I am looking to make a train booking from Brussels to Dusseldorf. Only direct train available is Thalys which is quite expensive, so i am looking to make 1 stop bookings via Cologne or Aachen.

But in all the options available the changeover from Cologne or Aachen is for just 15-16 minutes. Below is an example:

14:25 Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels)

16:15 Köln Hbf (Cologne Main station)

ICE 17

16 min transfer time

16:31 Köln Hbf (Cologne Main station)

17:01 Düsseldorf Hbf (Main station)

RE 10524

My worry is that if train from Brussels to cologne is slightly late then i will miss my train to Dusseldorf.

While booking train, i can see option of not making reservation and it says i need to search for my seat. I am not sure how this works.

Can someone please advice if its fine to make booking with connection time of just 15 minutes and if i miss my train from cologne then can i use same ticket in next train.

  • 1
    Just clarifying my understanding Thalys may be costly because its an overnight train, the combo you have sought is a day train, if you are accommodting yourself in a paid hotel, it may be worth looking at the cost of that night stay combined with the travel cost :), though it may be really late by the time the train reaches Brussels
    – skv
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 12:48
  • 2
    Thalys trains are fast trains, which sell tickets cheaper farther in advance and as more tickets are sold, the prices go up. As far as I know they do not run night trains.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


You can book this, it will be fine.

For the ICE (Inter-City express) part a reservation is optional. If you want to be sure of a seat, make a reservation. If you don't you may have to search a while for a seat that isn't occupied, and if the train is very full you may end up standing or sitting on your luggage next to the doors.

For the RE (Regional Express, local train) there are no reservations, you just find any free seat, or stand, or sit on the steps if the train is very full.

If you miss your connection you can definitely take the next RE or RB to Düsseldorf. You may also be able to take an ICE between Köln and Düsseldorf, as you have already paid the extra ICE price for most of your journey. If you are not sure, show your ticket to one of the ticket-inspectors and ask before you get on.

  • 1
    If you need a reservation depends highly on the day and time of your journey. But you can select the reservation and will be displayed a map of the train and all seats which are already reserved will be marked. If a lot are already reserved it is a good indicator that the train will be very full and you should book a reservation too!
    – Falco
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:26
  • 6
    If you miss a booked connection because of a delayed train, you are always entitled to use a higher class train for the rest of the journey than originally booked if you by that mean can reduce the total delay. It is not relevant if any previous or other part of the journey was booked for the train class you intend to use. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:04
  • 9
    @Tor-Einar Jarnbjo. I think "always" is slightly too strong. There seem to be various restrictions - see "wann darf der Reisende einen höherwertigen Zug benutzen": bahn.de/p/view/service/auskunft/fahrgastrechte/… . You certainly have more rights if you are delayed, but I will keep the advice of asking a ticket inspector to be on the safe side.
    – Fillet
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 10:23
  • 1
    @Fillet Ok, so the expected delay must be more than 20 minutes for you to be allowed to use a higher class train and the replacement train may not have a mandatory seat reservation (which is very rare in Germany anyway). Which other 'various restrictions' are you talking about? Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 10:51
  • 5
    If you have a Länderticket or Schönes-Wochenend-Ticket (or similar highly discounted tickets valid only on regional trains), you are not allowed to take higher class trains. If you have a regular ticket for regional trains and use an ICE or IC, you have to buy the ticket first and then can get it reimbursed.
    – dunni
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 11:19

The first train is a high speed train and requires booking. The second train however, seems to be a 'normal' train, which doesn't require a reservation. You can see this in the train service number, high speed trains are ice, thalys, eurostar, izy and tgv. High speed trains require reservation in most cases, except national ICE trains.

The re____ train service number stands for regional express. These trains are just national rail and don't require a reservation. (As @DCTLib noticed in the comments) Another option would be to book the 2 trains independently. This way you could still have the reservation, but choose how much time you leave between the trains.

Sources: German railways website, train travel in Belgium, The Netherlands, which is similar to train travel in Germany

  • 6
    This is incorrect. The German ICE does not require a reservation (but thalys does).
    – dirkk
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:14
  • Thanks for the feedback, I altered the answer. I based this upon departing High-Speed trains from Brussels (where ICE trains leave too), but ICE trains don't require reservations in Germany.
    – Bertware
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:32
  • 2
    Contrary to what is written in this answer, There is no way to get a reservation on an RE train between Cologne and Dusseldorf as an individual traveller, so there is always the risk of having to stand. And there is absolutely no need to book different tickets for the two trains - this will only cost extra, and the flexibility is the same (or even worse). If the RE is missed in Cologne, you can just hop on the next one or any later one on that day.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 11:58
  • @DCTLib Thanks for the correction, adjusted the answer accordingly, I misread the DB website
    – Bertware
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 12:30

There are a few things to consider here.

  1. The standard fare is a "flexible" fare. You get a ticket valid for a certain day, and can get on any train on the booked route on that day. So if your train is late, you can wait for the next one. An exception is if you choose to book one of the "savings offers", they frequently are only valid for the booked train ("Zugbindung"). But I think that you are still allowed to travel with the next train if you missed a connection by fault of the railway (your earlier train was late). different fares

  2. If you are worried about not getting a connection (because you booked a ticket with Zugbindung, or because there is no convenient next train) there is an option on the Deutsche Bahn booking page to specify the minimum number of minutes for a connection. The default will offer you as little as 5 minutes changing time, but you can change it and the system will only offer you the appropriate connections. enter image description here

  3. Connections from an ICE to a regional train are rarely problematic. ICEs are given priority for routing and don't regularly run late, and if they do, it is by about 5 minutes. If they do run late, it is frequently due to some major problem, and then it can be really long delays, you cannot very well defend against those. Regional trains will often wait for a late ICE so people can make their connection if they hurry.

I cannot tell you if the flexible fare or the train-specific fare is better for you, consider both (including the price difference and your anxiety levels when traveling) and decide what is optimal for yourself. If you find it confusing picking the right fare on the website, you are likely to be able to book a ticket by phone. This will cost you more though, and you have to allow time for the ticket to arrive by snailmail.

  • "If you are worried about not getting a connection (because you booked a ticket with Zugbindung," -> this give the wrong implication, if you miss a connecting train because of a delay the Zugbindung is no longer valid.
    – Florian
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 7:19
  • "The default will offer you as little as 5 minutes changing time" -> I have seen 4 minutes
    – Florian
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 7:20
  • @Florian I wasn't entirely sure that the Zugbindung is no longer valid, or how easy it is to use that rule in practice.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 7:56
  • Just FYI, the DB travel planner is available in English as well. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 10:54

If you have a ticket for a German regional train you can use it for all regional trains (not ICE or EC/IC) the same day. If you are in Aachen or Köln, there are many trains going to Köln or Düsseldorf, so if you miss one the next will come soon. And as others have said, no reservation on regional trains.

If you want the cheapest connection:

Look at the site of DB. https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml switch it to English (up in the first line left of the center is written Deutsch, clicking on it gives you a choice of languages. Fill out start, destination and the date/time fields. Below these lines untick the field prefer fast connections. Go down to the grey field further options on the new page opening go to Connections > more means of transport Click on more means of transport. Then some lines appear, untick the box ICE (this excludes all Thalys and ICE trains). Then you get cheaper trains, Belgian IC and German regional trains, but with an absurd in-between connection between Welkenraedt (B) and Aachen (D). This is the cheapest connection AFAIK. Takes 3:30 hours. If this is too long for you, take ICE or Thalys.

  • 1
    Good advice. But what is so absurd about the in-between train? As far as I can see this is the R501x, which is a normal regional train between Spa and Aachen. Does not look absurd to me.
    – dirkk
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:18
  • 1
    @dirk, it is absurd, the Belgian IC does not end in Aachen as it should be for a useful international connection, but in Eupen in Belgium, main town of the German speaking region in Belgium. This train between Welkenraedt and Aachen is a pre-WWII shuttle, consisting of two shabby cars. Believe me, I used the connection several times.
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 15:16

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