Updated August 13, 2020.
This Motivation Monday, I’m letting you in on a little secret that I hope empowers you: we all make mistakes when we travel! I’m telling you, this was not my first travel rodeo, but I totally botched my train tickets to and from Heidelberg! I wasted time and money, and today I’m telling you all about it so YOU can do it right the first time! Here’s your step-by-step guide. You got this.
1. Get to Germany
This part I totally got right! You can get to Heidelberg via the trains from basically anywhere in Germany. But if you’re flying in, the largest airport in Europe is Frankfurt International Airport (FRA), and it’s just an hour’s train ride to Heidelberg from there. Flying to Frankfurt: Check!
Essential info: How to Find Cheap Flights
2. Know Where You Need to Start
This is where things went a little awry. Because I had a lengthy layover in Newark enroute to Frankfurt, I decided to purchase my train ticket in advance. And since I was doing that, I went ahead and bought my return ticket as well.
Except I purchased my ticket starting at the Frankfurt Main Station. I should have purchased a ticket starting at the Frankfurt Flughafen Station. Flughafen is “airport,” which I knew, but I just saw “Frankfurt Main Station” and a nonstop train to Heidelberg and figured that was the one. That’s my problem, folks, I know just enough to mess myself up!
Lesson Learned: Start at the right train station. I ended up having to take a train from the Frankfurt Airport Station to the Frankfurt Main station and waited around for the next train.
3. Know Where You’re Going
The closest I could get to Heidelberg’s Old Town was the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof (Heidelberg Central Station). And I did eventually make it there! I made the right move of e-mailing my hotel to ask what the best way was to get from the train station to the hotel (and Old Town), and they told me to take the #33 bus to the Rathaus stop in Old Town. I asked a train station attendant at the ticket desk where the buses were to make sure I got on the right one, and he even made sure I knew to get on the bus going in the correct direction!
Lesson Learned: When in doubt, ask someone in a uniform!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit Heidelberg
4. Buy Your Ticket
You have two options for purchasing your ticket: buy online in advance, or wait and buy at a ticket office or kiosk when you arrive. Either is fine, but this is why it’s important to know where you’re starting (see #1). If you’re buying your ticket at a ticket office or ticket kiosk, just follow the prompts.
If you are buying your tickets in advance, the TrainLine EU app is very helpful and easy to use!
- Download the app.
- Create an account.
- Type “Frankfurt Flughafen” or “Frankfurt Airport” in the “from” field.
- Type “Heidelberg HBF” in the “to” field.
- Select your date. You can buy one-way or round-trip.
- Select the passenger–that’s you!
- Tap “Search.”
- Now select your tickets!
- The chart with your ticket options will show you the train times, how many connections you’ll need to make (if any), how long your journey will take, prices for first and second class, and it even highlights the fastest and cheapest routes for you.
Once you have confirmed and paid for your tickets, you will have access both online and offline to your electronic ticket. The ticket checker will just need to scan the bar code.
You can cancel your ticket, but it will cost you 19 Euro. Do it right the first time–not like me!
Lesson Learned: Read the fine print!
5. Find Your Train
This part is easy. Just look up! The signs in the train stations are very clear. Match your time, connection, and destination, and your platform number is right there for you! The best way I found to get to and from Heidelberg and the airport was to change trains in Mannheim, which was very easy to do!
More here: Top 10 Travel Hacks
6. Taking the Bus
Any bus that says “Altstadt” somewhere in its list of places it stops will get you to Old Town Heidelberg. The #33 stops the closest to my hotel, and it’s the one the nice people at Hotel Goldener-Falke recommended I take, so that’s the one I recommend to you! The buses are right out in front of the train station, and they run about every 6 minutes.
If you just missed the one you want, you can catch the next one! You can also purchase a ticket at a kiosk at the bus stop, or you can do what I did and pay on the bus. It’s only 1.30 Euro! You can pay the driver and he will give you your ticket.
Keep reading: Solo Travel: Heidelberg
Lesson Learned: The bus is easy!
- If you miss your original train, you can take a later one. It has to be the same route, and it has to be after your original ticket time to be within the time of validity, but do not panic if you miss your train!
- Someone may or may not check your ticket, but if you are caught without a ticket, you will pay a hefty fine.
- When in doubt, ask. Everyone I talked to was friendly and very helpful.
- Be patient. You can’t mess this up too much–every mistake is fixable!
- Enjoy the ride! You’re taking a train through the German countryside. Take it all in!
Are you ready to take on the public transportation system in Germany and Heidelberg! You can do it! Check out my Germany Page for more!
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