Using public transport all over Germany for 49 Euro? Sounds like the perfect deal, especially if you are a visitor to my country. The new Deutschland Ticket (“Germany Ticket”) will incept on 1st May 2023. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind when you want to go for it. This posting is mainly aiming to give information to foreign country visitors to Germany. However, I hope that the post is interesting to you even if you are a German resident.
The Deutschland Ticket – Some Background
The roots of the Deutschland Ticket are the 9 Euro Ticket, which has been issued in Germany in June, July and August 2022. The ticket was part of a set of measures in order to kick off usual social life and economic impacts after the lock-downs due to Covid-19. For 9 Euro, you could use all regional transports (definition: see below) for one month. The ticket was a pay-as-you-go model. It was fixed to a calendar month and you could buy it almost everywhere, including train and local transport ticket machines. The ticket was heavily supported by the state (i.e. the taxpayer). It was rather too much of a success with over-crowded regional trains.
The Deutschland Ticket – How does it work?
The Deutschland Ticket will start on 1st May 2023. Compared to the 2022 predecessor, there are significant changes. Here are some of the features of the new ticket.
- The most significant difference to 2022 is the price. The Deutschland Ticket is now 49 EUR. Like in the previous year, it is valid for one calendar month, i.e. you cannot buy it from 15th May to 14th June 2023, for example. The price is also why the ticket is called the 49 Euro Ticket in public communication. However, there are rumors that the ticket price may have to be increased soon.
- The biggest issue for visitors is likely that it is a subscription model only. Most Germans will either subscribe at their regional transport authority or receive the ticket as a part of ther job benefits. This also implies that you cannot buy it as a physical ticket on a ticket machine. The ticket is not necessarily physical, though (my Deutschland Ticket is a plastic card). Thus, as a visitor, you should try to load the ticket in some sort of app.
- The ticket is valid for 2nd class travel only. You must not travel first class. There is also no first class version available.
- The ticket is limited to local and regional transport. This especially means that the Deutschland Ticket does not cover the ICE high speed rails (here is a look into the ICE3 neo) and Intercity (incl. Eurocity) trains. There are a few, sometimes rather absurd-feeling exceptions. For example, there is an RE (Regionalexpress) train in Bavaria, which would be included in the ticket by the rail class. However, as the train is in fact using Intercity cars and turns into an Intercity train in Munich, it is excluded. Vice versa, you currently can use the Deutschland Ticket at an Intercity in Northern Germany, as traffic is limited there due to maintenance. The ticket is including rail, light rail/trams and underground trains and buses.
- Local and regional transport also excludes trains operated by foreign rail companies. For example, the Austrian Railjet and Nightjet trains are not included, even if you want to ride them between two German cities. Currently, the Deutschland Ticket does not include scheduled regional and national bus connections like Flixbus. This may change in the future, though.
- It excludes some private rail companies and touristic rail connections. The most prominent exception is likely FlixTrain. However, all kinds of historic rails or mountain rails like the Brockenbahn in Lower Saxony do not accept the Deutschland Ticket as well. Non-Deutsche Bahn trains offering regional services like the Metronom in Northern Germany are part of the Deutschland Ticket.
- The Deutschland Ticket must not be transferred to another person. If kids under the age of 6 travel with you and you have the ticket, they travel for free. The ticket is only sold to persons. Might sound weird, but that means that larger dogs will have to pay a fare according to the tariff if they travel with you.
- The compensation according to European rail passenger rights is very limited on the Deutschland Ticket. In practice, it is likely not worth to claim any compensation.
In case you travel close to German borders: some train stations, which are in fact located in other countries, count as German train stations. You can thus use (appropriate) trains to get there. However, you will not be able to use public transport like buses or trams at your destination. Some examples are Salzburg, Kufstein (both Austria) or Basel (only Bad Bf station, SBB station is a Swiss station).
The Deutschland Ticket – How do you get it?
While for locals, there are numerous, rather easy to complete options to get the Deutschland Ticket, the fact that the new ticket is a subscription model may make it a bit of tricky for you. From the issuer side, they of course need to be somehow sure that you are paying on as a foreigner once your subscription is prolonging automatically. However, it is not as bad as it sounds, as there is no minimum subscription time other than the duration of the ticket itself, i.e. you can withdraw from the subscription after a month (or two, depending on your trip).
Even though I played around with some VPN locations, I cannot fully give you a way which is guaranteed to work for you. However, I would buy the ticket in the app of the German Rail service, Deutsche Bahn. You can use credit card and PayPal payments there, both give the issuing company the necessary level of security. I also know that many foreigners use and like the app, as it is relatively handy for navigation and to find connections, including connections outside Germany. Another advantage of that is is that you will have a digital Deutschland Ticket, which is likely favorable compared to a physical one.
The Deutschland Ticket – Alternatives
The key alternative to the Deutschland Ticket is the German Rail Pass (or Interrail Single Country Pass Germany). It is only available to people who do not live in Germany. There are numerous options. The German Rail Pass for 10 consecutive days in 2nd class, for example, is 329 EUR (at the time of writing, 1st class 452 EUR). If you want to travel on ten days (non-consecutive) within a month, the ticket is 366 EUR / 502 EUR. Numerous other choices for the duration are possible. Most German trains do not require seat reservation, but I would strongly recommend that, especially in 2nd class.
The key advantages of this ticket is that you can use all high-speed and Intercity trains. Night trains are not included. A very nice feature is that you can use some German trains on a couple of connections outside Germany. The two most attractive ones are to Verona and Venice in Italy (the train also crosses Austria, e.g. Innsbruck) and ICE trains to Brussels. It is not a subscription model. The key downside is that it is only valid for Deutsche Bahn trains, which especially excludes local transport buses, trams or also public transport ferries like those in Hamburg.
What does Regional Train Riding Mean? An Example
Of course, if you chose between the Deutschland Ticket and the German Rail Pass, it helps to understand what the impact of limiting yourself to local and regional trains in practice means. I wrote this posting on 23rd April 2023 and felt to go for one scenario I felt could be quite characterstic: you land at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) on Saturday 1st July at 8:00. On your first day, you want to get to Munich (to Main Station). I assume that you tale a train ride at 10:00 earliest:
The Normal Train Connection
|10:09||13:26||ICE 915||Frankfurt Airport||Munich Main Station|
If you are not going for the German Rail ticket, the ticket price as at 23rd April would be:
- A 2nd class fixed train connection ticket for 33.90 EUR (Sparpreis)
- A 2nd class flexible ticket, valid for any train connection on that route for 103 EUR
- A 1st class fixed connection ticket is 55.90 EUR
- A 1st class flexible ticket is 175 EUR
There are also two other ticket types. The Super Sparpreis does not allow you to cancel the ticket the day before departure and the Flexpreis Plus does also allow you to travel some days before / after the in fact travel date. If you go for a fixed connection ticket, especially in the scenario described, you may have to buy a new ticket (which is then likely only available for the flexible price) in case of your incoming flight to Frankfurt is delayed or you have any kind of other delay. You can also reduce the price with German rail cards.
The flexible ticket prices will be the same if you book in 2023. The fixed train connection Sparpreis ticket have dynamic pricing.
Frankfurt Airport to Munich with the Deutschland Ticket
You would expect that you have a lot of connections on this trip – but actually, especially on this route, the connections are actually not too bad at all:
|10:09||10:30||Bus X61||Frankfurt Airport||Frankfurt South|
|10:40||12:21||RE 55||Frankfurt South||Würzburg Main Station|
|12:43||16:20||RE 80||Würzburg Main Station||Munich Main Station|
The key difference is the total travel time. Nonetheless, 6:30 hrs is almost double the time of the high speed rail connection and there is a certain connection risk (which is of course on your personal risk). Nonetheless, you just pay 49 EUR and can do the same stuff again and again. I randomly picked the connection, I am rather surprised how few transfers you need on this almost 400km route (if you travel by car, which is 3:30 to four hours plus potential major congestion).
Just to give you an additional example, I looked up how a Deutschland Ticket connection between the Northernmost and the Southernmost million people cities in Germany, Hamburg and Munich, would look like (on the same travel date, but starting a bit earlier). The comparable ICE high speed rail trip would be a direct six to seven hour connection, by the way. The 800km car ride would be about six to seven hours plus breaks and congestion, likely.
|7;57||8:56||ME RE3||Hamburg Main Station||Uelzen|
|13:48||14:42||RE 23||Neudietendorf||Saalfeld (Saale)|
|15:05||17:19||RE 14||Saalfeld (Saale)||Nuremberg Main Station|
|18:06||18:52||RE 1||Nuremberg Main Station||Ingolstadt Main Station|
|19:06||19:56||RE 1||Ingolstadt Main Station||Munich Main Station|
Again, there are likely some of the spots where you have a higher risk of not making your connection and have to re-route your travel plans.It is rather an adventure of a lifetime, likely. However, the German rail app is actually not that bad, so even with some travel plan changes, you have a rather realistic chance to make the trip until late evening. If you have a delay over 20 minutes, there is also a chance to buy an ICE ticket and get reimbursed under certain circumstances.
All train connections given in this posting are subject to change. Deutschland Ticket logo copyrighted.
Rides on Rail / Germany