If you ask any German how they feel about the Deutsche Bahn, they will most likely complain. Germans are quite particular about their timing, and when things are not perfectly on time, they will get frustrated to say the least. Sure, sometimes the train isn’t on time, but from my experience German trains are pretty efficient.
If you are a foreigner, German trains are absolutely wonderful. In the US, trains can be up to twenty-four hours late, and there is only one train that passes through my town a day. In Germany, there are trains that head to nearly everywhere, and they are for the most part on time. Germans may complain a lot about the Deutsche Bahn, but for foreign students without intense German punctuality, it is more so a great possibility for traveling. However, from my experience, the people working at the Deutsche Bahn are quite flexible and helpful, so if something doesn’t work out, they will help you get where you need to go. It is also much more comfortable and faster than the bus, and considering how large Germany is, this is quite nice.
A lot of universities come with a bus pass for the region. However, if your university is like mine and comes with a mere €100 semester fee, you most likely will not have that. Riding train can be expensive, however, there are ways to make it more affordable.
The first and most obvious way is to book your train tickets early. This is a bit annoying for spur of the moment trips, but there is a big difference in booking train tickets a few months before and a week before. This is also the best way to find the Sparpreis tickets, which are probably the best way to save.
Sparpreis tickets can save you a lot of money, but they also are typically available at less favorable times. This is just fine, because you are a student, and you already sleep at weird times already. With normal tickets, it’s okay if you miss your train and take the next one, but with Sparpreis you need to go at that certain time. Do not let international time confuse you and miss your train when you go with Sparpreis – which I definitely didn’t do myself, of course – so make sure to know exactly what time your train is leaving.
Another really good way to save money is to get yourself a Bahncard. This is a really great option if you are younger than 27, as for €8, you can get 50% off of regular tickets and 25% off of Sparpreis tickets. For €4.50 a month, you can get 25% off of both. This can make a big difference if you like to travel somewhat regularly. It’s a bit more expensive if you are 27 or older.
To my knowledge, there are a lot of regions that offer a good discount if you travel in a group. In my region, Schleswig-Hosltein, they offer significant discount if you buy a day ticket for a group of five.
There are also other options, such as the newly created Flixtrain. However, that only works in some areas, so it really depends on where you live and where you want to go. Look at all the different options if you want to go somewhere, and plan ahead.
Germany is a beautiful country, and can be a glorious adventure to explore, especially if you can find a great rate on the train and not spend an unearthly amount of time on the bus.