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In late Sept/early October, my husband, adult son and I are flying into Zurich, staying a few days and then going to Salzburg, Vienna and Prague.

  1. Do we need international driver's license to drive in these countries?
  2. What are the "must see/do" in these cities-- we are also checking guide books, of course. We will have a car. Ty.
Posted by
7075 posts

Personally I would have every driver get an IDP even if the individual countries may not require it. It just saves a lot of hassle if you get stopped by traffic police who don't speak or read English. They are quick and easy to get at any AAA office and not expensive.

Posted by
32264 posts

Elan,

First of all, to be clear on the terminology, there's no such thing as and "international driver's license". What you'll need to obtain is an International Driver's Permit, which provides a translation of your home D.L. and must be used in conjunction with your home D.L. I.D.P.'s can easily be obtained at any AAA office for a small fee (about $25).

Regarding whether you "need" an I.D.P., here's the official scoop from the U.S. government on the Czech Republic......

http://prague.usembassy.gov/drivers-licenses.html

Here are some details for Austria....

http://www.gemut.com/car-rental-europe-basics/3763-do-i-need-an-international-driving-permit-idp.html

You'll also need to make SURE that you purchase the highway tax vignette in Austria, and possibly in the Czech Republic as well (not sure). Failure to obtain the tax vignette in Austria can result in hefty fines of up to €1000 or more, which are payable on the spot!

Are you planning to rent the car in Zürich and drop it off in Prague? If so, you'll probably be facing a hefty drop-off fee of hundreds of Euro.

Using well planned rail trips would be faster, more efficient and present fewer potential problems. Your choice of course.

Posted by
8234 posts

You say you're going to stay a few days in Zurich before going to the other cities. Zurich is a rather dull business city, and it's not in the Alps. I hope you have some reason to be there--other than it being a flight destination. I would want to be in the mountains if going to Switzerland.
I assume you're going to rent a car in Zurich and turn it in at Prague? Have you checked to see how much drop off charges are going to be? I would think it's going to be very costly.

Another option would be to ride the train to Lindau, Germany--just over the border--and pickup a rental car there. Drive the car though Western Austria (Tirol), and up to Salzburg. You could return the car in Germany--just west of Salzburg without any drop off charges.

From Salzburg to Vienna and from Vienna to Prague, most travelers ride the train.

When I want to research tourist sights in cities, I'll get Rick Steves' guidebooks. I also look up specific cities on Wikipedia to research specifics about visiting any place.

Posted by
15675 posts

If you are only going to visit cities, you don't need a car and won't want one. Use trains from point to point. Trains in Europe are fast and comfortable. Driving in European cities can be difficult and parking almost always is.

In Salzburg, Vienna and Prague, you'll spend your time in the relatively small historic centers. It's much easier to get around on foot and using the local trams, metros and buses. A car will only slow you down. You can easily take day trips to nearby places by local bus or train.

What you see and do depends on your personal interests and how long you plan to stay in each place. The top tourist sights are described in every guide book.

If you want to explore rural areas, you could rent a car in Salzburg and spend 3-4 days traveling to Vienna, sightseeing and enjoying small towns along the way.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Use various guide books such as Rough Guide, Let's Go, etc to determine the specifics of what you want to see. I don't recommend renting a car in Salzburg and Vienna. Too much hassle, what if you get a Strafzettel (traffic ticket)? If left unpaid, you can bet they will come after you even if it costs them more to do than the original amount of the fine, ie their version of red tape. Then you have to put up with the parking rules or getting the parking ticket from parking machines ( Hier Parkschein lösen).

I suggest using public transportation, as pointed out above, in Vienna and Salzburg for your visits, forget the rental car.

Posted by
33305 posts

If you drive - not my choice on that route - you also need to collect Vignettes before the Austrian border and before the Czech border. They replace most tolls in those countries and are required to be affixed to the windscreen of the car.

There are also high tolls for the long tunnels in Austria on top of the Vignette. The Arlberg tunnel is very long at 13,976 metres.

Posted by
7175 posts

How long do you have? If your interest is mostly in these historic (Baroque) cities then I would say forget about a car, for reasons others have already outlined.

Posted by
656 posts

I would suggest not wasting a couple of days in Zurich. If your primary goal is Austria and not Switzerland, then I suggest taking the train immediately to Lucerne and spending your time there. I believe the train is about an hour and you can spend time in one of Europe's most beautiful small cities.

Posted by
2934 posts

Questions that the answers would be very helpful to help you:
How many nights total do you have?
Where are you flying out of?
Where do you plan on returning the car?

Paul