After visiting relatives in Prague over Christmas, I hope to travel with five people in one car to Vienna for a couple days and then onto Venice for a day or two. Concerns have been expressed about travelling by car over the Alps. Has anyone done this trip personally during the winter? Is this a dangerous plan? Seems that renting a car with five passengers would be less expensive than a train trip for five adults. Thank you ! Ned
I personally would prefer train. There are some discounts for group travel (as I am aware at least in Czech Rep.). If not stopping between cities I always take train. Even if it cost little bit more. Gas is much more expensive in Europe. Renting cost a lot especially if you rent in one country and return in another. You would be probably forced to drive at dark. Very short days. Possibility of accidents much greater in winter. High likelihood of putting snow chains on and off. Also road could be closed because of accidents, avalanche danger or just too heavy snowing. Even freeway between Prague and Brno (toward Vienna)is closed quite often because of accidents. And it is going only through Bohemian-Moravian Highland, not the Alps. So compare the prices for car versus train (remember parking in cities is costly) and if the difference is big enough and you like adventure and don't mind driving long distances in potentially very bad conditions, go for it.
We were Sep/Oct in Europe this year, our 3rd visit and the first with no car. I've driven Venice to Salzburg before and enjoyed the Italian highways as much as the Austrian or German.
I expect you will find familiar winter driving conditions there as in the US, so you'll want to be a very good driver here to consider the trek there. Travel for 5 by rail is a bit expensive, but lower than the cost of an accident or other major inconvenience by car. If winter driving causes you discomfort here, don't try it on unfamiliar roads where language and highway practices are unfamiliar.
When considering the cost of a car, remember that you will need a car big enough to hold 5 people plus their luggage (this could cost substantially more than the most common, smaller models) and you will to buy gasoline (MUCH more expensive than in the US). And yes, be sure to find out the charge for renting in one country and returning in another (people on this Helpline have posted prices around 500 euros!). Don't forget the price of an Austrian vignette (required for highway driving) and Italian tolls. I'm not saying one way or the other is better, but be sure to have ALL the facts (and full costs) before deciding.
Did not drive in area you are talking about but did drive from Munich over Alps into Austria in February, big mistake. The mountain roads we were on had no guard rails, just boulders every so often and as you went around a bend on a mountain,saw a truck runoff in case brakes failed Also, no lighting whatsoever. One of the stupidest things have done. When got to hotel, slid into parking lot and went straight to bar and let my sons park car.
There are people who wouldn't travel Europe with out a car and then there are people like me. Autos are not too expensive until you have to pay the road tolls, or park them or purchase gas or drop them off in another city or country other than the one you rented in. Trains are relatively inexpensive and cars have very little value you arrive in most major cities. Also look at the European discount airlines who can get you between most major cities for under $150: but I don't really like them and use them only as a last resort.