Useful German Phrases for Train Travel

Train in Berlin, Germany

Gavin Hellier/Getty Images

Train travel is the best way to get around Germany. Trains run regularly and cheaply to every corner of the country and are fast and efficient.

Deutsche Bahn is the German Railway company offers a comprehensive site within Germany and extending into the rest of Europe. Their site offers info in English with train schedules, travel deals, and the ability to buy tickets online.

But sometimes you need to speak to a real German person, or just interpret your train ticket or schedule in German.

Try out some deutsch with the agent at the ticket counter or your fellow travelers on the train. It's true that most Germans speak English, but ein bisschen (a little) German can open a lot of doors.

In this German travel glossary, you'll find the most used German vocabulary and expressions related to rail travel in Germany. Learn how to book your train tickets in German and get to know essential phrases that you can use on the train or in the train stations.

(You will find the pronunciations in parentheses. Just read it out loud with the capitalized part of the word emphasized.)

Gute Reise! (GOO-tuh RY-suh) - Have a good trip!

German for Travelers: Train Travel Glossary

EnglishGerman
When does the train leave to....?Wann fährt der Zug nach...? (Von fairt dare tsoog noch...?)
When does the train arrive in...?Wann kommt der Zug in...an? (Von kommt dare tsoog in... ahn?)
How much is the ticket?Was kostet die Fahrkarte? (Vas KOS-tet dee FAHR-kartuh?)
A ticket to..., pleaseBitte eine Fahrkarte nach... (BIT-tuh EYE-ne FAHR-kartuh nach....)
round triphin und zurück (heen oont tsoo-RIK)
one wayeinfach (EYEN-fach)
First classErste Klasse (AIR-stuh CLASS-uh)
Second ClassZweite Klasse (TSV-eyete CLASS-uh)
Thank youDanke (DAHN-kuh)
Do I have to change trains?Muss ich umsteigen? (Moos ish OOM-shty-gen?)
Where is the platform?Wo ist der Bahnsteig? (Vo ist dare BAHN-shtyg?)
Is this seat free?Ist der Platz hier frei? (Ist dare plats heer fry?)
This seat is occupied.Hier ist besetzt. (Here ist BUH-setst.)
Could you please help me?Können Sie mir bitte helfen? (KEN-nen zee mer bit-TUH HEL-fen?
Excuse me, I think this is my seatEntschuldigen Sie, ich glaube das ist mein Platz. (ent-SHOOL-degen zee, ish GLOU-buh das ist mine plats.)
Main Train StationHauptbahnhof abbreviated to Hbf (HAUP-bonn-hof)
TrackGleis (G-lie-s)
DeparturesAbfahrt (AB-fart)
ArrivalsAnkunft (An-coonft)
Train PlatformBahnsteig (BONN-sty-g)
TicketFahrkarte (FAR-Cart-eh)
ReservedReserviert (RES-er-veert)
Sleeping CarSchlafwagen (Shh-LAF-vagen)
Cheaper, less luxurious, sleeper with 4-6 bunksCouchette (koo-SHET)
All Aboard

Alle Einsteigen

WagonWagen (VAHG-in)
Display boardAnzeigetafel (AHN-tsey-guh-tah-fuhl )
City centerStadtzentrum
North, South, East, WestNord, Süd, Ost, West
How much is a ticket to X? Wie viel kostet eine Fahrkarte nach X?

Tips

Remember the date in Germany is written dd.mm.yy. For example, Christmas 2019 is written 25.12.19. The time may also be a bit different than you are used to as it is based on the 24-hour clock. For example, 7:00 am is 7:00 and 7:00 pm is 19:00.

When looking for your reserved seat, the digital display should say your last name above the seat assigned on your ticket.

Alternatively, it may be a printed card or a simple description of origin and destination. It is not unheard of for someone to be in your seat as reservations aren't required, but just use our handy glossary to sort it out and usually the other passenger will be quick to move on.

Types of Trains and Abbreviations

  • InterCity-Express (ICE) – Pronounced I-C-E like the German alphabet - not "ice" like frozen water - these are the high-speed, long-distance trains that crisscross the country and into neighboring EU countries
  • EuroCity (EC) – International long-distance trains
  • InterCity (IC) – Long-distance trains linking German cities
  • EuroNight (EN) – International night trains with sleeping cars. Routes include Cologne-Frankfurt-Vienna, Berlin-Prague-Bratislava-Budapest, and Munich-Salzburg-Vienna
  • Regional-Express (RE) – Fastest regional rail with fewer stops than the RB trains below
  • Interregio-Express (IRE) – Fast local services on longer distances than RE trains
  • RegionalBahn (RB) or Regio – standard regional trains
  • S-Bahn (S) – Local commuter trains usually covered on public transport tickets