Train Review: ICE (First Class)

My train journeys in Germany have been unlucky in the last months. Anyway, I feel like it is interesting to write a review about the board product itself. The Inter City Express (ICE) is the fastest and most comfortable train in Germany. It is divided into two classes. This review features the First Class at an ICE train.

First of all, it is important to note that not every ICE-train is the same. Anyway, you can expect a comparable service and seating on all first class ICE-trains in Germany. The most important thing when travelling on an ICE is the seating. In first class, all seats are made out of leather and are pretty big (three seats in a row, in a 2-1 configuration).

I had a lot of space on my way to Leipzig

That’s how a first class at an ICE train seat looks alike

Depending on which ICE series you are boarding, there may be different seating arrangements, but all offer a large seat pitch, a comfortable seat and a little privacy. Moreover, every seat has its own table and a plug. In my opinion, the seats at the ICE trains are very good for working, especially when you choose a seat on one of the big tables.

The first class snack at ICE trains

Booking a train trip is like booking a low-cost ticket for an airplane. You pay for the train ride and that’s what you get. In German trains, there are neither food nor drinks included. What is included is baggage and newspapers (only in First Class). Also, guests in First Class may be handed a little snack by the conductor.

"We choose a hotel for you... and here is a complimentary snack"

The complimentary snack is a little small

Thinking of my approximately 20 trips on an ICE train, I got the snack 15 times. Sometimes I even got two, three or four snacks, so it’s depending on the motivation of the conductor and the length of your trip. If you are looking for more food, you may choose something offered at the so-called Bordrestaurant (sometimes Bordbistro).

The Bircher Muesli offered by the Deutsche Bahn was good but very expensive

The offered Bircher Muesli is priced 4,90 Euro, but tastes pretty good

In First Class, you’ll be offered food and drinks by table. Both is served in porcelain and with real cutlery. The food tastes solid, but is nothing special. The prices are too high for what is offered in my opinion (e.g. a bottle of water for 3 euro).

Very enjoyable ride with WiFi

The train ride aboard an ICE train is really enjoyable. The trains are really calm (way calmer than any airplane) and the guests in First Class (mainly businessmen) tend to work all the trip, so there is also nobody talking. What makes the trips on ICE trains even more enjoyable is the newly introduced WiFi service that I was able to test on different routes.

DB Internet

WiFi is working in most ICE trains nowadays

At the moment, it is priced at 5 Euro for a day pass (for First Class and for Second Class), but in 2015, it will be available for free when travelling First Class on an ICE train. The connection is stable and the speed is convenient.

Several different newspapers are complimentary

Several different newspapers are complimentary

In addition, the newspapers offered in First Class are of good quality (all major German newspapers, but no international ones). So overall, the board entertainment is very good.

Lounges at big stations and problems

Another very nice option when having a First Class ticket is the lounge access on several big stations in Germany. At some there is a so-called First Class lounge (e.g. Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich), where you are offered drinks and food for free. At smaller train stations (e.g. Stuttgart, Nuremberg) there is only a “normal” lounge where you can enjoy a drink, free WiFi and newspapers.

Food in the First Class Lounge

Food in the First Class Lounge

When it comes to what is offered, I feel like riding First Class is really worth it and may be more chilled and even faster than taking a domestic airplane. But sadly, things tend to not work as good as they are in theory. In the last years, I suffered from heavy delay, didn’t get newspapers in First Class several times and was not served food due to problems in the Restaurant more than just once.

This is how a "second class" lounge looks like

Normal Lounge in Stuttgart

Would I recommend buying First Class tickets (starting at 49 euros for a one-way journey) anyway? Yes, because what is offered when everything works out is really nice. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!


19 Comments on “Train Review: ICE (First Class)”

  1. I’ve been living in Germany for a few years and I have to say the railway services are nothing but disappointing. Delays, very old trains (not in this case, but have you travelled IC or regional?) and very unfriendly staff. I do love travelling by train but not in Germany!

    • It’s a real up and down experience travelling by train in Germany. I try to avoid all IC-trains (I had a very nice one last week when travelling from Berlin to Dresden, it was a very positive surprise!) as they are very old and not any comfortable, even in First Class. I can also agree to the bad service experience. I got in contact with many rude and unsymphatic conductors while travelling by train, but there were also some positive suprises.

      It’s always a question on what you are used to get when it comes to travelling by train. I’ve seen trains in other parts of the world and even in Europe that were way worse than everything I’ve seen when travelling in Germany. That’s why I don’t think that the Deutsche Bahn is that bad (even though they could do so much better…)

      • Have you tried Spanish high speed trains (AVE)? I thought that Germany was going to be like that all the time. And it’s not! I also used to travel a lot in the regional service in Spain and never had a problem.
        For me the main problem with DB is the bad service and the horrible answer you get if you ask something. Besides, sometimes you pay a lot of money for a certain train and they change it suddenly. It’s like the client didn’t matter!

      • Oh, I love the AVE trains. They are just amazing! Instead of buying high speed trains, the Deutsche Bahn decided to invest in the IC fleet (100 new trains of this type are coming soon). That’s very sad in my opinion 🙁

        Sadly, you are right. The service level is just not what you would expect from a company that “needs” the passengers. But I feel like that won’t change anytime soon…

  2. This train ride is certainly better than any trains ride I’ve heard of here in the States. But this definitely sounds like a great time. And I always love a trip where you get to enjoy great food :).

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  8. A different experience with DB:
    My brother wanted to book at ticket from Düsseldorf to Frankfurt because he needed to get to the airport. He booked a ticket with an arrival time 5 hours before his flight. Instead he missed his flight due to the lack of planning by the Deutsche Bahn. He had to wait at the Düsseldorf station for approximately 2 hours before they said the train was cancelled. Then he took a train to Cologne to catch a train to Frankfurt. However, an additional 2 hour delay occurred while in transit from Cologne to Düsseldorf. The nightmare wasn’t quite over… a refund for the additional flight ticket was promised by the Deutsche Bahn, but my brother received a letter saying that they will not be refunding the ticket. I advise you to take DB only if you’re wanting to be 5+ hours late and want to spend an additional 400 Euros. There are cheaper and better quality ways to travel through Germany. So much for the myth that Germany is always on time!

    • Thank you very much for sharing your impression! It’s always interesting to read about the experience of other travelers. To put it in perspective, there are several delays when it comes to the DB, but the average is way below 10 minutes per train. It’s always sad to hear such a negative story and the handling was definitely horrible (talking about the refund and information politics), but I’m sure this was a real exception. I had my fair share of problems as well, but in average everything went decent!

  9. I can add to this as I am currently on the ICE train from Nuremberg to Frankfurt.
    1. You can guy food. I suggest you bring it on.
    2. You can buy beer. Same price as outside the train. Highly recommended.
    3. Be careful if you cannot get a confirmed reservation. In a surprisingly un-German manner, they will sell more seats than there are and you get to stand. I’m standing. So…recommend that if they give you some line about “there will be an open seat but we cannot reserve one…” get a different train. It is 2.5 hours to Frankfurt.
    4. The staff is excellent.
    5. Remember, you are in Europe where common courtesies of the South are unknown.
    6. The wi-if is pretty good.
    7. Did I mention the beer – buy one.
    8. Travel light. Really do this, these trains are not meant for big luggage.
    9. Ask questions at the train station. The people who work for ICE are really nice.
    10. Get a reserved seat – they will sell you otherwise. See #3.
    11. Try the beer. The ride improves tremendously!
    12. If someone cuts you off getting on the train, remember you are in Europe.
    13. Learn to walk on a South Florida fishing charter.
    14. When it is time to get off, get your stuff ready. You will have about 30 seconds. Finally…buy a beer.

  10. What I seriously dislike about these ICE trains in first class, is that most of the times the number of the wagon is not displayed outside. Especially a disaster if it is joined trains so you can not board and walk thru the train.
    Lots of stress to find the correct wagon number when boarding.
    Hate it.

    • Hey Tim, actually the number can be found outside on all wagons, it’s just a little tough to read on the display sometimes. I’ve got some good news in this regard though: The new ICE 4 trains have way better signs on the outside, making it easier to find the right coach 🙂

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