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may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Largo, Florida
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may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Four of us are traveling to southern Germany, western Austria, northern Italy and eastern Switzerland (in that order). Economics with four people- which is best car vs Train or combination? Trying to decide how to fit into two week time frame.

Any ideas on cities to "not miss " would be appreciated.

1. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

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Chula Vista...
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2. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Hi,

That's going to be a hectic trip in two weeks using either mode of transport. You could easily spend two weeks exploring Munich (worth 3-5 days on its own), southern Bavaria (Berchtesgaden, Füssen, Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen), and perhaps Salzburg, and the Salzkammergut region of Austria (Bad Ischl, Hallstatt, Gmunden).

Be careful renting a car, as some rental agencies will not permit certain models of their cars into Italy. Also, while the Autobahns in Germany are free, you will be required to have a toll vignette affixed to the car's windshield in Austria and Switzerland to be able to legally drive on their primary highways. I have not yet driven in Italy, but I do believe there Autostradas have toll booths to pay tolls. You'll have to research that.

Gas prices are high. In Italy, gas is currently running the highest around $9.25 per gallon based on the current exchange rate.

http://www.fuel-prices-europe.info/

Most European cars are more fuel efficient, but you're still going to have a large fuel expense if you drive.

Europe has a dense and efficient rail network that allows you to get to many places quite easily. Use local regional passes, like the Bayern Ticket in Bavaria, and the four of you can travel pretty cheaply (<35 € for all four of you). Regional passes are day passes that allow you unlimited travel for the day on regional trains, buses, subways, and street trams.

If you look at multi-country rail passes, be cautious when using websites like RailEurope or Eurail. Both are third party resellers with significant mark-ups in the prices. It's often far less expensive to buy point-to-point tickets from the national railroad websites.

On the Deutsche Bahn (German Railroad) website, you can only buy tickets 92 days in advance of the travel date. You'll see "Savings Fares" which are deeply discounted fares that go quickly in the early part of that 92 day window. If you purchase a Savings Fare, you MUST ride the specific train(s) that you booked. Miss the train(s), and you'll be buying a full-fare replacement ticket on the spot. "Standard Fares" allow flexibility, so if you miss your train, you can catch the next one to your destination on the same day.

You don't want to have a car in major cities like Munich. It will be an expensive hassle to simply drive around in traffic and then find parking (at a cost).

One advantage of driving is that you can proceed at your own pace, and if you happen to drive past a lake that you want to stop and have a picnic lunch at, you can do that. On a train, you'll just zip past and may be able to take a blurry photo of it during the 90 seconds you see the lake.

Still, the train is great to get from city to city without the hassle of traffic, navigating, and the cost of fuel. Plus, you can meet new and interesting people on the train while traveling, too.

You're just going to have to roll up your sleeves, map out a tentative itinerary; hop on railroad websites to determine travel times and number of transfers; map out routes on Google maps to determine travel distances and fuel costs; and crunch some numbers.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) website will give you the route information for pretty much any train in Europe. But generally speaking, you'd have to buy the ticket from the national railroad in the nation where the trip originates.

Germany: http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml

Austria: http://www.oebb.at/en/index.jsp

Switzerland: http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

Italy: http://www.trenitalia.com/

Zed

greeley, CO
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3. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Group train tickets in Germany are great bargains. Using car vs train really boils down to two criteria - do you like to drive in unfamiliar places and are the places you want to visit only accessible by auto?

The fact that you are asking about cities to visit tells me that train would be best.

Chula Vista...
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4. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Just a point of clarification on bigtyke's post...

As he said, group tickets in Germany are a bargain, but DB defines a group as 6 or more people:

bahn.de/i/…group-discount.shtml

As you have only four people in your group, the regional day tickets for unlimited travel within one German state for one day remain the better deal:

bahn.de/i/…laender-ticket.shtml

Zed

greeley, CO
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5. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

For group, i meant more than one person.

greeley, CO
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6. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

Laender, schoenes wochenende, and quer-durch-land tickets are great for the less than 6 groups. There are also multiple user discounts on smaller rail systems (i used them recently in the Bodensee area) and city systems (i used in Stuttgart).

Even regular tickets might cost less for the second rider than the first.

7. Re: may 2014 trip to southern Germany

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