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Posts from the ‘Road Warrior’ category

Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Photo by Christian Allinger (CC BY 2.0).

Travel and saving with the German Rail Pass, Feb-Mar 2017

Above: Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Christian Allinger).

I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once each year since 2001. I’m back “home” for the 17th consecutive year with the following “mostly Bayerisch” itinerary:

  • München
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Mittenwald
  • Reutte in Tirol (Österreich)
  • Oberstdorf
  • Augsburg
  • Heidelberg

Thanks to their springtime 20% promotion, I’ve secured a 2nd-class German Rail Pass for seven days of travel inside one month.

( Click here for more )

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, Werner77, Pixabay, Creative Commons license

How I’m saving with the German Rail Pass, Nov-Dec 2015

Continuing the streak of annual visits to the country, I’m “home” for the 15th consecutive year with the following itinerary over four weeks in November and December:

  1. Berlin to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Regensberg
  3. Regensberg to München (Munich)
  4. München to Karlsruhe
  5. Mainz to Koblenz
  6. Koblenz to Bielefeld
  7. Bielefeld to Köln
  8. Köln to Magdeburg
  9. Magdeburg to Hamburg
  10. Hamburg to Berlin

Thanks to their 20% promotion with Rail Europe, I’ve purchased a 2nd-class German Rail Pass for ten days of travel inside one month for $440 (Canada) / $332 (USA).

Cross-Country Savings

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” (save-money offers) and “Normalpreis” (normal price) categories. The last farecheck occurred on 12 February 2017. I estimated distances using “Route” (road distances) values returned by the Germany distance calculator.

Route, Nov-Dec 2015 Distance Sparangebote Normalpreis
1. Berlin – Rothenburg ob der Tauber 500 km € 29—89 € 117—131
2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Regensburg 200 km € 23—29 € 32—57
3. Regensburg – München 130 km € 20—29 € 27—42
4. München – Karlsruhe 280 km € 29—55 € 66—79
5. Mainz – Koblenz 100 km € 19 € 19—22
6. Koblenz – Bielefeld 300 km
€ 29—39
€ 62—65
7. Bielefeld – Köln 190 km
€ 19—29
€ 39—49
8. Köln – Magdeburg 430 km € 29—57 € 87—90
9. Magdeburg – Hamburg 280 km € 29—39 € 43—67
10. Hamburg – Berlin 280 km € 29—45 € 78
TOTALS
(€1 = USD $1.10)
≈ 2700 km
€ 255—430
$ 281—473
€ 570—680
$ 627—748
10-day German Rail Pass
(with 2015 autumn 20% promotion)
USD $332 USD $332
$ USD saved < $141 $295—416

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 could save money by purchasing individual “Sparangebote” fares well in advance. Otherwise, there are generally available “Normalpreis” fares, which are less restrictive but more expensive. The price difference between Sparangebote and Normalpreis fares is larger with long-distance rail journeys over 250 km.

I demand schedule flexibility, and that’s why I purchase a Rail Pass in advance. If I decide at the last mintue to stay longer or leave early, I can’t change a “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. My 10-day Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take a train on any day at any time. This versatility saves me at least USD $300.

Deutsche Bahn lists the following conditions for their two categories.

Sparangebote: Preis für alle Reisenden. Bei Aktionsangeboten und regionalen Angeboten gelten besondere Konditionen. Zugbindung, d.h. Ihre Fahrkarte ist nur in den auf Ihrer Fahrkarte aufgedruckten Zügen gültig. Umtausch und Erstattung 15 EUR; ab 1. Geltungstag ausgeschlossen.

Normalpreis: Preis für alle Reisenden. Volle Flexibilität (keine Zugbindung/unabhängig von der angegebenen Verbindung auf der gewählten Strecke). Umtausch und Erstattung kostenlos, ab dem 1. Geltungstag 15 EUR.

My translation is:

Savings offers: price for all travelers. Conditions apply to special and regional offers. Your ticket is valid only as printed for the specified train. 15 EUR charge for exchange or refund before the first valid day; no exchange or refund afterwards.

Normal price: price for all travelers. Full flexibility (no specific train / regardless of specific connection on the chosen route). No charge for exchange and refund before the first valid day; 15 EUR charge afterwards.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, LoboStudioHamburg, pixabay, Creative Commons license

Berlin Hauptbahnhof (LoboStudioHamburg, on Pixabay)


Previously, on German rail and rail passes

•   German Rail Pass, November-December 2014
•   German Rail Pass, July-August 2013
•   German Rail Pass, late-2012 RTW
•   Yet another trip with German Rail (2011)
•   Across the country with German Rail
•   Saving money with a German Rail Pass
•   Flexibility with a German Rail Pass

The two photos are from Pixabay by Werner77 (H Hbf) and LoboStudioHamburg (B Hbf), respectively; both photos are used with the generosity of the Creative Commons license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7iZ.

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 German Rail Pass, Rail Europe, or Deutsche Bahn.

Surviving the latest Deutsche Bahn strike

In Germany, I am neither first-time visitor nor a permanent resident.

In this interesting middle-ground, having traveled in and around the country every year since 2001 means gaining knowledge and some handle of the language, whether it’s reading the signage or speaking to people to get some help.

As of writing (20 May 2015), the GDL locomotive drivers’ union have struck for the 9th time in the last 11 months. The present strike does not yet have an announced stop date (which is new), but will likely match or exceed the recent 5-day stoppage in early May, which at that time was the longest in Deutsche Bahn’s 21 year history. A significant fraction of the full passenger- and freight-capacity has been affected. In the German capital city of Berlin, regional trains and S-Bahn trains are affected (reduced), whereas the city’s bus, tram, and U-Bahn networks remain in full operation.

Bahn strike, Bahnstreik, Cancelled trains, Dresden Hauptbahnhof, Germany, fotoeins.com

Signage indicating cancelled train service between Dresden Hbf and Frankfurt Airport, 22 April 2015

Online updates (in German) of Deutsche Bahn’s train service:

•   FAQ on ARD Tagesschau
•   @DB_Info: Deutsche Bahn information on Twitter
•   bahn.de
•   bahn.de/aktuell
•   bahn.de/p/view/home/info/streik_gdl_150519.shtml

From the latter link, there are two “buttons” to note:

Live-Auskunft (“live information”) : a dynamic link providing an overview of trains traveling along your specified route; cancelled trains are not shown.

Reiseauskunft (“trip information”) : a dynamic link providing a schedule of trains traveling along your specified route, which will show cancelled trains (red ‘x’) and possible alternatives.

From a day-to-day standpoint, I have used both links to check what was and was not available for my desired route, providing valuable information for advance planning.

Additional words to recognize are:

•   Ersatzfahrplan: makeshift operating schedule
•   fällt heute aus: cancelled today
•   Fernverkehr, Nahverkehr: long-distance transport, regional transport
•   Halt entfällt: stop cancelled
•   Hinweis: Please note
•   Umleitung: detour
•   Verspätung: delay

During the 5-day long strike (5 to 10 May) and despite a significant fraction of train routes cancelled, I was fortunate I needed only to travel from Berlin to the cities of Bielefeld and Frankfurt am Main. The following graphic shows what routes remained in operation and to what frequencies (if any) these routes ran.

DBahn strike 2015May

Operating & affected long-distance trains: Deutsche Bahn drivers’ strike, Apr/May 2015. Click here for full PDF.

Regular hourly trains (thickest solid colour line) ran between Berlin and Düsseldorf and between Berlin to Köln. Other trains ran every two hours (thin solid colour line), every four hours (long-dashed colour line), or only one train the entire day (dotted colour line). It meant for some “interesting” change-of-trains, service delays, and for others, a very long day on the train. During this last strike some minimum level service was maintained with a train “approximately” every two hours among the country’s five largest cities: Frankfurt, Köln, München, Hamburg, and Berlin.

But that was then, and this is now.

The graphic above shows the makeshift operating model over the last couple of strikes in late-April and early-May. There’s no guarantee these routes and services (or frequencies) will be maintained in the present strike, which means keeping abreast of service updates (re. Live-Auskunft, Reiseauskunft).

Mandatory requirements or my wishful requests, whichever you prefer:

•   patience and understanding for your fellow travelers,
•   sense of adventure and a very good sense of humour.

But these are characteristics we all think we should have and practice, OR?

I had advantage of having a general familiarity with the country, and being able to read and speak some German. I took the strike in stride, and I didn’t panic into buying a ticket on a long-distance bus service, although for a few moments I admit sweating out a few of the details along the way. During the early-May strike, I traveled from Berlin to Bielefeld just fine, but Berlin to Frankfurt was a bit of an adventure on a fully packed train.

Good luck!


Update: 0130h CEST, 22 May

The rail strike ends 21 May with Deutsche Bahn and the GDL union going into arbitration and a period to continue mediated negotiations. Regional service should be back to nominal operation by 22 May, and long-distance service to nominal operation by this (Pentecost holiday) weekend 23/24 May. Full S-Bahn service in Berlin is scheduled for 22 May.

•   Tagesschau article, in German







Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, 2 May 2015

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I am not affiliated with and have no material connections with Deutsche Bahn. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6Mn.

How to read signage at German train stations

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