Train reserevations in Germany
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Jun 29, 2012 1:38 AM Last Post By: Riesling
Jun 28, 2012 9:58 PM
Train reserevations in GermanySorry if this has been asked before but I could not find anything.
When doing an online booking (printing my own ticket) for German trains I can sometimes reserve a seat. However, there are occasions when I am offered a ticket and can print it out with the scheduled time but the system says "no reservations available." I am assuming this means open seating - so be in the front of the line to get the seat you want.
Do they over-book the trains; that is, could I be denied boarding?
Is this unique to advance booking economy tickets?
Is there a strategy for boarding with a "no reservation" ticket?
Jun 28, 2012 10:40 PM
1Seat reservations are only possible on the fast long-distance trains (IC, EC, ICE and the like), not regional trains and S-bahns. There are only a very few trains in Germany that can sell out as they require a seat. All others never sell out though you might not have a seat. If you are at where a train originates, arrive early and you should be able to walk through the train and find many seats. You might want to start looking a little further away from the nearest entry point if you have the time as many people who board just take the first seats available. In the past on those fast long-distance trains when we haven't had a reservation and all seats were taken, we've gone to the dining car and sat at an area for having drinks and had a few beers, much more enjoyable than spending the same money for a seat reservation for a short trip.
Jun 28, 2012 10:41 PM
2It would help if you define where you're going from/to and at what time of the week, but most trains in Germany do not require seat reservations, it's a free for all.
Jun 28, 2012 10:51 PM
3I am going in different, short and long, stages. Mostly mid-week. I was more concerned about the over-booking aspect, but I suspect it is only the airlines that do that sort of thing.
Yes, I suppose the dining car would be a good alternative.
I will be there in September, so I suppose the summer crowds will be mostly gone - except for Oktoberfest around Munich.
I am going to a conference in Vienna, then working my way to Copenhagen.
Edited by: takeitallin
Jun 28, 2012 11:55 PM
4Seat reservations are not compulsory in Germany. With the exception of the few ICE Sprinter trains and night trains. And some international service like to Paris or to Warsaw.
This means you can always board a train as they cannot book out. Seat reservations are only possible with long distance trains (IC/EC and ICE). However also on these trains not all seats can be reserved. At peak times (e.g. Friday and Sunday afternoon and evening) it can however happen that all seats are taken and some passengers have to stand or sit on the floor.
Jun 29, 2012 1:11 AM
It might help you to understand the train system if you think of it in the same way as public transport within a city -- such as taking a subway or a bus. The train system works just like that, only the rail network is bigger. No advance bookings, no reservations. You just go to a station and get on a train. That's it.
In fact, in the larger urban areas the municipal transport systems are completely integrated with the intercity networks, even using the same rail stations.
As others have said above, even for the ICE trains where you can reserve a seat, a reservation is itself rarely obligatory. Get on a train and find a free seat, or stand if none are available.
Jun 29, 2012 1:38 AM
6The Bahn website will mark those long-distance train connections which tend to be very busy with an "R" symbol (for "reservation recommended"). As mentioned above, this often concerns trains on Friday and Sunday late afternoons and early evenings.
In this case, it's a good idea to indeed buy a reservation, unless it's a short hop, or to pick an earlier or later connection which is less busy.
And to answer a question you did not ask, a good strategy for boarding if you do have a reservation (and enough time), or if you want to make a dash for the dinner car, is to check the platform for the poster (called "Wagenstandsanzeiger") showing the train's composition and at which section of the platform the different cars will be located. More detailed explanations are available on this website. Getting to a specific car is a lot easier and quicker outside the train than inside it.
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