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Munich - Travel by Train


Train travel is a popular and efficient mode of transport. In Munich there are three types of train: the U-Bahn - underground through Munich and suburbs, the S-Bahn - a fast train that goes through the city and out to the greater Munich area, and the Deutsche Bahn that travels long distances through Germany and abroad. Details for the U-Bahn and S-Bahn can be found in 'Public Transportation', so the focus of this section is the long distance Deutsche Bahn.

Munich railway station connects to many national and international destinations. When you book a train ticket you do not automatically get an allocated seat. For this, you have to pay extra. Although there are (entirely legal) tricks to finding a seat on a train that is 'full', it is safest to pay the 5 Euros extra and have a guaranteed seat for long journeys.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) has a 'Reisezentrum' (travel centre) at the major train stations at Hauptbahnhof, Ostbahnhof and Pasing. It is also possible to buy DB tickets from the ticket vendors on the right hand side as you walk in the main entrance to Hauptbahnhof (where the queues are shorter, as not many people realise this!). To plan your trip, there are stands with little cards alphabetically ordered by destination. These have the trip details, including travel time, connections, stations you stop at on the way and facilities on board the train. Faster trains and overnight sleeper trains cost more than slower trains that stop frequently.

When you book your ticket it is valid for any train of the class you have paid for for up to two months. You have to pay extra for a reserved seat. Even if they say that the train is fully booked and cannot reserve a seat for you, you may still catch the train. There is a trick to finding a seat on a fully booked train. DB has not yet woken up to the fact that when a seat is reserved for a short sector of a train ride, it is free for the rest of the trip. For example, if you want to catch a train to Innsbruck, and the train's final destination is Rome, if someone has booked a seat from Innsbruck to Rome, that seat is reserved for them for the entire distance from Munich to Rome (which means it is free for you to sit in from Munich to Innsbruck!). There are little tickets above the seat or on the door of the compartment saying which stations the seats have been reserved between. Anyone is entitled to sit in the seat until the booked customer gets on at their designated boarding station. This trick works well if you board the train at its initial departure point and are only travelling a short distance, but I wouldn't like to risk it for longer journeys. Also, be wary of travelling by train to Italy, as the rail staff strike frequently!

There are a few things you can do to make your travel cheaper. You can buy a DB card which allows you to get either 25% or 50% off your travel. The 25% discount card costs 50 Euro for second class and 100 Euro for first class. If you have already purchased a full-priced card, your spouse and children under 18 can buy their own card for 5 Euros. The 50% discount card costs 200 Euros for second class and 400 Euros for first class. You spouse and children (as well as students under 26, seniors and disabled people) can buy the 50% discount card for half price. For both cards, children under 15 can travel free when accompanied by their parents or grandparents.

Another way to save money when travelling in Bavaria is to buy a 'Bayern' ticket or a 'Schönes Wochenende' ticket. These tickets allow you unlimited travel throughout Bavaria for up to 5 adults (children under 14 count as half an adult) on certain trains for one day. The Bayern ticket is valid from Monday to Friday and costs 21 Euros. The Schönes Wochenende ticket is valid on weekends and costs 28 Euros (ie a 7 Euro surcharge for travelling on the weekend). These tickets are only valid for the slow trains, so you are not permitted to travel on ICE, IC and ICN trains.

Eurail passes are also valid on DB trains, but are generally expensive and better for tourists travelling long distances. You are unable to buy the Eurail pass if you are a European resident or have been in Europe for over six months.

For further details, or to plan your trip you can contact Deutsche Bahn by phone on + 49 (0)13 080 or + 49 (0) 194 19, or go to their web page .

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