In a very un-German-like fashion, Deutsche Bahn (the train company of Germany) will be experiencing its largest train strike ever this weekend. From Thursday at 2 am until Monday at 4 am, train travel in Germany will be almost completely at a standstill. There has been ongoing disputes between the drivers’ union and Deutsche Bahn to increase wages by 5% while lowering the work week from 39 hours to 37 hours.
Strikes rarely ever happen in Germany (at least compared to its counterpart in France) so this is definitely going to paralyze anyone traveling this weekend! Furthermore, this weekend is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall so it is going to be hectic for people trying to get to/from Berlin.
I’m headed to Amsterdam on Friday so I could potentially be affected by this strike. I’m supposed to take a train from Cologne to Amsterdam. Crossing my fingers that the replacement schedule being released by Deutsche Bahn includes my train! However, due to some quick thinking, I’m set to make it to Amsterdam this weekend…with or without the train.
So if you’re affected by this strike (or any train strike in general), there are a few things you can do! After having a 5 minute freak out (which I did internally in a coffee shop yesterday), I started researching potential solutions. Here are a few alternatives if your train is canceled:
1 // Wait it out
1.5 to 2 days prior to each day of the strike, Deutsche Bahn is publishing a list of trains running or alternatives. So if you’re booked on a Friday train (like I am), they will release the schedule Wednesday evening online and on their app (DB Navigator…which I highly recommend you download if you live in Germany. Best travel app ever!). They hope to still run 1/3 of the trains so you might get lucky!
2 // Take an alternative train
If you miss your connecting train and/or your train never comes, you are allowed to take the next train going to your destination even if it is a higher quality train (say an ICE vs. RB) at no additional cost! However, there are restrictions where this isn’t allowed including the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket, the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket, and the Länder-Tickets as well as special offers. I’d definitely double-check with a Deutsche Bahn travel center because the rules can get a bit fuzzy in terms of what is and isn’t allowed!
3 // Travel by bus
After my 5 minute panic, I immediately booked a bus ticket for 35 Euros between Cologne and Amsterdam with MeinFernbus. I’ve traveled multiple times before with this bus company and absolutely love them. Best part? If my train ends up running, I can cancel my ticket with MeinFernbus and get an 100% voucher to use in the next 12 months. Considering I’ve used MeinFernbus multiple times this past year, I’m certain that those 35 Euros won’t go to waste! I can use the 35 Euro voucher on any route, not just the Cologne to Amsterdam route :) To me, it’s a win/win situation.
MeinFernbus plans on adding additional buses for this weekend to combat the high volume of people trying to use them. Another place to search for buses/alternative routes is through busliniensuche.de. Guys, this is an amazing website even if there isn’t a strike! It shows you all your bus options for your selected route from all the bus companies. You can also do a time and price comparison with the trains (which isn’t relevant this weekend…but in the future!).
If you plan on going by bus, book ASAP! My bus to Amsterdam for Friday is now completely sold out…things are filling up fast!
4 // Check out Mitfahrgelegenheit (ride sharing website)
Pretty much people post their route, how many seats they have available, and the price. Initially, I was really skeptical of this website. I mean, how is this possibly safe? However, I’ve had multiple friends use this to get from Point A to Point B FOR CHEAP! If you’re a female, you can even search for female drivers only. Not only is this actually quite safe and cheap, but you can make a friend out of the trip! There are tons of people going between the major cities every single day so you will definitely be able to find a ride. Sometimes, these drivers will drop you off in a nearby city or a city along their route :)
5 // Rent a car
Probably the most expensive alternative but if you 100% must get to a place at a certain time, this might be your best solution. Also, if you’re going with a few people, then you can split the cost of the car rental and gas!
- If your train is delayed by an hour, Deutsche Bahn will refund you 25% of the paid fare (ticket must be at least 16 Euros)
- If your train is delayed by 2 hours, Deutsche Bahn will refund you 50% of the paid fare (ticket must be at least 16 Euros)
- ICE Sprinter cost will be refunded if delayed by more than 30 minutes
- See all Passenger rights (in English): here!
- Here is the form to fill out to request a refund or compensation (in English): here!
Here are a couple of other useful links for the train strike:
Don’t speak German (or English) well? Stick the links into translate.google.com and it will do a pretty good job of translating the webpage into the language of your choice.
Remember, the train strike isn’t the end of the world and there are still multiple options to get to your final destination! Deutsche Bahn has also set-up a free hotline for this weekend at 08000 99 66 3 (usually it costs money to call their hotline). This number is their special number specifically for the strike. If you call their normal hotline number, you’ll still be required to pay for making the call.
Good luck and I’d love to know if you have any other hints or tips for combating the train strike this weekend!