General information about German Rail
The high-quality rail network and transportation infrastructure have made trains one of the most popular ways to travel in Germany. Train travel is so popular in Germany that many cities and major towns have multiple train stations. Deutsche Bahn offers train routes between most cities in Germany. From popular destinations and train routes to information about train companies and how to buy cheap train tickets, this page provides an overview of everything you need to know about train travel in Germany.
Information about German Rail Providers
The largest and most important train company in Germany is Deutsche Bahn, which is literally translated as “German Railway” and sometimes abbreviated to Die Bahn or DB. Deutsche Bahn is the largest rail company in Europe, transporting approximately 2 billion passengers annually. In 1994, West Germany’s Deutsche Bundesbahn and East Germany’s Deutsche Reichsbahn merged to create Deutsche Bahn railway company. Deutsche Bahn is Germany’s national rail provider with the Federal Republic of Germany functioning as DB’s single shareholder.
InterCity Express (ICE) trains are the most comfortable and efficient way to travel by train in Germany. ICE trains are the fastest high-speed trains on the DB network, capable of traveling at speeds up to 200 mph. ICE trains travel to nearly 180 train stations in Germany. All InterCity Express trains have a restaurant and WiFi on board for your comfort and convenience. Popular routes that utilize ICE trains include: Berlin to Munich, Hamburg to Frankfurt and Munich to Cologne.
Like ICE trains, InterCity (IC) trains also travel long distances throughout Germany. While IC trains tend to travel at lower speeds than ICE services, they stop more frequently and reach more train stations in Germany. EuroCity (EC) trains are similar to InterCity services; however, they tend to operate on international routes between major European cities like Berlin to Prague. These train types are often referred to as Intercity Nights (ICN), EuroNight (EN) and CityNightLink (CNL) trains when offered overnight.
Shorter distance train routes in Germany usually use Regional Express (RE) and Regional Bahn (RB) trains, while smaller destinations outside of major cities are often connected by Stadt Express (SE) or S-Bahn (suburban train) services.
Many companies operate modern fleets with comfortable, reclining seats, wifi and air-conditioning. Compare the services available.
Further facilities and services may vary according to the transport company and country of operation. For more detailed information about providers, please refer to our comprehensive list of luggage restrictions.
Most German cities are linked by rail. The most popular train routes in Germany are between major cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, and Dresden. All large cities are linked by InterCity Express (ICE) trains, as well as standard InterCity (IC) services. Regional trains are also quite popular, especially the particularly scenic routes which pass through the Black Forest and Rhine Valley.
Trains in Germany run international routes to various destinations in France, Italy, Switzerland, BeNeLux, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic. German high-speed trains often share travel international routes with train companies from other countries like Thalys and SNCF. ÖBB Railjet trains connect Munich with cities in Central Europe like Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and Budapest.
The main train stations in Germany are Berlin Hbf, (Munich) München Hbf, (Cologne) Köln Hbf, and Frankfurt Hbf. These train stations connect to most cities in Germany as well as other international destinations. Most train stations in Germany feature luggage lockers, currency exchange services, tourist information bureaus, ATMs and Restaurants.
Deutsche Bahn’s Regional (RB, RE, IR), InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains do not require reservations. Reservations for InterCity Express (ICE) trains are optional; however, during busy times reservations are recommended in order to guarantee seat availability. All night trains require reservations, which can be made online via the DB website.
Using the ticket machines at the train station are still the most common way to purchase train tickets in Germany; however, online ticket purchases are becoming more popular. After purchasing a train ticket online, you can either print your train ticket or download it to your phone and show it to the train crew during the train journey. Passengers may be required to identify themselves by presenting identification or the credit card that was used to make the train ticket purchase.