Germany has an impressive network of intercity trains. This network runs the entire length and breath of the country. From every large town or city you can get on a service that will take you across Germany quickly and in comfort.
These services are run like an airline when it comes to tickets. The general rule is that if you book early, the prices will be low. If you book late, you’ll pay a premium. These trains are generally not included in regional day tickets or other discounted fares.
The inter city services in Germany are relatively well run, but they have been plagued with issues. This mostly results in delays. Many, many delays.
For tourists and travelers, this isn’t much of a problem. However, if you have a connection to make and you don’t want the hassle of missing a train, then leave some buffer time to be sure you make it.
If you want to know more about regional trains, please click here.
Intercity (IC) or Eurocity (EC)
The intercity (IC) services in Germany are the most convenient way to travel between regional cities and towns. These trains are mostly run on regular railway and are not considered high-speed. They skip the smaller stations and are quicker.
The intercity trains are usually a bit more comfortable than regional trains. The seats are nicer, you have a bit more space, and there usually is some form of catering on board. You shouldn’t rely on it for your evening meal or anything, but most of the time you can get a coffee and a cookie no problem.
When you take an intercity train in Germany, you have the option to reserve a seat. This will cost you a few euros extra, but you will be guaranteed a seat. Especially when you are traveling together with someone, this might be advisable. It is not required though.
These services are meant for longer distances. A train wil typically run between several regions in Germany so you might be able to get to your destination without having to change trains. These are not the quickest way to travel in Germany by train though. For that you’ll have to jump into an Intercity Express-train.
Eurocity trains are intercity services that are connecting several European cities. These trains are perfectly good intercity services that can be used both domestically and internationally, and they work in exactly the same way as the other German intercity services. They just run over the border and might have a different color.
Intercity express (ICE)
These are the pride and joy of the German rail network. They run up to 300km/hour and connect Germany’s major cities to each other. Or at least they would be if they wouldn’t have so many delays on the line. These trains are epic in comfort and cleanliness but they do have the tendency of being late.
If you are a tourist, then you are probably just going to be fine. However, these delays can be quite annoying when you are trying to get a connecting train. Now the Deutsche Bahn is generally quite decent about owning up to the fact that your delay, is their fault. And if you buy a ticket with ‘zugbindung’ (a ticket that is bound to a certain train) they will write on your ticket that you are free to choose any connecting train you want. And you are free to ask for compensation if the delay is long enough.
Other than this, these trains are some of the most comfortable in Europe. The seats are nice and adjustable even in economy. The coffee on board is good, though maybe a bit expensive. And there is usually a restaurant car where you can get something to eat. The menu is comparable to that of an airline. But if I were you, I’d save my money and eat at a station instead of on the train. It’s cheaper and the restaurants at German stations can be quite good while being cheap.
I’m a big fan of the ICE and will go out of my way to book these trains instead of an IC service. And I would recommend taking an ICE if you have the chance instead of another service. Just to experience the comfort. Just don’t expect the train to be on time.