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Traveling by train- with no experience!

Our plans for Germany will include the following train travel within a three week period:
train from Frankfurt to Trier where our RS tour begins
-train from Vienna (where our tour ends) to Rothenburg
-then Rothenburg to Rudesheim
-While in Rudesheim we’ll visit St Goarhausen by boat, but want to take the train back to Rudesheim
-then Rudesheim to Frankfurt

What is the most cost effective way to do this? Is there a rail pass of some sort that would be of benefit, or would we be taking different lines that would prevent that? Is it best to buy now or wait until we are in Germany?

Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Posted by
6806 posts

Sadly, you did not include key information that is needed for the response. What are the dates that you are doing each of these train trips? There are monthly 9 euro passes that work for all regional trains and many subways available in the months of July and August. That would impact the answer to "what is the most cost effective way to do this?" If your trip is in September, there will be different answers.

Posted by
6806 posts

Okay, then I am going to copy and paste an answer to this question that Lee from Colorado gave in 2021. He knows his German trains! This answer is for the trip from Frankfurt to Trier.

"You can always buy your tickets, particularly for regional trains, at the airport. For long distance trains (ICE, IC, or EC) advance purchase tickets can be less expensive, but require a specific train commitment.

The most common route is FRA to Mainz to Koblenz to Trier. I don't think you will find any non-change connection (except maybe a bus I don't know about). The time difference between regional and long distance train is about an hour.

If you buy a standard (full fare) ticket for a route using long distance train(s), you can use it for any train that day, but you will pay more for the higher speed. You can buy a less expensive (SparPreis or Savings Fare) ticket for a high speed train, but it is only good on pre-specified long distance trains as shown on the ticket, so you either build in a huge time allowance for a late arriving flight or risk loosing the entire price of the ticket.

On the other hand, regional tickets are open (any train, any time), so you don't risk loosing the ticket, but it will take longer to get there. With regional trains, you can use what are called Länder Tickets or regional passes, valid all day long on any regional trains in one German state (generally). The Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket, 24€ for one person, 5€ for each additional person up to 5, total, will get you from Mainz Hbf to Trier on regional trains as long as you stay in Rheinland-Pfalz, such as the Mainz to Koblenz to Trier route. A ticket for FRA to Mainz Hbf, by either S-Bahn or regional train costs 5€/P So, one person can go from FRA to Luxembourg for 29€. It will cost an additional 10€ for a cotraveler.

But probably the best deal, if your airline offers it (Lufthansa does) is what is called Rail&Fly, which is a ticket you purchase from the airline along with your flight and is valid for any train, including long distance ones, on your day of arrival or the following day. I think it cost 33€/P, which is a lot less than a full fare ticket for a long distance train. This deal allows you to take advantage of a fare similar to that of the Savings Fare without the risk.

You can find schedules and some fares on the German Rail Query webpage. This site shows most fares. If you put in Mainz to Trier, it will show you the Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket option, because that travel is all in one state, Rheinland-Pfalz. If you put in FRA to Trier, it will not show the Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket option, because it includes travel outside Rheinland-Pfalz, which is not included in the RL-P-Ticket."

Posted by
3773 posts

Good advice above. And if you have no experience with European trains, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the information provided on the man in seat 61 website. It's invaluable.

Posted by
8438 posts

First, I would spend your arrival day in Frankfurt. Trying to find your way around a train system while you are jet-lagged is not fun.

For Regional trains, there are cheap day tickets, or you could take the Flix bus to Trier, which is what we did a couple of years ago. It was cheaper, faster, and no changes.
There are direct trains from St. Goarshausen to Rüdesheim as well as direct trains from Rüdesheim to Frankfurt. You can use a Hessen ticket for that one.

Watching the Man in Seat 61 is a great idea.

Posted by
13 posts

Although boarding a train or bus right after our flight isn’t ideal, we do need to get to Trier that day. I am going to try to find more info on the Flix bus- but for such a long ride, did you find it comfortable?

Posted by
6806 posts

I am going to say that if you are boarding at the airport(which you would for either train or bus) isn't that difficult after a long flight. It is really not much different than getting in a cab or subway to get to your final destination.

You will be tired so make sure you have your plans written down and I suggest that you look at some videos on YouTube about the Frankfurt airport, train station, bus station, etc. If you preview these in advance, then it can help to orient you upon arrival.

Posted by
2609 posts

First of all, here is the link for the Man in Seat 61 (dealing w/ Germany)

Second, the Flixbus from Frankfurt airport to Trier will take you a little over 5 hours and will cost you €20. The DB train from Frankfurt airport will take (on average) 3 hours and will cost you anywhere from €20 to €45, depending on the train.

You can check out Flixbus here and plug your dates in here for Deutsche Bahn. If it was me, I would opt for the train - you will save several hours and the cost differences are small to negligible. I also don't think you need to worry about jet lag causing problems getting the train. I've engaged with a variety of trains and buses with jet lag and have never had a problem. I don't know that I would drive with jet lag, but it's never bothered me with public transport.

Posted by
5790 posts
  • train from Frankfurt to Trier where our RS tour begins
  • train from Vienna (where our tour ends) to Rothenburg
  • then Rothenburg to Rudesheim
  • While in Rudesheim we’ll visit St Goarhausen by boat, but want to take the train back to Rudesheim
  • then Rudesheim to Frankfurt

For better or worse, it sounds like you have already locked in your flights in and out as well as your base towns (Rothenburg and R'heim) and train journeys for the period after your tour as well as for your arrival date at FRA. Assuming it's too late at this point for itinerary changes and adjustments, simple answers to your questions about cost-effectiveness, passes, tickets, and when/how to buy should be pretty easy. But without an exact travel date for each of the journeys you mention, neither I nor the other posters can pass on to you the best available options and how to get them. If you know your dates, as I suspect you do, please post them.

Well, I guess I can answer this question: "Is there a pass...?" Yes, the German Rail Pass. But it will not cover Vienna > Germany, and it will be more money for your itinerary than is justified. You will do better with day passes or individual tickets for each day.

Helpful details would include...

  • # of persons (just 2, right?)
  • Date for each journey with preferred hour of travel
  • Arrival and departure dates and hours at FRA airport
  • Mobility issues?
Posted by
8438 posts

Sorry about the Flix bus recommendation. They have changed their schedule. It used to take 3 hours with no changes. Depending on the day of the week, it takes between 4-5-5.5 hours now with a change in Karlsrühe.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks Ms. Jo- no problem! I appreciate the info and it was an option I wasn’t even aware of. I did look at the schedule and noticed that the time difference wasn’t significant. I’m hoping the train may offer a more scenic route, but of course I have no idea! Thanks so much.

Posted by
1972 posts

Arrival - if Fly & Rail available, do that. Otherwise buy a ticket when you arrive
Vienna to Rothenburg - buy as soon as you can, fast train ( IC, ICE, EC ), same for R’burg to Rudesheim
In Rudesheim, local ticket or regional pass. buy there
To Frankfury, buy there

Posted by
18616 posts

Carol, I have to admit it gave me some apprehension to see you quoting me from a post a year ago, as things can change vis-a-vis rail travel in Germany, but I think, other than a possible slight change in fares, my post from 2021 seems to still apply.

As for the logistics, I don't think I would hesitate to undertake the travel on the day of arrival, but I have considerable past experience with jet lag an am confident I could handle it. Depending on your experience, or lack thereof, you might want to take Jo's advice and remain near Frankfurt the first night and continue to Trier the next day. I think if I were doing that, I would avoid backtracking to Frankfurt, and I would take the S-Bahn to the Mainz Hbf and stay there, because that's on the way. At Mainz, you would already be in Rheinland-Pfalz, and the next day's travel to Trier would be entirely on the Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket. There are a number of nice hotels right around the Mainz Hbf. I've stayed in two of them; I would definitely recommend this one.

Posted by
398 posts

Dear Schenkelberg 795
I did almost this same tour in 2015. I went from FRA to St. Goar for 3 nights before heading to Trier. I purchased a rail pass before flying to FRA. It was a paper copy that had to be activated at a train station before getting on the train. After landing in Frankfurt, I headed down to the lower level DB train station that is part of the airport. I stood in line for about 5 minutes and went to the counter. The clerk spoke perfect English. She activated the train pass and then asked where I was headed. I told her - St. Goar. She looked it up on the computer and then printed out a complete itinerary. It told me what platform to go to, which train to get on and where to get off. It also listed the next train and platform to get to my final destination. Be sure to download the DB app on your phone. If you type in your starting location and your final destination you will get several options. The app tells you the platform number, and the time of each train. When your train arrives, you get on quickly because they don’t hang around long. There is a screen on the train with a digital readout that lists the next train station. It says “Nachster Halt”, which means “next stop”. You can look at your app and it will list all the stations you stop at before you get to your desired stop. I looked and you can leave the airport and travel to Koblenz and get off. Then you change trains (12 minutes) for your final ride to Trier.

We also went from Vienna to Rothenburg. We were there in mid September 2015 when all the Syrians were migrating into Europe. We purchased a reserve seat in addition to our train fare. This made sure that we had a seat. The route is: Vienna Centrale - Nurnburg - Ansbach - Steinach - Rothenburg. There are lots of changes, but it is doable. When we arrived in Rothenburg it had been such a long day that we took a cab to our hotel. (There were a lot of Syrian refugees on the train and after we crossed into Germany from Austria, the train was boarded by LOTS of German police. They had all the people without passports leave the train, so that took extra time. Our train schedule was all messed up and we missed some connections. It made for a very long day.). We left 2 days later and took the train to Frankfurt to fly home. The trains are very prompt and easy to navigate. It will be a little scary at first, but you’ll get the hang of it rather quickly.

Posted by
18616 posts

Are you going from Rüdesheim to St Goarshausen by boat, then back to Rüdesheim for the night, then continuing on to FRA the next day?

If so, the RMV fare from St Goarshausen to Rüdesheim is 5,60€/adult. The fare the next day, Rüdesheim to FRA, is currently 9.55€/adult, but will go up on September 11 to 13,50€/adult.

38,20€ for 2 adults for two days travel. It would be difficult to beat this with any rail pass.

But why not do this instead? After you arrive at FRA, take the train to Rüdesheim (1h16, 13,50€/adult) and spend the night at wherever you were planning to at the end of your trip. It's a short enough trip, it shouldn't be difficult even jet lagged.

Next morning, take the K-D boat, with your luggage, to St Goarshausen (1H45), then take the train to Trier (2H48, 31,-€ for both of you with a Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket). Get the Rhein boat cruise out of the way on your way to Trier. Buy the RL-P-Ticket before you get to the K-D dock and show it when you get your boat ticket for a 20% discount.

If you don't want to take your luggage on the boat (people do it all the time), leave it at you accommodations in Rüdesheim when you check out. Take the boat trip, then come back on the train and pick it up before heading to Trier. That would add about 2½ hours to your travel time, but you could still do it for the same cost with the RL-P-Ticket, since it is a day pass.

Looking at the rest of your trip, there are Bahn Savings Fare tickets available from Vienna to Rothenburg odT in Sept for as low as 173,80 for 2P with the longest leg being on an ICE. Once you are in Europe, committing to an advance purchase ticket for a specific train should not be a problem, so Savings Price ticket would offer a good price with a low risk.

Similarly, Rothenburg odT back to FRA, again with an ICE leg, could be as low as 53,80€ for 2P.

I just picked a date in September and picked the lowest fare for a morning departure. There might be lower fares available later in the month; fares might be higher at popular times. All tickets are 2nd class.

I didn't check the prices using an Austrian Rail ticket from Vienna to the border and a Bayern-Ticket from there to Rothenburg. It could be less that way; I don't know.

There are also some very low fares from Vienna to Salzburg or Vienna to Munich on Westbahn (it doesn't look like they go to Passau, which would be closer to Nürnberg).

So, FRA to Trier with an overnight stop in Rüdesheim, continuing from St Goarshausen (or backtracking to get your luggage), would be 50,10€ for two.
Vienna to Rothenburg odT, 173,80/2P.
Rothenburg to FRA, 53,80/2P.

So you could at least do the rail part of this trip for about 278€ ($283, today). Your best rail pass deal is probably a 4 day German Rail 2nd class Twin Pass from German Rail at 371,-€ (for 2 people).

Posted by
7508 posts

schenelberg795, a couple of tips since you've not used the train before. The rail station in the Frankfurt airport will likely have at least one English speaking agent who can help orient you. Riding the train is more like riding the subway or city buses than it is an airplane. They down wait for you to be seated, you manage all your own luggage, and you have to know when your stop is coming up. When getting off, you need to be up and ready, with your bags before the train comes to a stop, or you may get blocked by boarding passengers coming up the aisle. So keep watching the stops, so you know in advance when yours is next. The trains dont wait around in stations too long, so dont take up too much time looking for the right coach to get on. You can always walk through the train until you find your reserved seats (if you have them) or empty seats in the right class.

Posted by
506 posts

I suggest you explore the Deutsche Bahn website. This will give you the most up to date and complete information. It is available in English and is very user-friendly. If you take the time to become familiar with it, you'll be able to make decisions regarding train travel as your trip evolves.

Posted by
18616 posts

schenelberg795, a couple of tips since you've not used the train before.

There are actually two (not one) train stations at the Frankfurt airport.

The Regional Bahnhof is close in, under the bus station across the access road from Terminal 1. There is a "mall" below street level where you can purchase tickets. I think you can access the mall directly from the baggage retrieval level under the terminal. The Regional Bahnhof services regional trains and S-Bahns.

The other bahnhof is farther out, beyond the hotels. It's called the Fern (far) Bahnhof, and it is where you catch the long distance train, the ICE/IC/EC.

You can do the entire trip using the S-Bahns or regional trains from the Regional Bhf and a local (RMV) ticket to Mainz Hbf and a Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket from there. Even if you take a regional train to one of the towns on the Rhein below Mainz, like Eltville, Ingelheim, or Bingen, and a regional train from there to Koblenz, those tickets work. Those trains all go through Mainz or Wiesbaden. The RMV ticket covers you to Mainz or Wiesbaden on the S-Bahn or any regional train, but you don't have to change trains there, just tickets; the RL-P-Ticket covers you the rest of the way.