BERLIN TO LEIPZIG
So there are several ways to get from Berlin to Leipzig, the most popular is to take the train, becoming more popular (esp. as its is so cheap) is the bus / coach called Flixbus or if you are feeling a bit more affluent you can hire a Car from the Airport and drive down to Leipzig (quite a straight forward road).
PRO: Reliable, no traffic jams, easy to navigate / get to Leipzig, hassle free once you are seated
CON: Can be expensive, hassle getting suitcase onto the train, have to reserve your seat if you want to sit
PRO: Cheap, easy to use, hassle free once you are seated
CON: Takes longer to get to Leipzig, possibility of traffic jams / delays, you might have to travel to central Berlin to get your coach
PRO: Quicker to get to Leipzig, no lugging suitcases around, you are your own boss, easy to drive down the autobahn
CON: Can be expensive, hassle if you damage the car, possibility of traffic jams / delays, you have to be 'compos mentis' to drive (so might need to leave the last night party early).
TRAIN: BUYING YOUR TRAIN TICKET
So you want to travel by train in Germany?, you will need a ticket before you board. You have several options. You can buy your ticket before you travel over the Internet (recommended), or you can buy it direct from the station when you arrive. Don’t forget you can save even more money by buying a group ticket. I would also book a return ticket, as this will save you from the stress of having to go to Leipzig station and trying to purchase a ticket.
TRAIN: ONLINE TICKET
So you can use the English version of DB to purchase your tickets before you travel, remember to build in a bit of time just in case your flight is delayed. I always give myself at least 2 hours to get from the Airport to the station (this gives me time to grab a bite to eat at the station). So that is planned time of landing to departure of the train = min 2 hours.
When you book your ticket online it will give you various options (times, ticket types and cost of the ticket), the cheapest tickets being non refundable (recommended), you may also be lucky and find that 1st Class is actually cheaper. When you have chosen your train route and times (and of course paid) you will get an email with your ticket attached as a PDF file. Print it out, you will need it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Ensure that whoever purchases the Train Ticket is with you, as the conductor on the train will ask for your ticket, when you hand over your print-out they will scan the square in the top right hand corner of the print out, the conductor will also ask for the credit card that booked the ticket, if you don’t have the credit card the ticket printout is not valid and you will be forced to buy a new ticket.
TRAIN: BERLIN HAUPTBAHNHOF
On May 26th 2006 a new Railway Station opened in Berlin, sited in the very centre of Berlin and very close to the Reichstag. Plans for the Berlin Hauptbahnhof were first drawn up in 1993 and approved in 1995 with the foundation stone being laid in September 1998. Years of construction work has transformed the surrounding area around the site of the new station, with new bridges and extensive tunnelling work under the nearby Spree River.
The building in Spreebogen, which is the largest and most modern crossing station in Europe, effectively combines striking architecture with the mobility requirements of the 21st century. Every day, some 1100 long-distance, regional and rapid transit trains call at the 14 platforms on two different levels. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the largest cross hub station in Europe with links to all the major cities of central Europe as well as being the largest cross regional station in Berlin. Deutsche Bahn (DB) is estimating that the new station will be dealing with 19 million long distance passengers by the year 2010.
With the increase in passenger volume, a new rail concept was needed for Berlin and the Hauptbahnhof is Berlin's centre piece of mobility and the core of the city's new rail concept. Situated in the geographical centre of the city, it is the only station that links up all the long-distance lines with regional transport and S-Bahn services.
Architecturally the station is wonderful and magnificent to behold. The station is huge, built on five levels, housing over 80 shops with 50 escalators linking the various levels. The lower level runs north-south and is the home to the super-fast ICE intercity trains, whilst the top floor running east-west is the home of local regional trains. (see photos below)
The Hauptbahnhof links up all the long-distance lines with the S-Bahn and regional trains, so that changing trains has become a lot easier. For Deutsche Bahn customers, the new system is more reliable because more track capacity has been made available.
Berlin Hauptbahnhof, or Berlin Central Station, is the main railway station in Berlin. It is located on the site of the historic Lehrter Bahnhof, and until it opened as a main line station, it was a stop on the Berlin S-Bahn suburban railway temporarily named Berlin Hauptbahnhof–Lehrter Bahnhof
TRAIN: LEFT LUGGAGE STORAGE
If you have time on your hands at Berlin Hauptbahnhof I would recommend going up one level (from the front ground level) and look for the luggage signs, they will lead you to the ‘Repack Centre’, go down this corridor and you will find a luggage storage area, staff here will scan your bag/suitcase (airport style) and hand you a ticket that will cost you a few Euro's. Open Daily from 6.00 a.m. - 10.00 p.m
TRAIN: BUYING YOUR TICKET FROM THE STATION
If you need to buy a ticket at Berlin Hauptbahnhof then you will need to go down one level and find the ticket office (its on the left hand side, down one floor as you enter from the front of the station). Queue up and then explain your travel requirements to one of the people working there, most will have some English, although you may get passed to the next operator if they can’t. They will bring up the details of all the trains heading towards Leipzig, make sure you get an ICE train, the regional trains take a lot longer (and I did hear one story of it taking 3 hours to get to Leipzig).
TRAIN: OTHER BERLIN STATIONS
Additional long-distance and regional train stops were provided at Südkreuz and Gesundbrunnen stations and there are new regional train stops at Jungfernheide, Potsdamer Platz and Lichterfelde Ost stations. Bahnhof Zoo station has now become a regional station in order to reduce journey times on long-distance services.
NOTE: If you purchase a ticket online from the Airport to Leipzig it will route you via Südkreuz (the first of the major Berlin stations), there is little at the station (small shops to buy food and drink). My preference is to go a one stop further to Berlin Hauptbahnhof as it has more resources (food, drink, sightseeing etc). However there will be less people boarding at Südkreuz so it is actually easier to get on the train, the station is all undercover and fine for an hour or so with seats located around the upper and lower platform areas. The ICE will depart from the lower platform, check your ticket for platform, carriage and seat numbers. NOTE: If you have not booked a train ticket online go to Berlin Hauptbahnhof if you want a chance of a seat.
TRAIN: REGIONAL TRAVEL
If you have time or you want to travel around Berlin then I strongly recommend the Regional trains and the S-Bahn, both are excellent. Get yourself up to the top level of the station for Regional Trains, and you should find one of fifty ticket machines that can supply you with a travel card (they have an English option). It’s also quite cheap to travel on these trains. You MUST validate your ticket in one of those red boxes on the platform before boarding the train. If you forget and get caught by an inspector, they will fine you. Dumb tourist excuses do not work…
Regional Train tickets can be purchased from the level beneath the train platforms (at the top of the station), there are a number of machines in the ticket office. You must first press the English option on the machine and enter your destination (Schonefled is entered as Berlin Schone fled) on one machine. You enter the amount of tickets you wish to purchase here too. The machine will then print out a sheet with your travel details and a bar-code. Take this sheet to the next machine (located very close) and put the sheet and bar code under the scanner. You can now pay for your tickets, once you have entered the correct money it will start to print tickets slowly.
TRAIN: U-BAHN TRAVEL
The U-Bahn or Underground/Subway Railway is on the bottom floor under the ICE platform. You will find ticket machines down on the
platform, make sure you purchase one and validate it.
TRAIN: JOURNEY TO LEIPZIG
The train system in Germany is excellent however, you will need to plan this part of your journey as it is customary in Germany to book tickets and seats in advance of journeys. Use the German train operator website (look to the Links page on this website) to book your tickets, these will guarantee your seats. You want to ensure that you book an ICE (inter-continental express) train. These trains are extremely fast (200 kph), smooth and very modern. If you don’t book a seat you will struggle to sit down for the 1 hour 20 minute trip between Berlin and Leipzig.
If you have booked your ticket when you get to the station you should find the location of your seat on the train. Your ticket will tell you what carriage you are on, a notice board on the platform will show you the time of your train, the length of your train and what carriages will be included (its called a Wagenstandanzeiger (car/coach locater) see picture below). Simply look along the platform and get yourself and your baggage down to this location. It should have a letter above it A - E). When the train arrives get yourself on ASAP, don’t queue, Germans don’t do that. Stow your baggage, a task that can be difficult as there won't be enough storage places, leaving your suitcase near the doorway is probably the best idea. Then find your seat. If you have booked you may need to ask the person in your seat to vacate it (they will when shown the ticket). If you didn’t book then you are now looking at a very full train with no seats, (they all went whilst you were stowing your baggage, that or they are booked with a nice flashing name above them). If there is a group of you, split your group, half to run on the train as soon as it stops, and half to stow the baggage, however you will all still struggle to find a seat. My advice is to book your seats via the website and hope that your plane is not delayed.
One downside of booking your train ticket in advance is that if your flight is delayed you miss your train. I advise that you book your train ticket from Berlin to Leipzig 2-3 hours after you expect to land, that will give you time to get out of the airport and get yourself to the station, plus it will allow some time should your flight be delayed. If your flight is delayed for any long length of time then you will need purchase another ticket (unless you have paid extra for the flexible ticket).
TRAIN: LEIPZIG TO BERLIN
After the festival depending on your travel arrangements you may need to get yourself back to Berlin (if you have an extra day or two then I strongly recommend staying in Berlin, its absolutely fabulous). Many people will be heading to the Train Station to get out of Leipzig, my advice is to get a late afternoon train as the morning trains will be extremely crowded, the later in the day that you can leave the better. Make sure you book your ticket before you travel, or you will not get a seat. To book your ticket (and again I advise doing this ASAP, don’t leave it until you intend to travel as you may not get a ticket, that or you may end up on a very slow regional train, with maybe a change of trains at some point). The ticket office is on the ground floor of Leipzig train station, enter the main doorway and look right, there are some lockers for storing luggage and a large room where you can book your ticket. You should be OK with English again, although it will be a little harder than Berlin. Book an ICE train and get yourself to the right place on the platform, in the same way that you did coming to Leipzig.
TRAIN: ARRIVING IN LEIPZIG
Leipzig is an end of the line stop (and the largest train station in Europe), you won’t miss it, and the train will continue further south after Leipzig, but it must first stop here and change direction. When you arrive at Leipzig, you will need to get yourself downstairs to ground level (use the lift or the moving walkway). When you get outside the Train Station you will find a taxi rank to your left and the main tram stop in front of you. Most central hotels are within walking distance of the train station in Leipzig.
So it could not be easier, go to the Flixbus website, put in Berlin to Leipzig together with the dates / times you want to travel and purchase your tickets (however it is worth noting where the coach will pick you up and the time it may take you to reach the stop). The price of the coach is really quite cheap at about €12 each way)...the Flixbus site also mentions luggage weights, however the driver will not weigh your suitcase so dont worry too much about that. The trip down to Leipzig will take approx 2 to 2 and a half hours depending on traffic and how many other stops the coach has to make before heading to the Autobahn. The coach will drop you off at the Main Train Station (as above)
CAR HIRE: WHERE / HOW
Currently my personal preference for getting to Leipzig from Berlin, and it can work out cheaper or the same as the train if you have a couple of paying passengers. Both Schonefeld and Tegel have car hire centres (the one at Schonefeld is right opposite the terminal, whilst the one at Tegel is to the west of the airport complex). My advice is to go for a Car Hire firm that is based at the airport, else you have to get a bus to car park away from the airport and that all takes time. There are a number of firms, use a car hire comparison site like Holiday Autos to get the best deal (and I strongly advise going for one that has a better score). If you use Holiday Autos they will also cover any additional damage so you dont get stung in the event of an accident. Prices vary depending on the size and spec of the car, and dont forget that they can change the make of car from the one you thought you was hiring (its in the T&Cs), but it should be the same size or better. Before you drive away also remember to inspect the car, take pictures of any scratches, dents or damage.
CAR HIRE: DRIVING TO LEIPZIG
Driving from Tegel or Schonefeld is quite easy, its nearly all autobahn, download a free app called 'Waze' on to your phone and this will guide you all the way and avoid all the traffic / accidents. The autobahn is two and three lanes all the way down to Leipzig, there are several places you can stop if you need too, however I find it easy enough as it only takes about an hour and a half to get down to Leipzig. NOTE: The road is prone to traffic jams, there is currently work to expand the autobahn, however if you use Waze it will help you to navigate around the issues. The speed varies all the way down, and its worth having your passenger look out for road signs (so you can focus on the driving) as the speed of the road can go from no speed limit, 120, 100, 80, 100, 80, no speed limit in a few miles, still cant see why it goes up and down all over the place.
CAR HIRE: LEIPZIG
Driving in Leipzig can be a bit scary if its your first time, again Waze should help you, I find the very wide junctions to be a bit off putting (esp. if you are the lead car), however if there are two of you in the car I am sure you will figure it out. Its worth noting that before you book your hotel where you are going to park the car once you get to Leipzig and if the Hotel has a car park / what it charges per day to park (EG the Pentahotel has a car park, but they want €25 per day to park there, which even to me is extortionate, so I park in an adjacent road).
CAR HIRE: LEIPZIG TO BERLIN
Give yourself plenty of time to get to Berlin, and remember that if you are driving Tuesday morning / lunchtime that you need to think about bailing out of the last night party about 3am (else you are not going to be fit to drive). So the journey back is just as simple, the only additional issue you have is that you need to find a petrol station to fill the car up before you hand it back, there are a few petrol stations on the autobahn, I tend to use one about 12km south of Berlin on the way to Schonefeld called 'Freienbrink'. When you hand the car back ensure they are happy with the car before you walk away (remember the photos you took).
BERLIN: A BIT OF SIGHTSEEING
So if you find yourself with an hour or two to spare before you need to either get your train or before you need to leave for the Airport then I strongly advise leaving your luggage and going for a stroll around central Berlin. Once you checked your luggage into left luggage (see above) leave the station by the rear, you can’t miss it, it’s the opposite side to the station to which you entered from and you can see straight out the back. You can see various landmarks from the station, the most prominent being the Reichstag, head towards it over the river and across a small park. (This entire area has been landscaped as part of the Stations rebuild). You can enter the Reichstag and look down on the insides from the glass domed roof, I recommend it highly (although you do have to pass the type of security that you will find at the airport, so be prepared to remove your boots and have them scanned). The Reichstag has a very rich history, and if you look carefully you can see the old bullet holes in the front of the building, shot there by Russian soldiers in the last months of the second world war. The Brandenburg gate is very close as is the site of Hitler’s Bunker, if you look at Google Earth you will find enough to keep you busy from an historic point of view for many hours of sightseeing. For refreshments head to the Brandenburg gate area, there are various cafés here that although overpriced are still only 10 minutes walk from the station.