Going on holiday by train? With the start of sales of the cheap public transport ticket, this is cheaper than ever. But it also requires planning. Here are answers to important questions about the 9-euro trip.
Travel to your holiday destination for 9 euros: The special ticket for local public transport can of course also be used for travel, especially since the ticket period from June 1st to August 31st falls exactly in the summer holiday season. And so it should be a pretty tempting prospect for some: traveling by Regio instead of by car or ICE. Only: The journey to the holiday destination, which is almost unbeatable in terms of price, can have its pitfalls. We explain what travelers should pay attention to.
What is important when planning a trip?
Finding pure regional connections is easy. On the Deutsche Bahn booking portal, reiseauskunft.bahn.de, or in the “DB Navigator” app, tick the “Local transport only” box in the input mask. Only connections that can be used with the 9-euro ticket are displayed – this is then also displayed as the first booking option. This applies to trips from June.
Depending on the route, sometimes more or fewer paths are displayed that lead to the destination. A few pointers on how to choose the right one:
Plan transfer times realistically: Of course, it’s best to go on vacation straight away. For example, if you want to travel from Berlin to Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea, you can take the RE 5 to Rostock. The S-Bahn from the city to the seaside resort is then no longer an obstacle. But if you want to travel from the Bayrischer Hof to Warnemünde, for example, you have to change trains twice to Rostock.
The more changes, the more risk, you could say – especially if there is little time for the train change. Especially on routes that are heavily used by tourists, trains can be very full at peak times and delays can quickly accumulate because it takes longer to get on and off at the individual stops. Which means the connecting train may already be gone. When planning your trip, you should keep this in mind and, if in doubt, prefer trips with slightly longer transfer times. Or at least make sure that you can still arrive with the following trains if you should miss a train.
Tip: The transfer times can be adjusted on the train booking page under the “Intermediate stops” tab. If you don’t feel like stress and prefer to always have some time buffer, you can set “at least 30 minutes”, for example. Connections with shorter transfer times are not even displayed in the selection.
Be careful on tourist routes at peak times: day-trippers will crowd at weekends, especially on routes to the coast or in local recreation areas.
To stay with the example of Berlin: The regional trains towards the Baltic Sea are sometimes bursting at the seams, especially in the morning. If you want to get on such a train with your suitcases, you might look down the drain. “On the main tourist routes, the trains can be so overcrowded that you can’t get on,” says Karl-Peter Naumann from the Pro Bahn passenger association.
If you want to be on the safe side, it is better to avoid these routes at peak times, such as on Saturday mornings. This is especially true for people who want to take their bike with them on vacation.
What’s the problem with the bikes?
By bike, long distances with regional trains through various associations are not without pitfalls. For several reasons: You may not be able to get on at all. Deutsche Bahn never tires of emphasizing that taking bicycles cannot always be guaranteed. Specifically, she advises: Avoid traveling by bike on public holidays.
A word of advice: In the travel information provided by Deutsche Bahn on the web and via the app, you can select the option “Show connections with available bicycle parking spaces”. Only trains on which the bike can be taken are displayed.
Taking a bike with you is not included in the 9-euro ticket. In some associations, bicycles can be taken free of charge at certain times, but they often cost extra. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, 4.80 euros per day. And if your own subscription includes taking your bike with you, this may no longer apply when you transfer to the next transport association. You should check that beforehand.
An option for cyclists who ride through several networks and do not want to get caught up in the muddle of individual fares: the Bahn bicycle day pass. It is valid across the network and costs 6 euros for one day.
Are there occupancy displays for regional trains?
Many of the pitfalls already described could be avoided if one knew how crowded the regional trains would be. But while occupancy displays are common in long-distance traffic, they only sometimes exist in regional traffic, says railway expert Naumann.
But if the train is expected to be very full, travelers often find out in advance. As Deutsche Bahn reports on request, in regional transport for the majority of trains, as soon as a high utilization of more than 80 percent is to be expected. The information can therefore be called up both via the travel information in the web browser and in the Navigator app as well as in the “DB route agent” app.
But how does the railway calculate the assumed capacity utilization of the regional railways? Accordingly, previously recorded data from passenger counting systems serve as the information basis, which is combined with an assessment of the current situation to form a forecast.
What about children?
Children up to the age of 6 generally travel free of charge by train. After that, they need their own 9-euro ticket. In many associations, customers can take children up to the age of 14 or sometimes other adults with them free of charge at certain times with their subscription card – the advantage remains during the three months in which the subscription only costs 9 euros. But only in your own association.
That’s why the NRW consumer advice center advises: Anyone traveling through several federal states should check whether all passengers aged 6 and over have to get their own 9-euro ticket.
And the dog?
Each association regulates this a little differently. In general, according to Deutsche Bahn, size matters. If the dog is larger than a house cat, it needs an additional ticket on many regional trains. You cannot purchase a 9-euro ticket for your dog.
Small dogs and other small pets (up to the size of a house cat) can travel free of charge in closed containers (e.g. in a pet box).
What about the catering?
While most ICE trains have an on-board bistro, which is not always open, most of the time, regional trains only have snack machines on board – if at all. It is therefore a good idea to stock up on sufficient provisions before you leave.
Travelers should also not blindly trust what is on offer at the train stations during transfers. Small train stations in particular often have neither a supermarket nor a snack bar. “It should be possible to get something to drink at most train stations, but it’s sometimes more difficult to eat,” says Karl-Peter Naumann. The problem is: you can hardly find out about it beforehand. Even on the railway station portal, bahnhof.de, there is often no specific information about travel needs, especially at smaller stations.
How is the comfort on the train?
In contrast to long-distance trains, seat reservations are generally not possible on regional trains. So you have to hope to get a free seat – especially for families with small children it can be uncomfortable to the fullest. Good to know for you: According to Deutsche Bahn, changing tables are usually found in toilets suitable for wheelchair users.
If you have a subscription card with first-class use, you must not forget: it is only valid in your own association. So if the train crosses the network border, that actually means: off to 2nd class.
Can the luggage be accommodated?
Yes. Especially on tourist routes, for example towards the coasts, some regional trains are also designed for large amounts of luggage, says Karl-Peter Naumann. According to the railway, however, the rule applies: Normally, a maximum of one piece of load is permitted per passenger. A passenger – a suitcase. There is space for the luggage in the racks and under or behind the seats, but not in the aisle.
Pushchairs can also be taken on the train. However, it can get tight at peak times. Deutsche Bahn therefore recommends taking collapsible models and buggies with you, especially during the holidays, weekends and public holidays.
Good to know when a regional train is bursting at the seams: When it comes to taking a train, prams – as well as passengers with restricted mobility – have priority. The NRW consumer advice center points this out.
Can I combine an ICE ticket and a 9-euro ticket?
Cover the long distance with the ICE or IC and travel small sections at the beginning and end of the journey with the 9-euro ticket – that’s possible. For long-distance traffic you need a separate ticket. This can be worthwhile for families, for example: Most long-distance trains have family areas and compartments for small children, some of which also have a fold-out changing table. These places can be secured with a family reservation. It costs 8 euros.
Despite the 9-euro ticket, Karl-Peter Naumann will not travel on regional trains as far as possible: “I prefer to take the ICE to avoid local transport,” says the Pro-Bahn honorary chairman. “I don’t feel like overcrowded trains that are late and where the connection doesn’t work.” When in doubt, Naumann will even accept longer distances.
From a tourist point of view, the 9-euro ticket is particularly interesting for day trips to destinations where there are good (meaning: as direct as possible) connections. “For the longer holiday trip, it will probably be used primarily by bargain hunters,” is his assessment. There is nothing wrong with saving. And with the tips mentioned, you can get to your holiday destination safely – even for 9 euros.