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Solo trip to Austria and a bit of Switzerland

Hi everyone!! I have a solo trip booked in June for Switzerland and think I’m also going to do a solo trip to Austria in Sept. I get plenty of paid time off from work so I might as well start using it. 😊

I am a very unexperienced traveler with my only trip in the last 22 years being to Switzerland this past Sept. with my sister and bro in law. I am on my own for travel next year so will be traveling solo. Top priority for me is ease of travel, things like getting to the trains at the airport and getting from train stations to hotels.

I have a draft itinerary sketched out below and would love some feedback. I plan to do tons more research to finalize activities and day trips. So, now I am just concerned with making sure I have a good number of nights in each location so I can get the hotels booked soon while availability and prices look good. I’m flexible on time, so I am able to add an extra night or two if necessary.

I am looking at leaving around second week of Sept., hoping to avoid school breaks and festivals. My interests are more outdoor oriented, walking around and looking at all the old buildings and around the mountains.

Day 1: Arrive Vienna nonstop from Chicago; train to Salzburg [No plans to see Vienna this trip. While Much airport is a bit closer to Salzburg, the Vienna airport seems like it will be easier to navigate by myself especially with the train station right at the airport.]

Day 2: Salzburg (stay at Motel One or other hotel within walking distance of train station)

Day 3: Salzburg or day trip to x [not sure I’ll want to travel to Hallstatt]

Day 4: : Salzburg or day trip to x [no current interest in eagle’s nest]

Day 5: Train to Seefeld (stay at Oasis Princess or other hotel near train station)

Day 6: Seefeld

Day 7: Seefeld or day trip to Mittenwald and/or Garmich

Day 8: Train to Innsbruck (stay at AC hotel/Marriott or other hotel within walking distance of train station) [I know Seefled and Innsbruck are close, but I like the idea of splitting up my time between the two.]

Day 9: Innsbruck

Day 10: Innsbruck or day trip to somewhere in Italy

Day 11: Innsbruck or day trip to Kitzbuel or other, Hall?

Day 12: Train to St. Gallen, Switzerland

Day 13: St. Gallen or day trip to Appenzell

Day 14: Train to Zurich and afternoon flight nonstop to Chicago

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!! Also does anyone have any recommendations for websites or You Tube channels to check out? I found some great channels on Switzerland that I used for my recent trip but am not finding as much info. on Austria.

Thanks again,
Carrie

Edited to add: As I'm looking at this typed out on-line, I think I need to add another day to St. Gallen and possibly Seefeld.

Posted by
20802 posts

Rick's videos can be viewed here: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show.

I do recommend seeing Appenzell while you're in western Switzerland.

I am queen of the pokey trip, sometimes spending a week in a city others blow through in 3 or 4 days. With that background, allow me to say that I think you are allowing plenty of time in Salzburg/Seefeld/Innsbruck. I definitely wouldn't go to the trouble of shifting hotels between cities/towns less than 20 miles apart unless I planned nighttime activities that would cause transportation difficulties. Hopping on a train is so much easier if you are not encumbered by luggage. Side-trips allow one to make spur-of-the-moment plans based on weather.

Be sure you have researched plenty of side-trips, because I think you're going to have time for them. It will be interesting to see what others have to say about the pace of the trip; I'm usually the one saying "Slow down."

Should you decide you have time for another destination, I'd recommend considering Lake Constance/Bodensee. It's a large lake with some very pretty towns on the shore. Mainau Island has a large botanical garden. That area is very popular with European tourists, but not too many Americans go there.

Posted by
6513 posts

No need to stay near the train station on Salzburg. Its a reasonable walk from there to the old town or a cluster of hotels near the bridges to the old town. St Gallen seemed to me to be not that interesting, (kind of industrial) so staying in Appenzell sounds better to me.

Videos are OK, but if you need solid information, spend some time with Rick's guidebooks and you might be more comfortable staying in smaller, more convenient hotels. It is really easy to get around by train, and you'll feel a lot safer than you would in the US. For inexperienced travelers or first-timers to a country, I think Rick's guidebooks are just the ticket for learning things which you might not otherwise think of.

And really Munich is not that hard to figure out as far as transport, and a lot closer to the places you want to see. You're wasting half a day just getting anywhere from Vienna.

Posted by
814 posts

Day trips around Salzburg:

Hallein: salt mine and sommerodelbahn are near each other. Take the train from Salzburg, then the bus.

Werfen: wonderful fortress and ice cave.

Berchtesgaden: Lake Konigsee is beautiful, as is the town itself. There is a salt mine there also. The view from Eagles nest on a clear day is spectacular, but there is plenty so do in the area without going there.

Currently, you would need a COVID test to enter Italy, but who knows what the requirements will be next summer.

Posted by
1125 posts

Acraven, thanks for the reply. I’m familiar with Lake Constance as I planned to go to Mainau when I was in Switzerland, but my sister hurt her knee toward the end of the trip and we ended up not going. I'll have to think about that for this new trip. You have me rethinking my time in each location. Maybe I can add more time to Switzerland, my favorite place in the world. 😊 But I was thinking it would be nice to have some time to just wander, without having everything planned out. That's one thing I felt I didn't have enough time for in Switzerland. I was with my sister and bro in law and felt I had to always entertain them by taking them from place to place. I didn't have any time to just walk around and do nothing.

Stan, I appreciate the response. I don’t want to be too far from the Zurich airport so that’s why I’m thinking of staying in St. Gallen. I definitely see the enormous value in guidebooks and have all the Austria ones—RS and others. I’m more of a visual learner, so it really helps me to actually see the places. I love the walking videos that just walk around everywhere. As far as the airports, Munich is 2:15 with one change to Salzburg and Vienna is 2:49 with no changes to Salzburg. So, not a huge difference.

Travel, thanks for the day trip suggestions, I will take a look. I’m not going to think about covid restrictions until it gets closer to the trip. But that will be a factor for sure. Edited to add: I just took a quick look at some pictures of Berchtesgaden and I definitely need to rethink as the area does look gorgeous. I had discounted eagle’s nest based on some comments I read here, but I will give that some more thought.

Posted by
27431 posts

at the end of the first week you are planning to stay at Oasis Princess Bergfrieden in Seefeld. What attracted you to that hotel/apart-hotel?

It is on the residential side of Seefeld, not in the town, and although I visit Seefeld in Tirol frequently (but not for the last 2 years for obvious reasons) it isn't a name I recognise.

My wife and I have settled on Das Hotel Eden Seefeld for their two minute walk to the station and about as long to the shops and restaurants, and important to us very easy parking, and especially for their excellent dinners and breakfasts (we usually are Half-Board there, something we don't do elsewhere) and their very comfortable rooms. The little spa is nice too, with the indoor/outdoor pool and ice grotto.

I notice that you put a lot of store in "near the station". Do you have walking difficulties? I know your sister had problems this year, but do you find it difficult getting your luggage from station to hotel? Or another reason?

Do you know that Salzburg has an international airport?

Posted by
1125 posts

Nigel, thanks for taking the time to respond. I saw the Oasis Princess in Seefeld recommended on this forum, by Emily I believe it was. Thanks for your recommendation of Das Hotel Eden. I will check that hotel out and compare the two.

No walking issues for me. My issues are more anxiety related. I worry most about transportation. For me, it is easier, and thus preferable, to go as quickly as possible from the train station to the hotel. I don’t want to have to figure out how to buy tickets to a tram or a bus or take a taxi by myself to get to the hotel. I’d rather walk to the hotel if possible to drop off the luggage and then figure out how to get to the city center. It’s just easier getting around without the luggage. I’m hopeful that once I have some more travel experience, this fear will diminish.

Along those same lines is why I prefer to take a nonstop flight. I do not want to worry about connecting flights, especially after reading about all the problems Pat had this year getting to Switzerland. In my mind, it seems easier to have one flight and then one train ride. Less room for things to go wrong.

Posted by
1630 posts

I can't offer much advice as I've only been to briefly to Salzburg, but I can recommend the Hotel Hohenstauffen near the train station. The staff was simply fantastic, lovely breakfast, and my room was like a set from the show Mad Men. About a 15-20 minute walk to old town. Yes, there are other hotels closer to center, but since you mentioned day trips the proximity to the train station is perfect. I was only there for one night so can't speak much to activities other than I did the RS Salzburg audio tour, took the tram up to the fortress, had a pretty tasty sausage at Balkan Grill, visited the dwarf garden, and bought more than a person's share of Mozart Kugel candies.

Are you locked in to flying to Vienna? Munich is such an easy connection to Salzburg by high speed train. Munich was my return airport after staying in Salzburg, so I stayed close to the train station for a super easy connection to the airport by metro. There is also a Lufthansa shuttle bus from airport to central train station.

Posted by
6853 posts

Carrie, if you weren't so worried about getting around or any problems with travel/ transportation itself, would this be your ideal trip to Europe in terms of locations, etc? It does seem like all your planning is centered around ease and everything else is secondary. No one said this yet, but why not see Vienna if you're flying into Vienna to begin with? It seems like a missed opportunity to fly into a nice, interesting city but immediately leave to go somewhere else. Also, if you make everything super easy for this trip, I don't think you'll conquer your fears or build long-term travel skills because you won't allow yourself to face any real challenges. There really is no problem that is insurmountable out there, even if you don't speak the local language. If you get lost, so what? (you're never really lost, you're always "somewhere") I mean, who cares? Every local buys train/ bus tickets, it's just a normal thing, not to be avoided. Also, just because one poster had a bad experience with BA (during covid turmoil, no less) it doesn't mean all connecting flights are doomed either. Many people are so lucky as to have non-stop flights to their top destinations, but others stil get there with no issues with a stop-over (which is a nice chance to take a break, eat something, etc). I encourage you to check your assumptions and just try to relax and not base so many things on fear of anything complicated (by the way, nothing wrong with taking a taxi alone as a last resort). You'll figure things out, I'm sure of it, not to worry.

Posted by
1902 posts

Hi, Carrie,
enjoying reading your projected itinerary . We are doing Germany and Austria in late April/May 2022. I'll learn from all the feedback you'll get here. I am also revising for more time for the Eagle's Nest area area, [lake and salt mines] based on the feedback here.
Am hoping for smooth flying this time. British Airways is finally coming back into San Diego.
I applaud you for traveling solo. My daughter has done so for years, and the thrill of the adventure has gotten her thru the nervous hesitations. You go girl!!!!!!

Posted by
1125 posts

CL, I appreciate the hotel recommendation and you reminded me of another reason why I prefer to stay near the train stations—easier for day trips. I’m not locked into flying into Vienna, but still leaning strongly towards that option. I know Munich will be busy for Oktoberfest.

Agnes, you are completely right. 😊 I would be planning for easy transportation no matter where I went. And that certainly was a factor in picking Austria. I’m hoping once I take a few solo trips to “easy” places, I’ll then be ready to tackle some “difficult” places. I have plans to go to Italy in March 2023 with my sister and bro and law. I’m hoping after the 2 solo trips I take next year + the trip to Italy that will be enough to rid me of my fears. And you’re right too that I won’t get over those fears if I don’t challenge myself. As far as Vienna, I thought I would save that for a possible future trip combined with Budapest. Also, the larger cities just don’t appeal to me as much as the smaller ones. I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement. I just think I’m going to have this hang-up about transportation until I get a couple more trips under my belt.

Hi Pat, I seem to be traveling in your footsteps—first Switzerland and now Austria. 😊 I feel like I was spoiled by Switzerland since everything was so easy there with the Travel Pass. We had so much trouble with the ticket machines the few times we had to buy them for our day trips to France and Germany. I wish I had practiced a little more on the machines while I was there. And when I am back in Switzerland in June, I am going to buy some tickets even though I won't need them, just for the practice.

Posted by
835 posts

I actually enjoyed a slow walk around the Wildsee and later had a drink while watching tennis practice at the Tennis Club Seefeld, with the ski jumps behind on the mountain.

From Innsbruck: https://www.pitztal.com/en/discover/wildspitzbahn

I think Sterzing or Bruneck would be nice or both.

Posted by
1902 posts

Carrie, AND there's a new sale on the Swiss Travel Passes!! How fortunate.

Last time I was in Germany in 2019 we had problems with the train ticket machines, as they wouldn't accept our credit cards or money. It seems the ticket machines didn't like 20 Euro bills, but worked with smaller denominations. And then my daughter figured out the app, and bought tickets via the app, which was successful. There's always quirks.

Vienna is beautiful, I understand your rationale, but I can't wait until I can return. I was there late March one year, too early for the gardens. The question would be spring or winter, [with the fantastic xmas markets and NYE celebrations????] But I digress.

Will look forward to the evolution of your trip planning.

Posted by
12767 posts

The DB ticket machines do accept US credit cards but you have to indicate the PIN on the key pad , which I was a bit wary doing the first time.

I used the Visa credit. It worked; after that it was the credit card or cash. No problems using cash, just look at the picture-gram. This was in 2018 and 2019.

Posted by
1902 posts

Fred, did you have to request a pin# from your US credit card company? thx

Posted by
1125 posts

Mchpp, thanks for the info. I’ll be sure to check those places out.

Hi Pat, why can’t all countries use the Swiss Travel Pass? 😊 And what is it with the darn ticket machines??? I’m definitely going to look into the apps for the trains from now on.

Fred, I asked my credit card company—Chase—about setting up a pin and they told me there was no need too. I was able to use the card in Switzerland, but had to sign each time I used it. Of course, no option to sign on the ticket machines. Guess I better keep some extra cash handy. Or, hopefully be able to buy tickets from the OBB app.

Posted by
1463 posts

I asked my credit card company—Chase—about setting up a pin and they told me there was no need too.

This is absolute nonsense, obviously peddled by somebody who never has been in Europe.

When paying with your credit card in Europe you must enter you 4-digit PIN all the times, whether at a ticket vending machine, or in a restaurant, at the cashier in a supermarket, etc.

For online payments in Europe via the Internet you may be requested to adhere to the 3D-Secure standard, i.e. enter an additional password and a TAN. To make things easier I use PayPal in these cases.

The finance businesses are stricter regulated in Europe. (Not strict enough, IMHO.)

Or, hopefully be able to buy tickets from the OBB app.

Don't be too optimistic that there is a backdoor to circumvent the rules. For purchasing train tickets I either used a vending machine or used to pay with PayPal when buying via the app or the website.

Posted by
20802 posts

wmt1, are you a resident of Europe? US credit cards are not as advanced as European cards. It is extremely rare for a US credit card to be PIN-priority. If they were widely available, frequent travelers would have them, but we're not there yet. I've used multiple cards in Europe since 2015 and am always asked to sign for in-person transactions. Most vending-machine transactions go through OK despite my archaic credit cards, but that may be because those transactions tend not to be for very much money. I know some travelers have had problems in some situations, including on occasion at unattended gas stations.

Posted by
12767 posts

@ Carrie.... I used the BofA Visa card. I had a PIN when I got the card. The key pad showed the words, " PIN eingeben." (Indicate the PIN). I punched in the PIN. You know the transaction goes through when a certain sound is heard from the DB machine.

@ Pat....I chose a 4 digit PIN when I got the card from BofA. Buying tickets from a DB machine, I used cash , other times a credit card. When I buy a ticket from a DB staff person, ie, after standing in line waiting for the ticket counter, I normally use the obvious US chip and signature credit, and sign for it. If not, then it's cash too.

Posted by
31 posts

Carrie, for what it's worth my husband and I flew into Munich during Oktoberfest 2019. We had no problems with extra heavy crowds at the airport or on the S-bahn into Munich Hauptbahnhof. We traveled on to Mittenwald after stopping at the Hauptbahnhof so my husband could go someplace to find sim cards for our phones. I stayed at the station with our backpacks and had a great time people watching. It was obvious many were headed to the Oktoberfest grounds. We had no problems getting around the station due to crowds. We did head back into Munich one day later that week to attend a few hours of Oktoberfest activities. The train was full of people headed for the festivities. We had no problem finding seats in second class on our trips to and from Mittenwald. We always buy a Bayern or Werdenfels second class ticket. In our many trips to Bavaria don't recall a time we didn't have a seat. However, the S-bahn is another story. I can recall many times I didn't have a seat, but it was never for very long. And we are getting old enough that on the last trip, I was offered a seat several times. Sometimes I accepted, and sometimes I didn't.

Posted by
4761 posts

I’m going to throw another idea into the mix, perhaps for your next trip after this. I think you should explore the Rick Steves “My Way” tours and see if any of the itineraries match your interest. These tours cover all the transportation and lodging logistics, something that you have mentioned is a source of stress to you. No worries about transferring to hotels. They have a tour manager who is present daily to give ideas, suggestions, and answer questions.

Posted by
4639 posts

I saw the Oasis Princess in Seefeld recommended on this forum, by
Emily I believe it was.

Yes, I have stayed at this hotel twice and we loved it.

I think it is worth noting that Seefeld is a village, so everything is close to the train station.

Posted by
1125 posts

Thanks for the replies everyone!! This is what I’m currently thinking, taking into account the helpful info. provided here:

5 nights in Salzburg. This will give me 2 days for Salzburg and 2 days for day trips (possibly Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden). Edited to add: I am also rethinking hotel and am considering Weisse Taube.

5 nights in Innsbruck. [Innsbruck seem better suited than Seefeld for day trips and getting to St. Gallen.] Lots of time for day trips, definitely to Seefeld and Hall. And I need to do more research on Kitzbuhel, Mittenwald, Garmich, Italy options, and others.

3 nights in St. Gallen to see St. Gallen and Appenzell and train in the morning to Zurich airport.

I’m tempted to add some more nights so I can also stay in the Dolomites, but I can’t figure out a good way to do this transportation-wise. Seems I’d have to go to and from Innsbruck.

Hi Carol, I’ve considered that option and have been looking at the tours, both the regular ones and the “my way.” Definitely something to think about for the future.

Posted by
420 posts

"St. Gallen/Appenzell:" Not sure why you decided to stay in St. Gallen rather than Appenzell, but of the two, Appenzell is more picturesque, although it is very small. IF you stay three nights in Appenzell, you'll receive the Appenzell card which gives you free transportation between towns (At least it was free last year). I think Appenzell would be a great place to end your tour. Last year, we went straight from Zurich airport to Appenzell by train.
We're like Acraven; we like "pokey," just absorbing the sights and taking our time. I'm not sure what interests you. Do you like to hike to places with a rewarding viewpoint? If so, I have suggestions, where you'll see "cows with bells!"
In Appenzell we stayed at the Hotel Adler, in the old part because I wanted to face the square and the green hills. I never got tired of the view from our room. However, it was right over their outdoor restaurant, and it was noisy late one evening. It is a small hotel, run by a very "hands-on" family, who'll be able to suggest places to go; things to do. They are great! And the breakfast was good too.
Also, just throwing out additional info: We were there Sep. 2, 2021....the day the cows and goats were brought down from the mountain and paraded through town.

Posted by
1125 posts

Hi Carol, I know, it seems a little weird. 😊 My original plan was to fly in and out of Vienna. But when I saw how close Zurich was to Innsbruck, I decided to fly out of Zurich. I saw it as an excuse to spend an extra day or two in Switzerland. So, it’s not really a Switzerland trip since I’ll be there in June. Anyway, I really want to see the abbey and library in St. Gallon. And it’s closer to the airport as I’ll by taking the train to Zurich on the day I fly home. Appenzell seems a little too small to me. I preferred Wengen over Murren because there’s more “stuff” there. Of course, I love the cows, but hopefully I’ll see some in June.

Posted by
420 posts

Carrie, Taking the train to Zurich Airport is much more convenient from St. Gallen than from Appenzell because it is a direct route. The library there is pretty spectacular, but I was disappointed that we couldn't take any pictures. And...felt-like slippers are provided to protect the floor.
Small towns appeal to me. I am the opposite of you: I prefer Mürren over Wengen; and Appenzell over St. Gallen. Your "new" trip sounds great! I do like Salzburg, but then I associate it with The Sound of Music!

Posted by
1125 posts

Carol, it’s quite possible that when I go to Appenzell for the day, I will fall in love with it and have another reason to return to Switzerland. 😊

Posted by
27431 posts

just so you're not surprised - when you take the train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald you will go through Seefeld in Tirol. There are really great views over Seefeld and you are in the mountains if you take the funicular up from Seefeld.

There is a really good (to my eyes) Youtube video of the mountains above Seefeld - a music video of Stefanie Hertel.

Maybe have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDCpgO3Xxi4

Yes, it really does look like that. The town shown from above a few times in the video is Seefeld.

I'm not making light of your decision to base in Innsbruck. It is me, not you. Innsbruck has never done much for me (cheap fuel and a convenient MediaMarkt aside) and I was seriously underwhelmed by the Goldenish shed roof as I call it.

Posted by
1125 posts

Hi Nigel, thanks for the response and the video. Seefeld does look pretty spectacular. 😊 I’ll be able to get there in 36 minutes from Innsbruck. I couldn’t find a lot of info. on Seefeld. Innsbruck sent me whole bunch of brochures with lots of information and maps. So, I can study all my options ahead of time. And it seems like there will be more options there for dining and shopping. Plus, those MediaMarkets do come in handy. We ended up at one in Basel because I brought the wrong electrical adapters to charge our phones. I ended up adding an extra night to Innsbruck so I have 5 full days there now. So, I’ll have the time if I want to spend a couple of days in Seefeld.

P.S. from the pictures I’ve seen of the golden shed, I’m not that impressed either.

Posted by
1902 posts

Carrie, I have been in Switzerland three times now and I still don't feel like I've been there enough . Maybe it's one of those places one just returns to on a regular basis......

Posted by
3612 posts

Carrie, so you now have 6 nights in Innsbruck?
I know you like to go slow, but the Dolomites are tempting and you mentioned them... You could take 3 of these nights and spend them in Val Gardena and vicinity (e.g., Ortisei or Kastelruth). Just head straight from Salzburg to Bolzano, then backtrack to Innsbruck.
Or you could save that for an Italy trip.

Posted by
1125 posts

Wmt1, thanks for the link. As there’s very little info. on Seefeld in the 4 Austria guide books I have, I’ll have to rely on the internet for my research.

Pat, I have a feeling I’ll be returning to Switzerland many times. I just saw some pictures of the Fall colors in Wengen and Lauterbrunnen and am thinking I need to go there for the Fall season sometime. 😊

Balso, yes, I decided on 5 nights for Salzburg and 6 nights for Innsbruck. I do like your suggestion for the Dolomites and I was even tempted to just stay in Innsbruck and the Dolomites (leaving out Salzburg), but I decided to keep this trip based mostly in Austria. I think I could easily spend a week or two just in the Dolomites so am keeping that in mind for a future trip. When I was in Switzerland, we stayed 7 nights in Lucerne (my sister and bro and law had credit card points they used to stay free at the Renaissance), but we spent most of that time on day trips and actually weren’t in Lucerne 6 days. That’s what I have in mind for Innsbruck. Looks like a lot of great opportunities for day trips. There’s a series of travel videos called “Footloose in X” and I watched the one for “Footloose in the Austrian Tyrol” and am looking forward to spending extended time in that area.