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German Trains: 1st Class vs 2nd Class Seating

I'm traveling from Munich to Stuttgart, just over a 2 hour trip. Does traveling 2nd class on the train get me a reserved seat? I can't remember from previous travels... I have no problem traveling 2nd class (it's only 2 hours or ) but I'll be traveling on the weekend and I'm thinking I should spring for the 1st class ticket, about 25 Euros more roundtrip. I do remember one trip I took where the train cars were packed with students sitting on their luggage by the train doors... that's where I ended up until a few stops further down, when seats were available. I don't want to repeat that.

Posted by
9106 posts

With both first and second class, you have to purchase seat reservations separate from the train ticket. The rail.de site will automatically give you the option of purchasing the seat reservation when you buy your train ticket. They cost 4 euros per seat.

Posted by
19151 posts

If you are looking at about 2 hr connections, they are either by ICE or EC. Those trains have reservable seats. Both 1st and 2nd class take the same amount of time. There are slower connections, about an hour longer, by regional trains (IRE/RE). Those connections cost less but do not have reservable seats.

Posted by
11294 posts

A tip I got from this site which was invaluable (I see you've already figured it out, but I want to emphasize it for others): although reservations are not required on most German trains, they can be a VERY GOOD IDEA on popular routes. This is particularly true if you have sizeable luggage and/or if you want to be sure you have seats together. Going from Dresden to Berlin, my mother and I would have had a similar experience to yours, but thanks to our reservations, we had seats with space for our bags, and others had to stand in the aisles.

Posted by
995 posts

An other tip if you can't find a seat, is to check if they have a dining car - a cup of coffee will get you a seat!

Posted by
2779 posts

I'm a frequent traveler on Deutsche Bahn - for business, almost every week. Here are my findings: 1st class: Seats are about one inch wider and you get your own arm rest vs. the shared arm rest in 2nd class. There is more space for your luggage (actually there is almost none in 2nd class as it's always packed). It's less noisy as there aren't as many children - and if there are some they usually know how to behave (unlike those kids in 2nd class). The rule in our company which I fully support is: For any journeys up to 1 hour duration 2nd class is fine. From the 1:01 hour 1st class is the way to go - especially if the price difference is rather small...

Posted by
14580 posts

How true...I've encountered those types which gets a bit tedious in the second class ICE or Regional Bahn, whereas they don't appear in the 1st class ICE. If you're in the mood to avoid the locals, get "far from the madding crowd," then choose the 1st class ICE.

Posted by
19151 posts

When I first went to Europe in the 80s, my company made all the arrangements and paid for my travel, all in 1st class. I remember an evening train trip from Offenburg to Heidelberg where I was the only person in the coach. Then I made a trip on my own, with a 2nd class rail pass, and discovered I couldn't tell the difference. On a later company trip, I rode in 2nd class even though they would pay for 1st class. I had a really enjoyable ride from Karlsruhe to Munich in a 2nd class compartment with 5 Germany who took great delight in pointing out the "points of interest" along the route. Since I started going to Germany on my own 13 years ago, I have spent 4 month there, traveling by train in 2nd class. I have never experienced the problems (screaming kids, drunks) described by others, but I have had some pleasant encounters in 2nd class. Full fare 1st class is 50% more than 2nd class, and reduced fares like the Bayern-Ticket are not available in 1st class and Savings Fares have only recently been available in 1st. I figure I've spent over $2000 on rail travel in the 13 years, so I've saved over $1000 by traveling in 2nd class. If I ever encounter the problems alluded to by others, I might change my class preference, but for now I see no reason to.

Posted by
485 posts

Thanks for all the responses. I decided to book a 2nd class reserved seat ticket for the 2 hour train trip. I figured that if I could survive a 10 hour flight from the US to Germany in coach, I could deal with 2nd class for 2 hours. As long as my seat is reserved I'll be OK.

Posted by
12172 posts

I have a different rule than Andreas. Mine is, when someone else is paying (e.g. business trip) it's first class. When I'm paying, it's second class. I tend to travel shoulder season, so haven't run into as many packed cars with screeming kids - though drunks, when traveling at night, is a possibility (but I've run into them more on regional trains and S-bahns).

Posted by
2779 posts

Alexandra, your seats may well be taken once you board the train. After you've made sure you are in the correct carriage and are looking at the correct seats do ask the occupants of your seat to kindly clear them out for you... "Entschuldigung, aber ich glaube das hier sind unsere Sitze". They're not blocking them on purpose. They were just hoping the holder of the reservation wouldn't show up - this happens a lot especially on busy days...

Posted by
1168 posts

Andreaus is right - it happened a lot to me. When someone is in your seat, a lot of times they try to get you to just squat in someone else's seat so they don't have to move. If you want that seat, ask for it. We found the attendents really don't get involved is making people move.