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Help in planning Austrian - Swiss trip.

My wife and I are planning a 2 week trip to Austria and Switzerland in mid June or mid September. We definitely want to see Berner Oberland (3nights), Salzburg (2nights), Munich (1or 2 Nights), Hallstatt (1night), and possibly Vienna. I'm not sure on renting a car or taking the railways. Also I would like feedback on the option of avoiding Vienna and spending more time in Switzerland or Salzburg/Munich area.
I am open to suggestions and any help with this initial outline our plans.

Posted by
8889 posts

First comment, renting a car in one country and dropping it off in another is very expensive. Be sure you have checked out the drop off charge before deciding on this option.
You don't say where you are flying to and from. I guess into Zürich airport and out of Vienna airport, with an open jaw flight. so your trips are:
1) Zürich airport --> Berner Oberland - ~2-3 hours
2) Berner Oberland --> Salzburg - a long trip, most of the day, but scenic.
3) Salzburg --> Munich - a few hours
4) Munich --> Hallstatt - ditto
5) Hallstatt --> Vienna - ditto
6) Vienna --> Vienna airport - about 1 hour.

In the Berner Oberland you will be using cable cars and mountain railways to go up and down mountains. The car will stay parked at the valley bottom station, which is equally accessible by rail.
In Vienna, Salzburg and Munich a car is a liability. You will need to find parking and pay for it. You can't drive to places in the city centre, no parking when you get there, it is easier to use local public transport.
If you are going from city to city it will be a lot easier to take trains. A car is only useful if you intend to tour rural areas outside the cities.

Posted by
10130 posts

Also I would like feedback on the option of avoiding Vienna and spending more time in Switzerland or Salzburg/Munich area.

We've spent a lot of time in Switzerland. Going to Austria for the first time next month so no direct experience; However, as a frequent traveler in Europe and always by train, I'd offer the following.

  • Berner-Oberland is fabulous. 3 nights is not enough. Stay at least 4, especially if you hike. An extra night is insurance against inclement weather :-) . We spent a week there last fall and loved every second. Stayed in Lauterbrunnen in a lovely apartment.

  • If you are not sure about Vienna, perhaps you should drop it. I have not been to Munich in years, but I think it would be worth more than 1-2 nights. (FWIW we are planning 2 nights in Salzburg and that seems to be the advice of most here.)

  • Trains by all means! So easy in Europe and Swiss trains are exceptional! Be sure to look at passes, The Swiss ones are a bit confusing, so research and come back with questions. In Austria, look at the VorteilsCard for great savings.

Posted by
4698 posts

If I were you, I'd skip Vienna and focus on the mountains. More time in Salzburg makes sense to me - heck I would even see Munich as a day trip from Salzburg, especially if you are only thinking one night in Munich anyway. You might also want to consider staying in St. Wolfgang and visiting Hallstatt, spending the night in one of those locations. Maybe use the train up until Salzburg and then rent a car from there when you want to move around.

A quick note about the Vorteilscard mentioned above - this is really intended for residents and at a cost of 99 Euro per year really doesn't make sense unless you live here. What you really want to look for are the SparSchiene train fares which are very reduced and fixed to a particular train at a specific time. You can find these fares easily when searching for trains on www.oebb.at. There is an English link.

Posted by
6818 posts

In general, the more time you concentrate in the fewer number of locations, enhances your experience. Trains will take you to and from the heart of all these destinations easily enough and stress-free. Vienna is one of the great cities of the world. Depends on what you want to see: beautiful scenery and mountains, or great art, culture and history. Always a trade-off, isn't it?

Posted by
10130 posts

Hey Emily, thanks for the info on the Vorteillscard. We qualified for senior cards so they were only Euro 29 each, a steal.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you, Chris, Laurel, Emily and Stan. Your input is appreciated! We are going to eliminate Vienna for for this trip and concentrate on spending more time in Switzerland and Salzburg -Munich areas. We will use the railways but may consider renting a car out Salzburg to venture out to some smaller towns. At this point I am looking at Zurich and Frankfurt as the airports flying to and from the NYC. Any other tidbits of info would be welcomed. Again thanks to all of you.

Posted by
4698 posts

Laurel, we actually get the Vorteils Family card, which is the real steal at 19 Euro/year per adult.

Posted by
4624 posts

Hi Art,

Our itinerary two years ago covered the first part of your plan, and last year's trip covered the Germany/Austria portion of your trip. We landed in Zurich (from Seattle) around noon and took trains to Wengen, staying there 4 nights. The train station is at the Zurich airport - very handy.

When you consider the number of nights, also take into consideration how much time to travel between locations. I would add another day to Salzburg. We were there three nights (2nd time to Salzburg) and were just coming from Mittenwald, Germany. Check out the Salzburg Card, too.

In Munich, we enjoyed participating in a Mike's Bike Tour - a fun way to learn about the city & stop at the beer garden.

We took trains for all of our Switzerland, Germany, Austria locations, except we took a boat on lovely St. Wolfgangsee to arrive & stay a couple of nights at St. Wolfgang.

We stayed 5 nights in Vienna and enjoyed our time there, but if it's not appealing to you, enjoy the other wonderful locations you've listed.

Posted by
2725 posts

Hi Art,

I'd look into Zurich and Munich airports. Frankfurt airport doesn't fit your plan. While we've flown many times r/t NJ to Munich, this year we are looking into flying the same route, but with Iceland Air, as their prices are much better than Lufthansa, etc.

Paul

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you Jean and Paul for your added info.

Posted by
2725 posts

Hi Art,

In your original post, you account for only 8 nights but say the trip is 2 weeks. How many nights do you have?

IF you have 2 weeks and fly into Zurich and out of Munich:
2 nights Luzern
4 nights Berner Oberland
4 nights Salzburg (include day trips to Salzkammergut/Wolfgangsee and even Berchtesgaden and Konigssee.
1 night Hallstatt
2 or so nights Munich before flying home.

If you wanted to skip Luzern, Id put those 2 nights in Innsbruck or the area on the way from the Berner Oberland to Salzburg.

Paul

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Paul,
We are planning to stay 13 to 14 nights total, so what you recommended would fit into our schedule! Actually, Luzern is going to work out really well since its a short train trip from the Zurich airport. Also I did find some reasonable fares from Iceland AIR from JFK. Thanks again for your help in planning our trip.

Art

Posted by
2725 posts

Glad to be of help. We've been to all the places I listed, some many times.

We looked at Lufthansa prices for this fall, which we normally fly, and they were too expensive. Iceland Air prices were roughly 30% to 40% less. That and they leave Munich at 2pm to fly back to NJ, which for us is ideal.

Paul