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When I first checked prices for ICE trains in Germany, I was a bit shocked by prices of over 100 Euros (in Poland not long ago the trains were the cheapest way of public transport).

But then I found out that there are some promotions such as BahnCard 25 and it's possible to travel cheaply if you book the ICE in advance (something similar to a plane).

But how is it in practice with these promotions? How to use them to really save money, for example, when someone wants to do a round trip once a month?

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one trick is to search for all possible routes between departure and arrival and pick one that has at least one ICE but the least possible (to have the lowest price): As long as it's written ICE on your ticket (printed from ticket machine) you have the right to use as many ICE as you want on your route (but I'm afraid it does not work with online ticket, I think, and you do not have a reserved seat) –  Vince Nov 6 '12 at 16:29
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travel.stackexchange.com/questions/8458/… I posted the ltur link to get remaining IC/ICE tickets from 7 days prior to the departure from 25€. –  greg121 Nov 6 '12 at 17:05
    
To book in advance the "Saver fare finder" on the db website also helped me alot. This combined with booking 90 days ahead will give you the cheap tickets. –  greg121 Nov 6 '12 at 17:11
    
Dodging your question: carpooling.co.uk is actually a lot cheaper (and in my experience better on time...). There's also a Polish version: carpooling.pl –  Tobias Kienzler Nov 7 '12 at 8:02
    
I edited the question to correct a minor style issue but I am wondering: Did you mean “not far away” or “not long ago”? –  Annoyed Nov 12 '13 at 15:19
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

First of all you should compare what's comparable. There are no ICE-like high-speed trains in Poland. Compare the IC fares to the fares you may be used to from Polish IC trains. Also note that generally speaking, the cost of living is higher in Germany than in Poland. This means that plenty of things are more expensive in the Germany than in Poland.

The strategy to find a "cheap" ticket, for IC or ICE trains, is the same as if you are looking for "cheap" flight tickets. The earlier you book the more chances you have to make a good deal. Moreover, avoid peak times, like Friday evening or Sunday evening. In the past I have made some good deals on Wednesdays ... Flexibility pays off. Also check the DB's search engine for saver fares.

If you travel frequently, you might consider to buy a Bahncard. This entitles you to discounted fares, as well as other advantages.

If you want to save money, have a look at alternatives. Have a look at what Ryanair and Wizzair propose, but also Germanwings. More generally, play a bit with Kayak. Also the classical airlines can have interesting fares ... The bus may also be an option. On the German side, you should have a look at Deutsche Touring or BerlinLinienBus. There may also be Polish bus companies operating between Poland and Germany.

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My experience is that European flights with the classical companies know to be cheaper than some low-costs, and remember that low-costs have very strict (and expensive) policy on baggage. –  tohecz Nov 11 '12 at 20:02
    
My claim above is not that the "low-cost" airlines are always cheaper than the "classical" ones. Hence my suggestion to use kayak. It depends on a lot of parameters. I also admit that the situation was better some time ago. For instance, Ryanair had direct and really cheap flights from Hahn to Wroclaw, Gdansk and Rzeszow. That was really cool. Unfortunately they have stopped these routes. –  PERSONA NON GRATA Nov 11 '12 at 21:45
    
I don't argue with that, I only add my two cents. Be sure that if I disagreed with something, you would easily recognize that. –  tohecz Nov 11 '12 at 22:31
    
Thanks for adding them! Anyway, your point is good and too often overlooked. –  PERSONA NON GRATA Nov 11 '12 at 22:36
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Book early.

Most tickets can be bought up to 90 days in advance. Some tickets can be bought only on shorter notice, and some tickets on even longer notice. The cheapest rates get sold first, so you want to be the first to buy the ticket after it becomes available.

Cheap domestic tickets (on any train) are called Sparpreis and exist in domestic and international forms. This is distinct from the Länder-tickets, that are cheap group tickets but do not permit entrance on fast trains (and are thus not practical for intercity travel). You can read more about domestic Sparpreis-tickets here.

Cheap international tickets are called Europa-Spezial and are valid if either starting point or destination is outside Germany (but not both). They exist for all neighbouring countries of Germany and a few further countries (for example, Sparpreis Schweden offers cheap tickets to Sweden). Those are available on limited connections though a special interface. Those tickets are between any station in Germany to a selection of stations abroad (usually those served by direct trains from Germany, or possibly with a single change, but not more). In your case you should be interested in the Europa-Spezial Polen which offers trains between Poland and Germany from €19. For example, booking now for mid-January finds Warszawa–München for €49. See also @neo's comment below to save more money.

Cheap tickets for night trains are available directly through the CityNightLine interface as soon as tickets become available.

Note that, just like for airfares, with cheap tickets you might want to carefully check the flexibility. You might not be able to change or cancel a cheap ticket, or only at considerable cost. However, if you are going to travel a lot in a short time, consider getting a railpass, such as Interrail or Eurail; then you need only the reservations in addition, which are very cheap (a few euro for a day train) and fully refundable.

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You can cancel any Sparpreisticket for 15€ up until the day before the first leg. In addition, if you want to travel to/from a city near border consider booking a Europaspezial to a foreign town (and add your destination as a via), this is often considerably cheaper. Sparpreistickets can be discounted by 25% with a BahnCard 25 (either the regular one, but most times there are promotions for 4 months @ 20-30€). If you travel more often consider buying a BahnCard50, which gives you 50% discount on flexible passes only (which can bought until departure and returned for free until the day before). –  neo Nov 6 '12 at 18:18
    
Hmm, @neo I wasn't aware of those cancellation rules. –  gerrit Nov 6 '12 at 19:35
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It is expensive,traveeling by train in Germany. You can get special offers by booking days in advance http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany/dauer-spezial.shtml

If you are commuting there are special discounts: http://www.bahn.de/p/view/angebot/pendler/uebersicht.shtml?dbkanal_025=1&dbkanal_007=L01_S01_D001_KIN0014_top-navi-pendlerangebote_LZ01

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