For those of you who have never traveled overseas, I’m here to tell you that it takes a lot more work to prep for a European adventure than you’d think. Going into this, I was mainly concerned with obtaining enough funding to cover my flight fare. It was only a week ago that I remembered to book train tickets to get me from the airport to my destination (dumb move, I know). Now that I’m thinking more big picture, so to speak, I thought I’d share my experience booking train tickets in Germany.
My first piece of advice would be to check as many websites as you can to compare ticket prices before you finalize your purchase. The two sites I eventually settled on were Deutsche Bahn and Rail Europe, which were both easy to use and could be viewed in a variety of different languages. At first, I tried buying tickets auf Deutsch, but alas, my German vocabulary extends only so far in terms of public transportation lingo.
My second tidbit when purchasing train tickets is to decide which type of ticket you want. When you search for available trains, you’ll be presented with the option of choosing between a “Savings Fare” ticket and a “Standard Fare” ticket. A savings fare ticket should be purchased if you know for sure that you’ll be able to make the scheduled ticket time, such as if you’re traveling from one city to another. A standard fare ticket allows you to take any train from the station you chose that’s heading to your final destination. This type of ticket is good if you’re on a flexible time schedule, such as when you’re arriving off of an airplane and aren’t sure if it’ll be delayed, etc. A standard fare ticket will also set you back about 100 euros, whereas savings fare tickets are usually much cheaper because they can only be used on a specific train.
Finally, buy your tickets in advance! As with airline tickets, the longer you wait to purchase train tickets, to more expensive they are. Savings fare tickets in particular fluctuate a lot in price, so buy them early. You’ll also want to consider reserving a particular seat on the train because a regular train ticket just gets you onto the train (it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed a spot on it–weird, I know). Luckily, seat reservations are only a few euros, so it’s worth the extra money in my opinion. Hopefully you’ll find purchasing train tickets easier now!
PS. The image shown is from my first trip to Germany when I stayed in Kassel. I didn’t have any train pictures (go figure), but my first train ride will be taking me back to this amazing German city, so it seemed fitting.