Traveling in Germany is a delight when you travel by train. The network within cities is usually is excellent and when you venture outside the major cities, there are plenty of options to get you to your destination and for very reasonable prices if you know how to book your ticket.
I will briefly explain each train type here, but look out for the full articles on each type once I get around to them.
The commuter services in Germany are generally world class. With few exceptions these trains run fast, often and relatively cheap.
If you are in one of the major cities like Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, you’ll be presented with a myriad of options to get to your destination. Below I’ll explain them so you’ll know your way around when you get to Germany.
The U-Bahn is the basic subway you’ll find in many major European and German cities. They serve mostly the metropolitan area of the cities that you are in. This includes some of the larger suburbs.
These subways run mostly underground, but towards the end of the lines, they usually transfer to above ground.
Prices vary per city but mostly you can get a single fare for under 2 euros.
Please note that it’s often cheaper not to buy single tickets.
The German S-Bahn is a cross between a subway and a commuter rail service. These services are usually run with trains that are a little more well equipped. Better seats and roomier trains so your journey will be slightly more comfortable.
These trains run between the major cities and nearby villages and towns. The ‘arms’ of the routes are usually quite a bit longer than traditional subway systems. So this means that you can conveniently travel on a service that is run very often with reasonably comfortable trains.
The service is usually covered in a ‘integrated way’ which means that your ticket covers more modes of transport than one. Your S-Bahn ticket will probably be valid on the subway of the city that you are traveling to/from. So check your tickets so you don’t pay double fares.
Regional Bahn (R)
Regional Bahn is the full-fat version of regional trains. These trains are usually more comfortable than either the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn. These can be double-decker trains or single ones and only run between railway stations within cities and towns. So you’ll probably need either a bus, U-Bahn or S-Bahn to get to the station and then transfer. (Depending on your ticket, this might be included.)
These are your basic ‘stops everywhere’ type of train. So you’ll see a lot of Germany that you wouldn’t have if you go by car or plane.
These services are good, usually really affordable with the right ticket and generally on time.
There are several companies running regional trains, so look at the departure boards to find the right one.
Regional Express (RE)
Regional Express services are basically Regional Bahn trains connecting two major cities without many stops in between. But these services are not Inter City services (see below). These services are technically Regional Bahn services.
This is good for two reasons: the service is quick and it is cheap.
One example of a service like this is the München-Nürnberg-Express. This is an express route in Bavaria that will take you between the two cities with only a few stops in between.