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Best economic and scenic experience for first time travelers to Germany

Next Summer, along with my mother and father, I plan to travel to Germany, but we are unsure about many things. We do not have an itinerary as of yet, but we definitely want to spend about a 7 to 10 days in Germany( nowhere specific yet) and the German Alps. We definitely want a mix of small and big cities. I was wondering about a good itinerary that will not break the bank( we are middle-class, but considering the exchange rate and all the prices, we would like it to be reasonable). And could you include good places to eat, places to stay(sleeping) , and the best mode of transportation for three people, and also any travel tips for Europe in General and Germany specifically? Thanks very much.

Posted by
18946 posts

In my experience, you'll get the most concentration of places to see in the southern part of Germany - the Rhein gorge between Koblenz and Bingen (including Braubach, St. Goar, Bacharach), the northern Black Forest, and southern Bavaria. I particularly like the Oberallgäu (the Illertal, the valley of the Iller river leading up to Oberstdorf), and the Kleinwalsertal of Austria from there.

Whatever you do, learn to use regional passes, like the Bayern-Ticket, which gives you unlimited travel on regional trains, all day for 31€.

If you want really inexpensive accommodations, try to use the local town websites, www. town_name .de. Many websites are in English and even if they are in German, some of the places will speak English. You'll spend far less for accommodations you get this way than you will using a booking website (TripAdvisor,, etc) or a chain hotel website.

As far as eating, I stay in small towns, and I prefer to walk around looking at the menus that every restaurant posts outside.

Posted by
6483 posts

If you don't have an itinerary & specific dates, also check out the German festivals calendars to see if there are locations that interest you to time your visit during some fairs, etc.

For transportation we prefer traveling by train in Europe, and in Germany they will always be on-time.

Posted by
12040 posts

"and in Germany they will always be on-time"

I beg to differ...

"but we definitely want to spend about a 7 to 10 days in Germany( nowhere specific yet) and the German Alps. We definitely want a mix of small and big cities." Although I think most regions of the country can give you a good mix (maybe the sparsely populated areas of NE Germany less so), with the inclusion of the Alps, you would probably do best to concentrate on Bavaria. 7-10 days isn't really enough time to get a wide geographic sampling of the country.

Agree with the others. Start reading guidebooks. Look on Google maps and Google images. Use the webcams on Feratel to see what these places look like in real time. Wikipedia is one of the absolute best sources of information for travel planning.

Posted by
977 posts

If you end up with 7 days, I too would suggest part of the time in Munich, and part somewhere else in Bavaria (Lee's suggestion, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, maybe Fuessen. With 10 days, you might add in the Rhine river valley. You might enjoy going to your local library and getting several guide books on Germany to see what places most interest the three of you. If you have specific places you want to go, it is easier for people to suggest their favorite restaurants or hotels in those areas. The Deutsche Bahn website will really help you with times and cost between places for train travel. The website is

Posted by
2856 posts


With 7 to 10 days, I'd look at Salzburg/Berchtsgaden, Garmisch or Mittenwald, maybe Fuessen and Munich. I think a loop type trip with about 3 nights in each location is ideal for a first trip.

You can watch many of Rick Steve's Germany and Austria videos on


Posted by
416 posts

Hi amsaquarius This is one thread I will follow with a lot of interest. I am in the same boat, I posted a few days ago, about trying to nail down a budget. I received lots of good advice there, It's something you may want to check out, if you haven't already.

Good Luck with your planning!!!


Posted by
321 posts

Hello! My husband and I did 11 days in Germany on a shoe string budget last summer. Some of the things that we did to save money were:

  1. We stayed in Pensions, or smaller non chain hotels. We also tried to stay in smaller towns vs. bigger cities. But depending on your mode of transportation, that could be a factor.
  2. A lot of hotels in Germany will serve breakfast included in the price of the room. We ate a huge breakfast (just the thought of a German breakfast is making me hungry!) So we only needed a little snack for lunch and then we had a nice dinner.
  3. We got cash out of the ATM every few days. It is a lot easier (for us) to stay on budget with cash than debit/credit card.
  4. Travel light. It will make your life so much easier.

Some of my favorite travel sights are: - I like being able to see the price and ratings. - I am a very visual planner and it helped to see things - Again pictures help here too, although take some of them with a grain of salt as I have seen pictures mislabeled. - it helps to see where things are in relation to one another - plus it helps when researching hotels. - also helps with planning

Posted by
18946 posts


Two comments,

  1. Yes, you'll save money staying in smaller towns and pensions. But using booking websites is NOT the way to find pensions in smaller towns. I've reviewed several of my trips, assuming I used booking websites instead of town websites, and I find that with booking websites, I would have spent about 50% more.

  2. Smaller, less expensive places in Germany do not take credit cards. Using cash from an ATM allows you to spend less on accommodations.

Posted by
321 posts


I was simply mentioning what we did on our trip and websites that I find helpful when planning. I didn't say that the OP had to do it that way. I was offering suggestions. I am glad we used, as some of the reviews on their site steered us away from some of the more shady places to stay. But again to each their own. Also if you are looking for a deal, look at it the sites and then book through the hotel, it is not rocket science.

As for the ATM, I did say we did get money out as it was easier to budget with cash. So I don't understand your point here.

Do you always have to be so confrontational?

Posted by
295 posts

Here's my suggestion for an itinerary for 7-10 days in Germany. Fly into Frankfurt.
Travel down the Rhine-sleep in St. Goar or Bacharach 2 nights
Take a river cruise, explore a castle or two.
Head down the romantic road and stop in Rothenburg. Walled medieval town 2 nights giving you one full day
walk the wall, go on the night watchman tour, visit the Crime and punishment museum, etc
Munich-lots to see, museums, beer halls, visit a palace 2 nights
Explore King Ludwig area-Neuschwanstein, luge, etc sleep in Fussen or Reutte 2 nights
More time go to Salzburg.
Then fly home from Munich or train back to Frankfurt
This can all be done on public transportation.

Rick's Germany book lists tons of great places to eat and budget places to sleep for all the above. Plus, you will find excellent markets and grocery stores in all these town. Triple rooms are easy to find and the book lists lots of places that have triples. All places will give you breakfast. So a market/grocery lunch helps save money and then you can splurge more on dinner.

Posted by
233 posts

I've had the pleasure of visiting Germany three times (different regions each time), always on a budget--twice alone and once with my sister. As others said, my first suggestion is to get Rick's Germany guidebook. (For dreaming/itinerary purposes, you can always start with an older edition from the library!) My second suggestion: Don't try to see all of Germany in 7 to 10 days. As you read, pick 2-3 places that really appeal to you. (In Germany, I've really enjoyed Trier, Bachrach/St.Goar, Neuschwanstein, Berlin, and Dresden/Bastei/Goerlitz, plus Salzburg in Austria.) Then try to design a round-trip trek that will link them together, trying to minimize one-night stays. Planning is my favorite part of travel, so I am excited for you!

Posted by
6323 posts

"I was wondering about a good itinerary that will not break the bank."

You may wish to stay within Bavaria to keep travel costs down as discussed above.

That said, the Rhine and its villages are very special; I would take Laura's and Lee's suggestion for this area very seriously. 3-4 nights there would be about right considering the fact that Day 1 after a long flight might be a very groggy day and considering the many good options in this area.
And since you specifically mention the Alps, spend the rest of the time there; Garmisch-Partenkirchen (the Zugspitze is Germany's tallest Alp) and Mittenwald offer a great mix of things to see and do. If you wish to avoid the spots that are truly overrun by the international tourist horde, then skip Rothenburg and Neuschwanstein.

Posted by
6323 posts

Accommodations: Agree with Lee's suggestion that you locate the local tourist office websites for the best set of choices and prices. No harm in checking as well. These local TI office sites are often in English - here are some on the Rhine and for Garmisch:

St. Goar

View above Boppard from Gedeonseck terrace

Inexpensive Transport: the Bayern ticket for Bavaria has already been mentioned. For long trips (the Rhine to Garmisch, for example) look 92 days out for saver fare (Sparpreis) tickets. That's when these tickets are first available. I'm looking at a sample saver fare (92 days out from today) of €49 ($66) total for two adults from Bingen to Garmisch. You have to jump on these fares the first day for the best prices - prices rise as tickets sell for these train-specific fares.

DB itinerary page

Do you prefer to pay nothing for your transportation? Note that you can get around Garmisch-Partenkirchen for free with the Ga-Pa tourist card if you choose to stay there (free from the tourist office there.)

Posted by
3696 posts

I have been to Germany a number of times and find it can be an economical place to travel. I always have a car as I prefer flexibility in my travel. To save money I do lots of car picnics... lots of great German food .... breads, sausage, cheeses, German pickles, paprika chips, lots of sweet desserts...fruit and yogurt...yum. I will often find a small town and check a few hotels for availability and rates when I see someplace I want to stay. There are also chain hotels like Novotel and Ibis that have decent rates. When I do book (in places like Munich or Salzburg) I also use With three people splitting the cost the car can be a savings over the train depending on where and when you travel. It's relatively easy and efficient to drive in Germany. I would also suggest the south simply because it is so beautiful and lots to see and do. If you want to add Salzburg to the mix it's a beautiful drive and well worth the effort.