Take the train to the next fest and save big
Ah, a day at a Volksfest. You’ve braved the rides, won a teddy bear, ate a brat, danced on the table, and downed five beers. Now it’s time for home. But where’s the designated driver? Nowhere to be seen.
There’s a way to avoid this disconcerting but not-unheard-of scenario. Thanks to German railways, local rail networks and urban public transportation, getting home safely from the fest to your bed is a snap in most situations. Those responsible for planning out the train schedules know which events pull in the crowds, and additional trains and extended late-night services are added to accommodate the uptick in passengers.
Two issues face you now; one, figure out the train schedule, and two, secure the best deal possible. Once you’ve used the Deutsche Bahn website or app to figure out how to get from your nearest train station to the fest in question, you need to figure out which of the many deals out there offers the best value. One-way tickets are rarely the cheapest way to go. Regional tickets and group fares are great ways to cut down drastically on costs. When talking about deals on train fares, however, it’s important to note these apply to the slower (S, IRE, RB and RE) regional trains and not the ICE or Intercity trains, which travel faster and make fewer stops.
Here’s the skinny on just some of the deals out there and examples of how and when they might apply.
Regional transportation networks: Various public transportation networks serve different regions of Germany. Those which serve many of our U.S. military communities include:
Grafenwöhr: Verkehrsverbund Großraum Nürnberg
Kaiserslautern: Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Neckar
When both your home and destination lie within one particular network, consider buying a day ticket for travel within this entire network.
Example: Five friends from Kaiserslautern plan to go the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt wine fest in Bad Dürkheim. Both start and end points lie within the VRN network. A VRN group day ticket for use within all zones of the network costs 33.70 euros. On weekends and holidays, these day tickets remain valid for travel until 6 a.m. the next day, so no worries there. Compare that with the 10.90 euro cost of a single one-way ticket from Kaiserslautern to Bad Dürkheim and you see this is the better deal by far. This same type of ticket would also get the group from Kaiserslautern to Mannheim or Heidelberg, so keep it in mind for other fests or visits to Christmas markets.
Länder-Tickets: These tickets are ideal when your travels will take you further afield, but you’ll still remain within the same Bundesland or federal state. Tickets can be purchased for one to five persons, and prices vary by state.
Example: A group of five travelers from Grafenwöhr wants to hit the Oktoberfest. Both start and end points are in Bavaria, making the Bayern-Ticket a good choice. A second-class Bayern group ticket for 5 travelers goes for 49 euros. On weekdays, these tickets are valid from 9 a.m.; on weekends, they can be used as early as you want. In both cases, they’re valid up until 3 a.m. the following day. Contrast this with the 25 euros it costs for a single one-way ticket from Freihung to Munich, and you’re talking big savings on the three-hour plus journey.
Quer-durchs-Land and Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets: these are the tickets for longer journeys crossing state borders. The Quer-durchs-Land ticket is valid from 9 a.m. on a weekday; the Schönes-Wochenende is valid all day long on either a Saturday or a Sunday. This ticket allows groups or individuals to travel on regional trains anywhere within Germany over the course of a day and until 3 a.m. the next day. A ticket for a single traveler costs 44 euros in both cases; for each additional traveler, an additional charge of 6 euros (weekends) or 8 euros (weekdays) applies.
Example: Five friends from Wiesbaden decide to visit the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart on a Saturday. Since their travel will take them through three states, the Schönes-Wochenende ticket represents the best deal. With this ticket, said group can travel to and from the Wasen at a cost of 68 euros. Compare that to the 44.50 euro single, one-way ticket cost of a ticket from Wiesbaden to Stuttgart. Once again, you’ve saved big.
Note: I’ve quoted the prices above as representational based on current online research. Your experience at the ticket machine may vary, and if you buy your tickets at the counter, you’ll pay a surcharge for that too. When traveling with dogs, bikes or children, the picture grows even more complicated. Whenever in doubt, ask at the service desk, and don’t be shy about inquiring into the best deal possible for your given situation.
Here’s one last bit of advice from one who’s been there. The very last trains of the evening aren’t always the best way to go. Consider starting your fun day out a little earlier and leaving a couple hours before the fest shuts down for the night. Prost!