I’m participating in a week-long writing-course in Praha at the end of July 2013, and I’m taking the opportunity to return to Germany and visit some friends. Since 2002, traveling within Germany has always been about riding the rails with Deutsche Bahn. My short-itinerary consists of
- Frankfurt am Main Airport to Köln (Cologne)
- Köln to Bielefeld
- Bielefeld to Berlin
- Berlin to Frankfurt am Main
From the German Rail Passes website, I purchased a four-day 2nd-class rail pass (within 1-month) for an equivalent of €202. I checked fares on the Deutsche Bahn website, and I took note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparpreis” (cheapest) and “Normalpreis” price categories. I estimated the distances using “Strecke” values returned by the Luftlinie distance calculator (in German). The German abbreviation “Hbf” is short for “Hauptbahnhof” or central station.
|Route, July-August 2013||Distance||Sparpreis||Normalpreis|
|Frankfurt(M) Flughafen – Köln Hbf||180 km||€ 25—59||€ 45—66|
|Köln Hbf – Bielefeld Hbf||190 km||€ 19—29||€ 37—48|
|Bielefeld Hbf – Berlin Hbf||390 km||€ 45—55||€ 84|
|Berlin Hbf – Frankfurt(M) Hbf||545 km||€ 49—69||€ 105—120|
|Total||1305 km||€ 138—212||€ 271—318|
|4-day German Rail Pass||—||€ 202||€ 202|
|Money saved, in €||—||€ 10||€ 69—116|
|Money saved, in USD||(€ 1 = $1.30 USD)||$ 13||$ 90—151|
The Rail Pass does not restrict the passholder to a specific train on a given date and time. To save the most money, purchasing individual Sparpreis fares ahead of time would be the way to go. I don’t save a lot of money with the 4-day Rail Pass if I purchase “Sparpreis” fares (more than 3 days before the travel date). If I’m less than 72 hours to the travel date, I would purchase “Normalpreis” fares, in which case the Rail Pass saves me about $100 USD. The price-difference between Sparpreis and Normalpreis fares is much larger with long-distance rail-journeys beyond 250 km, which is consistent with my findings here and with past trips to Germany.
I prefer schedule flexibility, and that’s why I go with the Rail Pass. For example, if I decide to stay longer in a city (e.g., for lunch or coffee with friends), I can’t change the “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. The Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take another train, if I’ve decided to stay longer or leave earlier than planned.
Previous posts about German rail and rail-passes:
Note added 22 July: I also used the GoEuro website for a quick and visual examination for travel within Germany. I compared different travel modes for intranational trips and a return-journey between Frankfurt or Cologne and Prague.
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