Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

When first time driving through southern Germany for two weeks...

When first time driving through southern Germany for two weeks...

Mar 12th, 2009, 01:15 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 40
When first time driving through southern Germany for two weeks...

Dear experienced travelers,

With your help I'm working on my detailed route: From Frankfurt (visit Speyer), stop at Stuttgart (visit Tubingen, calw?, Baden-baden, Strasbourg, Freiburg?, Titsee...) , Meersburg, Fussen (visit Chiemsee), St Gilgen (visit Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, Hallstadt, Burghausen?), Munich (visit Augsburg), Heilbronn (visit Rothenburg, Bad Wimpfen, Heideberg), Frankfurt (visit Wurzburg?). It's either on the way or a day-trip for a 'visit'. It's 2 or 3 nights for a 'stop'. And I wish not to miss any ‘must see’ along the way while not to 'over-book' our time…

Here are my additional questions:

1. We'd like to park our car somewhere when getting into a big town or city and walk or use the bus to wander around. What is the common area for the day parking? Is it always near a bus station or train station? What is the average cost for the parking?

2. When driving along the road and stop at any small town, is it easy to locate the suitable parking lot for we don't know any German? Can I tell any restricted parking sign?

3. It's said that there are Bank of America ATMs in Germany, where is it commonly located other than the bank? At the train stations or gas stations?

4. For a restroom, do we always have to look for a train/bus station or a restaurant?

5. Is there any grocery chain store like our Safeway that we could easily find along the main road for water, fruit or snacks? Any popular word or sign to tell that it's a grocery store?

6. In the early May, would it rain a lot? Do we still need sweaters?

7. Any difference in driving a compact euro car from the rental car we normally have in the US? Would its trunk be big enough to hold for two suitcases (26" or 24" high)?

8. Should I get the Austria sticker somewhere days before we head towards the St Gilgen in Austria? And where?

... It may look a bit over-concerned... though we have driven to many places in US and Canada, it's our first time to drive around in Europe.

Thanks for caring!

Glander
Glander is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 01:33 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,008
1. We have a GPS but I still will go to the town's website and do a search for "parking". They usually have maps with parking areas marked. Or when driving into the town "zentrum" you will see the (usually blue as I remember) parking signs. Hard to give you an average but I'd say a couple of Euro for a couple of hours depending on if it's a lot or a garage.

2. There are websites that provide signage information for driving in Germany.

3. Again, the internet is your friend. You can usually google for Bank of America ATM locations Germany or something like that and get information online.

4. Most towns have public restrooms. There will be signs for the WC with arrows pointing you in the right direction. Also, many of the town maps I mentioned above show public restroom locations.

5. I remember Billa and Spar are two of the grocery chains in Germany and Austria that you will usually find in most decent size towns. There are also rest stops along the motorway that sell sandwiches, snacks and drinks albeit at higher prices.

6. Most of our trips to Germany have been in May. We've never gotten "alot" of rain but I guess it's possible. Yes, you will definitely need sweaters and even a lightweight jacket especially in the higher elevations like Berchtesgaden where there could still be some snow.

7. We normally get a small car (altho not a really tiny one) and it easily carries our two 22" suitcases. I would advise against anything as large as 26" as you may be carrying them up lots of stairs.

8. You will see the signs warning you to get a "Vignette" as you get close to the Austrian border. You can purchase them at most petrol stations and rest stops.

Really, driving in Germany and Austria isn't that much different than driving in the US. Just stay right on the motorways unless you are passing and you'll be fine!
bettyk is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 01:45 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,008
Check out this website for driving information.

http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/auto.htm

Also, this B of A website shows that you can use Deutsche Bank ATM's when traveling in Germany:

http://locators.bankofamerica.com/lo...BA7EE82FD.web8
bettyk is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 01:59 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,008
If I remember correctly, in Hallstatt, there is a parking lot after you go thru the tunnel and first enter town.

http://austria-travel.suite101.com/a...sted_hallstatt

In this stadtplan (city map) of Tuebingen, you will see the blue Parking signs.

http://stadtplan.tuebingen.de/index....tplan&JNavi=1&

Basically, all I did was google “car parking in ?” and add the town name. It may take some digging but you’ll probably find most of the information you need.
bettyk is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 03:07 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,876
1. Depends on size of town.
In smaller towns just follow signs for "Zentrum". Parkings are designated with a white P on blue background.
In bigger cities (like Munich or Stuttgart or possibly Strasbourg) you will find at the outskirts signs for Park+Ride lots that are connected to urban rail system (subway or suburban trains). In Germany, these parkings are designated with a P+R sign. Many cities have digital displays for a route along the parking garages telling you how many available spaces are left at which parking.
Fees for parking can vary a LOT. It can be for free (usually in smaller town on parking lots a few minutes walk from the center) to 4 Euros per hr in the center of Munich.

3. I've never seen BoA ATMs in Germany. Maybe BoA is affiliated with one or more German banks. You should check their website. Technically, your card will work with any ATM in Germany. Almost every gas station has one, and you will find them anywhere where people are.. downtown, malls, stations,.. and even in banks ;-)

4. Public restrooms often look like stand-alone kiosks. Usually you gotta pay 50c. Also check department stores, bookstores, etc. The German word for restroom is "Toilette". In stores, you will also find signs saying "Kundentoilette" or just the man/woman logo.

5. Yes, at the outskirts of towns you will almost automatically drive by at least one or more supermarkets with free parking. Aldi and Lidl are discount chains. Others are Kaisers, Tengelmann, Netto, Rewe, Spar, Eurospar, Marktkauf, Real,...
Also malls or shopping centers have at least one supermarket inside.
But you will also find smaller supermarkets downtown in the pedestrian zones. So you don't always have to stop at the edges of town, unless you want to.

Hours vary by State in Germany, but expect everything to be closed on Sundays, except for supermarkets inside railway stations (in major cities) or 7-11 style supermarkets in gas stations.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 03:10 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 9,017
1) Park and Ride at suburbian train stations, mostly free. Downtown = expensive.
2) No parking, stop for 3min or loading unloading
http://static.twoday.net/verkehrt/im...t-jpg-3064.jpg

No stopping
http://www.fahrschulefuhrmann.de/ass...alteverbot.jpg

3) No BoA in Germany, use Deutsche Bank ATMs
4) Toilets sometimes, not frequently, use Restaurants.
5) Rewe, Tengelmann, Lidl, Aldi, Penny, Plus ....
6) Yes and yes, but who knows.
7) smaller
8) Autobahn, any Rasthaus before the border
logos999 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 03:50 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 3,084
If you search a restroom don't ask for a "restroom" or "bathroom", ask for a "toilet" - the German word is "Toilette" and even people who do not speak English will know what you mean. We call the things what they are... A "bathroom" to us is something with a bathtub and/or a shower and "restroom" will not be understood by everyone.
You'll often see the abbreviation "WC" on signs. A door numbered "00" also indicates what you need.
"D" = Damen = Ladies
"H" = Herren = Gentlemen

Supermarkets are known as "Supermarkt" - again, German can be easy ;-)
Take into consideration that they are NOT open 24/7. Nowhere.

You will definitely need a rainproof jacket and at least one warm sweater in May,and shoes that survive wet conditions. Bring clothes that can be worn in layers and put on or peeled off according to changing conditions. This is how Germans pack, we call it "Zwiebelsystem" (onion system).

Early May often gets a frosty intermission, sometimes even with a little snow. Late May and June are notorious for a lot of rain on the Northern side of the Alps. At least, these rules applied before recent years' climate changes. Anyway, you never know so prepare. Rain is possible in these parts of the world any time of the year.
quokka is online now  
Mar 12th, 2009, 05:03 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
In early May you are liable to have some rain and it can well be chilly at night.

A supermarket looks like a supermarket - there's no mistaking one.

In all cities to towns there are parking lots (sometimes on the outskirts if the center is pedestrian). All will be marked clearly with a gigantic P. And as you enter the town you will see a bunch of places with Ps. You should bring with you street maps (driving - not walking) of any town you plan to visit. This will tell you in advance if there is a pedestrian area and where to park. In addition to a good quality (Michelin for preference) large scale map , you can download maps for specific town from Michelin.com. Regular tourist maps will NOT do since thy don;t indicated pedestrian zones, one-way streets etc.

Many of the lots require payment - done via a large machine (like a big coke machine). On entering you take a ticket. When you leave you insert the ticket and it will indicate an amount. You insert the money and get a ticket or token that will let you out of the lot/garage.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 06:54 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,890
Quokka - a friend of mine told his wife that Damen was for 'da men' and Herren was for 'her' which she believed and applied to the decision as to which door she should enter while at a restaurant in Oberammergau.

Small wonder they got divorced!
bigtyke is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 07:05 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 40
Thank you, thank you and THANK YOU ALL! It's so much helpful than a travel book!

I love traveling for the beauty of the nature and mankind on the planet. It broadens one's view and enriches one's life. There is so much to learn and enjoy starting from planning it!

I felt like I own you a journey report if it's not considered redundant… so stay tuned.

Glander
Glander is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 07:22 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 43
generally, your route sound fine, a bit loaded however.

as for your questions:

1. city parking
major cities have excellent public transit systems. you should watch for "P+R" signs (park and ride signs that look like this: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...20060731124534). P+R facilities are located next to rapid transit stations and are normally free of charge. normal parking facilities are marked with a white P on blue ground. additional signage may indicate if parking is restricted and which restrictions apply (violations are strictly). this may be confusing even to germans, so if you are in doubt, don't hesitate to ask a local. in any event, at least in major cities (e.g. frankfurt, munich) P+R parking will be the first choice.

2. no-parking signs.
betty provided an excellent link on that topic. the actual page referring to no-parking signs is this one: http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/zeichen2.htm
violations are strictly enforced (many cities and towns need fines as part of their budgets).

3. ATMs
i could imagine that bank of america has affiliates in germany, so that you could use their atms at no or at low charge. just consult with BoA to find out. ATMs are located at banks and railroad stations, but can be found in other places (e.g. supermarkets), too. most atms are independend from bank hours, you have access 24 hours.

4. restrooms
good advice was already given. as you know from anywhere in the u.s., in modern germany most restrooms are labeled with a pictograph depicting a stylized man and/or woman (example for a ladies' restroom: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...20060603172405 ). as already said, you can also watch out for "WC" or the word "toilette". in airports and large rail stations you will find indications in english too. you should be aware of having to pay for use of public restrooms. in places like restaurants you may be required to consume a beverage or so or leave some 50 cents or one euro. it is a hassle to have to pay for such a basic service, but it is the way it is.

5. grocery stores
grocery stores are found on many places in every town and city. there are many chains, including real, edeka/ e-center that are found in larger cities. virtually every neighborhood has supermarkets like rewe, netto, lidl, penny, and aldi. in most towns, you should watch for these sign somewhere when entering or leaving a town, since shopping facilities are often located near the city limit next to arterial roads.

6. early may weather
in recent years, we had early may temperatures going up to 90F, but this isn't guaranteed. you should bring sweeters since at least nights can be pretty cold. around middle of may the so called ice saints (may 11-15) may cool the weather remarkably.

7. driving and car size
though being smaller, euro cars provide normally more trunk space than american cars, even sedans, do. anyway, much depends on the category of your rental car. driving is similar to what you know from the states. though signage is different from what you know, for the most part it is "self-explaining". be prepared that traffic is faster than in the states, even on secondary streets. even on narrow rural streets the speed limit is 100 kmh/62 mph (unless otherwise marked). when entering a village, town or city (you are passing a yellow sign labeling the respective name), you must decelerate immediately to 50 kmh/ 31 mph to prevent yourself from getting "caught by a radar trap". so called radar traps are not uncommon, so you should observe the speed limit. apart from that, driving is very smooth and fun in all of germany. just enjoy it.

8. austria "vignette" sticker
just purchase before entering. gas stations within border vicinity sell these stickers.

i hope this may add to the information already given.
Holly76 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 09:54 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 26,390
You've recieved good advice so far. All that I can think to add is that if you don't have gps, you may really want to pick up a good road map. I like the ADAC (?) not quite sure I've got the acronym correct but it's a spiral bound map book that serves us well each time we go to Germany.

Also, the rental car will come with a parking thing- it has a paper clock on it and when you go to free parking, you simply set the clock to the time that you pull in and come back within the one or two hours.

Driving in Germany is fine. In fact, it makes more sense than the way people drive in the states. There are rules, everyone knows and respects them. Get aquainted with the rules and you'll be fine. Just stay to the right hand side of the road, like someone said earlier but it bears repeating. Some drivers go really fast and if you want to go "schnell" too, rent an Audi. Woohooo!

How long do you plan to be in Germany? We usually go for about 2 weeks. It took us 2 visits to cover some of the things you have on your list and we still have things to do there. The other 2 visits were spent in Berlin/Dresden and East Germany.
Germany is such a beautiful and interesting place that you might find yourself wanting to slow down.
There are towns that we stopped in for an afternoon and ended up staying 3 nights.

Enjoy your trip.
LSky is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 10:19 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,876
That parking thing.. actually a good tip since many smaller cities don't charge for parking everywhere, but on many streets you can park for free, but not forever.
You indicate the arrival time on a parking disc, that you should find also in your rental car (hopefully).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_parking

One other difference would be that any sign can come with the supplement "ZONE". It means that the regulation (speed limit, no parking are the two most common) will not be repeated and will be in force unless you pass the same sign crossed out.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo-30-Zone
(This is only in German, but you see the two versions of the sign on the right hand side)

You will probably see little to no police actually chasing someone for speeding. That does not mean, though, that there is no surveillance - but almost all is done by automated cameras. So it does not help one bit "to go with the flow".
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 10:37 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 9,017
you simply set the clock to the time that you pull in and come back within the one or two hours
> The law says you have to set the clock to the next full resp. half our. Gives you up to an extra 30 min.
logos999 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 04:41 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 26,390
Thanks logos999. Just to clarify: If I pull into that lot at 11:09 I set it at 11:30? Or should I set it at 11:00? I always try to be exact with the thing.
LSky is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 11:48 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 9,017
>If I pull into that lot at 11:09 I set it at 11:30?
Correct.
logos999 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 02:18 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,457
Glander, one of the things we do before an overseas driving trip is to prepare a flexible binder with printed pages of the city maps with parking lots identified where possible (Google makes this rather easy.) It's very useful in the event a particular parking lot is full.

Some helpful grocery store advice, if I may share. Often the produce sections have disposable gloves for the patrons to use when selecting their items, and often you will need to weigh and tag your items before checking out. I was "tsk, tsk'ed" by an Italian grandmother several years ago for picking up a bunch of grapes without the gloves at a COOP in Tuscany and have since always been on the lookout for the gloves.

Have fun in Germany! We leave in three weeks with our children for a driving trip from Frankfurt to Munich, and can't wait!
fourfortravel is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 04:10 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 3,084
Italian supermarkets have those gloves, German ones do not. They would not be accepted here. Think about the amount of unnecessary plastic garbage created for nothing. Usually you wash your fruit anyway before you eat it, eh?

The tricky bit to find out is whether you have to weigh your fruit and veggies and put a sticker on the bag yourself, or whether it is weighed at the cash desk. This differs from supermarket to supermarket. If the price signs have numbers and there is a big scale sitting next to the fruit stand with lots of buttons that have numbers and pictures of different fruits and veggies, you are expected to put your bag of apples onto those scales, press the "apples" button and stick the price label the machine prints out onto the bag.
quokka is online now  
Mar 14th, 2009, 05:26 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 338
Driving in Germany and Austria is easier than driving here. They actually follow the rules of the road. You don't have to spend most of your time worrying about "the other guy" because you can pretty much depend on them to be in the proper lane, use turn signals, have vehicles in safe operating condition and not exhibit road rage. The only criticism I have is that they will ride your butt if you're going too slow for them. Just be sure to stay to the right lane on the Autobahn except to pass and make way on secondary roads if they look like they want to get around you.

Be especially careful that you use the proper fuel in your vehicle. There are many threads and anecdotes realting to people putting diesel in gas cars and vice versa. Diesel pumps are much more prevalent there and less obvious than ours in the US.

Most large towns and cities feature electronic parking signs that tell you exactly how many vacant spots are available at any given moment. They are well posted as soon as you enter the city limits. Like Bettyk suggested, follow signs toward "Zentrum" or pictograms indicating the cathedral (Dom). The latter are almost always in the orginal city center . Anytime I see a circular blue sign with a red perimeter, I look elsewhere to park. There are about ten different variations and I'm not sure of exactly what each means, but when I see them I keep going. There's almost always somewhere along the street in a smaller town to park if you look hard enough. Don't block driveways and if you do see others parked on the street near your spot, check their dashboards to see if they are using the same little cardboard clock you'll have in your glovebox to indicate when they parked there. In most cases that means you get two hours parking. In some places you may have to buy a ticket from a curbside automatic kiosk that you will need to stick on your dashboard or a little clip inside your windshield. That being said, it's usually easier to just park in a city garage if you're visiting Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich or Vienna.

I apologize if this sounds slimey, but when my family travels and the urge hits one of us, we try to find a upscale in-town hotel to relieve our discomfort. One of the reasons I rarely worry about looking like a local is that when I have to go potty, looking like a tourist means the hotel workers aren't going to question whether I belong there. I think I'm unofficially a Hilton and Sheraton Frequent Visitor member. There's almost always a bathroom on the ground floor. Just act like you belong there. Gas stations along the way will also have very clean rest rooms. You may have to pay a half Euro at the automatic turnstile entrance, but keep the ticket and present it if you buy anything in the store. You usually get a refund or credit.

For snacks and such, virtually every gas station features a Quickee Mart-like setup. I've actually had some very delicious local sausages and sandwiches at these stops. I especially get a kick out of trying their different versions of Coke or Pepsi. They have flavors that never quite made it here in the States. They also sell healthy stuff.

When you drive into Austria, if you are coming from Munich and headed toward Salzburg, there are signs for places to buy the Autobahn access Vignette. Most service stations (your place for finding almost everything you want) on the highway will sell it. No need to buy it in advance, if that's even possible. If you're sticking to secondary roads, you won't need it. My last trip through Austria we went from Vienna into the Czech Republic to Salzburg then on to Innsbruck and never used the Autobahn.
Otzi is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 05:54 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 40
Again, many thanks to you all!

I actually didn't realize that I did need to learn a lot more than where to see and to sleep... Our first time to Europe (4 countries, six cities) was with a travel guide on a 50-passenger bus. Now we are like growing up kids trying to go to place by ourselves without knowing their language.

Regarding to the proper fuel that Ozti brought up, should I just look for the price, simply pick the lowest one?

...I'm still considering to rent/buy a GPS if I could get a good deal. It may worth to avoid some troubles...

Glander
Glander is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:56 PM.