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Saving money with a (German) Rail Pass

Between (2011) September 28 and October 11, I’m visiting friends in Germany, and I already have a German Rail Pass to travel around the country. However, somebody might ask:

  • Should I spend a chunk of money on a rail pass weeks or months before traveling?
  • Should I try instead to get individual city-to-city fares when I’m in-country?
  • How can I get some flexibility and/or better cost savings?

What follows is a price comparison between a German RailPass I purchased with RailEurope, and point-to-point fares one might expect in person at a counter or at a ticket-machine in a train station.

DB Reisezentrum, Frankfurt(M)

With an upcoming tour of Germany, I have five planned days of long-distance train travel. I’m referring to “long-distance” as a trip whose distance is over 200 kilometres (125 miles).

I made my way to the RailEurope website in early-June (2011), and thanks to their “buy-4-get-5” promotion at the time, I purchased a four-day German rail pass, and received an extra and fortunate fifth day of travel.

A five-day German rail pass for one adult from RailEurope costs (*) $297 and $394 USD in second- and first-class, respectively. A similar pass from German Rail Passes costs $305 and $404 USD, respectively. Shipping and insurance costs are not included in these listed prices.

The following table lists point-to-point fares (*) in Euros from the Deutsche Bahn (DB) website. Total fares are listed in Euros and US dollars at the bottom of the table. Individual fares are dependent upon whether slower or faster trains are used; the InterCity Express is the most expensive option. Distances listed below are approximate. ‘Hbf’ is an abbreviation for Hauptbahnhof or ‘Central Station’.

Route Distance 2nd class 1st class
Frankfurt(Main) Hbf – Weimar (Thür) Hbf 270 km € 34–56 € 49–91
Weimar (Thür) Hbf – Hamburg Hbf 440 km € 34–82 € 59–132
Hamburg Hbf – Köln Hbf 430 km € 59–89 € 79–144
Köln Hbf – München Hbf 580 km € 59–129 € 69–209
München Hbf – Frankfurt(M) Flughafen Fernbf 400 km € 44–91 € 69–147
Total 2120 km € 230–447 € 325–723
Total in USD (1 € = $1.3 USD) $ 299–581 $ 423–940
Total in USD (1 € = $1.4 USD) $ 322–626 $ 455–1012
Five-day German Rail Pass, in USD $297 $394

I checked individual fares on both German- and English-versions of Deutsche Bahn’s website. All fares were obtained without the BahnCard option; a BahnCard is a frequent-travel savings card for residents. For means of transport, I chose all the available options. Finally, within each fare-class, I noted the range of prices in the “Sparangebote” (save offers or early-booking) category and in the “Normalpreis” (normal price) category.

To get both flexibility and cost-savings, my preferred choice is the rail pass in either fare-class, because

  • to get the “Sparangebote”, you have to know in advance the dates and destinations and order your tickets early;
  • you do not have to purchase each fare separately, either online or in-person at a train station;
  • and the traveler is not restricted to specific day, time, or train.

In addition to the websites above, Deutsche Bahn also provides a brief description of the German Rail Pass for customers in North America and the United Kingdom. The Bahn’s listed prices for the two five-day rail passes I described above are € 202 (2nd) and € 268 (1st).

To read more about other rail passes within Europe, Lily Leung wrote a detailed article about Eurail in her blog.

My previous posts about German Rail:

(*) – I checked all fares on 2011 September 14. The two photos above were made in Frankfurt Central Station on 10 October 2009.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).

This post is published originally on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

9 Responses to “Saving money with a (German) Rail Pass”

  1. Anna

    Hi there!
    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for posting such an informative blog.
    I would like to know a bit more about the German Rail pass:
    you mentioned that you travelled on September 28, but if the German rail pass can only be used within 1 calendar month, does that mean your pass expired as of October 1? or does it start to count from the first day of travel?

    I ask because I am planning to purchase the rail pass and travel between September 24 and October 4, but if my rail pass expires October 1, I’ll have to go earlier.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks in advance!

    Like

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Anna!

      The German Rail Pass is effective for one month, starting from the first day of travel. For example, upon arrival in Germany and you have your Rail Pass validated on September 24 at a counter or information desk at a Deutsche Bahn train station, your rail pass will be valid until about October 23. The station agent will stamp your Rail Pass and will fill out the appropriate information which will also indicate the correct expiry date. You have to validate the rail pass before you board any train.

      The German Rail Pass website says as much, too.

      I hope that helps, and thanks for your question! Ich wünsche Ihnen eine gute Reise!

      Like

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