We decided to ditch the car in favor of the train on our recent trip to Germany. I have grown accustomed over the years to being in control of our timetable and destiny, and it has been more than a few years since I traveled with a backpack. With a little planning though, we were able to travel comfortably and inexpensively throughout Germany unencumbered by a car for 10 days!
Each country has its own network of trains, and you have a variety of choices depending upon your needs. We worked with German Rail (Deutsche Bahn DB) as our needs were for just one country; although our German Rail pass allowed us access to trains and buses to a few adjoining countries.
We opted for a First Class “Twin” where you have one ticket for two people traveling together. We took advantage of a 20% booking bonus and immediately saw the savings vs. buying individual tickets.
The pass gave us unlimited 10 consecutive day access to DB’s network of trains which included:
ICE Inter City Express
IC Inter City
RE Regional Trains
DB has a great app that gives you timetable and platform information. As of December 2014 they “encourage” reservations on ICE trains. It is anywhere between €4.5 and €9.0 per seat in First Class and is over and above the price of your pass. Go online the night before and look at the seat map to see if you need to reserve a seat.
Second Class is perfectly fine, but First Class, even on regional trains, gives you added insurance on some of the busier routes as a first class ticket allows you to sit in Second Class. First Class is more comfortable, includes free wireless, and gives you ample room to work, or relax. In 10 days we only experienced one delay, and on our last leg to Berlin our train hit 196 kph (about 122 miles per hour).
European train travel inspires you to imagine what we in the U.S. could do with a network like theirs. Take the time to consider it the next time you are waiting in a TSA line.