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TRAIN TRAVEL

5 tips for stress-free train travel in Germany over Christmas

Despite laying on more trains, Germany’s national rail operator Deutsche Bahn is still expecting delays and full carriages over the holiday season. Here's what's going on and how you can save money and stress on your travels.

A passenger in a Santa costume walks to his train at Frankfurt Central Station during the peak travel season before Christmas in 2021.
A passenger in a Santa costume walks to his train at Frankfurt Central Station during the peak travel season before Christmas in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

What will the train travel situation look like over Christmas?

In mid-December, Deutsche Bahn’s new timetable will start, meaning an additional 40,000 seats will be available over Christmas. About 800 new employees will also join the service team by December 24th.

Deutsche Bahn’s board member for long-distance transport told Bild am Sonntag that these measures mean that Deutsche Bahn “is well prepared for Christmas”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany’s long-distance train services will change from December

Karl-Peter Naumann, Chairman of the passenger association Pro Bahn is also advising travellers to take the train instead of the car over the holidays: “It’s probably even more crowded on the roads,” he said.

However, December is always a very busy time on the trains and both Deutsche Bahn and Pro Bahn advise travellers to be prepared for delays and busy trains. Here are five useful tips for travellers to keep in mind.

1. Book in advance

Train travel over the holidays is popular, which means tickets sell out fast or get expensive very quickly.

Ticket prices are also about to increase, as the so-called flex fares will rise by an average of almost seven percent from December 11th.

A man enters a train carriage in Lübeck. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

However, the saver and super-saver prices will remain unchanged, so if you book early enough you might even snap up a ticket on a long route for €17.90.

2. Book a seat

If you don’t want to stand for three hours or be asked to move halfway through your journey by another passenger telling you “that’s my seat” – book your seat in advance.

On most Deutsche Bahn trains, the ticket itself doesn’t include a seat and you need to add this as an extra. Prices for seats start at €4.50 and you can usually choose which type of carriage you want to sit in and whether you have a window, aisle or table seat.

Families with young children can also book a “Familienbereich” for €9, which is a closed-off section which includes enough space for a pram, and built-in toys.

3. Avoid travel at the busiest times

If you want to book a ticket from Berlin to Cologne on the Friday afternoon before Christmas Eve you will have to fork out at least €100, even at the super saver price. Such popular times are expensive and have already been booked way in advance – so it’s worth considering travelling at a less popular time.

On the display in the DB Navigator app, a travel plan indicates the possibly high capacity for the connection between Berlin-Gesundbrunnen and Stralsund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Georg Hilgemann

If you can, try to avoid the Friday and Saturday before the holidays and take a day’s holiday earlier, when tickets are cheaper and the trains aren’t so full.

It’s also worth considering travelling during off-peak hours. “You can also leave at five in the morning and continue sleeping on the train,” says Karl-Peter Naumann from Pro Bahn.

4. Plan for delays

Plan for longer connecting times or book direct connections if possible, as every change of train involves a risk.

READ ALSO: Rail travel chaos looms in Germany’s most populous state

When booking your train online, you can see how many connections are included in the trip and also how long you will have to change trains. If the change time is less than ten minutes, it may be worth booking an earlier connecting train, as delays could lead to you missing the next train.

5. Stay informed

Just because you now have a seat and are on the booked train doesn’t mean there can’t be any more surprises. Stay up to date, by activating “Trip notifications” in the DB Navigator app and check the local transport authority’s website the day before you travel. 

READ ALSO: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new €49 travel ticket 

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TRAVEL NEWS

New rail service planned through Norway, Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg

Plans for a new rail service running from Oslo and stopping in Gothenburg, Malmö and Copenhagen before arriving in Hamburg are in the works, Swedish state-owned rail operator SJ has said.

New rail service planned through Norway, Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg

Sweden’s state-owned SJ, along with Denmark’s DSB and DB of Germany, plans to offer a new international train line which runs between the Norwegian capital Oslo and Hamburg in northern Germany. 

The planned route would run daily, departing from Oslo at 8am before making stops in Gothenburg, Malmö and Copenhagen and arriving in Hamburg at 7pm. A service departing Hamburg and terminating in Gothenburg is also planned.

The 11 hour service would be quicker than the equivalent journey using either a car and ferry connection or existing train services. 

The planned service will enter into operation in 2027. Petter Essén, head of SJ’s vehicle and traffic programme, said the route made sense as it would connect a long stretch which doesn’t have continuous train traffic. 

“Today, there is a great deal of flying between Copenhagen and Oslo and between Oslo and Gothenburg, routes that would be fine by train,” Essén told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter

Currently, the only direct trains from the Norwegian capital to other countries are services to Gothenburg and Stockholm. 

The European Commission has selected the potential line as one of ten pilot projects that will receive support. This does not mean it will receive direct funding from the EU, but it will get backing on regulations and logistics, Essén explained.

“You can get help with various regulations and the process of getting all vehicles approved in all countries,” he said.

Generally, many Swedish and Norwegian trains can only operate within Sweden and Norway, while the majority of Danish and German trains are not cleared to run in Sweden in Norway. 

The Snälltåget line between Stockholm and Berlin has also been selected to receive support from the European Commission. 

SJ also announced plans to increase the number of trains between Gothenburg and Malmö to ten per day and offer the Gothenburg-Copenhagen service all year round. It said that these plans could come to fruition by 2026 or 2027. 

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