Berlin is well connected to the German and European rail network, and taking the train to Berlin is a completely different experience to flying in. Depending on the time of day and how you book, taking the train to Berlin can save you some serious money as well.
Getting the Train to Berlin
An ICE super-fast train. Image meironke via Flickr
Travelers choose to travel by train for different reasons. Some like the atmosphere – playing cards in the cabin, watching the changing landscapes as the train passes through the countryside, relaxing and reading, meeting new people. On some routes, traveling by train is a good balance between the super-cheap but often long and cramped bus rides, and the more expensive but much quicker flights. Trains to Berlin are often the best option when coming from one of the neighboring countries: Poland, Austria, Denmark or France, for example. Prague is about four hours from Berlin; Amsterdam is six hours; Copenhagen is just under seven hours, and includes an exciting ferry ride on the way. Also check out ICE Train routes – these are super-fast trains which run across Germany connecting major cities at speeds of up to 320km an hour.
For the longer journeys, from Amsterdam, London or Paris, an overnight train is a good idea to consider. There a few options when traveling overnight, and you’ll usually get what you pay for in terms of comfort. Some lines (such as Berlin-Zurich) offer cheaper overnight sitting tickets, while others have different classes of sleeping carriages, with 2 – 6 beds in each room. Sitting upright all night isn’t much fun, but there isn’t a big difference between the expensive deluxe sleeper and the economy sleeper, except for a private shower instead of a washbasin, and a slightly bigger breakfast. So you can save money by booking an economy bed, or a bed in a ‘couchette’. Couchettes are basic mixed-sex 6-bed rooms available on some routes.
Train Fares to Berlin
German trains often have two sets of fares – standard and saving. The saving (Spezial) fare is cheaper, but has to be bought ahead of time, applies only the specific train you booked and is non-refundable. The standard ticket can be bought on the day and are more flexible. Pricing on German trains is similar to budget airlines – cheap tickets are sold in advance (booking usually opens 90 days ahead of time), with Spezial prices rising with time and disappearing near to the date of departure. If you’re planning in advance, you can sometimes get great deals: 29 Euros from Amsterdam, or 39 Euros from Rome, for example. If you want to give yourself a bit of flexibility, you can buy a German Rail unlimited pass, or an InterRail pass. These cost more, but can sometimes give you more freedom. It’s best to do a bit of research on the German Rail website (bahn.de), playing with dates and times, to find the most suitable ticket.
Stations in Berlin
Berlin has a few main train stations, the biggest being the Hauptbahnhof in the West, followed by Ostbahnhof in the East and Südkreuz in the South. All of these are connected to the S-Bahn or U-Bahn networks, so once you get in to Berlin itself you can quickly get anywhere you need.