Popular ICE routes
IC - Intercity
Intercity or IC as it's commonly referred to in Germany provides fast train services across domestic routes. The Intercity travels slightly slower than the ICE and is also used for long distance traffic. The IC's top speed is 125 mph; a few years ago, the new generation of trains, "Intercity 2", were introduced and is used on specific routes. With a top speed of 100 mph, it's a bit slower but offers modern conveniences such as double-stack carriages, more leg room, dedicated luggage space and special infant sections. All IC services are equipped with air conditioning, snack bars and designated spaces for wheelchairs.
Popular IC routes
EC - Eurocity
Eurocity is the European equivalent of the Intercity. You can board this train to travel cross-border from German cities, for example to Denmark, Austria and Czech Republic. The EC stops at very few stations on the way and typically in big cities, therefore covers large distances in a relatively short amount of time. The Eurocity a good alternative to flying if you plan to visit other countries from Germany, allowing you to look out of the window at picturesque countryside whilst travelling in comfort.
RE - Regional-Express
The Regional-Express is quite simply the fast regional train that connects regions with the long distance rail network. The RE stops less frequently than a regular regional train and travels long distances faster. Trains of this type are usually double-stock carriages with lots of luggage space. Regional-Express services are also equipped with power outlets and toilets.
RB - Regionalbahn
Germany's regional train service is locally know as the Regionalbahn and interconnects German's vast regional areas. The RB travels small distances at a relatively low speed. It usually halts at all stations and stops along the way. The Regionalbahn network connects villages, small towns and cities.
S-Bahn - Stadtschnellbahn
The S-Bahn is Germany's metropolitan train service that connects cities with the surrounding region. These services are often used by commuters during peak hours as stations are located in key transport hubs and city centres. The S-Bahn train stops at short intervals and can easily be used in combination with other means of public transport in German cities, such as buses, trams and metros. This is ideal for tourists as they offer a quick and easy way of travelling in and around popular attractions and destinations.
Classes on German trains
For most trains, Deutsche Bahn offers first and second class train tickets. Only on ICE trains will you see a noticeable difference - different tables, chairs and colour schemes. On all other trains, travelling in ICE second class carriages in Germany is very comfortable. An upgrade to first class is only really worth it when you travel long distance or add-on's like free newspapers and in-seat service are important to you.
First class tickets have several benefits: the seat reservation fee is included in the ticket price and seating in first class is more comfortable than second class due to big leather chairs and lots of leg room. First class travellers receive free newspapers and are served at their seat when ordering drinks or snacks.
Deutsche Bahn's second class carriages are very comfortable to travel in as well. There's free WiFi in both classes, as well as special quiet zones.
Types of train tickets and ticket pricing
There are two types of fares for long distance travel: the Flexpreis, which is a set standard price, and the Sparpreis, which is a reduced fare that depends on demand as well as on the destination and the date of travel.
The Flexpreis depends on what class you want to travel in, on the type of train and on the place that you're travelling to - Deutsche Bahn has set prices for each destination. Tickets have to be booked for a specific day, but you're free to travel at any time of that day - great for travellers who wish to stay flexible. This type of tickets can be exchanged or refunded for free up until one day before the date of travel.
The Sparpreis is a lot cheaper and can vary a lot depending on the date of travel. There's only a set number of the cheap tickets available, so if these sell out, the price will increase. If a specific route or date of travel is very popular, the prices will rise - we recommend planning and booking in advance, tickets are available up to six months before the day of departure. Sparpreis tickets are tied to the specific train you book. These tickets are also available for cross-border journeys to countries like Belgium, Great Britain and France - they are called Sprapreis Europa.
When travelling on regional trains (RB and S-Bahn), you don't have to book your ticket in advance - in fact, regional train tickets can not be booked online at all. Prices are predefined per route by Deutsche Bahn and never change (unless they decide to raise their prices overall). They can also never sell out because you can't reserve a seat. Simply turn up at the stations a few minutes early on the day of travel and buy a ticket from the ticket office or machine.
Travelling to and from airports in Germany
Airports in Germany are usually served by regional trains (RE, RB and S-Bahn) as well as high speed trains which makes getting from the airport to the city centre fairly easy. The biggest German airports are located close to the cities themselves, so continuing your journey to your destination by train is often the easiest, fastest and cheapest option. Tickets for regional trains can not be bought online, you can simply get off the plane, walk to the airport's train station and buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines. You can either pay your ticket by card or cash - it will rarely cost more than five Euros.
Frankfurt Airport to Frankfurt Hbf
Getting to Frankfurt's city centre from the airport couldn't be easier - simply walk to the airport's S-Bahn station, Frankfurt (M) Flughafen Regionalbahnhof, and hop on the S8 or S9 train. Within 10 minutes, you'll be at the main station and in 15 minutes, you reach Frankfurt Hauptwache which is located in walking distance to famous sights like the Römer and Pauluskirche.
Munich Airport to Munich Hbf
The S-Bahn station at the airport is called München Flughafen Terminal and is well connected to the city centre - every 10 minutes, you can take trains number 1 or 8 that transport you straight into the city in 40 minutes.
Berlin Schönefeld Airport to Berlin Hbf
Watch out for signs that say Bahnhof Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld and follow those to catch a train into the city. Board the train RE7 or RB14 and you'll arrive at the main train station in 30 minutes.
Düsseldorf Airport to Düsseldorf Hbf
Düsseldorf Airport has two train stations - a general one called Bahnhof Düsseldorf Flughafen and one that was specifically built for regional S-Bahn trains that's called Bahnhof Düsseldorf Flughafen Terminal. The first is serviced by all types of trains from all over the country and can be reached from the terminal by taking the SkyTrain, the airport's cabin railway. Tickets for this train can be bought in the terminal; some plane tickets already include this journey fare. The S-Bahnhof Düsseldorf Flughafen Terminal is located below terminal C and can be reached by foot. From there, take the S11 into Düsseldorf's city centre or through to Cologne and Bergisch Gladbach.
Hamburg Airport to Hamburg Hbf
Hamburg Airport's train station is located near the arrival terminal, so you only have to go down the escalator or use the lift to reach it. On the S1 train, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, the city's main train station, is only a 25 minute train ride away. If you're travelling from the city centre to the airport, be aware that the train is divided in half when it reaches the airport so make sure you sit in the first three carriages.
Cologne Bonn Airport to Cologne Hbf
Taking the train from the airport, you'll be near the famous Cologne Cathedral in just 15 minutes. Take the regional train S19 or S13 and you'll reach Köln Hauptbahnhof in no time.
Good to know
🚲 Bicycles on German trains
Depending on the type of train, you are able to take your bicycle with you when travelling. Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to take your bike with you on ICE trains, so we recommend to use IC trains instead when travelling longer distances. Most IC and EC trains have special bike carriages available, spaces must be booked in advance by booking a special bike ticket for nine Euros. Car location indicators at the station show you where to find the bike compartment. Alternatively, you can disassemble your bike and take it on any train as hand luggage as long as it fits below the seat or on the luggage racks above it. We recommend the first option!
🐶 Travelling with pets
Small pets that are not bigger than a house cat can be taken on German trains free of charge, provided that they're put in a transport box and can be placed under or above the seat (similar to hand luggage). If you want to take a bigger dog with you, you'll have to purchase a dog ticket which is half of the price you'd pay for a normal ticket - no matter if it's a Flexpreis or Sparpreis ticket. Dogs have to be kept on a leash and wear a muzzle at all times.
👪 Travelling with children
Children under six travel for free on all Deutsche Bahn trains within Germany and do not need their own ticket. Children up to 14 years old travel for free when they're accompanied by their parents or grandparents and have to be registered when the ticket is being booked. If they travel alone, they receive a 50% discount on the regular ticket price.
📡Wifi on German trains
Free wifi is available to all passengers on ICE trains. Simply select the network "WIFIonICE" and follow the login instructions on your screen.