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abram797 Apr 17th, 2013 04:10 AM

Train or Car in Germany?
Looking for advice: We are planning on a trip to explore Regensburg, Berchtesgaden and Garmisch. I want to take the train as I am a little nervous about doing it by car in Germany. My husband wants to rent a car.

Looking for advice from people who have rented car in Germany to assure me that it would be better to drive vs. train travel. I realize we would probably see more if doing it by car, just can't seem to get over the fact that we are in a foreign country with unfamiliar roads and road signs.


swandav2000 Apr 17th, 2013 04:52 AM

Hi abram797,

How about assuring your husband that you'll have a blast using the trains? You can take a road trip practically anywhere in the world, but using a workable train system is still an unusual adventure; it will add a layer of "European-ness" to your European adventure.

You'll be able to people-watch as you travel -- you can observe people from all walks of life, from every age and income bracket, and see how they interact and behave. You can buy snacks and drinks and enjoy them on the train while watching the beautiful scenery slip by. You may be able to strike up a conversation with a seat-mate who wants to practice English. You won't have to worry about one-way streets or traffic jams or accidents or the high cost of gas.

I don't agree that you'll see more by using a car -- well, you may see more, but you'll experience less because you'll be tempted to blow by many places instead of lingering and soaking up the atmosphere.

And of course, using the trains is more green (yaaay!), so you'll be helping to preserve the beauty that you came to see.

You can use the German rail site to see how the train connections work for your itinerary:

Btw, I'm an American living in Garmisch, and I gave up my car when I moved here in 2008. Don't miss it a whit.


Dukey1 Apr 17th, 2013 05:08 AM

I have done both, in Germany, and enjoyed both.

IMO you are going to have a LOT more flexibility if you have a car and you can go to MORE places. BUT you have to remember that there will be the costs of fuel and parking in many cases. Driving...isn't hard in Germany and on autobahns I think you'll find the drivers are much more courteous in terms of staying OUT pf the passing lanes (except when passing) than they are in the US. Roads are well-marked and the driving rules not that different; parking rules and marking on the other hand in towns can be a bit different.

But seriously, what "unfamiliar roads and road signs?" Have you ever driven on a "new" road in the US? Was that all that "unfamiliar?" I think you are being nervous over nothing but that's probably because you haven't done it yet. And BTW who is going to be doing the driving? You? Your husband?

And yes, I understand for people who haven't used trains much, or have only used them in the US, the idea of taking the train and somehow being "out of control" can be a little intimidating.

In your case, just to get from A to B I think you really DO need to consider rail transportation. It is fast and efficient and well-run. Tickets are easy to buy and the folks you end up dealing with in stations often, very often, understand and will speak English. Signage is easy to understand.

sparkchaser Apr 17th, 2013 05:21 AM

Car is faster, more convenient, and depending on your schedule cheaper as well. I can see highway signage being somewhat intimidating for a first timer and parking signs indecipherable but you can find signs and their meanings all over the internet. Get a GPS with your rental and then alles gut.

Trains annually take longer, is not as convenient, and you have to pay attention to make sure you get off at the right stop. Buying a ticket can be intimidating if you have never done it before because of the amount of options. The perk is that you don't have to drive.

Language data point: I have been on several trains in Germany where the ticket person DID NOT speak English, so be prepared for that.

sparkchaser Apr 17th, 2013 05:24 AM

Annually? I meant *usually*.

Dukey1 Apr 17th, 2013 05:42 AM

Trust are NOT always faster in Germany. That definitely depends on the route. And please, I am sure you are smart enough to know what station to get off at.

elberko Apr 17th, 2013 05:50 AM

Train plusses:

You can look ar scenery instead of the road.
Bathroom and snacks available anytime.
No need to worry about parking the car.
No directions to follow, just listen for your stop.
With a bit of info from the internet, buying tickets not a problem.


sparkchaser Apr 17th, 2013 05:56 AM

I agree cars are not always faster, but then tend to be faster than the RB or RE.

If it's your first time on a train and you don't have a list of stops, it's easy for the announcer to say what stop they are coming up on and not catching the name, especially when you're not used to hearing the language spoken. It's happened to me in other countries.

Russ Apr 17th, 2013 06:35 AM

I've driven a good bit in Germany but now use trains and the occasional bus connection only. Regensburg, Berchtesgaden, and Garmisch all have train stations. You'll be flying into MUC, righgt? From train hub Munich, Regensburg and Garmisch are 1.5 hours away by direct train. B'gaden is 2.5 - 3 hours with one change of train (in Freilassing.) All these destinations are in Bavaria - so use the Bavaria Ticket (Bayern Ticket) daypass to get around - it's 26€/day for two. The BT is good for buses too - you can take the bus out to the Königssee from B'gaden, for example. No parking fees, no sleazy agent tricks, no traffic, navigation or insurance worries - just get on, break open the lunch bag and a bottle of wine, and enjoy the view.

jgg Apr 17th, 2013 07:52 AM

We have driven in a few European countries incl Germany. It is very easy and as someone else mentioned, no different than driving in an unfamiliar city in your home country. I do think it is extremely helpful to have a good GPS system. We have done both trains and car rental and will continue to do both depending on where we are headed and the circumstances, but would never hesitate to use a car in Germany.

bardo1 Apr 17th, 2013 08:54 AM

Yes, you COULD go all by train but a car is preferable for this particular itinerary, IMO.

Go where you want - when you want - and for how long you want. Also great for spur of the moment decisions to see something that catches your fancy.

Driving in Germany is quite simple with or without a GPS. The road signs are intuitive and simple - "stop" and "yield" are the same as the US, a "red circle" means don't do what's shown in the picture inside the circle, a number inside a red circle is the maximum speed limit.

See for yourself -

nytraveler Apr 17th, 2013 09:31 AM

We have done numerous road trips in Germany and in the areas you're talking about I think a car would be more convenient and give you much more freedom. Driving in Germany is easy (but you MUST take the rules seriously).

Make sure you have good road maps - Michelin are recommended - since GPS can't often account for detours, accidents, etc.

As for parking - just learn a few basics - names of days of the week - and understand the 24 hour clock and all will be clear.

november_moon Apr 17th, 2013 09:57 AM

Both are good choices - just different. Everyone has their preferences. I like trains in Germany and I like driving in Germany - I do have a preference for trains and will choose the train over the car unless I am going somewhere that isn't well-served by trains or if I want the flexibility to stop enroute or poke around the local area.

But rest assured, if you drive, driving in Germany is very nice. Signage is good, roads we well maintained, drivers follow the rules. The only thing that I DON'T like about driving in Germany is driving in old towns with narrow streets, lots of pedestrian-only streets, one-way streets, etc. That can get damned confusing. So my advice is for those types of towns, if you visit as part of a day trip, just park outside the old town and walk. If you overnight, pick a hotel on the edge of the old town.

321sister Apr 18th, 2013 06:41 AM

You must make a choice. I always rent a auto. I like to go where and when I want. I have been traveling to Germany since early 70. Parking has never been a problem and is reasonable. If I go to a large city,i park outside.Gas is part of my budget and for a months rental I budget 500. have a great trip.

dfourh Apr 18th, 2013 09:14 AM

It's a different experience. By train you get to city centers and stay at a city center hotel (which tend to be more expensive than cozy little places in the country); but it is relaxing to take the train. With a car you can choose the prettiest Landstrassen (I would only take Autobahn if time is an issue), stop in tiny towns here and there, go out of your way for something worthwhile (the Michelin Green Guide is a great resource for routes and sights), and maybe stay in a Gasthaus off the beaten path with parking and great food (worth researching in advance). As many have said, both are great, but you will likely see and experience different things.

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