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Should we skip Salzburg?

My wife and I are leaving for a 3 week trip to Europe next week. We had planned to take an afternoon train from Munich to Salzburg on 10/11, stay there on 10/12, and then take an 11am train (via Brenner Pass) to Venice on 10/13. We've already booked a B&B in Salzburg for 2 nights and the train from there to Venice, but was planning to just buy train tickets from Munich to Salzburg at the Munich HBF.

Given the recent developments regarding the Syrian refugee crisis in Salzburg (and Austria in general) we're reconsidering our stay there. This will be my first trip overseas since I was a kid, and is essentially the trip of a lifetime for us (so far), so we've booked many things in advance so that things will go smoothly. We're not completely risk averse people and I don't want to come off like this is a knee jerk reaction to the situation, but this could put a dent in our plans.

We're not worried about the refugees themselves as I understand they are just trying to find a better life (and in general aren't present in the tourist areas), but obviously train travel in the area has been impacted greatly. I've been watching this story closely for the last few weeks and I was hoping it wouldn't have a major effect on us (since we're travelling in the opposite direction of the refugees) but I now see that all train travel between Munich and Salzburg has been suspended for ~2 weeks. It seems that crossing the border is now quite a hassle, and getting from Munich to Salzburg will require some combination of local train, bus, or taxi, and I have read reports from people in the Vienna and Salzburg train stations that it's a zoo.

We were only planning on staying there for a day and a half, and the amount of time we could stay in town would be reduced if travel time is greatly increased. So given all this, should we look at alternate plans or are we being paranoid? I know things could change quickly, but I'd rather have a plan in place before we start travelling instead of scrambling while we're there.

Posted by
6880 posts

Tourism is the #1 business in Salzburg, and you should be able to get through. Remember that Salzburg is on the German/Austrian border.

If you're going south to Innsbruck, you don't absolutely have to go through Germany to get there. If you have any questions about getting into Salzburg, call your B&B from Munich to see what the status of transportation is. Or go to the Munich train station and ask about train service at their information booth.

Posted by
72 posts

These are good questions, one many would like answers to. Salzburg is also on our list and knowing the travel/immigrant situation would be good. Travelers recognize the situation is fluid.

Posted by
14 posts

David, with all due respect I'm not sure what the point of your first paragraph was. I'm well aware that Salzburg is on the Germany/Austria border, which is why it has become a staging point for the refugees trying to enter Germany, thus my concern.

I only detailed the part of our trip surrounding Salzburg, but we're actually staying a total of 6 nights in Germany ending in Munich before heading to Salzburg. We weren't planning to go to or through Innsbruck but now I'm considering it as a possible back up plan (between Munich and Venice) if Salzburg doesn't work out.

Posted by
1437 posts

Here is something that you CAN do, that is easy and will not require you to touch the Munich-Salzburg train at all.

Book a rental car to pick up AND return to Munich, with which to go to Salzburg. It's an easy highway drive. You need to buy a little sticker to put in your window, at a gas station just before crossing into Austria. There is no "border crossing", only a sign. We did this, and you just keep the car parked in Salzburg at the B&B.

If you find that the situation in the train stations is no longer worrying to you, once in Munich, then you can cancel the rental car.

Keep your Salzburg reservation and a train ticket from Munich to Venice. Salzburg is worth it.

Posted by
14 posts

I'm not sure that driving is a better option if we have to go back to Germany to return the car. We're already renting a car in Cologne and was planning to drop it off in Munich, so I could in theory extend the rental or rent another one when leaving town but I've read accounts of 2 hour long queues to cross the border due to document checks. I'm looking at Google traffic and even now at 9pm local time there appears to be a ~2 mile long westbound traffic jam to get into Germany.

If I could rent a car in Munich and drop off in Salzburg it'd be a good idea, but the cross border drop off fees are murder.

Posted by
31471 posts

LTD,

NO, I wouldn't suggest skipping Salzburg as it's well worth a visit.

I arrived in Salzburg from Italy this afternoon (via Innsbruck) and had NO trouble at all on the trains. In fact, the RailJet train from Innsbruck to Salzburg was almost empty. In the same situation, I'd probably try a "roundabout" route from Munich to Innsbruck (or other southern point in Austria), and then to Salzburg. No guarantees but hopefully that will solve the problem as refugees don't seem to be heading south at all.

Don't try to use the "obvious route" with a direct run from Munich to Salzburg. I saw a note on the OEBB website that they've suspended service on that route until early October, so probably not a good option.

There was a noticeable police presence in all the larger stations along the route, including roving patrols that wandered through the trains. They didn't look twice at me.

Posted by
12898 posts

Hi,

If the entire Austro-German border is closed until 4 October, then you're out of luck. But if it's only the most direct route going Munich-Salzburg border area is closed, then you have another option....ie, you can flank it by going north to Passau via Platting, change at Passau for Salzburg via Wels. If the border crossing at Passau is open to trains, you're in luck. You arrive at Salzburg from another direction, ie, Wels, instead from Freilassing.

Posted by
4702 posts

I was just in Salzburg over the weekend. I spoke to three different people who had driven from Munich to Salzburg and they all said they had no problems. One couple said that they took one of the smaller roads in. Another said that there was a long back up of cars crossing from Austria into Germany, but they had no issue in the other direction. I flew into Salzburg airport and then traveled on to Vienna, so don't have any personal experience with border crossings.

As you have a couple of weeks, I'd hold off a bit before you alter your plans. There is a post on tripadvisor where people have posted their experiences crossing the border. I think it is wise to have some options in place, but lets hope there is a solution that reopens train travel before you go.

The Salzburg train station (on Monday, 9/21) was quite calm despite the fact that no trains were running into Germany. I observed no long queues at the information windows or ticket windows. There was a heavy police presence and at one point, I saw the police escorting a large group of refugees across the station ... many families with young children. There was a large red cross tent in front of the station and Caritas was out front soliciting donations. However, other than that, things seemed pretty "normal".

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for everyone's input. Between the responses here and my research elsewhere, it seems that Salzburg is pretty much as normal other than the train to/from Munich being suspended until 10/4. To be honest my wife had somewhat fallen prey to the media who dramatized the situation and she was convinced that the whole town (or maybe country) was in chaos.

Thankfully reality has set in and it seems that the only potential glitch in our plans is how to actually get from Munich to Salzburg if the trains still aren't running. Looks like the options are local train to Freilassing and then walking/cab/bus to Salzburg, or just booking a bus like Flixbus straight to Salzburg, which to me seems like the best choice.

I wasn't planning to book travel from Munich to Salzburg in advance because we are taking a tour to Dachau that morning and weren't sure what time we'd get back to Munich HBF. At this point I think the best bet is to assess the situation on 10/5 and figure things out from there. If necessary we can stay in Munich longer or perhaps go to Innsbruck instead before Venice. Thankfully our B&B booking in Salzburg can be cancelled up to 10/9, but I'm not sure what the refund policy is on the train from Salzburg to Venice, and their website is all German to me. Worst case I'm out 118 Euro and we'll have to book another train from Munich to Venice instead.

Posted by
18313 posts

According to the Bahn schedule webpages, you should not currently have any problem going from Salzburg to Venice (except, maybe, as mentioned above, chaos at the Salzburg Hbf).

However, it looks like all of the Austrian RailJets have been cancelled between Munich and Salzburg. In addition, most of the German ECs have been cancelled, but I still see some ECs making the trip. So you will have trouble going by express train. If you take one of the hourly Meridian regional trains, they will take you off the train at Freilassing (across the river from Salzburg, in Germany) and bus you to the Salzburg Hbf. It will take a little longer, but you'll get there.

Posted by
1437 posts

You could also contact the B&B and ask if they can arrange to pick you up in Freilassing for a modest fee. They may be happy to ensure the booking in this way.

Posted by
31471 posts

LTD,

A few additional comments......

I doubt that you'll notice any "chaos" at Salzburg Hbf. I've been there several times over the past few days, and it's actually very quiet and orderly (although you will see the medical tents, Army vehicles and ambulances outside the front entrance). As you walk through the station or in the surrounding plaza or streets, any of the people near you could be refugees, as they're not confined. Groups of young men often congregate at the front of the station and smoke. The bulk of the refugees are housed in the underground garage and you won't see them. I arrived at Vienna Westbahnhof yesterday afternoon and my observations were that much the same arrangements are in place there.

If you're travelling from Salzburg to Venice via the Brenner Pass, I really doubt that you'll have any problems. I came up that way from Padova a few days ago, and the train was very lightly loaded. On the segment from Padova to Innsbruck, I was in a six-person compartment and there was only one women from Italy sharing that (she disembarked in Rovereto). You may have to change trains at Verona Porta Nuova, and things will get busier after that as you'll probably be on a Freccia from there to Venezia S. Lucia. Be sure to check your reservation so that you board the correct train, otherwise you may face hefty fines, which will be collected on the spot!

If you're planning to travel from Venezia S.L. to your hotel via Vaporetto, BE SURE to validate your ticket on the white machines. They use a "touch & tap" system rather than having to insert the ticket into the machine. If it beeps and the light turns green, you're good to go.

I was also a bit concerned about the current situation at the time I left on my trip, but just took the attitude that I'll plan for the best and deal with whatever I find after that. So far my trip has gone exactly according to plan, and the concerns turned out to be pretty much a "tempest in a teapot".

Buon Viaggo!

Posted by
14 posts

Ken,

Thanks for your report "from the scene." It's clear that our fears were largely unfounded, with the only potential glitch being the travel time from Munich to Salzburg taking a bit longer due to trains not crossing the border. But that may be a non-issue by the time we get there since the trains have only been suspended until 10/4 (at this point).

Yes, we're travelling from Salzburg to Venice via the Brenner Pass and switch trains in Wörgl.

Posted by
18313 posts

Scott,

looks like you are taking an ÖBB train from Salzburg via Bischofshofen to catch the EC at Wörgl. Good move. So far I don't see any interruption of the Austrian trains (mostly RJ) that go from Salzburg to Innsbruck across Germany without stopping in Germany, but since they are going across the border at Freilassing, there could be a problem. These trains can be identified by the fact that they stop in Kufstein, which is just across the border from Germany on the rail line from Rosenheim, Germany.

There are also connections from Salzburg to Venice that go from Salzburg entirely through Austria to Villach, then by IC Bus to Venice.

Interesting. It doesn't look like there are any cancellation of trains from Salzburg to Innsbruck or from Innsbruck to Rosenheim, Germany. I guess the immigrants haven't figured that one out yet.

Posted by
63 posts

Go to Salzburg and use the train. We took the train from München to Salzburg on Wednesday (09/30). The train ran normally from Munich to Freilassing and then a shuttle bus was waiting for us to take us a short distance into Salzburg. It probably added 15 minutes to a half hour to the normal trip with train running all the way. Don't miss such a gorgeous city due to this.

Posted by
31 posts

I have been in Austria and Germany the past two weeks. We have been driving and between Berchtesgaden and Salzburg there were no issues whatsoever driving. I don't know about the trains.

Posted by
72 posts

Salzburg train station in late Oct. as reported above had a medical tent and a large police presence. We saw some groups of young men in front of the station. We saw more migrants in Italy in early Nov., riding local trains, looking to pick pocket, steal backpacks. Always good to watch your bags, wherever you may travel.

Posted by
71 posts

We were in Salzburg in early September (train from Munich), at the beginning of the refugee crisis. While we saw refugees in the train stations in both Salzburg & Vienna, at that point it did not impact our train travel at all--not sure how that has changed in the two months since we've been there, but if train service is suspended that's a whole other ballgame. With that said, we enjoyed Salzburg so much, I think it'd be a shame to skip it. It was our favorite of three stops in Austria, and one of our favorites in Europe.

Posted by
14 posts

(I'm the original poster) The trip has sadly come and gone already, and we did go to Salzburg after all which was a great decision because we loved it. We did see a handful of refugees in the train stations in Munich and Salzburg but it looked like they were well taken care of. There was also a Red Cross tent set up in front of the Salzburg train station. If it wasn't for the fact that train service had been interrupted between Munich and Salzburg, the refugee situation would have had no effect on our trip at all.

We traveled from Munich to Salzburg via Meinfernbus (AKA Flixbus) which was an excellent option - 9 Euro each and the bus was comfortable, clean, and had wifi, and it got us to Salzburg about 2 hours no sweat. I highly recommend it, even if the trains are running. While we were in Salzburg we were talking to some other Americans who travelled from Munich to Salzburg and they were able to take the regional train, so that service must have resumed while we were there. I haven't checked on the train situation now so I have no idea if it's back to normal now or not.