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I will be doing a bit of Interrailing in Germany over August, I'll take IC/ICEs on a bunch of occasions, and I'm debating getting a seat reservation on those.

I am fine being limited to that specific train, but I was wondering if there is a way to gauge how full a train/route usually is to see if a seat reservation in advance would be worth it.

The concerned routes are Stuttgart-Munich and Munich-Ulm

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  • You are not necessarily limited to the train you have made a reservation on. You could buy a Flexpreis ticket, which allows you to travel on any train on that day, plus a specific reservation. Then you could take a different train, but of course then you would not have a reservation. (You could even buy two or more reservations on different trains that day, so you are sure to have a seat, but with a Flexpreis are flexible about the train.) Jun 27, 2023 at 2:52
  • @StephanKolassa Yes, I have an Interrail pass actually Jun 27, 2023 at 4:16
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    Seat reservations are merely 4.50€ with DB. I would feel much better being out 4.50 for nothing than standing in a crowded train for hours.
    – 11684
    Jun 27, 2023 at 19:24
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    Heck, @11684, 4.50€ is probably the cost of a beverage in the station and most people wouldn't blink at that...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 18, 2023 at 16:01

3 Answers 3

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If you use DB's online search (reiseauskunft.bahn.de), you will see an estimate right underneath the travel times. screenshot of DB website showing "high occupancy expected" Orthogonal to your question title, but given that you debate getting a reservation, I want to add the following:

I found those estimates on the website to be not very reliable and prefer the following rule of thumb: In the middle of the week during the day, seat reservations are often not necessary. On a friday afternoon and on weekends, you really should get a reservation. The above screenshot shows a trip on a friday afternoon, taken on monday morning. The same train on monday afternoon (on the day the picture was taken) shows "medium occupancy expected".

Especially with short trips (and I do consider the trips you are planning short) and if you're travelling alone, you often get lucky finding a seat without a reservation with the following hints:

  • Actually read the reservations. Especially with the Munich-Ulm trip, you could get lucky and find a seat that's only reserved starting in Ulm or even later. Using that seat between Munich and Ulm is fine.
  • As a single traveller, it is easier to find a seat. Don't be shy and ask people if the seat next to them is taken (unless you can see it's reserved).
  • Look for seats marked "ggf. freigeben" ("clear if necessary"). Those are used for short-term reservations, and might or might not be taken.
  • Another option is to look for "Bahn comfort". They are "reserved" for frequent travellers collecting bonus points, but I have never been asked to clear such a seat.
  • You can also try the restaurant, although to be fair towards others, you should at least get a drink if you decide to sit there.
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    During the COVID-19 pandemic, DB recalibrated the levels they call high occupancy, very high occupancy, or extraordinarily high occupancy. When they estimate high occupancy, it's not actually very high.
    – gerrit
    Jun 26, 2023 at 11:35
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    @gerrit It's not only that "high occupancy" isn't very high, but my brother travelled on trains with "high occupancy" that were half empty and on others with "medium occupancy" where all seats were taken. Admittedly, that might be due to delays and missed connections, forcing people to take another train than the one they booked a ticket for.
    – Sabine
    Jun 26, 2023 at 18:43
  • "Actually read the reservations." note on that: the reservation is often written on the side of the seat, which I guess is what you're referring to? (It's also occasionally either not working or plain wrong)
    – njzk2
    Jun 27, 2023 at 19:32
  • Bahn comfort seats are usually in the second class car next to the first class/the restaurant. So you can get in there any try your luck.
    – Christian
    Jun 28, 2023 at 10:51
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I occasionally travel this route.

Munich-Ulm: The trains usually start in Munich, so you will find plenty of seats.

Stuttgart-Munich: Especially around weekends, you might want to reserve a seat. Trains usually have traveled through half of Germany, so there will be many passengers on board. Unfortunately, this also means that there is a (very) high probability of trains being late, so you might end up using another train, without your reserved seat, and lots of other delayed passengers. Check the DB app early and look for alternatives.

In general, I look at the train schedule to see where the train starts - just click on the train number in the connection details.

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  • The train I'm set to go on comes from Münster to go to Munich... I might get a seat reservation, just in case it doesn't end up getting delayed that much Jun 26, 2023 at 10:07
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Having done the Stuttgart-Munich stretch of the journey, I would recommend getting a reservation, especially if you take the 10:14 ICE. This is because the international ICE coming from Paris arrives a few minutes earlier and many people from that train transfer to the Munich train

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