🎶 This is the story of a girl, who took a train around the whole world! 🎶
Ok, not quite, but that song popped in my head as I started to write this so you get what you get.
This IS the story, though, of a girl who reluctantly agreed to take a train from Groningen to Munich and had a grand ole time!
When we first decided to take a city trip to Munich, my go-to reaction was to start looking for flight deals. Shane, on the other hand, took it as an opportunity to make a pitch for the train.
It’s “more CO2 friendly” and “doesn’t take that much more time” and “you can walk around” and “we’ve never done it before”.
Valid reasons *I supposeee*, but I wasn’t convinced. I needed an excel sheet. How does anyone plan anything without an excel sheet? Here are the facts:
- We would only save 2 hours on total travel time by flying.
- We would only save 60 euros total – 2 people, round trip – by flying.
- We’ve never done it.
What can I say, I’m easily convinced. Train it is!
Remember when I said that we would only be spending 60 euros more, in total, compared to flying? What I didn’t mention is that we also booked ourselves a first class ticket, baby!
This also took a little convincing, because (in my opinion) the difference between first and second class on a Dutch train is not worth the upgrade. The seats are a little bit bigger and you have less hassle trying to find a seat during rush hour, but that never bothered me enough to warrant a first-class upgrade. But, since we would be spending the majority of our time on the German train (5.5 hours, to be more precise), I agreed to first class.
Two words: Worth it.
We took the German Inter-City Express (ICE) high-speed trains from Arnhem, the Netherlands to Munich with a switch in Mannheim (on the way there) and in Duisburg (on the way back). There are 6 variations of the ICE train, itself. We travelled on the ICE 3 and ICE 4.
One major perk of first-class on the ICE is that your seat reservation is included in the booking price. Unlike Dutch trains, your departure time and seat are specifically linked to your ticket. If you would like a guaranteed seat, then it must be booked ahead of time. Relatedly, if you miss your train you can’t just take the next connection*, as the seats have already been booked.
*if you miss your connection, you should find a DB service point in the station and ask for help to re-book.
It is possible, though, to take the train without booking a seat and sit anywhere you want. Each seat is numbered and has a status: if the seat lists only the route then it has not been reserved, if the seat says “ggf. freigeben” then you should “release if necessary”, aka you can sit there until you’re asked to leave.
Considering a seat reservation (in second class) is only 5 – 10 euros per person, it seems worth it to me to reserve a seat. Especially if you’re traveling a group or during busy months.
The other benefit of first-class? Isn’t it obvious?
Look at that leg-room! There is also plenty of storage for small and large suitcases above the seats, and a luggage rack at each end of the ‘carriage’.
Apart from the leg-room, another benefit of taking the train instead of flying is the opportunity to get up and move around. Once place you can move around to is the ‘board carriage’ aka: the restaurant car!
For a train, they have a pretty extensive menu. Of course, the usual drinks – coffee, beer, wine, sodas. For food, a variety of sandwiches, soups, fries, and some snack foods like chips, and all for a very reasonable price considering you’re on a train. For example, a 0.5 L of beer was only €3.20 and curry worst with fries was €6.90. Compared to airport prices, this felt like a steal!
Another first-class benefit: in-seat service.
Of course, you can always walk to the restaurant car and you can certainly bring on your own food and drink (as we did), but if you feel inspired, lazy, or a just little bit baller, you can stop a service attendant on their regular walk-throughs and order from them directly.
Plus, at your seat you’ll be classy AF sipping your drank in a real glass instead of a paper or plastic one.
TIP: You need cash to order from your seat. The restaurant car accepts cards and cash.
Regardless, if you are seated in first class then you’ll also get a little freebie snack. We got a bar of chocolate and some mint chocolate bites.
Do you know what else was VERY impressive? The SPEED of these trains! Dutch trains don’t tell you how fast they are going, plus they go through a lot of towns so I’m not sure they are designed to go at high speeds. These trains though… 293 km/hour = 182 mph! 🤯
Approximately 8 hours later, well-fed, stretched, and rested, we arrived at Munich Hauptbahnhof (central station)!
Take home message:
- Taking the train was worth the little bit extra. While slightly more expensive and a little longer travel time, the time passed quickly and it was nice to be able to walk around.
- First class was worth the upgrade. The reserved seats, the extra legroom, and the (literal) first-class service! It made the journey much more enjoyable. I did walk through second-class and it was also nice, but as you can imagine less space overall. In addition you get free newspapers (if you’re a German reader), unlimited free wi-fi which was actually decent, and charging capability at your seat.
- Book seats ahead of time. If you’re opting for second-class, it’s worth the few euros to secure a seat, especially in peak season. Second-class also has free-wifi, but it’s limited.
- Pack those snacks! No train ride is complete with out snacks. You can bring whatever you like on to the train, the only restriction is no personal food in the restaurant car. Forgot snacks? Then there are plenty of options on-board.
Soon to come – more about our few days in Munich!