Over the past 10 years, the prices for Eurail passes have risen to the point that they have lost their status as one of Europe's great bargains. Here we discuss alternatives for riding the German Rail system.

Rail passes are easy. You pay an up-front lump sum before leaving the U.S. and simply show the pass whenever you want to travel. No buying tickets, no standing in line (other than to make a seat reservation), no hassle. However, as the cost of these convenient passes rises, more and more travelers are considering point-to-point ticketing and other, less well-known, pass options available "in-country."

Presented here are discount plans and other rail tips for the German railway system. Most of this information was obtained on the Internet's World Wide Web. We refer you specifically to the Deutsche Bahn's Website.

Point-to-Point Fare Calculations

Using the table below one can calculate the approximate fare of a standard second-class German rail ticket.

10 km DM 3.00
20 km DM 5.40
50 km DM 10.80
100 km DM 21.40
500 km DM 84.00

There is a 20% reduction off these fares for rides within 'Tariff Zone B' which is the territory that once was the German Democratic Republic, including Berlin. Rides that cross the border are divided into two parts to calculate the resulting fare.

First class tickets cost about 50% more.

This standard fare is valid for all trains, with the following exceptions:

• Tickets on ICE (Intercity Express) trains, depending on the route, are 10% to 20% more.
• For EC/IC (Eurocity/Intercity) trains, add a DM 6 supplement regardless of trip duration.

Discount Programs

Guten Abend Ticket

(Good Evening Ticket)

For rides starting at 7 p.m. or later and ending before 2 a.m. the cost is DM 59 and the ticket is valid throughout Germany. EC/IC supplements do not apply. (The 1st class price is DM 99 and the 'Guten Abend Ticket' is not valid for sleeper cars.)

There is a DM 15 additional charge to use the ticket on Friday or Sunday night. These tickets cost DM 69 and DM 109 first class.

Compared to the standard fares, the 'Guten Abend Ticket' generally saves money if the journey is more than 200 km; however, there may not always be a connection that matches the time restrictions.

In addition, the 'Guten Abend Ticket' can only be purchased at a station that is no farther than 30 km from the station from which the trip will commence.

Accompanying Persons Save 50%

This offer is only valid only if a full fare roundtrip ticket of DM 50 (DM 75 for first class) or more is purchased. Up to five accompanying passengers pay 50% of the full fare ticket.

Sparpreis, Supersparpreis

(Saver Price, Super Saver Price)

These are special prices for roundtrips that include a weekend (for example, Frankfurt-Munich on Thursday, Munich-Frankfurt on Monday). The price does not depend on the length of the ride. SP tickets cost DM 190 if one doesn't use ICE trains (no supplements for EC/IC trains required), and DM 270 for ICE travel. First class travel adds 50%.

SSP tickets are DM 220, regardless of ICE use (no supplements for EC/IC). With an SSP ticket, one is not allowed to travel on Fridays (until Saturday 3:00 a.m.) and Sundays (until Monday 3 a.m.). Add 50% for first class travel.

Both SP and SSP tickets may be combined with the 50% reduction for accompanying persons.

SP and SSP tickets are generally only a bargain on long rides.

Children

Children under four years of age pay nothing. Kids four to eleven years of age pay 50% of the standard fare, but cannot be combined with other reductions.

The BahnCard

The popular BahnCard is good for 50% off the standard fare and 50% off ICE fares; however (as always) the EC/IC supplement will not be reduced.

The BahnCard can be purchased by anyone and is valid for one year from date of purchase. For those who plan to travel extensively in Germany and cannot use the other discounts, the BahnCard may make sense even if used for as little as one week.

Prices
(2nd cl.) (1st cl.)
Adult Fare DM 220 DM 440
Spouse DM 110 DM 220
Age 18-22 DM 110 DM 220
Over 60 DM 110 DM 220
Students under 27 DM 110 DM 220
Ages 4-17* DM 50 DM 100
* Must be accompanied by parent

Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket

(Nice Weekend Ticket)

For only DM 30, this ticket allows unlimited use of all "low-class" German Rail trains for one weekend for up to five persons.

Low Class means ticket is not good on ICE, IC, EC, ICN, IR and D trains

The allowed trains (CB, RB, RSB, E trains and 'Nahverkehr' trains without letter designation) usually only travel short distances (usually less than 150 km). While one can use this ticket to get from, say, Munich to Hamburg or Berlin, the travel time will be about 14 hours. The SWT is valid from Friday midnight to Sunday noon.

Other Discounts

Persons 22 and under (or students 26 and under) can purchase the 'Tramper Monats Ticket' for DM 350 which allows unlimited travel for one month (tack on an additional DM 115 for ICE use).

For about DM 7,500 ($5,172) one can purchase a ticket valid for one year on all German Rail routes.

Reservations

Persons holding tickets can reserve seats for a specific train (highly recommended on weekends) for DM 9 or DM 3 if you buy your ticket at the same time. As many as five persons can use the same reservation when traveling together (i.e. 5 seats are reserved, but only DM 9.00 are paid).

Seats can be reserved right up to departure time.

Bikes

Bike are o.k. on most RSB, E, CB and RB trains. IR trains have eight special bike compartments which can be reserved.

Taking a bike on a train can range from free to as much as DM 8.60, depending on train type and situation.

Rail Tips

The all-German timetable (Kursbuch) is not essential provided one follows these basic rules:

1. Service in the West is better than in the East.
2. One can rely on the ICE/EC/IC/IR 'inner net' to run trains at least every other hour, usually every hour, and in some highly frequented areas three times an hour.
3. Some ICE/EC/IC/IR trains may also connect to less important cities ('outer net'). These always run at the same minute after the hour and they are very punctual.
4. Missed a train? You may not be well-advised to take the very next train. Check before boarding. Many short-distance trains stop at rural stations and wait for long-distance trains to pass.
5. Short-distance service is limited on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays.

February 1996