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German Trains

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. Frankfurt Bahnhof

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.Berlin Hauptbahnhof

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 page.

Types of Trains: There 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:
Abbreviation Train Take Bikes?
CNL or ICN City Night Line Yes
EC Euro City Yes
EN or D Euro Night Yes
IC Inter-City Yes
ICE Inter-City Express No
IR Inter-Regio Yes
NZ DB Night Zug Yes
RB Regional Bahn or "Regio" Yes
RE Regional Express Yes
SE Stadt Express Yes
S-Bahn
U-Bahn
City Trains and Subways in cities Yes

Nahverkehr: (Local Trains) include RE, SE, RB, as well as U-Bahn and S-Bahn: Lots of stops; sometimes at almost every village. They may not have a bicycle car but probably do have a place for bikes (and wheel chairs) 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 closes railroad. Some of the busses may have a trailer for bikes. Others will allow you to bring the bike right into the bus.

IC (Intercity), EC (Eurocity), RE (Express), RB (Regiobahn): 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.

IR (Interregio): These trains cover longer distances than the IC/EC trains. Fewer stops but very bicycle friendly, frequently has a bicycle car at one end of the train. You will find bathrooms in each car.

RE and RB: 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 whistle stop 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.

ICN/NZ/D Nachtzüge (Night Trains): 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 quite 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 web site on the Links page of this web site. 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?)

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ICE (Intercity Express): 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).

Seat reservations on the ICE: 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.

First Class, Second Class: 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 Bicycle Cardifference 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 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.

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 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.Bicycle CarBicycle car More and more, smoking is being banned in many restaurants.

Bicycle Cars: Along 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 car.Wagenstandanzeiger Poster

Wagenstandanzeiger: 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 backwards. Do not ask me why. Be very thorough when consulting the poster.Loading bikes on trainsLoading bikes on trainsLoading bikes on trains

By the way, you may not ride your bicycles on the platform or in the Bahnhof; it is strictly verboten. You must push you 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.

Reservations: Large 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.Bikes in racks on board 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 it is a problem and not paying for reservations means there will be reserved places but no one shows up. And that is a problem. You see, too may 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 a couple occasions because we had a ticket on another train but either took the earlier one or because of a missed connection had to take a later one. To our surprise, there were no other bicycles aboard. Perhaps a group had reserved them and missed the train. 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.Bike on streetcar

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.

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The following table is taken directly from DB on July 8, 2010 without permission:

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.)

Taking a bicycle on an intercity train: You 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.]

This is how you can book your bicycle ticket:

Tips about Trains: 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.

Purchasing tickets: Ticket AutomatYou can purchase tickets on-line at DB (Deutsche Bahn) but you may not be able to reserve a place for your bicycle on-line. 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 on-line 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-Ticket or Lander-Ticket: 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. Note: Prices for Ländes-Tickets vary from state to state.

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 price too.

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 web site. I strongly recommend reservations for both people and bikes.

Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket: 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 if in 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.

Happy Weekend 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 on-line. 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 here.

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 these Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets.

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.

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In the Train Station (Bahnhof): 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.Ticket AutomatTicket AutomatTicket Automat 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 holidays 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 presents? Get-outa-‛ere.

If you do want reservations or just want to check the schedule or compute your own itinerary, check out the Links page on this web site 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 quite comfortable.

WagenstandanzeigerOnce 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.)

Tips on Train Station Platforms: 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.

Escalators: Now escalators 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.Out of service signs

bike on luggage conveyorpushing up an out of service conveyorSome 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 quite careful.

Customs and Manners Aboard Trains: 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.

Buy a ticket. 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 to it.

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.

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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 loose whatever you poke out the window. It’s like an automatic appendage remover.

Do not throw anything out the window either. The window will normally 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.

Locking your bicycle: 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.)

Be ready to detrain at your stop: 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 yours.

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. Loading but more of a liftWe give ourselves 5 minutes prior to the stop to get everything ready.

Tracks: 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 feedback.

Send your bike by freight ahead: 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 land line, €0.42/minute from a mobile phone). One can also Google "Hermes Versand." 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.

Saving the best for last: The following are courtesy items recommended by the German Bicycle Club, ADFC, and the German Train Company, Deutsche Bahn (DB):

  1. Find the bicycle car as the train approaches the platform.
  2. Cooperate with other bike riders in the loading and unloading of bikes.
  3. 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).
  4. Allow those without bikes to load and unload first.
  5. 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).
  6. Stay close to your bikes for the entire trip if possible.
  7. Check your bike to make sure it does not fall over during the trip. [short cords are excellent for this.]
  8. 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).
  9. Know that in some short distance trains used by commuters, you may be blocked from boarding during rush hour traffic.

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