If you are a couple or a couple of friends, the German Twin Rail Pass is an amazing way to reduce your transportation costs while maintaining flexibility. On our last trip, Jane and I spent two weeks in Germany with a 7-day flexi pass, that took us all over Germany.
What it is included
German Rail passes come in a variety flavors with three main distinctions: number of passengers, number of ride days and concurrent or flexible schedule.
Number of Passengers
Most rail passes are valid for a single person. In contrast the Twin passes allow two people to travel together on the same pass for roughly a 25% discount compared to two single rail passes. You cannot travel separately on the twin pass, but if you know you are going to be traveling with another person for every leg of your German trip, this pass offers big savings.
As a bonus, two children aged 6-11 are automatically included in any German rail pass.
Number of Ride Days
Passes are sold in 3, 5 and 7-day increments. But the great thing about the rail pass is you get unlimited travel on those days. So you could take a train from Berlin to Hamburg in the morning and then another train from Hamburg to Cologne in the evening.
Additionally, you can ride the S-Bahn (suburban trains) for free on the same day. So you can take a regional train into Berlin, and then the Berlin S-Bahn from the main station across the city. That can save you another €10 per person per trip!
Flexi vs. Fixed Days
There are two options for how to use your days. The Flexi option lets you pick any day in a one month window or the fixed option is consecutive days after you start the first day. I guess if you are going to do a whirlwind tour of several German cities, the fixed option would save a little money.
But for the vast majority of travelers, the Flexi option is what you want. You’ll be able to pick your travel days, which lets you change your schedule around on a whim and lets you spend as long as you want in any city.
How to use it
While the name is a little unwieldy (that’s Germany), the pass is amazingly easy to use. On your first train of the day, simply write in the current date. You are supposed to write that in before boarding the train, but if you are in a rush at least make sure that you write the date in before a conductor comes by to check tickets.
We rode 10+ trains on our pass and it was checked on every regional train, so be prepared to pull out your pass.
How to maximize the value
It’s simple: use every ride day that you buy and use it on the days when you are traveling the farthest.
To ensure that you don’t leave any days unused on your pass, consider how many inter-city trips you are going to take. If you want to see Berlin, Dresden, Munich and Salzburg, that would be three inter-city trains. It’s easy to think, “I’ll buy more days just in case.” If you are going for convenience, that would be true, but it’s not going to help your budget.
A little day-trip train is not going to be worth using your rail pass. Consider the cost per ride: if you buy a 7-day twin pass for €416, each day is priced out at €30 per person. That is about $32. Keep this number in mind. If the only train ticket you are going to buy on a single travel day costs less than $32, you are better off saving the rail pass for a different day.
Longer and faster trains cost more. If you want the fast train between Berlin and Dresden, it might be $45 per person. Clearly that is a better use of a ride day than a little day trip train out of the city.
Two Seasoned Traveler Tips
On our most recent trip to Germany, we came away with several important tips for would-be-travelers on the German Rail Pass.
- Buy directly from Deutsche Bahn at Bahn.com. There are several other website selling German rail pass at higher prices without more features.
- Often DB offers discounts on certain types of rail passes. That happened to us, and we got our rail pass for€330 instead of €416.
- Buy it early or buy it in person. The pass needs to be physically mailed to you. In our case, this took a month. Deutsche Bahn suggests four weeks, but that would cutting it a little close in my opinion. If you are less than a month from your trip, just buy the pass in person on arrival.
- Consider a reservation if traveling at peak times. The great part about the pass is that you can just jump on any train, anytime, anywhere in Germany. However, you are not guaranteed a seat. On popular inter-city trips, every seat will sometimes be taken and you will need to stand. If you are unable to stand or simply don’t want to, you can make reservation on Deutsche Bahn’s website for a small fee.
- You can use the pass to ride on the night train, and it only counts as one day. However, reservations are required on night trains and you may have to pay and additional fee depending on which class of cabin you choose.
We used a 7-day Flexi Twin pass to ferry us from Christmas market to Christmas market during our two week trip around Germany, and it was effortless. Below is a map of our itinerary along with cost breakdown of what the trains would have cost.
We rode nine long trains on our trip, and many small S-Bahns that I won’t count in this example. Using the median cost of a ticket for the connections that we made, our trip would have cost $427 each instead of the $350 total that spent. That’s a total savings of $500, which you can happily put to use on more sights or experiences. It was nice to get our Twin pass on sale, but even if we had paid full price, we still would have saved roughly $400.
Get (Train) Traveling
We loved the ease of jumping on any train we wanted and the savings it provided was meaningful. This pass is a fantastic tool for anyone with a German trip coming up. So get out there and get traveling!