By Durant Imboden
ABOVE: Waiting for the train in Berlin's Hauptbahnhof.
You can buy ICE and other Deutsche Bahn tickets at railroad stations, at travel agencies, from Rail Europe (U.S.), or directly from the Deutsche Bahn Web site.
First class will cost you about 50 per cent more than second class, but the car will have fewer passengers and your seat will be a little more comfortable. (For most travelers, second class on an ICE train is more than adequate, and it's more comfortable than economy class on an airplane.)
Seat reservations aren't required on most ICE trains, but they're a good idea if you're traveling at a busy period or want a block of seats for your family or group. You can reserve seats at German railroad stations or on the Deutsche Bahn's Web site; see the DB's Seat Reservation page for more information.
When you board a train with a seat reservation, go to the indicated car and seat number. You'll see a small sign (usually electronic, sometimes paper) above the seat that identifies your boarding and arrival station, such as "Nürnberg-München" or "Wolfsburg-Hannover."
When you board a train without a seat reservation, look for an unreserved seat or a seat with an expired reservation indicator (in other words, if the reservation is to Frankfurt Hbf and you get on after Frankfurt Hbf, you can claim the seat).
- Tip: Reserved seats must be claimed within 15 minutes after boarding, so don't get on the train and head immediately to the BordRestaurant or BordBuffet. Instead, go to your seat, wait for the conductor to check your ticket, and leave a personal item (preferably nothing valuable) on or by your seat before leaving the car.
You can travel free on ICE trains if you have a qualifying rail pass. Eurail (for travelers who live outside Europe) and InterRail (for residents of Europe) offer a variety of multi-country and single-country passes, ranging from the Eurail Global Pass (21 countries, 15 days to three months) to the InterRail Germany Pass (any 3 to 8 days within a one-month period).
Deutsche Bahn also sells passes and special tickets for tourists, such as the German Rail Ticket (for transportation between major German airports and most cities) and the German Rail Pass (4 to 10 days within a four-week period), along with offers for residents of Germany.
- If you're traveling with a rail pass, be sure to read the pass instructions before boarding the train. (Typically, you'll need to write in the date of travel and have your passport handy if the conductor wants to check your identity.)
- Reservations aren't covered by your rail pass, so if you reserve a seat, you'll have to pay the small fee.