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What Is the best way to buy train tickets before leaving the US?

Is it possible to go online directly to the national railroad in Germany and/or Austria. I have used EurAide on previous trips but last year on our trip in Italy I got great prices on "early" special deals thru Trenitilia website. I don't think that you can do this in France - at least they won't mail the tickets to the US - you have to pick them up in France. Anyway, this year we will be in Austria and Germany and hope to save some money. Has anyone bought tickets for these countries?

Barb

Posted by
5276 posts

Bahn.de (Germany) and oebb.at (Austria) websites -- you can switch to English language and print tickets at home. Lots of special fare choices for 2+ people. Easy!

Posted by
15573 posts

Yes, and the print at home function works great. In Germany, you will need to bring the same credit card you used to purchase the tickets with you on the trip to act as your ID and proof that you are the person who purchased the tickets. Notify your credit card company before you buy, as it will appear to the credit card company that "someone in Germany is trying to buy train tickets with your credit card".

Posted by
11613 posts

You can print at home, as stated. For France, just to clarify, this option is not always available, but you can pick up all tickets at one time at any French station.

You may need to show the credit card you used to purchase the ticket, even if the card is expired.

Posted by
4968 posts

Barb: I've bought advance-purchase savings-fare tickets at the DB website several times. You can buy tickets for within Germany or between a German city and a foreign city. They are quite good as long as...

1.) ...you can commit to keeping a strict travel schedule (tickets are train-specific and not refundable/reusable at the last minute.)
2.) ...you are traveling fairly long distances using high-speed trains (IC, ICE, EC) for at least part of the journey (local/regional journeys that use only local/regional trains are not part of the savings fare program.)
3.) ...you are able to buy tickets 3 months in advance (if you postpone purchase, prices rise as the tickets are sold to others.)

If your trip is typical, you will also have some local/regional-train-only travel. These trains have a variety of designations including S, RB, RE, IRE, MRB, and many others. Tickets for these trains are sometimes sold by DB, and sometimes not (NOT if your journey is within a local travel zone, where the local transit authority sells them instead.) But there is no reason to purchase any of these tickets in advance. There's no discount for advance purchase, and they are sold at all stations via ticket machines. No seat reservations are possible, and tickets never sell out.

Whatever discounts might be available for these local/regional trains are available at the ticket machines on the day of travel. And the discounts tend to be substantial. Daypasses from DB and from local transit authorities offer huge discounts. Here is a sampling:

Weekend Ticket
Länder Ticket
Bayern ticket (one of the Länder Tickets)
VRM tickets (local transit authority in the Rhine/Mosel region)

You can save a lot by purchasing carefully, but how to get the right deal for your trip isn't always transparent. Best thing to do might be to post your itinerary for ticketing suggestions.

Posted by
1402 posts

I have bought tickets from bahn.de with no problem. As Sam mentions, you must show the credit card you used to purchase the tickets with. Don't leave home without it!

The website says to print on A6 paper. That is the European paper that is close to 8.5" x 11". There have been several posts on various forums about whether it is necessary to use the A6. Most posters have said that the 8.5 x 11 is ok. I decided to use A6 which I bought from the kiosk at Staples (also can be ordered online).

Posted by
410 posts

I hadn't heard about the VRM pass. Just to make sure I understand it - if we're in the Rhein-Mosel area for three days and purchase the 3 day VRM pass, we can use this on local buses and regional trains?

Thanks.

Posted by
2081 posts

Barb,

when i travel i try different methods to see what happens. So far i havent done the "use the ticket office". I wont do the "send to the USA" since i see no reason for it. I have done with success:

  • gather ticket at ticket kiosk
  • print @ home

Its just something i do so i know if it works, how well and if there are any issues.

happy trails.

Posted by
671 posts

I bought tickets on-line from both the DB and OEBB websites in 2013. Had no problems and saved a bundle by (1) committing to a specific train and (2) buying well in advance of the trip in order to get the deep discount. Just make sure to call your credit card company before you purchase the tickets on-line so they know the charges are legitimate. Otherwise, the transaction may not be approved.

Posted by
17642 posts

The first time (2008) I bought Savings Fare tickets for Germany I took 11" x 17" paper and cut it down to the specified A4 (not A6. A6 is 7.2" x 4.1") and set my printer for that sized paper. Then I printed another on 8½ x 11. There was a little difference between them - the size and shape of the "barcode" (bar square) - but not much. I took both sheets with me, along with the .pdf file. When I got to Germany, before using the ticket, a had my host print it on his computer - different yet. I gave the conductor the sheet I printed on 8½ x 11 and he accepted it. He holds his "tricorder" about a foot away from the paper and approximately perpendicular when he scans it. A little closer and it would look bigger; a little farther away, smaller. At an angle, the square would not be square. It doesn't matter that much.

I think now they can even scan a phone image.