Train travel is where German attention to infrastructure and passion for punctuality really come into their own. Regular fares on the national rail network, Deutsche Bahn (DB), might not be the cheapest in Europe, but the service is fast and efficient, and from regional trains to the sleek intercity ICE, it covers the whole country. You can travel between Frankfurt and Munich in a little over three hours and Berlin to Hamburg in just an hour-and-a-half, so there are few cases where it makes sense to take a plane rather than a train between German cities.
Also, if you’re organized ahead of time you can often pick up big savings on regular fares. Scour the DB website for specials on long-distance travel, and you could be traveling the length of the country for just 29 euros. These tickets sell out fast, but standard-issue savings are on offer in the form of “Länder” tickets, a great way to see the countryside with a group of friends or family. At 21 or 29 euros, you can explore an entire federal state with up to five people for a whole day – dashing through the forests and over the fir-lined mountains for little more than the price of a coffee and Danish each.
Scheduling and pricing are fairly transparent, and you can book online, print out your ticket, and present it on board with photo ID – a service many other European countries would do well to copy. The comprehensive national DB network, which extends into neighboring countries, is complemented by private operators, who offer scenic rail journeys or fill in some of the gaps, such as the low-cost ConnexInter service which stretches from Leipzig to the Baltic coast via Berlin.