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Renting a car at Cologne Hbf Saturday afternoon

Hello!
My husband and I will be traveling to Germany in May. We are flying into Frankfurt on a Saturday morning and taking the ICE up to Cologne arriving around 11:30 AM to spend the day there, then heading to Boppard later in the afternoon by car.

It looks like many of the car rental places (Enterprise and others) close at 12:00 on Saturday, so I hate to cut the time so close when the train could run a bit late. I am seeing that Europcar offers a "pick up out of hours".

Has anyone experienced this? Is it just sort of a kiosk and it spits out your key?

Will this work- as an international driver (wouldn't someone want to see our license/passport, etc?)

Also - if you have rented from Europcar- where do you get the car? It sounds like they are in garages next to the station.
I am also hoping we can arrive- go rent the car and store our luggage in the car before heading out to explore Cologne for a few hours.

Do you think it's feasible to pick up the car- and park it in another spot or nearby garage in the same area for a few hours?

Of note- we are returning the car in Munich near train station.

Thanks for your wonderful advice!

Posted by
6859 posts

What is your next stop after Boppard? Do you leave Boppard the next day (Sunday)? You typically do not need a car in Boppard, driving in the late afternoon on arrival day is risky if you are tired, and luggage is easy to store at Köln Hbf.

Posted by
6616 posts

I've used Europcar a few times but never in Cologne. No clue how they hand out cars. I did pick up once in Koblenz near the main station. I remember contacting the local office there to arrange for that pick up to avoid shuttling to their standard location. Koblenz is just 15 minutes from Boppard.

My concerns parallel Balso's. When I picked up in Koblenz, I was headed to the Belgian Ardennes, not to Boppard. There are several good reasons for staying in Boppard, one core reason being its good rail service for seeing the area, and another being that rail transport there is free of charge to all guests. I've booked multiple carless stays in Boppard and used the trains to explore the Rhine/Mosel/Lahn destinations.

If I had to have a car in Boppard for some reason and were arriving at FRA on Sunday... I would use the regional train to Boppard first, check in, freshen up and do whatever plans I might have for Boppard or nearby destinations (Rheinfels Castle, maybe? It's just 10 minutes from Boppard by train) that Sunday afternoon. From FRA, these trains, unlike most of the ICEs to Cologne, take the scenic route into the Rhine Gorge. Then on Monday, I'd take the train to Koblenz to fetch the car, which you could use to drive to Cologne either that day or some other day.

Besides the concerns about driving on flight arrival day and parking in Cologne, there's also the concern about getting the ICE train to Cologne after a flight. Not only are trains sometimes late, but planes too, which along with potential security and baggage delays will jeopardize your ability to reach Cologne at the intended time. You can of course buy train tickets at the airport once you get there (ICE fare = €200/2 adults or so!) But those cheap saver fares you see online at DB are train-specific, so if you miss your scheduled train, you say goodbye to those Euros, then end up buying €200 tickets as well to reach Cologne - and arrive after Europcar closes.

I'd avoid all these roadblocks, take the train to Boppard (should cost around €40/2 with a good ticketing strategy) and pick up the car Monday - or maybe after your time in Boppard is up.

Posted by
7231 posts

We used a staffed rental office in a hotel lobby, a few blocks away from downtown Cologne. So we also avoided driving "in" Cologne. Our destination was 10 days to Amsterdam.

3-4 hours are only enough to scratch the surface of a fun city that has 3 days of things to do. The Dom is not the only attraction walkable from the Cologne HBF.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/can-i-see-enough-of-cologne

I would not rent a car for Cologne-Boppard, but you have not indicated what else you are doing before Munich. How are you going to hide your luggage in a car with no trunk? Are you going to pack the car before (in a different place ... ) looking for a parking space? This is just as risky as it would be in the big cities of the USA. Can you drive a Standard if they don't have what you reserved?

Posted by
32660 posts

is there a reason for choosing "returning the car in Munich near train station"? Can I assume that by train station / Munich you are speaking of the Hauptbahnhof (main station) in the centre of Munich? There are lots of train stations in Munich, including several of the more major ones. If it is indeed the Hauptbahnhof you are contemplating, please accept my advice about driving in Munich which is not for the feint hearted. Especially in the area of the Hbf which is and will be for some extended time a building site with all sorts of detours and narrow traffic lanes because of lane closures.

The Hbf is one huge rebuilding area as they rebuild the whole station while keeping it open for trains.

Posted by
6260 posts

I would not rent a car for Cologne-Boppard, but you have not indicated what else you are doing before Munich.

I was wondering the same thing myself. Why is it so important you pick up the car in Cologne? Is there any reason to have a car? Train transport is very good in Germany, so unless you plan on meandering through a number of small towns off the beaten path, you're usually better off sticking with trains.

Posted by
5 posts

Sorry all- to clarify- we are driving after our stay in Boppard to visit some specific small towns while we head south to Schwangau- after that stay, we are driving to Munich.
We actually booked our flights today- and it turns out we’ll be arriving earlier than expected- so I think all the timing will work out fine- even if things end up running a little late.
Thanks all!

Posted by
6859 posts

You could still save a few days of rental and pick up the car at Frankfurt airport on your way south from Boppard. I'd at least consider it.

Posted by
32660 posts

still going to Munich Hbf to drop the car off?

Posted by
6260 posts

You could still save a few days of rental and pick up the car at Frankfurt airport on your way south from Boppard. I'd at least consider it.

What Balso said. Frankfurt would have a bigger selection and it would be much easier to pick up there. It's only a 2 hour train ride from Boppard.

Posted by
5 posts

You may want to double-check the hours directly with the rental car company. I made a reservation with Sixt through AutoEurope, picking up at the Cologne Hbf on a Sunday in June. The Sixt office at Cologne Hbf is open until 9pm on weekends.