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1st vs. 2nd class on German trains

We are going to buy a 5-day German railpass for 2 people and are wondering if it is worth an extra $150 (total) to get the 1st class pass. Any opinions?

Posted by
12040 posts

1st class on German trains isn't so much aimed at delivering extra comfort as it is giving you extra work space and waiter service. The seats are exactly the same as you find on 2nd class, but they're spaced farther apart (unlike on airplanes, though, 2nd class seats aren't packed nearly as tight). It's generally quieter, but 2nd class has designated quiet carriages as well. Luggage space is exactly the same, although it's easier to find room because there's less people. What you'll mostly see is business people traveling on expense accounts doing work en-route.

Another factor- where are you going? First class is usually only available on the high speed Intercity Express (ICE) trains, which mostly operate between large cities. If your trip contains some of the usual smaller destinations recommended by Mr. Steves (Bacharach, Rothenburg, Füssen, Cochem, etc.), you'll spend more of your time riding regional trains that only offer general seating, no matter what you paid for your pass.

So, there's your information. Whether or not that extra $150 is worth it or not is up to you.

Posted by
4968 posts

Hi, Chris.

Both 2nd class and 1st class are available on all DB trains - but comfort levels vary somewhat depending on the type of train. Local train 1st class is quite different from high-speed (ICE, etc.) 1st class. But the differences overall between 1st and 2nd are pretty minimal.

When anyone says, "We are going to buy a 5-day German railpass for 2 people," it makes me wonder how they reached that decision. Occasionally, railpasses make good sense, but much more often, railpasses are expensive overkill. It's just that many travelers are not informed about the better alternatives.

I've made multiple trips to Germany over the last 10 years, and every time, I've found that it is much cheaper and equally convenient to get advance-sale DB tickets and/or day passes instead of multi-day German Railpasses. I suggest you gather some feedback here based on your specific itinerary if you have not already done so.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Between 1st and 2nd class on the ICE trains, not that much difference as pointed out above. Still, I find the seats are more comfortable. For all practical purposes if you're getting a Pass, the 2nd class Pass will do fine. If you're using the Pass, don't waste the days riding mainly regional trains. Use the Pass for the ICE.

The primary advantage to having a 1st class Pass is that it gives you a bit more flexibility in terms of hopping on trains without reservations, even though in Germany they are not mandatory (with a few exceptions such as crossing from Germany to France, vice versa, day/night). With the 1st class Pass you don't have to sit in 1st class, 2nd class is also available to you. You can't do the same holding a 2nd class Pass, ie, go into 1st class if the crowd waiting for the 2nd class Wagen appears to be singularly large.

Or, if you see a large school group waiting to board the 2nd class Wagen, time to get to 1st class with the 1st class Pass.

Posted by
42 posts

Thank you, all! Your input has been very helpful.

I did calculate the costs of buying infividual tickets (with advanced-purchase saving fares when available) , but the German Rail Twin Pass is cheaper for our itinerary. The 5- and 10-day passes are also currently on-sale.

Posted by
2081 posts

chris,

in my limited experience traveling the German trains there isnt that much difference in class in seats. Im not sure about other things though.

I accidently jumped on the 1class car since i didnt know which car was 1st or 2nd class.

but the 1st class had rows of 2 seats - wide isle - 1 seat. the 2nd class car next door was 2 seats - narrower isle - 2 seats. Seats were better than coach on any plane too.!

also, there is always a mad rush to get seats with real tables. if the trains arent full, no biggie.

happy trails.

Posted by
4073 posts

But, Chris, where did you get the fare information that made a pass look cheaper? Not RailEurope, by chance? Of course the company offering railpasses will make point to points look more expensive.

Look at the fare on Deutsche Bahn (bahn.de) the OFFICIAL rail carrier of Germany and I guarantee you the fare on point to points will be cheaper.

You are wasting money on a rail pass.

Posted by
42 posts

I looked-up the fares on Deutsche Bahn's website (bahn.de). I used the advanced-sale savings fare for the trips that I was certain of the time we wanted. I used the standard fare for the trips when time flexibility is needed.

We have 8 train days, so I was originally going to buy a 5-day pass and buy the tickets for the other 3 days individually. But once we decided go 2nd class, the current sale on the 10-day ticket became most economical. The 10-day, 2nd class German Twin Pass (for 2 people) is currently 20% off directly from Deutsche Bahn. The sale price us €433, which is about $585.

This is much cheaper than buying 2 point-to-point tickets for each of our train trips, which would cost about €695 ($925):

  1. Frankfurt to Bacharach (regular fare)
  2. Bacharach to Cochem (regular fare)
  3. Cochem to Munich (savings fare)
  4. Munich to Nürnberg (savings fare)
  5. Nürnberg to Würzburg (regular fare)
  6. Würzburg to Eisenach (savings fare) Eisenach to Erfurt (regular fare), Erfurt to Wittenberg (regular fare)
  7. Wittenberg to Dresden (savings fare) Dresden to Görlitz (regular fare)
  8. Görlitz to Berlin (no savings fare avail.)

Plus, since the 10-day pass is the least expensive option, we can use one of the extra pass days to cruise the Rhine for free (worth about €30 for 2 people).

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Keep in mind that by using the savings price you're locking yourself in to a specific time of departure. You're sacrificing flexibility for savings. Compare that 433 Euro to the sum of normal prices of the rides you plan on taking.

I used a German Twin Pass, 10day/2nd class once. But, now I prefer using the Austria-Germany, 10 day/2nd class, since the Select Pass with France is no longer around..

Posted by
7640 posts

On some of these trips though, you can use some great bargain fares. For example:
Munich to Nürnberg, a Bavaria ticket = 27 €
Nürnberg to Würzburg, a Bavaria Ticket = 27 €

If you are traveling on a weekend, you can use the Happy Weekend tickets on the Regional trains, which is what most of these routes are anyway.
Frankfurt to Bacharach for example would be just 50 € for 2 people, all day long.

So, for 3 of your trip days, I come up with 104 €

Or, if it isn't a weekend, that trip can be made with a Quer Durch Deutschland ticket which would be 52 € for the 2 of you all day long.

Cochem to Munich is between 69-79 € p.p. so lets say 150 € total
Würzburg to Eisenach is between 19-29 € p.p. so let's say 45 € total
Eisenach to Erfurt is 11.80 € p.p. = 23.60 €
Erfurt to Wittenberg is 19 € p.p. = 38 €
Wittenberg to Dresden is 19 € p.p. = 38 €
Dresden to Görlitz is 21.10 € p.p = 42.20 €
Görlitz to Berlin is 43 € p.p. = 86 €

My calculations come up to approximately 529 €

Posted by
17642 posts

"I looked-up the fares on Deutsche Bahn's website (bahn.de)."

Strange! Some of those fares (e.g. Frankfurt - Bacharach) are not available on the Bahn website. And, are you coming from airport to Bacharach or from downtown Frankfurt (Hbf)?

There are more things wrong with his analysis.

Würzburg to Wittenberg: "Würzburg to Eisenach - Savings Fare; Eisenach to Erfurt - full fare; Erfurt to Wittenberg - full fare". Why not do a Savings Fare all the way? Just Eisenach to Wittenberg full fare will be almost as much as Würzburg to Wittenberg saving Fare. If he wants to spend time in Eisenach and Erfurt, he can build that into a Saving Fare using the stopover function. If he's not sure how much time he wants to spend in Erfurt, it doesn't matter because Erfurt to Wittenberg is by regional train and that segment is NOT train specific. If he wants to make the stop time in Eisenach open, he can specify regional trains from Eisenach to Erfurt to Wittenberg and make both those segment non-train-specific.

With sufficient advance purchase, Munich to Nürnberg and Nürnberg to Würzburg can both be 29€ for two people, only 2€ more than using the Bayern-Ticket. A little time saved but train specific. Either way, a lot cheaper than by rail pass.

Posted by
42 posts

Yes, for the couple of fares that are not available on bahn.de, I estimated them from Rick Steves' railpass guide. I forgot to mention that.

Posted by
17642 posts

Frankfurt to Bacharach fare is on the RMV.de website - airport to Bacharach, 11,20€/P, Hbf to Bacharach, 14,50€/P.

Rick's railpass guide (sorry) is about as bad as using RailEurope.

The reason Görlitz to Berlin does not have a Savings Fare is because it entirely by regional train (OE, RE). Savings Fare tickets must have at least one segment on a train of the Bahn (ICE, IC, EC). However, because this trip is entirely by regional train anyway, you can use a 52€ (for two) Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (on a workday) or a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (44€, up to 5 people, on a weekend day). No specific train commitment; valid all day long.

Wittenberg-Dresden-Görlitz: I assume you want to stop a while in Dresden. No problem. Whether you book Wittenberg to Görlitz as a Savings Fare for 49€ (for 2) and take ICEs from Wittenberg to Dresden, or take regional trains from Wittenberg to Dresden with a Sachsen-Anhalt (Länder)-Ticket for 26€, the segment from Dresden to Görlitz is by regional train, so it is not train specific. You can book Wittenberg to Görlitz with a Savings Fare and spend as long as you like in Dresden, as long as you complete the trip to Görlitz by 10 AM the following morning.

Posted by
42 posts

These are good suggestions and they add up to a much lower cost than I had estimated for point-to-point tickets.

However, in my specific case, the lowest combined cost for point-to-point tickets using these suggestions appears to be €448 for 2 people. Because of the current sale, the 10-day German Twin railpass is slightly less expensive for us at €433 total.

Thank you for the discussion. These helpful tips will certainly help others to choose point-to-point tickets more often and make a better-informed decision.

Posted by
17642 posts

Just a point of fact, Rick's website says a 10 day German Rail twin pass is 630$ for two people, with the sale. That is 462€ according to Oanda.com, not 433€. But now it's close enough that if you want a railpass, go for it.

Posted by
17642 posts

Yes. Purchase by April 30, and travel by May 31.