By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for Germany?
Rail passes are usually a great value in Germany, often saving money while allowing you to hop trains at your convenience. The single-country German Rail Pass, for example, gives you four days of transport anywhere in the country for about the cost of a Munich–Frankfurt round-trip ticket. Two people traveling together each save 25 percent with a Twin discount. While it's possible to swing some point-to-point ticket discounts in Germany, a rail pass still makes sense for most visitors traveling by train in Germany.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Also, follow the links below for:
- More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
- The basics on choosing among rail passes
- More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
- Advice on deciding between first and second class
- Fare-estimate maps outside Germany
- Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Do I need to make seat reservations on German trains?
For the most part, you can hop on most German trains with just your rail pass in hand. Most daytime routes, including fast InterCityExpress trains, do not require seat reservations. Some international or overnight routes (such as to Paris, Brussels, Venice, or Copenhagen), and the rare Berlin–Frankfurt ICE Sprinter, do require that you have reservations before boarding, as indicated in online train schedules.
What do rail passes cover in Germany?
All trains within Germany, as well as the following extras:
- All rail passes for Germany also cover the entire train trip between Munich and Salzburg, Austria (the official border town).
- KD Line boats on the Rhine and Mosel rivers (starts use of a travel day, same as a train trip).
- Buses are covered when operated by the railways. Express buses to/from Prague, as well as Berlin–Kraków buses, are covered by passes for both relevant countries, but require a paid seat reservation (you'll pay a higher fee if your pass only includes one of the countries). Passes also offer a 20 percent discount on the privately operated Romantic Road bus (discounts do not use a flexipass travel day).
- Other bonuses are described in materials that come with the rail pass.
This single-country German Rail Pass add-on is a good value if you'll be taking a direct train to/from Italy, or use more than one of these covered routes:
- Brussels: Covers ICE international trains to/from Brussels Nord station (4/day, not Thalys trains, Belgian portion of trip otherwise costs about $30 each way in second class).
- Prague: Covers direct DB InterCity bus (not train) services to/from Munich (as well as a stop near Munich's airport), Nürnberg, and Mannheim (Czech portion of trip otherwise costs about $25 each way in second class).
- Innsbruck: Covers EuroCity trains via Kufstein (6/day; Austrian portion of trip otherwise costs about $25 each way in second class).
- Italy: Covers EuroCity trains to/from Bolzano or Verona (5/day), or Bologna (1/day) or Venice (1/day; not valid on night trains or routes via Villach, Italian portion of trip otherwise costs about $65 to Verona or about $80 to Venice in second class).
- Poland: Covers DB InterCity bus (not train) between Berlin and Kraków, Katowice, and Wrocław
It can beat the cost of the two-country passes, but does not cover other routes in those neighbor countries.
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, you may be able to shave off the cost of your train tickets with some of these tips:
- Kids under 15 travel free when named on one train ticket with parents or grandparents.
- With Sparpreise discounts, you save 25–50 percent by buying a train ticket at least three days in advance for pre-selected dates and times (group discount available, seats are limited and refund restrictions apply).
- Slow-train specials in Germany include a wild Schönes Wochenende (Happy Weekend) ticket for €40; it gives groups of up to five people unlimited second-class travel on non-express trains all day on Saturday or Sunday. The weekday version is called the Quer-durchs-Land Ticket (valid after 9:00 a.m., €42 for one traveler plus €6 for each co-traveler, max. 4). Länder-Tickets are a similar deal within a single region such as Bavaria, for travel after 9:00 a.m. on local trains (€22 for first person plus €4 for each additional person, max. 4).
- Search for German ticket fares on the Deutsche Bahn's site (discounts are calculated if you add children or put in a return date). You can also order by phone at 011-49-1805-99-66-33.
- Those staying longer in Germany can get discounts for a full year by purchasing one of several Bahn Cards (one person pays €60 for 25 percent discounts, or €247 for 50 percent discounts in second class, cheaper for seniors, youths, and children). The Bahn Card also gives you 25 percent discounts on trains in many other European countries.
Also see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.
Germany Rail Passes: Key Details
Single-country German Rail Pass: "Twin" price is per person for 2 traveling together. Odd-numbered groups must buy one individual adult, youth, or child pass. Kids 6–11 are half of full adult (not Twin) fare; kids 5 and under ride for free. This pass is also sold at main train stations in Germany. Also, note that adding extra days on this pass, at about $20–30/day, is significantly cheaper than doing so on a multi-country pass.
German Rail Pass Extension: International trips must take place on the same dates that you use the German Pass. Carry both passes together. Cannot be refunded separate from the German Pass unless marked "unused" by railway staff. Prices are per person, with no youth or Twin discount available. Kids 6–11 are half fare; kids 5 and under ride for free.
Benelux–Germany Eurail Pass: "Benelux" = Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. If your only travel in Benelux is between Amsterdam and the German border at Emmerich ($20 in second class), it's cheaper to get a rail pass that doesn't include Benelux, and instead buy that train ticket for that stretch once you're in Europe (available at any staffed station).
Czech Republic–Germany Eurail Pass: If you're mostly traveling by train within Germany, and your only Czech leg of train travel is between the German border and Prague, you're probably better off skipping this pass and just buying (before boarding) a train ticket between the border and Prague (should cost about $20 each way).
Germany–Poland Eurail Pass: Since Poland is not covered by Eurail Global or Select passes, the Germany–Poland Eurail pass is the only single rail pass that covers both countries. Separate rail passes for each region may be cheaper, but you use a day from each pass when you cross the border.
Germany–Switzerland Eurail Pass: Separate single-country rail passes may be cheaper, but you'll use a day of each pass when you cross the border. Second-class passes can only be used by travelers under 26; travelers age 26 or older must buy a first-class pass. Covers many Swiss boats as well as trains — see our Switzerland rail-pass page for an outline of coverage.
Eurail Select Pass and Eurail Global Pass: Second-class passes can only be used by travelers under 26; travelers age 26 or older must buy a first-class pass.