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Cheaper / better to fly to Munich direct or elsewhere (Frankfurt?) and take train to Munich?

I'm in the beginning stages of planning a December, 2022 trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Bavaria / Austria. Some early searches and discussions show me flying to Munich (4 of us) will be pretty expensive regardless of fare class. However, I see flying to Frankfurt might be substantially cheaper. I also am learning a lot about the German / Euro rail system which seems very efficient and available to go most anywhere.

So, my first of perhaps many future questions is whether its generally better / cheaper to fly direct to Munich, or to fly to another city (like Frankfurt) and take the train to Munich? Thanks.

Posted by
1767 posts

According to DB you can take a direct train from Frankfurt Flughafen airport (FRA) to Munich (3h 30m).

Posted by
1933 posts

I'd suggest setting up Google Flight price alerts to both cities and having factual data to review. Also, slightly alter the dates when you set up your price alerts , as sometimes just one day difference can be much cheaper. You can also look at price graphs with this handy tool.

Also, consider flying open jaw. [ Eg, into Munich and out of Frankfurt.] I have not found open jar to be any more expensive in my own experience.

Good luck!

Posted by
5221 posts

I just did a search on kayak.com for a roundtrip on random December dates between ATL and FRA, then one between ATL and MUC. In basic economy the MUC flight is about $400 more per person, so flying to and from FRA would save you about $1600, or perhaps more in a higher seating class. Against that are the cost, time, and inconvenience of the train between FRA and Munich. If I were planning that trip for four people I'd choose FRA. Some of the savings would go toward train fares, and we'd live with the inconvenience of the train on our jet-lagged arrival day. That day's pretty much a bust anyway so why not snooze on the train? And, as noted above, there's train service right from FRA so no need to go into the city. You're right, trains in Germany and most of Europe are a great way to get around, far better than Amtrak in most areas.

I didn't try to compare "open jaw" fares (aka "multi city") but I expect they would be similar to those for round trips. But you might try that on kayak or an airline site. And the time saved not backtracking should be worth something.

Posted by
1741 posts

What Dick said. You usually can't check in at your lodging until mid afternoon anyway. Why not just spend it on the train chilling out? That's what we have done on the majority of our trips. Caveat: We are carry-on only travelers. If you're checking bags it's more risky to leave the arrival city on the arrival day.

Posted by
5514 posts

I am not buying the idea that the airfare to Munich you are finding for December will remain consistently "high" as the months roll by. I would wait. Sign up for alerts as Pat suggested.

If you decide on FRA: Standard train fare between FRA and Munich will be around €100 each. At some point, when tickets actually become available, you will see much cheaper "saver" fares at the DB site (like €20.) But these are train specific, so any delay in your arrival can result in fees or forfeiture of these saver tickets. You might wish to overnight in/near Frankfurt while shedding your jet lag rather than jump on a train after a 9-hour overnight flight, which will also provide a proper time "cushion" for riding to Munich on the saver fare the next morning. Alternatively, a few airlines offer "rail + fly" whereby a discount train fare that is NOT train-specific can be purchased.

Checking Google flights for a random date of Dec. 6: I see a 1-week trip to FRA at $718, to MUC at $879, and to Salzburg at $717 on Lufthansa with a change of plane at FRA. Perhaps you were heading to Salzburg anyway?? Even if not, a direct train ride between Salzburg City and Munich's Central station can be done for peanuts with no advance purchase (Bayern Ticket day pass for 4 persons = €50 total) and takes less than 2 hours. You might look into SZG if you haven't done so.

Posted by
18246 posts

The problem with flying into FRA, and then taking a train to Munich is that the fare for fast trains (ICE/IC/EC) is quite expensive if you book an open ticket (usable any time on any train). There are advance purchase fares (called SparPreis) for considerably less, but these fares are valid on only one specific (date and time) train, so late flights will present a difficulty. If you advance purchase book a train for shortly after arrival, and your transatlantic flight is late, your would lose your non-refundable ticket, but if you build in a time allowance (how much is enough?), and your flight arrives on time, or even early, you could waste a lot of time waiting for your specified train.

One solution is to plan on spending a few days near Frankfurt, and see some things there before taking the train with the discounted ticket, when you know you can make the specified train, to Munich. I did this a few years ago. I was going to Bavaria (around Füssen) but flying into FRA. We railed down to St Goar, on the Rhine, for a few days before taking the long distance train (with advance purchase tickets) to Bavaria.

A second solution is to take regional trains from FRA's Regionalbahnhof with a Quer durchs Land Ticket (63€ for 4 adults). Regional trains will take you about 6 hours (vs 3½-4 hours by ICE), and you will have several changes of trains, but you can leave for Munich as soon as your flight arrives (and you buy the ticket). The QdLT is an open pass, always available for the same low price, for all regional trains in the entire country for a day (after 9 AM workdays, all day on weekends).

A third option, which is more expensive than the QdLT, but allows you to use faster, long distance trains, is called Rail&Fly. It is available with some airlines (Lufthansa is one) and includes a rail ticket coupon with your flight ticket that is valid on any trains of the Bahn on the day you arrive or the next day. I think you have to book it with the airline along with your flight tickets. Last I knew, it cost 33€/person, which is more than 16€/P for the QdLT but would allow you to board the next fast ICE to Munich after you arrived. Seat reservations would not be included at that price, but you could purchase them after you arrive.

Posted by
2992 posts

I imagine you are looking at those big, juicy non-stop Delta flights from Atlanta to Frankfurt or Munich. Delta has totally random sales that typically pop up on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. But they usually only last 24 hours. There will likely only be one or two sales between now and your departure (unless the air business tanks). You can set up a fare watch as mentioned above, but I’ve found that for whatever reason they sometimes miss the Delta sales. So… if those are the flights that interest you, I would suggest being fairly religious (pun not intended) checking the Delta website Tues through Thursday for sales.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for the time you took to respond in a lot of great detail. I really appreciate the help.

Posted by
756 posts

What time do the flights you are looking at arrive? I agree that you should set alerts and watch the airfare. I find that sometimes Munich is cheaper or can be the same price as Frankfurt from IAH. Just keep watching. Also, look in to flying to your furthest destination first, and work your way back to where you will be flying home for. If your plan to base in Munich, Salzburg is an easy day trip from Munich. The DB rail site is a great tool for looking up train schedules. This may not make a lot of sense, but if you fly in to Frankfurt, you could take the train to Nuremberg for the night, and get a little taste of that city before departing for Munich in the morning, or whenever. It would break up the trip to Munich if that is something you would want to do. Some will say that doesn't make sense, but if you are interested in Nuremberg at all, it's a thought. Otherwise, be patient. Chances are decent you will find a cheaper fare between now and December to Munich. But if you find it, don't procrastinate. Grab it if you are sure of your plans.

Posted by
4645 posts

You worry me when you say "Euro rail system". There is no such thing as each country has its own train system. I am concerned that you are considering a rail pass or using Rail Europe as a resource. Rail Europe is a travel agency that makes money off of you (as opposed to just buying directly from the source, DB in this case). Rail passes are also very much not cost effective as you are paying a premium for the luxury of flexible travel.

You might want to read the resources on the Man in Seat 61 website. The train information on the Rick Steves' website is skewed to make you think that train tickets are expensive so that you buy a pass.

As noted above, you may want to look into flying into Vienna if you plan to visit Austria.

Posted by
198 posts

Totally agree, you are "way out" looking for tickets from ATL almost a year out. I expect you will seen tickets comparable to Munich somewhere along the way. Join the free "Scotts Airfare" and enter ATL as your base station.

We flew into Munich and back from Prague a few years ago as cheaply as anywhere. Your patience will likely be rewarded :)

Posted by
14 posts

If there are 4 of you, you could consider renting a car to drive to Munich. 4h15m from Frankfurt (4h30m from Vienna)--with traffic, if you leave right . . . now.

You'll be landing on an overnight flight, so consider the jetlag. But I've saved money like this when traveling with a group of more than 2 and one person doesn't mind driving (I enjoy it, and try to mix trains and driving on most trips). Plus, you can drive directly to your hotel without have to consider figuring out and the price of local Munich transportation.

Train tickets aren't much, though--price that option as well. And consider if the extra 4.5hrs in transit is worth the cost savings. (For me, it's usually not. Or, I'll finding someplace to stay/someplace to visit near the (cheaper) city I'm flying into, at least for the first day or two.)

So keep checking those direct-to-Munich prices.

Posted by
23 posts

Lee - thank you for the tips on Rail & Fly! I found that Condor also offers this option (we are ending a trip in Munich but like the option to fly out from Frankfurt better, with a later, direct flight).

I am going to look more into the train ticket variances (buying the $20 ticket a few weeks out, vs buying the $100 ticket several months out) just to make sure I understand the differences, and which of these the Rail & Fly fits into. Thanks!