A train rushes past.

The German Rail Pass opens up for all travelers who do not live in Germany

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(Published on 28th February 2023)

The German Rail Pass has been around since the 1970s but up until recently, it was only available to residents within the country. Now Deutsche Bahn has taken the step to make it available to all travelers who are residents outside Germany. No matter where a traveler comes from in the world, he or she can purchase the German Rail Pass for travel within the country by rail.

Interestingly, there is an InterRail One Country pass that can be used for Germany as well. We find an interesting situation where one can either choose to buy the InterRail one-country pass or go for the German Rail Pass. But what are the differences? To find out, Deutsche Bahn is contacted to learn more about the changed German Rail Pass, and in particular how it is different from the InterRail one-country pass. A Deutsche Bahn spokesman explains this more in detail. “Since 2022 the German Rail Pass has replaced the Interrail One Country Pass Germany which was available to European travelers only. Now the German Rail Pass is the one-and-only rail pass offered for Germany. The German Rail Pass has a broader range of validities and more benefits.”

Some of these benefits transgress the German borders and I wonder what the stance is with regard to the InterRail One Country Card. “Yes, for the German Rail Pass there are more benefits traveling on the ICE to and from Brussels.”, continues the Deutsche Bahn spokesman.

A one-country pass and a bit more

But then, this logically means it is more than a one-country pass. In the current political reality with climate change and climate-friendly travel being two hot topics, could this be an inspirational move by Germany that other EU countries could learn from? Moreover, why has it not already happened? The rail tracks are already there for many decades and InterRail has been an option for many years. But why not make it easier and have every country simply tailor their domestic rail passes for unlimited travel within the country available to all people, all over the world?

But I check myself, maybe this is a temporary initiative? The Deutsche Bahn spokesman elaborates on how it has existed for a longer time “The German Rail Pass is not a temporary initiative. It has initially been introduced for non-European travelers, and since 2022 it is available for all travelers who are residents outside of Germany. No distinction is made between European and non-European residents. So the German Rail Pass is not a “new” pass in itself, only the eligibility has changed.”

This certainly sounds like a pioneering move by Deutsche Bahn in our third decade of the century, and well-timed if we consider the green travel movement.

Backpack, hat and shoes on a train platform.

The story of the German Rail Pass and its equivalents in France and Spain

Because the German Rail Pass has existed since the 1970s it is reasonable to wonder how it has taken some 50 years before it was made accessible to everybody visiting the country. Add to that, with more than half a century of observations of the market popularity, let us take a look at what similar initiatives have existed in France and Germany over these decades. A Deutsche Bahn spokesman informs that originally this was called the DB Tourist Card and was made available for several days of consecutive travel in then West Germany. Back in the day tourists visiting West Germany could choose to travel for nine or sixteen days throughout West Germany. Back in 1984, the price was 67 GBP. To have a reference with the Euro currency now in 2023, we can recalculate this with inflation in mind to just short of 200 GBP[1] (about 227 EUR).

The German Rail Pass is not new

But hold on a minute! This means that simplified rail travel in Europe has been possible for decades! A corollary that follows from this is that tourists could potentially have been increasing leisure train travel for quite some time. So the infrastructure (rail) was not a blocker and the idea of unlimited travel days with a rail pass has been around for some time, almost half a century.

With the new version of the German Rail Pass, Deutsche Bahn has also observed that the current market demand is increasing.

“After the Covid-19 sales breakdown, the demand for the German Rail Pass is again growing worldwide”, says the Deutsche Bahn spokesman. “The German Rail Pass is also not set in stone and can evolve with more perks”, and the spokesman continues “It is possible that additional benefits may be added in the future.”

We can only look forward with anticipation. Hopefully, this new initiative by Deutsche Bahn will continue attracting tourists from near and far to explore the country and also inspire everyone to go on holiday by rail.

More inspiration for exploring Germany

Check this out on your trip by train or car through Hesse and Baden-Württemberg in Germany.

Aachen and a visit to Monschau in nearby Eifel.

[1] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator

Paul-Christian Markovski