Above: 6am at Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, 20 May 2016 (HL).
I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once each year since 2001. I’m “home” again for the 17th consecutive year with this autumn’s itinerary in the country’s central corridor, including Heidelberg, Konstanz, Ulm, Hannover, Kassel, Berlin, Würzburg, and Frankfurt am Main.
Thanks to their summer 20% promotion, I’ve purchased for €284 a 2nd-class German Rail Pass with ten days of travel inside one month. Compared to the advanced purchase of individual point-to-point tickets, I’m saving at least 50 dollars (Canadian), but with my preference for open-ended travel, my savings will exceed 600 dollars.
Below I describe:
- in detail how flexibility with the rail pass provides hundreds of dollars in savings, and
- how the rail pass is validated and activated.
1. Single Pass or Multiple Tickets?
I’ve listed in the table below point-to-point fares. I checked fares for individual “legs” on my travel dates at the Deutsche Bahn website, taking note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparangebote” (saver offers) and “Flexpreis” (flexible pricing) categories. The farecheck occurred on 17-18 August 2017 with over four weeks to arrival. I estimated distances using Google Maps and road distance values returned by the Germany distance calculator.
Columns in the following table are: (1) the train ROUTE, (2) approximate DISTANCE in kilometres, (3) SPARangebote or early-save advance-purchase point-to-point fares, and (4) FLEXpreis or flexible-pricing point-to-point fares.
|Frankfurt airport – Heidelberg||80 km||€ 20-22||€ 25-30|
|Heidelberg – Konstanz||280 km||€ 30-40||€ 62-84|
|Konstanz – Ulm||180 km||€ 19||€ 36-39|
|Ulm – Hannover||630 km||€ 34-80||€ 131|
|Hannover – Kassel||180 km||€ 20-30||€ 47|
|Kassel – Göttingen – Kassel||100 km||€ 40-60||€ 38-44|
|Kassel – Höxter – Kassel||270 km||€ 40-60||€ 56-80|
|Kassel – Berlin||390 km||€ 25-60||€ 95|
|Berlin – Frankfurt||620 km||€ 44-90||€ 126|
|Frankfurt – Würzburg – Frankfurt||250 km||€ 66-84||€ 101-120|
|TOTALS||2980 km||€ 338-545||€ 717-796|
|German Rail Pass
2nd class, 10 days in 1 month*
|—|| € 54-261
| € 433-512
* See image below.
** Conversion € 1 = CAD $1.50
For the most savings, I could purchase individual “Sparangebote” saver fare tickets well in advance. The alternative would be “Flexpreis” or flexible-fare tickets which are less restrictive but more expensive. The price difference between “Sparangebote” and “Flexipreis” generally increases with long-distance rail journeys, especially beyond 200 km.
But I don’t want to be tied strictly to a schedule, and the rail pass doesn’t restrict me to a train at a specific time. If I decide at the last minute to stay longer or to leave early, freedom and flexibility with the rail pass will save me over 600 dollars compared to the purchase of “last-minute” point-to-point tickets. I’d also emphasize that savings improve with at least one long-distance trip (e.g., Berlin to Frankfurt).
If you’re unsure about whether a Rail Pass is right for you, determine your itinerary, and check the fares on the Deutsche Bahn website. You can also view the conditions for saver fares and flexible fares on Deutsche Bahn (in English), and you can purchase a Rail Pass from German Rail Passes or from Rail Europe.
2. Validate and activate the Rail Pass
In the picture above of my rail pass, blue boxes show details of the pass I’ve purchased: Adult, Flexi 10 days within 1 month, 2nd class, for 284 Euros. The red numbers indicate parts of the rail pass which only an agent at a train station will fill out:
- First day of travel
- Last day of travel permitted by the pass; in this case, within 1 month
- Passport number, as the agent inspects my passport to confirm nationality
- Activation stamp from Deutsche Bahn
Before boarding the first train, I head to the train station to look for their “Reisezenturm” (travel centre) with counters manned by agents who can validate my rail pass. Staff at the separate “DB Information” booth provides information about trains, but they cannot validate the rail pass; personal experience has shown they’ll direct you to the “Reisezentrum.” At the “Reisezentrum”, I get a ticket from an automated dispenser to guarantee my place in the queue. When my number is shown on the overhead display, I walk up to the assigned counter. Most agents will speak English if you ask “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” In most cases, your conversation will go something like this.
Me: “Guten Tag. Können Sie bitte mein Rail-Pass bestätigen?” (Hello. Could you please validate my rail pass?)
Agent: “Gerne. Ab wann möchten Sie reisen?” (Gladly. When’s your first day of travel?”)
Me: “Ab heute/morgen.” (Beginning today/tomorrow.)
Agent, after filling out (1-3) and stamping the pass (4): “Bitte schön. Gute Reise!” (Here you go. Have a good trip!)
Me: “Danke!” (Thanks!)
As the passenger (purple P in the picture above), I will write in the day and month for every day I want to use the rail pass. For example, if my first day of travel is September 18, I’ll write under column 1 “18” for the day and “09” for the month. Trains are frequently patrolled by fare inspectors, and they will “stamp” the column on the day of travel. By the end of the journey, my rail pass will look something like this:
The map below shows my coverage of Germany thus far. Places I’ll visit for the first time are indicated as blue dots, places I’ve already visited are shown as stars, and the country’s five largest cities (increasing population: Frankfurt, Köln, München, Hamburg, and Berlin) are represented by red stars.
Previous German rail passes:
I have not received any compensation for writing this content, and I have no material connection to Deutsche Bahn, German Rail Pass, or Rail Europe. This post appears on fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-ajF.