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I posted a question (Driving into Germany over Easter weekend) about getting to Saarbrücken for a demoscene party and it looks like flying might actually be the cheapest option. I can get to Frankfurt-Hahn airport (HHN) for £92 return from London, but it's about 100km away from Saarbrücken.

I'm pretty sure I can get a train or bus, but I'd much rather use a train due to the chronic motion-sickness I tend to suffer on buses. And yes, I've tried pretty much every trick and medication in the book, but that's another story.

Are there any direct(-ish) trains from Frankfurt-Hahn to Saarbrücken, and how much are they likely to cost?

Any other tips for travelling on trains in Germany are welcome too. I shouldn't have too much trouble with the language though - my conversational German is pretty poor, but I can ask for directions to most things and understand simple responses (at about the "erste straße rechts" level, at least).

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You'll need to take a bus/taxi anyway as there's no railway station at/near HHN (sorry, forgot that when commenting on your other question). Given the complexity of routes involving a train, I'd seriously consider bus only options even even if you much prefer trains (makes little sense to spend 2.5-5 hrs for ~100 km in Germany). –  Jonik Nov 23 '11 at 12:30
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up vote 13 down vote accepted

First of all, a disclaimer: while you're probably right that flying to Hahn is the cheapest option, it almost certainly isn't the easiest option. If getting to and from Hahn airport sounds too awful to you, consider paying a bit more to fly to Paris (from where you can take a bullet train to Saarbrücken in under two hours) or to Frankfurt am Main (there are trains that go from Saarbrücken direct to Frankfurt airport in two and a half hours; you'll pay around €30 one way).

I lived in Saarbrücken as a student for four years, and often traveled to Hahn for RyanAir flights. Unfortunately, Hahn is in the middle of nowhere (and "Frankfurt" is a total misnomer), and the airport is quite hard to get to. For a while there was a fairly convenient direct bus connection from the train station in Saarbrücken to Hahn airport, but this stopped running about a year ago. Now you're left with a set of not-so-appealing options for travel between Hahn and good ol' SB. You will have to take a bus for part of your journey.

The go-to webpage is Hahn airport's list of bus connections. The map there is clickable, and will show you current bus schedules and prices from the various operators that serve the airport. The other page to look at is Deutsche Bahn, as mentioned by another poster here already.

Basically, there are four options that make any kind of sense. The travel times and prices I'm giving here are from the last trip to Saarbrücken I did (in early October), so your mileage may vary.

  1. Travel via Idar-Oberstein. The cheapest option, fairly direct, takes about four and a half hours in all. There's only four or five buses a day, so you spend time waiting at the airport for the bus (€7.70 one way) and in Idar-Oberstein waiting for the train (€13.90).
  2. Travel via Trier. Slightly more expensive, and slightly faster, takes about four hours. There's seven buses a day on this connection (€12 one way), and more trains running through Trier (€15.80). Maddeningly, the airport bus drops you next to the Autobahn (the stop is called "Trier-Nord, Nells Park"); to get to the train station, you can choose between a 2.2 km walk (about 30 minutes), or a 15 minute city bus ride (seems to be lines 30 or 86, but you can check the website yourself).
  3. Travel via Bullay (Cochem). Never tried this one myself, but it's attractive because there's so many buses running that you might be able to do the trip in three and a half hours. The bus to Bullay is €6.80 one way, and the train from Bullay to Saarbrücken is about €25.
  4. Travel via Mainz. This makes almost no sense at all, except if you're arriving or leaving really early in the morning or really late at night (quite conceivable if you're using cheap flights). The trip will take you at least five hours, I think, and you'll pay €12 for the bus and €28.50 for the train. Personally, I'd rather sleep in the airport, but to each his own.

As for your other questions, I wouldn't worry at all. While people in the Pfalz and the Saarland might speak less English than in other parts of Germany, you'll often find somebody who can. If you have a few words of German, that'll help a whole lot (for instance, if you're trying to find the "Bahnhof"). Trains in Germany are brilliant: they're usually on time, and I think they are a bit cheaper than trains in the UK. The touchscreen ticket machines in train stations can print a travel itinerary for you with times and platform numbers. Of course, don't sit in first class if you've bought a second class ticket.

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He is right about the "cheap flights" option into Frankfurt-Hahn. It's certainly not so cheap anymore if you also factor in the price for the other required transport options that get you where you really want to go; plus it usually takes you much longer than taking the direct route. –  iHaveacomputer Nov 24 '11 at 6:49
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You can use the website of Deutsche Bahn, the german rail operator. You're right, it's only a little bit over 100 kilometers, but all the trains I could find are between 2.5 and 5 hours. So it will really take some time to get there.

Concerning the language, I think it shouldn't be a problem. In Germany you'll almost always find somebody that speaks a little bit of English, and if you understand basic German you won't have any problem to find your way.

Your journey costs between 14 and 30 Euros (depending on the exact train) for one way.

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Thanks, though, don't you mean the language shouldn't be a problem? Also, how much do trains tend to cost in Germany? In the UK they're quite expensive... –  Polynomial Nov 23 '11 at 11:45
    
Ah yes sorry that's a typo. I edited my answer to include prices. –  RoflcoptrException Nov 23 '11 at 11:59
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In addition to wildwilhelm's rather complete answer I would like to add the following option. You can travel by bus to Luxembourg and then take a bus to Saarbrücken. The price for Hahn - Luxembourg is 22 EUR if bought on the bus and between 5 and 19 EUR if booked in advance. Luxembourg - Saarbrücken is 8 EUR. This ticket can be bought on the bus. The travel time will be at the very least 3h30, but you will only have to change once.

I think that train travel in Germany is less expensive than in the UK. If you are flexible and a bit lucky, you can even make a bargain. Anyway, it is comfortable and convenient. More information can be found on the webpage of the Deutsche Bahn. On that page you will also fins information about available offers.

As an alternative, you might consider to travel by bus. Two well-known companies are Deutsche Touring and Berlinienbus.

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