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Forget the BahnCard.
These two subtle, often overlooked tweaks are an effortless way to find cheaper German rail tickets when searching for connections on Deutsche Bahn's website www.bahn.de.
The two blunt instruments for getting cheap fares are to book as far as possible in advance and to pick a day when fewer people are travelling. I like Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
But once you've done that, or if your date is non-negotiable, try these two tweaks which can halve your train fare.
I've got a search here from Munich to St. Goar on the Rhine - a longish trip involving changes. St. Goar is where Loreley is.
And this is what it comes up with:
So far, so underwhelming, no?
The first thing to do is uncheck the box Prefer fast connections. Few people understand that this makes a difference. The search engine will now show you slightly slower, less direct connections which most people haven't found because they haven't noticed the box.
As Deutsche Bahn's long-distance pricing varies depending on how full a given ICE or IC train is, you will automatically be shown emptier and thus cheaper trains.
While the improvement in this case is not huge, it does give you more choice. But this is only the first step on our way to
The second tweak is to chuck out ICE trains. On many lines in Germany the ICEs go no faster than other trains. The Munich-Paris TGV service, capable of 200 mph in France, hobbles from Ulm to Stuttgart at 70 mph because the tracks allow no faster.
The only connections where this severely lengthens your journey are where you cover great distances on high-speed tracks.
Once you have taken out the ICE trains you get quite different results, as ICEs are the backbone of German long-distance rail travel. This brings up the Intercitys, which many people are not aware of as a cheaper alternative - one that often is hardly slower.
I always try these simple tweaks when searching for tickets. There are many variables, and depending on where you are going these tricks can yield both better and worse results than the ones we have achieved here.
By unticking two little boxes on bahn.de you can cut your rail fare by 50%.
I hope this helps you on your next trip to Germany. Let me know in the comments how much you saved!
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