Trains in Germany are as complicated as they are anywhere.
I will introduce you to the different types of trains
including comments on classes of passengers,
smoking sections, bicycle cars,
and reservations. Following that, I offer a few
tips on trains for travelers. In that section, I discuss
purchasing tickets and the types of tickets including inexpensive tickets such
as Länder-Tickets and the "Happy
Weekend" tickets. Also, a new type of ticket offers affordable travel with
bicycles is the Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket.
offer a few hints about surviving the train stations
including a discussion of station platforms.
Then I suggest some behavior norms
aboard (I hope you do not have to modify your normal behavior too much). I caution
you about being ready before your stop
and walking along the tracks. A note about
escalators in train stations. If you want to
send your bicycle and luggage ahead
you can. Finally, a list of recommendations
from the German Bicycle Club.
I make no claim to having prepared an all-inclusive treatise on this subject.
Rather, what follows is what I think is the minimum one should know to a happy train
experience. It will help one get along with your fellow passengers and get off at
the right stop.
In 2016, a reader asked if one needs to do any disassembly of the bicycles in
order to ride the German rails. The short answer is, no. However, that applies to
the typical bicycle and not necessarily to tandems, trailers, recumbent bicycles,
or other long bicycles like load carrying bikes. We have seen a few tandems on trains
over the last 17 years without any disassembly. The riders just load them on and
hope they do not conflict with other cyclists or passengers. If the tandem, for
example, is a problem for the train, you may be asked to get off or to disassemble
it if possible. (Many bicycle compartments are near the toilet and passengers must
be able to get to the toilet door.) I have never heard of such a thing happening
though; if you have, let me know through my Feedback
are lots of types of trains in Germany. Most of which do take bicycles but the
fast train, the ICE, does not take bicycles whether boxed or not except folding
bicycle inside the luggage case for the bike. Here is a chart:
|CNL or ICN
||City Night Line
|EN or D
||Regional Bahn or "Regio"
|City Trains and Subways in cities
Lots of stops; sometimes at almost every village. They
may not have a bicycle car but probably do have a place for bikes (and wheelchairs
) at one end of the car. If not, you can take the bike right into the compartment
or leave it in the space between cars (if there is one). A short rope, cord, or
bungee is handy to secure the bikes so they do not fall over on the curves. In the
really slow trains, like the S-Bahn, you might not find bathrooms on board. I suggest
you go first or hold it. Sometimes, these trains will connect with busses to villages
off the track so it may be possible to buy a “train” ticket to a village several
miles from the closest railroad. Some of the buses may have a trailer for bikes.
Others will allow you to bring the bike right into the bus.
These are the most common trains. They connect nearly every German city and town
but do not stop at small villages. They frequently have special cars either at the
front or at the end for bicycles and large luggage items (that you cannot take into
the sitting area). Bicycle cars are identified by a large icon of a bicycle on the
outside of the car. If there is no bicycle car, you may bring your bike aboard and
leave them in the area between the cars. Here again, a short rope or cord is handy.
An EC or Eurocity goes over the border into a neighboring country. Yes, there are
bathrooms on these types of train.
These trains cover longer distances
than the IC and EC trains. Fewer stops but very bicycle-friendly. IR trains frequently
have a bicycle car at one end of the train. You may find bathrooms in each car.
These are regional trains the RE (Regio
Express) bypass some of the smaller stations but the RB (Regio Bahn) does not. It
is the true milk run or whistlestop train that stops at every village with a station.
In some cases, we hear an announcement that if you want to stop at the next scheduled
village you must push a button in the same way that you would on a bus or streetcar.
Night trains are handy for long trips when you are too rushed for a good night’s
sleep. I do not recommend this style of travel but if you must, you must. Night
trains are comfortable if you reserve a Couchette, which is a seat that makes into
a bed. Rick Steves, in his Europe Through the Back Door guidebook, talks tongue-in-cheek
about how to get a compartment all to yourself for a good nights sleep without interruption.
Check out the link to his website on the Links page of this website. The only guaranteed
interruption will be the conductor asking to validate your ticket. I have limited
experience with this type of train and that experience was not good. We could not
get reservations for a Couchette and spent a night trying to sleep in an upright
seated position on a train that was full to the gunnels. (Do trains have gunnels?)
Back to the top
These super fast trains
travel up to 300Km/hr and frequently use their own separate tracks. They travel
between major cities only with no stops for the smaller cities.
Bicycles are not allowed on these trains.
If you are not traveling with bicycles you can use the ICE trains. These trains
are used by business people on business trips and by tourists (and occasionally
by yours truly to and from the Frankfurt Airport – hey, it’s only twice a year).
For first class
on ICE trains, reservations are recommended. An ICE is the classiest and fastest
way to travel where there are no airplanes. However, in first class, you are insulating
yourself from the fabric of the local culture. Reservations for second class even
on ICE are not usually required but reservations in the dining car are recommended.
Food on board is good but expensive.
: Since I mentioned class, there are two classes on German trains.
If you have a bike, you should ride in the second class area as close to your bicycle
as you can. The only
is the seating arrangement and seat itself. The second class folks get to the destination
at the same time as the first class folks. Both are clean and comfortable but the
people in first class are less likely to interact with foreign bicycle tourists.
On the outside of the car (Wagon) you will see either a "1" or
a "2" indicating the class. You will also see an indication whether it
is a smoking or a non-smoking car. Nowadays, very few cars, if any, allow smoking.
: Nowadays smoking
is not allowed on board trains. Even in the Bahnhof, there are only designated areas
where you can light up. Lots of people smoke in Europe; much more than in the USA
at least. Even bikers smoke. We occasionally see bikers smoking while riding. Similar
to restaurants, you have to get used to it. It is a reality, get a grip. For non-smokers,
the good news is, the culture is changing rapidly and less and less consideration
is given to smokers.
More and more, smoking is being banned in many restaurants.
with the class designation, the cars designed to take bicycles will have a graphic
of a bicycle next to the door outside the car. That is your car. These cars are
typically at the front or back of the train. On RE trains, it could be in the middle
because sometimes there are several bicycle 'areas' on a train. However,
in IC trains there is frequently only one bicycle car that can be found on one end
or the other. If you can, ask a red-capped information person where to find that
The word means simply a display of how a train is stacked or organized. Only IC,
EC, and ICE trains are shown on the Wagenstandanzeiger poster (remember
ICE trains are the ones that do not take bicycles). These posters are only on the
platform on which your train will, is, or has come (and hopefully not already departed).
You need good eyes or a magnifying glass to see the symbol for the bicycle car because
it is tiny.
Wagenstandanzeigers are tricky. You must find your train by departure
time, and sometimes the day you are traveling. We recently waited with other cyclists
in a station where we had consulted the Wagenstandanzeiger under the letter
where we thought the bicycle car would stop. We thought it was in the front of the
train immediately behind the locomotive. When the train arrived, the conductor told
us the bicycle car is at the rear. This was a long train and it took longer than
trains like to be at a station for us and the 6 other cyclists to push our bicycles
all the way to the other end of the train. Then we had to load the bikes on board.
It was very hectic. Our mistake was that there were three different lines on the
Wagenstandanzeiger for the same train number. We were traveling on a Saturday
and on that day the train was stacked backward. Do not ask me why. Be very thorough
when consulting the poster.
By the way, you may not ride your bicycles on the platform or in the Bahnhof;
it is strictly verboten. You must push your bike; but you can run while
you are pushing. One more tip, have your panniers and bags ready to remove from
your cycle but still actually on your cycle. If you have to move, like we did on
that day, you do not have to first reload your cycle first. See
Tips below about panniers.
groups of bikers will need reservations but for individuals and groups up to five,
no reservations are needed for bikes or passengers. The exception is on the longer
distance trains like IC and EC; there you will need a reservation for a "Stellplatz,"
which is a numbered rack for your bicycle when you buy the bicycle ticket.
We do not worry too much about being in the correct Stellplatz if there
is already a bicycle in that spot. Cyclists who board ahead of you are frequently
a bit casual about which spot to put their bike. If your spot is taken, just take
another empty spot. Some are not so casual though so you may possibly interact more
than you would like with someone who is anal about using the correct Stellplatz.
Be nice and try to get along with people - a lesson I finally learned in sixth grade.
If reservations are not mandatory given the type of train, it is your choice,
we have traveled both with and without reservations. But since reservations do not
cost anything you might as well make them. If you do not use them it is no problem.
Uh ..., in fact, I think that is a big problem and not paying for reservations means
there will be reserved places but no one shows up. You see, too many people make
reservations and then change their plans without canceling the reservations. Then
if a train appears to have all the bicycle racks be completely reserved you will
be denied the opportunity to purchase a bicycle ticket on that train, which may
be required. We have taken such a train anyway on occasion because we had a ticket
on another train but either took the earlier one or because of a missed connection
and we had to take a later one. To our surprise, there were no other bicycles aboard
but all the bicycle racks had been reserved. Perhaps a group had reserved them and
missed their connection. Or perhaps, they just decided to go somewhere else and
did not bother to cancel the reservations. Either way, I think the DB should charge
for reservations and refund the money if they are canceled, that would solve the
problem. OK, I will step down from the pulpit now.
Single travelers or groups of two to five probably do not need reservations but
they may be made if you want to be safe. Some tickets are good for several days
(e.g., 4 days on a long weekend) and several different trains instead of being good
for just one day and one train. So, we do not make reservations; assuming that if
one train is full, there will be another opportunity in a short while that will
not be full. You will probably need to purchase a special ticket (Fahrradkarte)
for your bike. In 2009, bicycle tickets, or Fahrradkarte, costs up to €6.00
per bike in IC, EC, IR, NZ, EN, or D type trains. In local trains (Nahverkehr,
e.g. RE, SE, RB, and S-Bahnen) bikes cost €5.00. If you get lucky, some Nahverkehr
trains in some areas do not charge for bicycles. It depends on the region of the
country. If you have a bicycle trailer, a tandem bike, or an especially large bike,
like a three-wheel tricycle you will need to purchase two of these special types
of bicycle tickets or Fahrradkarten.
Back to the top
The following table is taken directly from DB on July 8, 2010 without permission:
- If you wish to take
a bicycle with you on a long-distance route, you need an additional ticket
for your bicycle. Separate bicycle tickets are issued for the outbound and
return journeys. We regret that you cannot purchase a ticket for your bicycle
on the Internet if your outbound and return journeys consist only of local
means of transport. Information about local transport. If you enter more
than one passenger with different BahnCard categories, separate bicycle
tickets will be issued for each passenger.
- Prices for the carriage of a
bicycle on long-distance routes (single journey): With BahnCard
€6.00, without BahnCard €9.00. Different bicycle carriage prices apply to
rail ferry routes.
- An additional
(free) space reservation has to be made for bicycle carriage on long-distance
trains (IC, EC, CNL, and ICN). If you have reserved a seat and a space for
your bicycle, it may be the case that your seat and the space for your bicycle
are in different coaches. Most bicycle spaces are in 2nd class coaches.
- Only 1 bicycle is permitted
per passenger. Bicycle tickets for tandems, recumbent bicycles and bicycle
trailers cannot be booked through the Internet. [End quote]
The following is also taken from the DB website on June 16, 2016 also without
permission. (I feel guilty about that but the public should know.)
need a bicycle ticket and reservation to take a bicycle on an intercity train.
You can book and pay for this conveniently in one step when you buy your ticket
for all intercity and Eurocity trains in Germany. The reservation for your bicycle
is included in the price.
Bicycle tickets are currently only available online when you buy a rail ticket.
If you already have a rail ticket, you can obtain the bicycle ticket and reservation
as usual from one of our points of sale. [Probably free.]
- When you search for train connections in DB's "Advanced search options"
select the option “Take a bicycle”. You can then select exclusively from
trains which transport bicycles.
- Enter the number of travelers and select a connection. Please note that
small children have to be declared in the Travel Information if they also
require a bicycle reservation (or a seating reservation).
- You can complete the booking after entering your reservation options,
whereby you can basically select between the self-print Online-Ticket and
the ticket to be sent by post (EUR 3.90).
- The number of the coach in which the bicycle compartment with your bicycle
reservation is located is printed on your ticket. Please use only the bicycle
holder which is reserved for you.
- You will receive a bicycle ticket slip together with your rail ticket
which has to be attached to your bicycle in a place where it can be easily
seen (ideally on the handlebars). The slip contains information about your
journey with the bicycle. [End quote]
If you are riding a public conveyance (train or a streetcar) buy a ticket. That
seems simple but sometimes in Germany, it may appear that no one checks tickets.
On street cars, tickets are rarely checked but I have seen it happen. On trains,
the conductor Schaffner / Schaffnerin, normally will check tickets.
They even check the tickets you buy for your bicycle. There are signs posted on
many conveyances warning you that if you do not have a valid ticket you have to
pay the higher of €40 or double the price of a ticket. When you buy your tickets,
ask the ticket agent if you are purchasing the correct type of ticket for your trip.
It may sound like a dumb question right after the ticket agent recommended a certain
ticket, but some areas have special tickets just for that area or for certain periods
of time, e.g., two days. Most alert ticket agents will know this and recommend it
right off the bat, but some will just sell you what you ask for and assume that
you know what you are doing. Not always a correct assumption, especially in my case.
can purchase tickets online at DB (Deutsche
Bahn) but you may not be able to reserve a place for your bicycle online. For
Maxa and I, it is easy to get a bicycle reservation from our home in the Seattle
area, we simply ask one of our family members to go the train station and reserve
it for us. If you do not have that kind of option, you should call the number on
their website, pay the per minute charge, wait on hold, then make your reservation
for the bicycles. Unlike the USA, the culture in some other countries is to charge
for customer service - Germany is one of those countries.
Using the online website you can achieve savings that one cannot achieve at the
ticket counter. Also, all stations these days have automats. If you want to save
a few Euros, use these when you can. The machines cannot talk to you but they are
a little less expensive than a live ticket agent.
Länder-Tickets (state-tickets) are tickets for just one German state.
The DB, Deutsche Bahn, has many ticket agents only some of which are alert
and helpful. Unfortunately, others practice what has come to be called malicious
obedience, which is: You ask for something that is exactly what I will give you.
So if you ask for a ticket from Kassel to Manheim (both in the state of Hesse) for
example, they sell you exactly what you asked for at a cost of €52 (one way,
one adult, no discounts). But an alert ticket agent will ask if you would rather
have a Landeskarte, which costs €31 (purchased at an automat, for up to
five people, for an entire day, but within one German State). If there are two of
you, you would pay €104 for a normal ticket but still only €31 for a Ländes-Ticket.
And the more of you, the worse it gets.
When I discuss the concept of alert ticket agents, I do not mean to imply all
agents are alert. While I have had the pleasure of dealing with many alert ticket
agents, not all of them are that alert. If you are traveling within a German state
(e.g., Hesse) or sometimes within two connecting states, ask for a Ländes-Ticket.
While you will be relegated to the slower trains, the cost averages about half the
cost of a normal ticket and the bike ticket will be either free or at a reduced
You qualify for a group discount if you are a group of six or more. Inquire about
Gruppe&Spar tickets. You must make reservations for yourselves and
for the bikes. You can do this up to three months ahead and you can contact the
DB through their link on the Links page on this website.
I strongly recommend reservations for both people and bikes.
This type of ticket is new in 2011. "Quer-Durchs-Land" means
across the country. This type of ticket is for up to five adults traveling anytime
during the week, anywhere in Germany. It is good only on RB, RE, and IRE type trains
in second class. The cost is €42.00 for the first adult and for each additional
adult add €6.00 (Maximum 5 people of any age). Children under 14 ride free with
parents or grandparents. Bicycles will be an extra small fee. You can go both ways
on the same day of travel but if you get off and overnight, you must purchase another
ticket the next day to return. Here again, alert ticket agents may ask you if you
would rather have this type of ticket but you are best advised to ask if there are
less expensive tickets.
The Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets (Happy Weekend Tickets) do not lend themselves
to reservations. You can buy Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets at the Bahnhöfe
(train stations) or through the Internet. They are unique. You cannot make reservations
with this type of ticket but you can and should make a reservation for your bicycle
even online. In 2012, one ticket cost €40 (plus €5 per bike) and up to five people
can travel on one ticket. Bikes still need separate tickets. The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket
is good between Midnight on the day you buy them and 3:00 AM the following day (read
this as 27 hours). You can come and go anywhere in Germany during that time. The
only restrictions are you cannot reserve seats and you cannot use IR, IC or ICE
trains only the RB, IRE, and RE trains take this ticket (read this as only the slower
trains). Read more on the DB website
In the Summer, just about all of Germany does exactly that, they come and go
everywhere. The trains are frequently packed. We have spent hours standing next
to our bikes in the sweltering heat, body odor, and cigarette smoke of an overcrowded
train because there were no seats. In fact, the conductor can refuse to accept you
and your bike if they think the train is too crowded - this has not happened to
us in over10-years of using them. The trains are so crowded sometimes that the conductors
cannot navigate their way through the train to check tickets. But, we are used to
it; we think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. At least you will have an
adventure. See below for a list of the regional traffic organizations that honor
Lastly, when you buy a bicycle ticket regardless of which type of ticket you
have for yourself, the DB will usually give you a sticker so you can attach the
ticket to your bicycle. The conductor may ask to see the ticket if it is not attached
but most of the time, they do not bother.
Back to the top
In all the Bahnhöfe (train stations) of the major cities,
you will find both counters where you can purchase tickets and sometimes a “Service
Point” kiosk where you can get detailed help with connections and get your questions
answered. The ticket counters are called Reise Centrum. If you purchase
a ticket at the Reise Centrum, they cost a little bit more than the same
ticket from an automat. However, if you are not familiar with the system, the extra
fee is well worth it.
I think the DB makes it a policy to have someone fluent in English at the Service
Point. However, I have never had a problem finding an English speaker at the
Reise Centrum (also called the Travel Center) ticket counter either.
Most Germans take English in school.
These Reise Centrum can be found only at the larger city train stations.
Nowadays, you can use the Automat Ticket Machine to purchase tickets – even for
longer distance trains. You will save enough to purchase a snack to take onboard
the train. Most stations have these automats. Push the button for Sprache
and select the language you want to use by the flag. A British flag means English.
You will be stepped through the process in any of six different languages. You could
choose Turkish, if you want to. This is a good thing because then you do not have
to worry about what Einzelkarte means. (It means one-way ticket if you
have an inquiring mind.) Reservations can be made if you want and if you purchase
your ticket more than a day ahead. Watch out for major
though. Germans have a ton of holidays. They can be different in each German State.
And another thing, German holidays are different from American holidays. For instance,
they do not have the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving. Germans do have Christmas however,
and they celebrate for two days instead of just one. So, do they get twice as many
If you do want reservations or just want to check the schedule or compute your
own itinerary, check out the Links page on this website
for an English version of the DB Travel Service. It will not only give you plenty
of choices, it will tell you the cost and the exact arrival and departure time.
You can even get a chart showing the route. We have found that second class, non-smoking
is just right for us. It is relatively inexpensive, seldom crowded (except some
weekends or holidays), and comfortable.
the ticket is purchased, you need to know where to catch the train. The German word
for Track is Gleis. They are numbered and there is a number on your ticket.
Arrival and departure is Ankunft and Abfahrt, respectively. There
are always Ankunft and Abfahrt posters about 3 by 4 feet in dimension
giving information about the track (Gleis) and the destination. The yellow
ones are Abfahrt (departure); the white ones are Ankunft (arrival).
Look up your train by the time it departs (or arrives) to find the correct track.
Or, you could just ask a uniformed DB person (good luck finding one). In a few
Bahnhöfe, you will also see a poster called a Wagenstandanzeiger
showing how the train is “stacked” or put together. They are only for IC trains
and ICE trains (ICE trains do not take bicycles anyway). If there is one, you will
be able to tell if there is a bicycle car and where it is in the train, front, back
or middle. The Wagenstandanzeiger is useful to identify cars that correspond
to your preferred class of travel relative to the large lettered location signs
hanging from the ceiling of the station. The legend at the bottom will help the
non-German speaking traveler decipher the information. For instance, if you want
2nd class, non-smoking, look for a 2 with the international non-smoking symbol.
Occasionally on older trains, the cars are split with half smoking and half non-smoking.
Listen to the announcements. If you do not understand them, but you heard your
departure time or your destination, ask your neighbor to translate it for you. Recently,
stations in larger cities repeat the announcement in English. Trains can be delayed
a few minutes just before arrival. Sometimes, even the locals do not understand
the quick garbled verbiage spewing forth from the loudspeaker. (I do not know where
they get the people who speak into loud speakers. They all seem to be unaware of
their speech imperfections regardless of being at fast food restaurants, train stations,
airports, or stadiums.)
Most train stations have several platforms from which passengers
load onto and unload from the trains. A platform will usually have tracks on each
side so it will be numbered "2 - 3" for example (where platform 1 is next
to the station building). We have experienced platforms that have 2A - 3A on the
north side and 2B - 3B on the south side separated by the access stairway. To get
to these platforms one probably will take stairs, elevators, or escalators down
to the level below the tracks, walk to the desired platform and then using one of
the three types of conveyances again come up to the platform. Stairs are a hassle
because you have to carry your bicycle down and up. Elevators are much easier but
they are frequently in use and you end up using the stairs anyway.
are an interesting subject. With a little practice, one can easily maneuver a loaded
bicycle up the escalator without strain or danger. Be cautious however. Step on
the escalator with the bicycle along side. As the front wheel lifts with the step,
break the wheel with your hand brake. Do the same for the rear wheel when it is
on the escalator a second later. If you do not use your breaks, we have seen the
loaded bike roll backwards. Without tremendous body strength, you may not stop the
rolling of a fully loaded bicycle and then you goose is cooked, so to say. A friend
ended up lying on her back on a moving escalator with her bicycle on top of her.
She lay stationary on her back under her bike while the escalator bumped along underneath
her. Yes, she was injured and nearly broke her ribs. The bruises, though impressive,
went away after 3 weeks.
train station stairs have luggage conveyors. You can use these for you bicycles
too. Again, like escalators discussed above, you need to use your hand brakes. To
be safe, consider using the conveyor for you panniers and simply carry your bicycle
up the stairs. In more than one case, we have encountered conveyors that are out
of service so you have to push up or carry up unless there is an elevator.
When my wife and I travel by train, which is most of the time, we watch out for
unguarded bicycles. Normally, I will carry one bicycle downstairs while she stays
with the bike yet to be carried down, then as I run back up the stairs, she comes
down to be with the bike already down. We do this to minimize the time a bicycle
is left alone to the whims of bicycle thieves. We have never had a problem with
thieves but then we are usually careful.
: Not to scare the be-jeebers out of you but a few
trains are like the separable verbs in the German language. Part of the train goes
one place, another part goes somewhere else. If this is so, the ticket seller may
tell you, or the conductor will. If your train is listed on the Wagenstandanzeiger
it will indicate it if your train is separable. Many of the slower trains are not
listed on the Wagenstandanzeiger, though so you will need to pay attention
to the train number on the train and compare that to your ticket. I mention this
just to keep you on your toes. Remember when you wake up in Berlin but wanted to
go to Dresden, I mentioned it here.
If you do not have a ticket with
you, either stay off the train or prepare to pay double. You usually can buy a ticket
from the conductor on board. However, if you want to avoid the fine, seek out the
conductor and explain your circumstance. Do not wait for him or her to bust you
as they punch everyone's ticket. The photograph on the left is a sign we found
inside one of the RE trains in 2016 that explains the fine for that year is the
greater of double the price of the ticket or €60. That said, we boarded one train
where there was no agent in the Bahnhof, only an automatic ticket machine.
That particular STUPID machine did not work. When questioned by the conductor (Schafner
or Schafnerin), we explained and although he was doubtful, he accepted
our story and only charged us the normal fare. That is my story and I am sticking
Speaking of notices on board, next to the photograph above, there was another
explaining what one should not do while in your seat. Do not streach out your arms,
do not put your feet on the seat across from you and do not throw trash on the floor.
I think they are trying to say, just be polite.
As the train approaches the platform, look at each car to see if it has a bicycle
symbol on the outside. You need to identify at least one such car for you to load
your bicycle into. The exception to this rule is the short distance trains that
take bicycles in the wide area where the doors are.
On some older trains cars, you have to lift your bicycle up several feet to get
it onto the car. Few men have the upper body strength to lift a fully loaded bicycle
up that far. So, have your bags ready to quickly remove from your bicycle in case
you have to lift them. Toss your bags in and then lift your naked bike onto the
train. However, do not remove your bags from your bicycle before you are in front
of the bicycle car. You might just have to push it to the other end of the train
in a rush. (See Wagenstandanzeiger above.)
If there are other cyclists, they will frequently help you load and you should return
the favor for others who have yet to load.
There are frequently two types of accommodations on the IC trains. A general
“bus style” seating area and a six-seat compartment area. Both areas will have a
place where small slips of paper can be inserted (more frequently nowadays, it will
be digitized). These slips indicate that that seat has been reserved between the
stations indicated on the slip. You are free to use them if you are outside the
area between the two stations. Or perhaps the person with the reservation missed
the train or took another and the seat is vacant after the beginning station.
Back to the top
Do not hang out the window or put your hand out the window. There are frequently
two parallel tracks and when two trains pass, each going 60 plus miles per hour,
you could lose whatever you poke out the window. It’s like an automatic appendage
Do not throw anything out the window either. The windows of older train cars
may have two stickers indicating a red circle with an icon of a man leaning out
and a second one with a bottle of beer inside another red circle. The second one
is not a prohibition against drinking, (heaven forbid, this is Germany after all);
rather it is warning not to throw trash out the window. Beer bottles are the most
common form of trash encountered in Germany, I think.
I do not need to tell you not to smoke in the non-smoking car. Nowadays, most
cars are non-smoking. There will be plenty of stickers reminding you of this. The
red circle again, but this time with a bar through the graphic of a cigarette. Occasionally,
on overcrowded trains, people seem to disregard the non-smoking signs (damn it).
I would not recommend that non-German speaking people try this though.
You can eat and drink if you want to. In fact, on long trips, I recommend you
bring along a few groceries, especially something to drink. There are small stores
in most train stations to fulfill your needs. You might offer some to the passenger
across from you, but – a warning – do not do this unless you want to make friends
with the natives.
Pay attention! Even if your jet-lag tries to kick in. One member of the group
should be awake and know which stop comes just before the stop you plan to get off
at. As a courtesy, deposit any trash in the trash container provided between the
cars or at your seat.
In the page about
bicycle theft, I encourage you to lock
up except when you are actually riding your bicycle. However, onboard trains we
seldom lock our bikes because they might have to be moved by other cyclists in order
for them to get their bicycle out and ready to detrain. We do take the bag with
the most valuable stuff to the seat with us but otherwise leave the baggage either
on the bicycle or near to in the bicycle compartment. The DB and ADFC recommend
unloading your bicycle on the platform and lifting your bike aboard without panniers.
They have good reasons for that but we are still fit enough to lift a loaded bike
and find that more convenient. Once aboard, we remove the panniers if space is tight,
as it frequently is on IC trains.
Try to keep track of where you are. Somewhere, probably in the small area between
the cars, you will find a chart showing all of the stops. With a little bit of study,
you will be able to judge where you are and how close you are getting to your stop.
I just hope you can get to the chart for all the bikes in the way. (Oh, sorry, they
are probably your bikes - or maybe ours.)
On ICE trains, you can find, or ask the conductor
for, an "Ihr Reiseplan" ("Your Travel Schedule") it
is a printed, stop-by-stop, schedule telling you the arrival and departure times
at each station and a little about connecting trains. These are not available on
the slower trains but ask the conductor or another passenger for the stop just before
This is important. When you get close to your stop get ready to depart. Move
to the door so you can quickly step off. If you have a bike, go to it and get ready
to lift it off the train. The trains stop only long enough for folks to hop on and
off, you will not have time to walk from your seat to your bike, untie it, arrange
your bags and gear, etc. etc. At the least, you will get a dirty look from the conductor
if you are slow. You may even miss the stop with the dilly-dallying.
give ourselves 5 minutes prior to the stop to get everything ready.
Stay off them. Unlike
America where you might see a train once a week, you will see trains in Germany
every few minutes. The Polizei will likely pursue you if you walk along
the tracks. Enjoy your train travel experience.
If you have a funny story to tell, share it with us by e-mail or
One more thought belongs here on the German Trains
page. Some of the freight forwarding firms in Germany (or around the world) will
ship your bicycle to a physical address (house number, street, and city with postal
code) for a fee (starts around €30). One such firm is Hermes Versand Service. If
you are traveling by Deutsche Bahn (rail), you can organize sending your bicycle
by freight from house to house at least 2 days prior to your planned arrival at
your destination by calling DB's Hotline 0180-5-99-66-33 (the fee for this hotline
is €0.14/minute from a landline, €0.42/minute from a mobile phone). One can also
Verstand." It is not inexpensive to ship a bicycle within Germany but it is
convenient. You can pack your bike for shipment or Hermes will pack it for you for
an additional €6 - €7 per bicycle.
The following are courtesy items recommended by the German Bicycle
Club, ADFC, and the German Train Company, Deutsche Bahn (DB):
- Find the bicycle car as the train approaches the platform.
- Cooperate with other bike riders in the loading and unloading of bikes.
- Lighter bikes load and unload easier and take less space in the bike
compartment, please unload your panniers before loading (I seldom do this
unless there are lots of bikes).
- Allow those without bikes to load and unload first.
- Communicate with other bike riders so the first bikes to get off are
the easiest to get to (some train connections are painfully short and people
have to hustle to make the connection).
- Stay close to your bikes for the entire trip if possible.
- Check your bike to make sure it does not fall over during the trip.
[short cords are excellent for this.]
- In EC, IC, and D trains (long distance trains) use the numbered bicycle
racks ("Stellplatz") reservation system at least one
day ahead (there is no charge for this - yet).
- Know that in some short distance trains used by commuters, you may be
blocked from boarding during rush hour traffic.
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