Best Savings Railway Fares and Discounts on Deutsche Bahn Travel
Cheap tickets and special discount fares are available for travel on Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) trains in Germany. Top deals include Sparpreise, Schönes Wochenende, Happy Weekend, and Länder tickets.
Standard German Railways tickets are not cheap but Deutsche Bahn has many special deals with discount fares and cheaper tickets for traveling in Germany. These cheap train tickets come with restrictions that are rarely a major problem for tourists on leisure travel. Special cheap fares are available online for long-distance travel while train passengers may save too by using only regional trains when going shorter distances. Numerous savings options are available and it is well worth examining the options available to secure cheaper train tickets.
Standard Fares (Flexpreis) for German Railways Tickets
Standard fares (Flexpreise, previously Normalpreise) on German trains allow for full flexibility but are generally not cheap. However, these tickets may be cancelled without penalty and bearers may use any train. Holders of a German Railways Bahnkart may receive 25% or 50% off the standard fare without loosing full flexibility, as is the case with other saving fares.
Train tickets bought on the Deutsche Bahn website or at station ticket machines are generally €2 cheaper than the same train tickets bought from a station ticket window counter. Tickets are not sold on German Railways trains – boarding without a ticket will result in a hefty fine.
Special Internet-Only Deals on German Trains Fares at bahn.de
Deutsche Bahn’s website should be the first stop for all travelers to Germany planning on using trains and public transportation. Internet-only fares can be excellent value for money but the specific deals vary frequently and short term offers are sometimes only advertised on the German part of Deutsche Bahn’s website. All tickets, however, can be bought in English and special fares are automatically included in searches.
Great Saver Fares (Sparpreise) on German Trains
On long-distance trains, savings are possible on return trips of which at least part of the train journey is on Inter-City (IC), Euro-City (EC), or Inter-City-Express (ICE) trains. These special saver train fares (Sparpreise) allow allow for huge discounts – sometimes as cheap as €19 for journeys shorter than 250 km and €29 for any journey in Germany – but are available only in limited numbers. Look for the Saver Fare Finder section on German Railways website – here it is possible to see what fares are available on a specific day. In a normal search, the saver fare will be offered automatically but will not indicate that departing say an hour earlier may save a lot more.
Apart from limited availability, the main catch of saver fares are that a specific train must be used – missing the booked train may result in a hefty surcharge or even needing a completely new ticket.
German Railways’ Länder-Tickets (State Tickets)
Länder-Tickets (State-Tickets) are excellent savings deals for travelers staying in a specific geographical region. Länder-Tickets usually cover travel within a specific German federal state, although for smaller states up to three are combined in the same savings ticket.
Länder-Tickets are usually valid for small groups of up to five passengers traveling together. Single tickets are available in most states but the savings really become noticeable when two to five travel together on a Länder group ticket.
- Länder-Tickets may only be used on regional and local trains but often local buses are included too. This is a great savings ticket when doing sightseeing as long-distance trains do not stop in small towns and are best used for travel between major cities. It may usually be used only after 9 am on weekdays, or all day on weekends.
Germany’s Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (Happy Weekend Ticket)
The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket is one of the most popular train savings tickets in Germany. Like the Länder-Tickets, only regional trains may be used but travelers may use trains throughout Germany. The price is currently €40 with €4 added for every additional traveler up to a maximum of 5 traveling together. As the name indicates, the Schönes Wochenende Ticket is only sold on weekends.
- The Schönes-Wochenende and Länder-Tickets probably provide the best savings on German railways fares for travelers with time on hand or those exploring sights reachable only on regional trains.
Quer-Durchs-Land Ticket – (Travel Throughout Germany)
The Quer-durchs-Land Ticket (Travel Throughout Germany) is similar to the Schönes Wochenende Ticket but is available for travel any day of the week (after 9 am on weekdays or all day weekends). The Quer-durchs-Land ticket is €44 for the first traveler and add €8 for each additional traveler up to a maximum of five.
Comparing Saving on Long-Distance and Regional Train Tickets in Germany
In Germany, the faster the train and the more flexible the train ticket, the higher the rail fare. On a cross country train ride from Hamburg to Munich, the standard, full-flexible second-class one-way train fare is €142. This allows the journey to be completed in 5h30 using Inter-City-Express trains. The price can drop to only €29 if the journey is booked in advance with further restrictions such as using a specific train and no refunds – travel is still by ICE at the same speed.
Few would want to do this specific journey on regional trains but it is possible. Traveling on a weekend and using only local trains, a group of five can use the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for €56 total. Travel time will more than double to just less than twelve hours and six transfers are necessary on the route from Hamburg to Munich.
For travelers planning more than just one or two railway trips, further savings options are available on German Railways trains in the form of railway cards (BahnCard) and the German Rail Pass for international visitors.