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I'm meeting someone in Berlin 2 days after I finish my university courses of an exchange program in Switzerland near Basel. I'd like to visit another city before getting to Berlin.

I'd like to see a list of destinations I can get to by train and sort them by lowest price. If possible, I'd like to minimize the price from that city to Berlin.

I would want:

  1. Basel --> X (day 1)

  2. X --> Berlin (day 2 or 3)

such that the train travel cost is minimal, given that I have a Swiss Half-tax card (which gives me 25% rebate on any trip from Switzerland to Germany).

I know that websites exist to sort flights in this way (e.g. skyscanner.com). I would like such a website for trains. Do they exist?

  • The first time I travelled in Germany I remember researching so many tickets to find the cheapest for me and two travellers who were to accompany me and then finally found Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket which cost us 35 EUR at that time (and EUR 44 now), the reasson I say is because it would be very tough to compare train tickets that way – skv Dec 1 '14 at 18:03
  • Those are only valid from midnight to 3 am right? Here's what I get from this page (bahn.de/p/view/angebot/regio/schoenes_wochenende_ticket.shtml): Wann ist mein Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket gültig? Mit dem Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket können Sie samstags oder sonntags von 0 Uhr bis 3 Uhr des Folgetages reisen. – Pertinax Dec 1 '14 at 18:15
  • Saturdays OR Sundays from 0.00 am until 3 am the following day I don't know if that's the same thing in German – skv Dec 1 '14 at 18:18
  • For weekdays, the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket works exactly like the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket. The only difference is that it's only valid after 9 AM (i.e. after the morning rush hour). – Relaxed Dec 1 '14 at 19:24
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Since you are starting from Switzerland, if you book far in advance (or you are lucky), you can get to anywhere in Germany for as little as EUR 39 with an Europa-Spezial-Ticket (it's a non-changeable fare valid only on a specific train and the website also mentions an additional 25% discount on that for passengers with a discount card). On most distances, that would beat anything else, including internal discount fares or regular tickets with a rail card discount.

The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (mentioned in the comments) and the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket or regional discount fares give you more flexibility but they are not valid on long-distance trains and only really cheap when travelling with a group. One big advantage is that they are still available on the day of travel itself. Costs are EUR 44 for up to five people (so obviously much cheaper for a group but slightly more expensive than the best Europa-Spezial fares if you are alone).

The Europa-Spezial fare does not depend directly on distance (tickets to or from German stations close to the border costs EUR 19 or 29 but beyond that the price stays the same) so if you want to save money, you should use it to cover most of the distance and get as close to Berlin as possible. One approach could be to go all the way to some place in Brandenburg or Mecklemburg-Vorpommern and then use a cheap ticket or discount fare to reach Berlin afterwards (a Brandenburg-Berlin ticket works like a Schönes-Wochenende or Quer-durchs-Land ticket but only in Brandenburg and Berlin and can be had for EUR 29 or even EUR 22 if you only travel after 6 PM).

Or maybe use the Europa-Spezial ticket to go to Hamburg, Dresden or Leipzig and then a regular ticket to Berlin (a bit more expensive of course but potentially more interesting if you want to use this opportunity to discover Germany). Regular price from Hamburg to Berlin (second class in high-speed trains) is EUR 78, but there is also an EUR 45 non-changeable discount fare if you book in advance (and possibly a 25% discount on that as well).

Finally, you could also go to a city out of Germany (like you suggested in the comments) to get two Europa-Spezial ticket. In Basel, the Badischer Bahnhof counts as a German station so a trip like Basel Bad-Brussels would be a trip from Germany to Belgium, eligible for this special fare.

To try other combinations, you can use bahn.de. There is also a search widget called the Sparpreis-Finder (“discount fare finder”) to compare available fares easily if you are flexible on the time.

  • The RailPlus/Halbtax is also valid for Europa-Spezial-Ticket (when booking, the option is offered). – Vince Dec 1 '14 at 19:23
  • @Relaxed Through your Europa-Spezial-Ticket link, I seem to only find trains that leave German cities, rather than Swiss cities. Am I missing something? – Pertinax Dec 1 '14 at 19:53
  • @TheThunderChimp The offer is valid both ways but the website is not terribly user-friendly. You can find them by going to the Sparpreis-Finder then clicking “Start oder Ziel außerhalb Deutschlands”, selecting “Schweiz” and then Basel SBB as departure station. Unfortunately, I don't find many of them in December so if you were planning to travel soon my solution might not apply. You can even buy Europa-Spezial tickets directly from the SBB (at least I can buy them from NS). – Relaxed Dec 1 '14 at 19:56
  • I found Basel-Prague for 49 euros followed by Prague-Berlin for 29 euros. That would imply two nights on a train back to back. Any thoughts? – Pertinax Dec 1 '14 at 20:12
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    @TheThunderChimp Do check the details of the connection before booking though. If you take a “City Night Line” train and stay in the same train all night, it's not too bad but switching trains multiple times and waiting several hours somewhere in the middle of the night is something else. – Relaxed Dec 2 '14 at 13:35

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