Germany has one of the best and most reliable train networks in Europe.
Trains are on time 95% of the time. Although fares may be considered expensive, there are ways to save a considerable amount on German train travel.
The German Bundesbahn has introduced a pricing system that rewards early booking. However, one of their more appealing offer for the traveller is the Schöner Tag Karte or the Länder tickets. From 9 am until 3 am of the following day, one person or a group of 2 to maximum 5 persons travelling together need only pay a fixed price (25 euros/ 35 euros) for a ticket that is valid for use on regional and local trains as well as the local bus network. Every region (Bundesland) has its own version but the price is the same.
On weekends (Saturday or Sunday to 3.a.m. Monday) one can take the Schönes Wochenende Karte, valid for the first train that goes till 3.am. the next day, costing slightly more but can be used to go from one Bundesland to another. (Caveat: Although the concept is tempting, one has to bear in mind that this ticket is only valid for the slow regional trains and not in the IC or ICE i.e. the fast trains. Before you plan on travelling from the North to the farthest point in the South of Germany, know that the travelling times could be 3-4 times longer and will surely require numerous train changes. Plan realistically.)
These tickets can be bought online or from automated machines in major train stations (Bahnhöfe): These machines can be operated in several foreign languages. You could also buy over the station sales counter, with the tickets costing slightly more.
When buying from the machine, look for "Regional special offers“ (usually the bottom right box.) Once you have chosen the ticket type you want, you have to make sure you order the ticket for the correct date you wish to travel with it. You may buy it several days in advance but make sure the ticket you are buying is for the day you travel because these tickets are non-changeable, not refundable and are only valid on the date that appears in the ticket. (Some people have made the mistake of buying the ticket on Monday, intending to use it for Tuesday, thinking they only need to scribble in the date they want to use the ticket.) You will also be required to write your family name on it.
The ticket machines take either only cash (bills and coins, providing change) or only credit cards (all major cards accepted). It is easier to find these tickets in the machines that take only credit cards.
Gute Reise !
Written and contributed by ParisBuff