We are traveling from Munich to Salzburg on Dec 23, do you think it will be difficult to get a train so close to Christmas without reservations?
When traveling in Germany, I rarely reserve a seat. However, this might be a time when you want to. If you travel by regional train, there are no reservations. You can use a Bayern-Ticket for €29 for up to five people. If you want to use a faster, express train, reservations are available and full fare tickets are €29-€33/P at the counter. You can also purchase a reservation at the counter for €4,50 in 2nd cl. If you purchase full fare tickets online from the Bahn (same price), reservations are €2,50. If you don't take that specific train, the reservations are forfeited, but the ticket is still good and you can get another reservation for €4,50. On the other hand, if you are going to commit to a specific date and train, you can purchase Sparpreis tickets online for as low as €19/P and reservations are €2,50.
Thank you. That is super helpful. We have been trying to decide if we should buy a Eurail pass or get tickets as we go. I am bit nervous about it being Christmas time and if we need reservations. One of the things I was wondering is if we bought a full fare ticket and we missed the train if we had to forfeit the entire ticket and buy a new one, so that bit of information was VERY helpful. Good to know we just lose our reservation, not the whole ticket.
I really encourage you to buy ahead. That is a heavy travel day in Europe. You may be able to get on the train with a last minute purchased ticket, but you could be standing the whole time (it's not that long, though). Also because of the heavy travel, the rates will just continue to increase as time gets closer.
Do you think we will have problems all through December? Or only the week or so right before Christmas? We will be there the whole month and are traveling quite a bit through Germany, France, and Austria. Thank you. Tina
The only time I encountered a SRO express train was on December 26, a holiday (2nd Christmas) in Germany, on an ICE going from Koeln to Basel on the heavily traveled line from FRA to Karlsruhe via Mannheim. Although every seat was occupied, probably less than half were reserved. I bought my ticket just a few minutes before train time. Had I purchase a reservation at the same time, I would have had a seat. After half an hour of standing, the train got to Mannheim and a lot of people got up to get off, and we got seats. For the next two weeks, we traveled through Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria on regional trains without reservations and never again had to stand. Whatever you do, don't buy your tickets and reservations in advance from RailEurope. You'll pay more than you need to. If you buy your ticket at the counter the day before, you shouldn't have trouble reserving a seat. If you really want tickets and reservations before you go over, get them online from the Bahn. "the rates will just continue to increase as time gets closer" That only applies to Saving Fare (Sparpreis) ticket, where the discounted tickets are tiered in price. When the most highly discounted tickets sell out, the next tickets are more because the discount is less. However, the price of standard fare tickets is fixed. They will be no more expensive the day before travel than they are today.
I'd reserve a seat. Also, you should have plenty of options from those two cities, lots of trains.
i did several train rides last Christmas time. Never a problem. Used Bayern-ticket
It is extremely rare to not be able to find a seat on German trains. I think I've had to stand exactly once. That being said, I always purchase reservations for ICE trains. The reason is because with a reservation, I know exactly where my carriage will arrive on the platform (there's usually a diagram posted that shows you how the train aligns in the station), and once I step in the carriage, I can proceed directly to my waiting seat. I don't have to fumble around with luggage looking for an empty place to sit.
Note: the original post was for Dec 23, 2011, now past. However, I think the question is still germane. In December, 2011, the Bahn changed their reservation fee. It is now €4/seat for all trains except the ICE Sprinter, regardless of class of travel, with or without a ticket, when you buy the reservation (well in advance online or that day at a counter), or where (online, counter, or automat).
Piping up to add that I've had to stand on ICE trains on non-holidays during the summer. If a seat is important to you, or you're traveling with a group that doesn't want to be split up, it makes sense to go for the extra seat reservation on the ICE trains, particularly those that connect major cities (and are thus commuter lines). I've ended up on what were apparently major commuter trains/lines and they were indeed full. Not a big deal by myself, a little more stressful with two panicking seniors who were afraid of being separated from me on the train.
I guess I should my post for those who might have this issue in the future. As it turned out, after much comparison and discussion, we ended up getting a eurail pass and we did get reservations for the train from Munich to Salzburg, but only after we arrived in Germany. The train was extremely crowded and I was glad we had reservations. If we had not reserved seats we probably would have had to stand, at least on that train. If we had gotten a train very early in the morning, we might not have had a problem, but the train we were on left between 9 and 10 AM and it was packed. We also traveled on January 1 which is a holiday and we were worried it might be crowded. We traveled from Salzburg to Vienna and all but had the whole train to ourselves. It was one of the brand new trains, and we were right next to the bar car where our poor "hostess" was sitting up and had fallen asleep (understandably so) it was new years eve the night before and she probably had not slept. She was very nice and totallly helpful, just tired and again, there was almost no one on the train.
Tina - Thanks for sharing your experience! Glad your trip went well. I imagine most trains on Jan 1st are empty because everyone is sleeping off their hangovers. Sylvester/New Year's Eve was completely crazy in a way I couldn't have predicted here in Germany! They really go all out for it!