I was wondering if it's possible to buy the ticket on board. I have to get a train at the airport and even if everything goes very well it will be tight. Can I buy it on board from the supervisor (or any other method)?


5 Answers 5


Short Answer

Yes! Typically you will find a ticket conductor on-board who will check tickets in the start. Try to contact him beforehand in order to ensure risk free travel. The ticket conductor can help you purchase a ticket on-board the train. The ticket will be a little bit more expensive, but it is certainly possible.

This is clearly mentioned on the Deutsche Bahn website,

If you're really in a hurry, you can buy your ticket on Deutsche Bahn's trains. These tickets cost slightly more than conventional tickets bought before departure, but you can pay either in cash or by credit card. Certain special offers are not available on trains. NB: if buying a ticket worth over EUR 50, you are required to present either your passport, national ID, or your BahnCard. One final tip: if travelling by local train or suburban rail services (S-Bahn), you need to buy your ticket before boarding your train.

As Deutsche Bahn mentions, make sure the train you are trying to board is not a local train (you will have to pay a penalty fare if you are found in these without a ticket, costing double the ticket price or at least 40 EUR). The local trains include Interregio-Express, Regional-Express, Regionalbahn, S-Bahn.

For the IC, ICE, ICN this would be completely valid and applicable and is a great lifesaver!

Trains with Reservations

Some trains mandate reservations, such as the ICE-Sprinter or the City Night Line. You must ask the ticket conductor for permission and ensure that there are empty seats on the train before getting comfortable in the train. Typically it's easy to check if a seat has been reserved for someone. The reservation detail is shown by a display on top of the seat. All trains however do not offer this feature.

This means that you cannot go and grab a seat and wait for the train to start moving before you purchase the ticket from the ticket conductor.

If empty seats are available on such a train and you are able to purchase a ticket (along with a reservation), the ticket conductor will allow you to travel on the train. If you are found on a train which has mandatory reservation and has no empty seats, you will be asked to de-board on the next station.

An ICE-Sprinter (or CNL) is never absolutely necessary in order to reach from Point A to Point B, but just in case you do take one of these trains, you want to avoid unnecessary problems.

DB is not the only operator in Germany

You must also take note that a significant portion of stock operated in Germany is not operated by Deutsche Bahn (information provided by @Tor-EinarJarnbjo). Deutsche Bahn owns about 34,000 km of the 41,000 km of railway track in Germany, but many other private companies run their stock on this network as well.

Alas, Deutsche Bahn does not operate most of the regional trains anymore in Germany, but most of the operators apply the same DB rules (and in addition the regional "Verkehrsverbund" rules). There are only five (in near future only four) non-DB long distance services in Germany not operated by DB, but none of them stops at any airport. (information provided by @neo)

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    First of all, this only applies to trains operated by Deutsche Bahn. There are several other train operators in Germany, each with their own regulations where and when to buy tickets. The statement is not even true for all DB long distance trains. Some of them, especially the ICE Sprinter and night trains often have obligatory seat reservations and tickets are not available in the train if they are full. You must at least check this with the conductor before departure. Jul 22, 2014 at 8:03
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    If a train with mandatory reservations is full, you won't get a ticket, but noone will stop you from getting on the train (contrary to what you wrote in your edited answer). In Germany, there is usually no ticket control when entering the train and it is up to the passenger to either have a valid ticket or be sure to be able to buy a ticket on the train. You are also wrong in your statement that DB operates most of the national network. DB owns 34.000 km of the network, but private companies are running their stock on most of it. Jul 22, 2014 at 8:59
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    You wrote that "if they have empty seats on the train, they'll let you in" and I found that statement utterly confusing, since there is neither no one there to let you in if there are free seats on the train, nor is anybody there to prevent you from boarding if the train is full. And when it comes to DB operations, what is "it"? Are you talking about the network or the trains and if you are still clinging to DB owning most of the rail network, what relation does that have to who operates the trains? Jul 22, 2014 at 17:52
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    Please note that although the DB does not operate most of the regional trains anymore in Germany, most of the operators apply the same DB rules (and in addition the regional "Verkehrsverbund" rules). There are only five (in near future only four) non-DB long distance services in Germany not operated by DB, but none of them stops at any airport.
    – neo
    Jul 22, 2014 at 20:29
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    Please note that the comments should not be used for extensive discussions. Please take that to the chat. Jul 23, 2014 at 8:29

If the train is a Deutsche Bahn service and is operated with a conductor yes, but it costs an additional fee.

But in many local trains of Deutsche Bahn and other services, there is no regular conductor onboard. In these trains riding without a ticket is always considered fare dodging (which costs double the ticket price, or 40 EUR, whichever is greater).

But for Deutsche Bahn you can buy an so-called "Online-Ticket" in advance. You need a credit card to identify yourself in the train, so make sure to bring the credit card with you.

  • 5
    fare dodging costs the double ticket price, but at least 40 EUR.
    – Dirty-flow
    Jul 22, 2014 at 7:00
  • " no regular conductor onboard" So, how do they check if you have paid? Jul 22, 2014 at 17:03
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    @QuoraFeans Random sampling. Sometimes there is a conductor on a train who checks the tickets.
    – Chris
    Jul 22, 2014 at 19:35
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    @QuoraFeans Basically there are two models. (1) Conductors on each train, possibly checking between each station and selling tickets at the regular price or with a small extra charge. (2) No “conductor” but random checks with a fine or a steep extra charge to make fare dodging less attractive. Local DB trains and other train operators in Europe have moved to the second model, whereas the first one used to be more common.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:51
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    @O.R.Mapper Yes, I see, upon reading it once more the sentence does seem a bit odd.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:52

It depends on the type of train, as noted in Aditya Somani's answer. In ICE, IC and EC trains you can buy a ticket in the train without problem (but the ticket will be more expensive than if you bought it online or in the station, see below). In local trains (Interregio-Express, Regional-Express, Regionalbahn, S-Bahn) there's usually a warning printed on the outside of the train: "Einstieg nur mit gültigem Fahrausweis" or something like that (It means "Only get into the train if you have a valid train ticket").

Note that in practice, you often can buy tickets in Regional-Express and Regional-Bahn trains, even if there was a warning to the contrary printed on the outside of the train, so long as you approach the ticket controller before he/she approaches you. I have often done this myself and seen other people do it. However, in theory you cannot, so you may not want to take the risk. If you do decide to do this, make sure to approach the controller rather than waiting for him or her to come to your seat! Note that this does not apply to S-bahn trains, where you will have to pay a fine if you are found without a ticket.

For Deutsche-Bahn trains, the rules are explained in the Conditions of Carriage (in German). In particular, Section 3.9 explains how much you will pay if you buy the ticket in the train:

  • In ICE and IC/EC trains you will pay the "Normalpreis" (what you would pay if you bought a ticket at the ticket counter in the station to travel the same day) + a supplement of 7.50 euros.

  • In trains of Product Class C (Interregio-Express, Regional-Express, Regionalbahn, S-Bahn) you will pay "Normalpreis" + 10% or at least 2 euros and at most 10 euros.

In practice, in IC/EC trains where you are travelling a short distance and the ticket costs less than about 10 euros, I have found that the 10% supplement is applied instead of the 7.50 euros supplement.

(Of course the fact that the Conditions of Carriage explain how much you should pay if you want to buy a ticket in an S-bahn contradicts the fact that you will certainly pay a fine if you get caught in the S-bahn without a ticket. I suppose only the people who actually made up the rules can explain this...)

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    Regarding your last paragraph: The 10% supplement only is applied while traveling using the "DB Tarif" (which is the document you have linked). In practice in most regions don't use that fare rules but rather a "Verbundtarif" (that's the case in most cities, see this map). Those have their own special rules, most often that you can't buy tickets on board regional trains. Outside those regions it is possible to buy tickets on board and the 40€ rule does not apply.
    – neo
    Jul 22, 2014 at 20:22

That depends on the special train. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself.

Please note that not all payment methods will be accepted on all trains. For example: on DB long-distance services you can only pay by cash or credit card but not with a German bank card (Girocard). On some local trains you can only pay with coins. So check before boarding.

By law you need to be able to get a ticket at the station if you are five minutes at the station before departure or no supplement may be imposed if you approach the conductor directly. In practice this rule may or may not be enforceable depending on your conductor that day.

Is the train named ICE 109x? (where x is any digit)

Sure. You need to pay the price of a regular ticket (Normalpreis), the ICE Sprinter supplement of 11,50€ and the on-board-supplement of 7,50€.

Is the train named ICE, IC, EC, TGV or RJ?

Great. You can buy a ticket on board for the regular price (Normalpreis) of the journey plus a supplement of 7,50€.

Note that some trains for example in Brandenburg or north western Lower Saxony accept regional tickets. You can't buy those on board the train, but you'll still get the pricier long-distance ticket.

Is the train named CNL or EN?

You can get a ticket and night train supplement on board for an additional supplement of 7,50€ if there are still tickets available. Talk to the conductor before boarding.

Is the train named THA?

This train is not operated by Deutsche Bahn. You can get a ticket on board for a 25€ supplement. You need to go to the conductor before or directly after boarding.

You can't get a ticket from a Deutsche Bahn counter or ticket machine.

Is the train named X?

This train is not operated by Deutsche Bahn. You can get a ticket for a special price which is higher than the one in advance.

You can't get a ticket from a Deutsche Bahn counter or ticket machine. There are some other machines selling those tickets.

Is the train named HEX and you are between Genthin and Berlin?

This train is not operated by Deutsche Bahn. You can get a ticket on board for the regular price.

You can't get a ticket from a Deutsche Bahn counter or ticket machine.

Is the train named HKX?

You can get a ticket for a special price which is higher than the one in advance.

You can't get a ticket from a Deutsche Bahn counter or ticket machine. There are some other machines selling those tickets.

Are you traveling by any other train?

This is a local service which may be operated by any company.

The rules are much to complex to list here, would fill books (or rather do fill books), and differ by region, train operator, and even station you boarded. If there is a ticket machine at your station you most likely can't get a ticket on board the train. On some lines you can buy tickets at the conductor or at a machine inside the train but those are rather rare nowadays.

Of course you can board the train and pay the double fare or 40€, whichever is higher. If you do this to dodge the fare, this is an offense under the German criminal code. If you do this in good faith it is not.

  • +1 I hope this site has gained another valuable member in you. Thanks for all the suggestions you provided earlier and keep visiting! Jul 23, 2014 at 1:38
  • Would you mind rewriting the first sentence to something like “It's generally possible but it depends on the specific train”? It would be more informative than “as always, it depends” (because it does not always depend, in some countries/train companies, it's not possible at all and Germany is notable in that it's possible in most cases) and would make the answer even better. +1 in any case.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:41
  • Sure. That happens when you try to use idiomatic German.
    – neo
    Jul 23, 2014 at 18:56

There are only few trains with ticket machines and they are not always working.

But you can download the DB-App (DB Navigator) and buy a ticket with your smartphone. The problem is that smartphone tickets cannot be booked for journeys within local transport associations. So if you need a ticket for a short trip, you need to download an app from the local transport association (if available).

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    Please note that you need to register for this service and need a credit card, BahnCard, German bank card, or some of few European identification card to use this service. The tickets are the same "Normalpreis" tickets that can be booked online on bahn.de. If you can book "Handy-Tickets" you can book "Online Tickets" in advance, the same rules apply.
    – neo
    Jul 22, 2014 at 20:25

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