Transport Tips for Germany
Cheapest Train Ticket in Germany
Last year, we gave Deutsche Bahn a bit more than €600 to ferry our family of 4, plus dog, from our holiday base in West Germany to the city of Erfurt in the East, and back.
This year, we only spent €120 for our round-trip to the north eastern town of Goslar, which is roughly the same distance.
The big savings was possible with the (relatively) the new cheapest train ticket in Germany offered by the Deutsche Bahn – the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket.
Is this the cheapest train ticket in Germany?
Children – as long as they are your own – aged up to 14 traveling with 1 or 2 adults travel for free. Pets count as one passenger. (Note: After Dec. 10, 2011, prices might change.)
So where’s the catch? We should not, after all, assume that Deutsche Bahn have something to give away – or that they are about to wreck their own business model.
First of all, the Quer-durchs-Land ticket is ONLY valid for local and regional trains (i.e. not on the fast trains IC/EC/ICE).
This, obviously, slows down your journey, often quite considerably so. The thing to bear in mind is this: fast trains are not much “faster” than regional trains but more direct.
The “RE” regional express trains, the backbone of the local train networks in Germany, connect at most 2 neighbouring federal states.
The more Bundeslaender or federal states you have to cross, the more complex the journey therefore becomes i.e. the more often you have to change trains and the larger the difference to the travel time compared to that of the fast trains.
Example: Travel time for a trip from Hamburg in the north to Munich in the south may balloon from 6 to 12 hours, and that from Cologne in the west to Berlin in the east from 6 hours to nearly 10. (Assuming, of course, that you catch all your connections. If not, you can easily add an hour or two more.)
If, however, your journey is restricted to, say, a couple of federal states, it may take you only a little longer – 5 hours instead of 4. For a price difference of 90 percent, this is good value indeed – and an hour profitably spent.
Some cities even accept the Quer-durchs-Land ticket on their local public transport networks, making it even better value.
Bear in mind that the savings increase disproportionately for large groups. For a single traveller, €42 (one-way) is a fairly hefty fare, and for many routes, you can find a cheaper option.
When traveling in a large group, however, you have to remember that your group has to travel together at all times. No going separate ways on the travel day.
Also, the Quer-durchs-Land ticket is valid for use only from 9 a.m. This cuts down your potential travel time total, making the ticket even less attractive for really long journeys (where you would arrive at your destination in the middle of the night). If used on a week-end, however, this ticket is valid for the earliest train available.
For trips of 4 to 6 hours this is no problem. On the contrary: it allows you to avoid the rush hour packed trains of the working week days. (When we traveled, we practically had a whole wagon to ourselves.)
Overall, the Quer-durchs-Land ticket is a great gift to the budget (group) traveller.
Now, there is another ticket for getting around in Germany for an even lower fare: the Schönes Wochenende Ticket.
If traveling on Saturdays and Sundays with this ticket, you get all the privileges of a Quer-durchs-Land ticket without the 9am time restriction – for the unbeatable fixed price of €39 for 1 or for a group of (up to) 5 persons. (Price might change in 2012.)
The Schönes Wochenende ticket, therefore, IS the cheapest train ticket in Germany!