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Trains vs Driving

I'm continuing to plan our trip to Germany for October, after Octoberfest. I'm thinking 4 days in Munich and using the train system to venture away from Munich for 3 days then heading to Nuremburg. I'm thinking it may be easier to rent a car in Munich to continue on our journey to Nuremberg, Bamburg, Rothenberg, Mainz, then fly out of Frankfurt. I don't want to be tied down/delayed by train schedules and thought renting a car would give us more flexibility and fun to be at our own pace to sightsee from city to city Thoughts??
Question 1) Is it easier train to some close cities, for example, Bamburg and Rothenberg, from Nuremberg by train or car?
Question 2) How long does it take to get to Nuremberg from Munich by train? and by car? Which method of transportation is more efficient? We don't want to waste time.

Posted by
2487 posts

Unless you also want to visit villages, all your destinations can perfectly be reached by train, with the stations right in de city centre and without such issues like parking.
Use www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml to see the frequency and duration of rail connections between your destinations.

Posted by
321 posts

Hi agarrettpt- There are distinct differences between renting a car and riding the rails. There are 2 major problems with renting a car. Where do you park it while you are touring each city and driving to your hotel in each city. On the other hand, as you pointed out one will not be
" tied down/delayed by train schedules and thought renting a car would give us more flexibility and fun to be at our own pace to sightsee from city to city ". Also, it may be cheaper to drive than train depending on how many are in your party and what kind of train tickets you need. Other than the flexibility with a car, hauling (a lot of) luggage is easier with a car. (Some will dispute the last 2 sentences.)

If you do decide on a car, don't pick it up until you leave Munich (saves parking and rental fees since the public transport in Munich is wonderful and you don't need a car) and pick it up at the airport for best selection (personal experience several times). Also, if you stay several days in your last city (Mainz?) and plan to stay in the city turn your car in when you arrive to save parking costs and rental fees. Then catch the train back to the Frankfurt airport . Unless you are using the Hahn airport- I have no experience in getting there.

As far as driving time vs. train time, remember that the train time does not include the time (and cost) of getting to and from the train stations and your hotels.

Have a great trip!!!

Posted by
19170 posts

Bavaria has the best train system in Europe if not the world. With about 1000 stations, many places, big cities and small villages, are accessible. Most main line between cities have at least one train an hour.

The link above will work for schedules and fares, but that link will get you to this webpage eventually. Start here.

Munich to Nürnberg takes just over an hour (1h02min) by the hourly high speed ICE train (driving a car takes over 2 hours according to ViaMichelin). By ICE, you'd probably be in Nürnberg by the time you'd have rented a car. There is a Regional Express (RE) every two hours. It takes 1h47min, and you can ride it using a Regio-Ticket München-Nürnberg for 25€ for two people (20€ first person, 5€ each additional persons up to 5 total). If you use a Bayern-Ticket, 23€ 1st pers, 5€ additional, you can use any means of transport in Nürnberg and go on to Bamberg or Rothenburg on the same day at no extra cost.

There are many ways to save money on ticket from German Rail. A lot of people here can help you. I've gone to Germany 10 times since 2000, and never needed a car to get to where I wanted to go, but for the last 6 trips I've priced out the train vs. car option, and a car has always been 2 to 3 times as expensive.

If you use Nürnberg as a base, a TagesTicket Plus allows up to 6 people (2 of them adults over 18) unlimited travel all day (or all weekend) on regional trains and other modes of transport in the VGN district, which includes Nürnberg, Rothenburg, and Bamberg for 18,70€.

Posted by
15684 posts

I have good friends who travel a couple times a year. He always plans so that he can be flexible, and he does extensive research on the places he wants to visit and the sights he wants to see. For instance, he will have the train schedules down pat but he won't buy advance tickets so that he can change the itinerary at the last minute if they decide to leave a place earlier or stay longer, in spite of the considerable savings he may be missing out on. His wife swears that in all their years of travel, they've never ever been spontaneous and they always stick to the original plan.

So consider how much you really need to be flexible. If you are seeing 3 places in 3 days . . .

If you haven't traveled in Europe, then listen to those who have. A car is often more of a hassle than a boon.

Posted by
1506 posts

We lived in Germany for 6 years and loved to travel the countryside with our car: villages, roadside inns, scenic routes, etc.

For the last 11 years we have been making return visits - focusing on towns - and traveling by train. No parking issues as already mentioned. Also no dreaded "Stau" : traffic jams that turn the autobahns into long periods of stop-and-go driving. It is more interesting for my wife and I to let the train system do the driving while we enjoy each other's company and the views.

For your suggested itinerary, I would take the train.

Posted by
6798 posts

"I'm thinking it may be easier to rent a car in Munich to continue on our journey to Nuremberg, Bamburg, Rothenberg, Mainz, then fly out of Frankfurt. I don't want to be tied down/delayed by train schedules..."

Some nice destinations, all easy to reach by train.

"Which method of transportation is more efficient? We don't want to waste time."

Will you be trying out the breweries/brew pubs in Nuremberg and Bamberg? If so, and if you're on some kind of tight schedule, (as it sounds you might be) then definitely take the train. Nothing is more interruptive than a court date or an accident.

So you will "...venture away from Munich for 3 days then heading to Nuremburg." Sounds like after Munich you have 3 days in some perhaps undetermined place(s) - then it's off to Nuremberg, Bamberg, etc. Where will those 3 days be? (And then how many days for Nuremberg, Bamberg, etc.?) You can probably use public transport for those 3 days after Munich as well, but if you needed to, you could surely rent a car in Munich and return it in Munich as well (or perhaps in Nuremberg, depending on where the 3 days are spent.) Any car reservation during Oktoberfest should probably be nailed down ASAP.

Mainz: if you go, I'd strongly suggest a day trip into the Middle Rhine Valley for castles, old-world villages, and terrific scenery (and perhaps a wine fest as well if you get there by the first weekend in October.) Also very easy by train! If you are using Mainz only as a place to spend your final night... note that you could do that in Wuerzburg (closer to Nuremberg and Rothenburg) and in the morning make it to FRA in 1.5 hours by train

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for all your input. We will definitely use the train system. It's my husband and I only. After Munich for 4 days and 3 nights, we were thinking of taking early train to Nuremberg on a Mon for 2 nights (see Nuremberg and Bamberg 2nd day) and then just need to be at Frankfurt Airport to fly out on Saturday, so have Wed, Thurs, Fri to enjoy other parts of Germany on the way to Frankfurt. I was thinking Mainz for Thurs and Fri then train to airport Sat morning. So I need help with the middle of the trip...What do you suggest we do after Nuremberg....maybe spend one night in Rothenberg before Mainz? I like your idea of seeing Middle Rhine Valley. Is that where we do a the river cruise? Then maybe day trip to Bacharach, wine country. I think we will miss wine fest as we are traveling later in month Oct 12-22. Great input....keep it coming. Thanks again.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

For the places listed in the itinerary, the car is not necessary unless you might deviate by going into villages. For the limited time you have, forget the car.

Posted by
6798 posts

"I like your idea of seeing Middle Rhine Valley. Is that where we do a the river cruise? Then maybe day trip to Bacharach, wine country."

Suggest you visit Mainz on Thursday. On Friday, catch a train north to Bingen; from there get a day cruise boat further north to St. Goar - this is the most scenic cruise segment and takes just 1.5 hours. You can tour St. Goar's Rheinfels castle there (self-guided.) Then catch a southbound train to Oberwesel (5 min. south) or Bacharach (10 min. south) which are both attractive old-world towns:
Oberwesel: http://www.oberwesel.de/en/wandern0/stadtmauerrundweg/
Bacharach: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/16/a8/83/more-bacharach.jpg
Rheinfels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxFF80wORNQ

(So it's not a separate trip to Bacharach - it and Oberwesel and all the other towns in the Middle Rhine Valley are wine towns.)

Then catch a train back to Mainz. This outing takes most of a day. The Rheinland-Pfalz ticket day pass costs 29E for two and can be used on any local/regional trains from Mainz on after 9 am weekdays - it covers all your trains.

https://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany-regional/rhineland-palatinate-ticket.shtml

The cruise fare is about 20E each but show your train ticket at the KD cruise dock in Bingen to get a 20% cruise discount.

"I need help with the middle of the trip...What do you suggest we do after Nuremberg....maybe spend one night in Rothenberg before Mainz?"
Wednesday: You might find Wuerzburg to your liking. Also an important wine town, and it's right on the train route to Mainz, only 1 hour from Nuremberg. See the UNESCO World Heritage Residenz Palace, the Marienberg Fortress, the old town. Ochsenfurt and Marktbreit are neighboring old-world towns in the same river valley (Main River) just 20 minutes outside W'burg by train.

Marktbreit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Marktbreit_BW_6.JPG
Wuerzburg, Main River Bridge: http://www.blaek.de/_images/baet/A_Mainbruecke-05.07.jpg
Marienberg in Wuerzburg: http://www.taubertalurlaub.de/files/images/wuerzburg/festung_marienberg.jpg
W'burg market square: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Markt-Falkenhaus-Wuerzburg.jpg