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I want to go to Berlin to Gottingen by train. I found that to avail myself of the “savings fare”, I have to book a ticket at least one day in advance. And I saw a requirement on the Bahn website to have a identification card for online tickets.

I am a foreigner in Germany, so does my passport count as valid identification in German trains?

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Passports are (unusually!) not enough. From the DB site:

In order to book online tickets you need:

An identification card (BahnCard, bahn.bonus Card, credit cards*, ec-card/Maestro or ID card**) for booking via Internet and as identification during fare controls on the train.

  • The ID cards of the following countries can be used as identification on the train: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and the Czech Republic.
  • Passports are not accepted as identification documents.

So book with a credit card, bring the credit card with you, and you'll be fine.

  • 2
    If you buy a ticket from the main Austrian railway operator (ÖBB), different rules apply, which may allow this. Also, some many DB (German railway) train conductors are reasonable people and will let you "get away" with it although the rules of the DB exclude the usage of passports. However, in the latter case, don't count on it! I've seen some train conductors that follow the rules in a strict way and ask you to buy a new ticket on-board. Using a credit card is in fact the safe way to go. – DCTLib May 11 '15 at 7:56
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    Actually, I just checked my emails from back then, I ended up paying 20 euro extra in order to buy the exact same tickets from the Austrian website that didn't have this limitation. Maybe I should delete my above comment, it could be misleading. – downhand May 11 '15 at 7:59
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    I'm surprised they can legally have this kind of limitation, like arbitrarily deciding that some countries ID cards are ok and some others are not: I would expect Shengen not to allow this… – o0'. May 11 '15 at 9:09
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    @Lohoris Schengen has absolutely nothing at all to do with this. Other EU rules generally might but then it's not about ID, it's about having a machine-readable token so the restriction isn't arbitrary and foreign credit cards can be used (+1 that's the solution to the OP's problem). – Relaxed May 11 '15 at 9:36
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    You don't even have to pay with the same credit card, you can enter the credit card number for verification independently of the payment method. (This might be useful if you buy a ticket for someone else.) – Paŭlo Ebermann May 19 '15 at 20:53
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In addition to jpatokal's good answer, it should be added that there is also the possibility to buy a saver fare over the telephone.

http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/home/contact/international_service_hotline.shtml

Normally, when ordering a ticket via the phone, you receive a code that you can type into a ticket vending machine prior to departure to receive a paper ticket. No form of identification is required in this case. However, the code can only be used once, so must be kept secret and you shouldn't lose the paper ticket. The particular website linked to above however states that the travel documents will be made available for collection in ticket offices, which can be found in train stations at the major hubs. The following website however states that vending-machine pickup can be used:

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/prices/onlineticket/how-to-buy-a-ticket.shtml

It should be noted that the phone number listed on both sites is not a standard landline number and may cost a lot to be called from abroad.

Some travel agents abroad also have a DB license and should be able to sell you a saver fare ticket.

  • For calling from abroad, you may be able to save money by calling with Skypeout or a similar service. – gerrit Jun 21 '16 at 11:55
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the identification card needs to be swipeable, and passports do not meeting this criteria.

The identification card is swiped at the same time that the online ticket is scanned by the conductor, and this data is saved by DB. This helps ensure the ticket is being used by the person it was intended for.

I personally have never seen a conductor let this slide. It's not a matter of them being reasonable, it's their job to enforce these rules to guard against fraud and theft, and they take that seriously. You should too.

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I thought it was quite clear in their terms and conditions. One form of ID, and the easiest for anyone who isn't German or living in Germany, is the debit or credit card that you used for paying the tickets. (They don't actually want to know who you are, they want to make sure that you don't buy cheap tickets and sell them on, and a credit or debit card works just fine for that purpose. No passports accepted / required. No ID whatsoever or names / addresses required for other people travelling on the same ticket, only ID for the purchaser).

  • "they want to make sure that you don't buy cheap tickets and sell them on" - that's not the only point, because then it wouldn't make any sense that you have to choose the exact identification card before the trip. Another main purpose is that you have to choose one identification card that is unique - the online tickets themselves are simple PDF files, and unless they are linked to a token that is guaranteed to be unique, nothing would stop a group of passengers from printing the same ticket several times and traveling in different cars of the train. – O. R. Mapper Oct 26 '16 at 21:50

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