12

When I was in Frankfurt some time back, I was planning a budget weekend trip to European countries and for this I was trying to get a best deal for ICE trains out of DeutscheBahn. Out of all the typical options for best deals, there is one particular thing I noticed:

The ticket machines at central train station were listing reduced fare for high speed trains to neighboring countries (Paris, Amsterdam, Spain etc) for the same day for as little as 28 euros.

I never got a chance to buy it but it was pretty surprising to see such a discount on tickets which otherwise cost 129-139 euros. The only reason i was not taking ICE trains was because of its high price but if i can score this reduced fare...

So my questions:

  • Best way of getting the lowest fares on high speed connections (overnight and for solo traveller)
  • Any other charges associated after buying these tickets ?
  • The whole process (never been on ICE trains)
  • 2
    Book 92 days out and get the cheap advanced purchase tickets? – Gagravarr Sep 7 '16 at 11:28
  • 4
    I somehow doubt that Spain was among the destinations. – mts Sep 7 '16 at 12:01
  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/q/16/19 – VMAtm Sep 7 '16 at 15:56
6

There is no 'trick' to getting the best price, except the earlier you book the better price you get, but that is true with pretty much all travel booking. You will typically find lower prices at less popular times of the day. Prices at the ticket machines are the same as the prices online(at http://bahn.hafas.de). You can sometimes get an even cheaper price by asking the planner for routes not including ICE trains, then it will use IC trains instead. If you are taking a lot of trips, you can get a BahnCard 25, which costs €62 gives a 25% discount on all fares for a year.

There are no compulsory extra fees you have pay, but you will have to pay an extra €4.50 if you want a seat reservation.

The difference between the reduced price tickets and the full price is that with the reduced price ticket you have to take exactly the train specified, with a full price you can take any train on that route that has the same or lower category. (ICE > EC/IC > RE/R)

  • 1
    How is this the accepted answer when there is in fact a very useful trick that's not even mentioned: the Sparpreis-Finder?! – Relaxed Sep 7 '16 at 21:22
  • This answer is partially wrong, if you book too far in advance (>90-120 days) you miss out on the mentioned saver fare (Sparpreis). -1 until corrected – mts Sep 8 '16 at 7:15
11

The Sparpreis-Europa (ex-EuropaSpezial) fares might be a good solution. You can search for these using the Sparpreis-Finder. If you only want to try the ICE without necessarily going abroad, there is also a similar type of discounted fares for domestric travel.

In both cases, you have to book long in advance, be somewhat flexible with timing and commit to a specific train as there are a limited number of tickets for each train and you generally cannot change them.

Note that the fare you found at the machine was probably different, because I think that Sparpreis tickets must be booked at least the day before.

3

If you can't get a "Sparpreis" or if you are planning a longer trip, a eurail pass might be for you. If you are from Europe, an interrail pass is the equivalent but cheaper version of the eurail pass for Europeans.

You can choose which countries you'd like to visit and how many days with train travel you will have (like 5 train travel days within a month).

For a weekend trip from Frankfurt to Paris and back, Sparpreis will probably be cheaper, but as soon as you add a third city, start comparing prices with the eurail/interrail passes.

  • 1
    If you book early or get the special deals on offer now, you need more than 3 legs of travel to get a good deal out of an Eurail pass. Check whether you qualify for an InterRail pass, which is for residents of Europe. – Willeke Sep 7 '16 at 20:06
  • @Willeke Thanks for pointing out interrail. I added it in. Of course if you book early and travel during the less busy times of the day, you can often get a combo of special deal tickets which will be cheaper than eurail/interrail, but imho you should start comparing with eurail/interrail as soon as you start planning a multi city trip. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Sep 8 '16 at 5:01
  • It says that only European residents can buy interrail passes. I will be in Germany with a schengen visa. – ishan Sep 8 '16 at 5:30
  • @ishan Yes, that means you'll need to use the eurail passes instead - or the normal or discounted tickets by Deutsche Bahn and other train companies. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Sep 8 '16 at 5:34
1
  1. Right now they have the special you have mentioned going on right now. If you want to book. I recommend booking 3 months in advance. Here is the link to the discount Deutsche bahn https://www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml
  2. ?

  3. You should have your booked ticket printed. or have the deutsche bahn app with your ticket Info and QR code. In the ICE they check your ticket. (most of the time) You should be on the platform before the Departure time as most of the time the trains are on time. In the train station there usually is a board that says where your train is leaving and if it is on time. You can also use the Deutsche Bahn app.

1

Aside from booking three months ahead, taking early morning and late-evening trains and using the Sparpreisfinder, you can also optimise for day (and date) of travel.

Typically, Fridays and Sundays will be high-volume travel dates with a lot of the cheap tickets sold out very quickly. By contrast, if you travel Tuesdays or Thursdays the cheaper tickets are available for a much longer time.

  • 1
    @pnuts They can, but it’s rare. However, I have had my share of weekends when going home (~600 km) was suddenly twice as expensive even though I booked early. – Jan Sep 9 '16 at 0:11
  • Especially around Christmas, the cheap tickets for many connections sell out during the first couple of days they are available, but you can still get cheap tickets for a few weeks after that if you are willing to travel very early or late in the day. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Sep 9 '16 at 5:46
  • @pnuts For high-volume days (Friday and around holidays) the cheapest tickets are usually not offered at all. – neo Sep 9 '16 at 13:48
  • 2
    @pnuts Friday afternoon is by far the fullest time on trains, so they don't need to sell cheap tickets to fill the seats. Additionally, there are quite a few people that weekend-commute with saver fares. – neo Sep 9 '16 at 14:04

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