How to get a cheap train ticket

A common false believe is that taking the train in Germany is expensive. Actually, it can be real cheap with Deutsche Bahn! Here are my 10 tips for you.

1. Saver fares (“Sparpreis”)

Until they are sold out, you have the option to purchase a saver fares ticket. Otherwise you’ll get a flexible fare ticket.

 

Saver fares (“Sparpreis”)

Advantages Disadvantages
-Cheap, starting at € 19.90 -Only valid for the connection purchased
-They get sold out quickly

Check the “saver fares search page” for exploring saver fares only: Deutsche Bahn – saver fares*

 

Flexible fares (“Flexpreis”)

Deutsche Bahn considers this their standard ticket. In a nutshell: You purchase the trip from A to B, not a specific connection.

Advantages Disadvantages
-Valid for the whole day, not bound to a certain connection
-Free refunds available
-Expensive

2. Purchase your ticket early

The earlier the better. It is possible to purchase a train ticket 6 months in advance.

3. Travel during unpopular times

Friday after work or Sunday evening are very popular times. Saver fares’ tickets get sold out quickly, leaving only the expensive tickets behind.

So you might want to consider to travel during unpopular times.

For your next weekend trip consider this:
-Inbound: Friday morning or Thursday evening
-Outbound: First train on Monday morning

4. Get a BahnCard

BahnCards give you a discount on every ticket you purchase.

Do the maths, they pay off quickly!

No matter which BahnCard you get, you’ll get free inner-city transfer in the city of the start of your journey and at the destination. Make sure to select your BahnCard to get the price reduction.

 

Here is an overview of the different BahnCards:

BahnCard 25

You get a 25% discount on every ticket you purchase (saver and flexible fares). Valid for one year, with an annual cancellation notice.

Costs:
2nd class price (one year):   € 62
1st class price (one year):    € 125

Tip:
Deutsche Bahn offers 3 month trial periods for BahnCard 25 quite frequently.

My advice:
Get this if you travel at least once per month, it absolutely pays off! Especially because you get 25% off of the saver fares.

BahnCard 50

You get a 50% discount on every flexible ticket you purchase and 25% discount on long-distance saver fares. Valid for one year, with an annual cancellation notice.

Costs:
2nd class price (one year):  € 255
1st class price (one year):    € 515

Tip:
Children and seniors (older than 60) only pay half price for their BahnCard 50.

My advice:
Get this BahnCard if you are frequently traveling to a place where you need to take many regional trains. Typically there are no inexpensive saver fares for regional trains (saver fares are really cheap for long-distance trains). So it makes sense to get 50% off  of the flexible ticket. If you are not, then a BahnCard 25 is absolutely enough.

BahnCard 100

You travel free of charge with every train from Deutsche Bahn, plus many suburban trains (check out more details here).

Costs:
2nd class price (one year):  € 4,270
1st class price (one year):    € 7,225

My advice:
It only makes sense if you are traveling by train very frequently, e.g. long daily commute for work or going home every weekend.

For young travelers, under 27

There is a cheaper BahnCard 25 and BahnCard 50 available for you.

My BahnCard 25:
2nd class price (one year):  € 39
1st class price (one year):    € 81

My BahnCard 50:
2nd class price (one year):  € 69
1st class price (one year):    € 252

5. Check L’Tur

L’Tur is a travel agency that offers train tickets as well. They often have some saver fares left while they are sold out at Deutsche Bahn. Click here to get to their booking site.

My advice:
1-7 days before your travel date is the best time to check.

6. Travel slowly

Take regional trains only

Check off the box “local transport only” on the main booking page. Your ticket will be cheaper, but your travel time will increase.

 

My advice:
This only pays off if you are traveling on a connection where you have to use a lot of local transport anyway and your travel time won’t increase dramatically if you go without the fast long-distance trains.

Take slower connections

Take off the check mark for “Prefer fast connections”. This way the system will consider slower (= cheaper) trains as well.

7. Special tickets for travel across Germany

Deutsche Bahn offers several “special tickets” for the weekends, for groups or for trips to other European countries. Here is an overview:

State ticket (“Länderticket)

This is a ticket for up to 5 people for unlimited travels within one German state (including inner-city transport) for one day, starting at 9 am. On the weekends (and on statutory holidays) it is valid all day long.

Heads up:
It is only valid for 2nd class and for local transport, not for the fast long-distance trains (ICE, IC, EC). This will increase your travel duration.

Costs vary per state:

State Costs for 1 person Costs for every add. person
Baden-Württemberg € 24 € 6
Bavaria € 25 € 6
Brandenburg-Berlin € 29 Fixed price for 5 people: € 29
Hesse € 35 Fixed price for 5 people: € 35
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern € 23 € 4
Niedersachen € 23 € 4
Rheinland-Pfalz € 24 € 5
NRW € 30.50 Fixed price for 5 people: € 45
Saarland € 24 € 5
Sachsen € 24 € 7
Sachsen-Anhalt € 24 € 7
Schleswig-Holstein € 29 € 3
Thüringen € 24 € 7

Make sure to check the Deutsche Bahn website for more details.

Read my blog post about the “Hesse ticket“.

Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (“Happy-weekend ticket”)

This is a ticket for up to 5 people for unlimited travels for one day, on the weekends only.

Heads up:
It is only valid for 2nd class and for local transport, not for the fast long-distance trains (ICE, IC, EC). This will increase your travel duration.

This ticket is not valid on statutory holidays, purchase one of the “state tickets” instead.

Costs:
Starting at € 44, it is an additional 6 € for every person added.

Number of travelers Costs
1 person € 44
2 persons € 50
3 persons € 56
4 persons € 62
5 persons € 68

Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (“Across-the-country ticket”)

This is a ticket for up to 5 people for unlimited travels for one day. (Not limited to the weekends, it is available for every day.)

Heads up:
It is only valid for 2nd class and for local transport, not for the fast long-distance trains (ICE, IC, EC). This will increase your travel duration.

Costs:
Starting at € 44 for the first person, additional 8€ for every person extra (up to 5 people).

Number of travelers Costs
1 person € 44
2 persons € 52
3 persons € 60
4 persons € 68
5 persons € 76

German Rail Pass

This is only for people with a residency outside of Europe, Turkey or Russia.

For details, please read my blog post “Train pass for non-European residents”.

8. Special tickets for travel across Europe

Europe saver fare (“Sparpreis Europa”)

Deutsche Bahn offers cheap tickets for the following countries (mostly to their capital cities):
Belgum, Denmark, France, Italy, Croatia, London, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Slowakia, Slowenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary

Costs:
2nd class:  € 39.90
1st class:    € 69.90

You get your Bahncard discount for the German part of the journey. For short distances there are tickets starting at € 19.90.

Go to the Europe saver fare booking site, and select the country of your destination: Saver fare Europe*

Interrail

This is only for people with a residency inside of Europe, Turkey or Russia.

Click here for more information.

Eurail Pass

This is only for people with a residency outside of Europe, Turkey or Russia.

For details, please read my blog post “Train pass for non-European residents“.

9. Collect travel points

Sign up for the “BahnBonus Program” and collect points with every ticket purchased. € 1 equals 1 point.

Advantage Disadvantage
Points can be exchanged for train tickets This service is only available in German

 

My advice:
Joining this program makes a lot of sense, check out my post about “Why joining the BahnBonus Program makes sense“.

10. Use another vendor

Here are some other vendors that offer train tickets.

Flixtrain

They are the only competitor within the public train transportation business for Deutsche Bahn. They offer tickets starting at € 9.99. Click here. Their possible connections are limited:

ÖBB – Austrian railway company

Only makes sense for your travels to or from Austria. They also have saver fares (“Sparschiene”). Click here.

SBB – Swiss railway company

Only makes sense for your travels to or from Switzerland. They also have saver fares (supersaver tickets or “Sparbilletten”). Click here.

 

 

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Notes:
* Links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links.