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Traveling by Intercity-Express

From: Germany's ICE Trains

ICE 3 engineer's cockpit

ABOVE: A lounge-seat view of the engineer's cockpit on an ICE 3 train.

Class of travel and seating

ICE trains have first- and second-class cars. All cars are air-conditioned, and the main difference between the two classes is in the seating:

  • First-class carriages usually have 2 + 1 seats across the width of the car.

  • Second-class cars usually have 2 + 2 seats.

You can see photos of first- and second-class cars on page 6 of this article.

In addition to the more common open seating, some cars have modern versions of the traditional six- or eight-seat European train compartments, and some trains have business cars with laptop tables and glassed-in conference rooms.

Newer ICE 3 and ICE T trains also have compartments with "lounge seats" directly behind the engineer's cockpits at both ends of the train (see photo at top of page). These compartments are popular with railfans, and they're available in both first and second class.

Other seating variations include facing pairs of seats with tables and family compartments on newer trains. If you have a preference for a certain type of seat, indicate your preference when making seat reservations (see page 4).

Boarding tips

Deutsche Bahn photoAt the train station, look for an electronic signboard or a yellow printed "Abfahrten" ("Departures") list. This will show the platform for your train.

On the platform, look for a diagram that shows the makeup of each train. Identify the platform sector (A, B, C, D) for your class of travel and/or the car where you have a seat reservation and wait for the train between the sector signs.

When the train arrives, look for the car numbers near the doors. If you don't have time to reach the other end of the train, board anywhere and walk to your car. (ICE trains have automatic electric doors between cars, so walking through the train is easy unless you're hauling bulky luggage.)


You'll need to take your bags into the car with you, but this shouldn't be a problem if you're traveling with a reasonable amount of luggage. Place smaller bags on the overhead rack above your seat; larger bags can be placed between the backs of opposite-facing seats or stowed in a luggage locker at the end of the car. (Deposit a coin, which will be refunded when you collect your suitcase.)

In first class, passengers often simply place suitcases next to them in the aisle; this isn't always convenient in second class, where aisles are narrower and cars are more crowded.

Luggage porterPorters are available in larger German railroad stations, but they can be hard to find. If you need a porter to meet you upon arrival, ask a member of the train crew to phone ahead. (Many conductors and car attendants speak English, but if all else fails, show your ticket, ask "Gepäckträger?", and make lifting gestures.)

  • Note: Bicycles aren't permitted on ICE trains, unless they're folded or disassembled and stored in a bike bag.

Food and drink

ICE train minibarYour ICE train will have a BordRestaurant (dining car), a BordBistro (café car), or both. On most trains, you can order a meal at your seat in first class or buy snacks in second class.

An even better option, if you're watching your euros, is to buy a sandwich and drink in the railroad station before departure. Larger stations often have food stands or kiosks on the train platforms.


All ICE trains have accessible lavatories, wheelchair parking, and other facilities for disabled travelers. These are located only in certain cars, so it's a good idea to reserve a seat and indicate your need before you travel.

What to expect on board

ICE trains offer a fast, smooth ride, without the lurches and clatter of traditional trains. You may be surprised to look up and see "300 km/h" displayed on a digital panel at the end of your car.

ihr ReiseplanOn some trains (ICE Sprinters) you'll be offered free newspapers, and free copies of the Deutsche Bahn's excellent German-language magazine are available in all trains. Also glance through the leaflet titled Ihr Reiseplan, which shows your train's schedule with connecting services at each station along the way.

Finally, the first-class cars on some trains offer video entertainment, and nearly all have headphone jacks for free onboard audio programming.

Telephones and laptops

Handy photoSome ICE cars have cellular repeaters for the convenience of mobile-phone users, but other carriages are "quiet cars" where telephones are forbidden. If you intend to use your phone enroute (or if you like to play your iPod at top volume), don't sit in the silent zone.

In recent years, the Deutsche Bahn has installed computer power plugs in newer trains and many older cars. On some routes, T-Mobile Wi-Fi subscribers can access the Internet from their seats, and other passengers can buy T-Mobile vouchers.

Next page: Tickets, reservations, rail passes

In this article:
Germany's ICE Trains - Introduction
Types of ICE trains
Traveling by Intercity-Express
Tickets, Reservations, Rail Passes
Related Web Sites
More ICE train photos

Also see:
Car or Train? - A Do-It-Yourself Quiz
European Rail Passes

Top photo and 2nd/3rd inset photos copyright © Eurail Group.
5th inset photo copyright © Norbert Bieberstein.