How bad is it? How should I plan for it? If google maps says it takes 2.5 hours to drive from Wurzburg to Munich, what is the acutal driving time with traffic?
In my one trip driving in Germany (about 1 week of travel) we found the autobahn to be a delight; wonderfully maintained roads, skilled drivers on it. Be sure to keep in the right lane unless passing. For a treat stop at one of the rest stops along the highway; they are unlike anything in the US. You have a decent restaurant, gas, plus a small shop. You pay a fee to use the toilets, but it is "free" since the receipt for accessing them can be used in the shop to buy snacks, etc. We found that in actual cities the traffic could be as bad as a LA traffic jam (eg. walking speed), but that was not frequent. Also the summer and early fall is when they do maintenance, so occasionally in the middle of nowhere there would be a stretch where traffic slowed for about 15 minutes because it was funneled into 1 lane.
I'm glad Mikes experience was so positive, but often that is the exception. Driving the autobahn can be hit and miss as far as traffic delays. The website below may be of some help, if you know what autobahns you will drive. On the left (in blue) are the autobahns, just select the one's you will drive for construction and other info. But can't give delay times. Unfortunately the site's in German, but you can use Google translate. #1 rule is stay alert and pay attention to traffic! Sudden decreases in speed or stops is not uncommon. If you come upon a sudden stop situation, drivers often turn on their 4-way flashers (hazard lights) to warn driver behind them. Good luck! http://www.verkehrsinfo.de/
I will confirm Sam and James' comments that you never know what the traffic will be like. You may be able to determine ahead of time about construction delays, but there can be traffic tie-ups for many other reasons that can't be anticipated. I would allow extra time, just in case, particularly if you need to arrive at a specific time for some specific function. If it turns out that traffic was fine and you arrive early, have an activity in mind to do to fill in the time. Flexibility is key.
There are certain roads that you can be almost certain will always be bad- the A61 from near Ludwigshaven to Cologne reminds me of I95 between Philadelphia and New York (but at least, with much better scenery). Others are hit or miss. I don´t have much experience with the complete route from Wurzburg to Munich, but most of the autobahns around Munich always seem pretty congested. On any stretch of autobahn that long, you can expect several long sections of roadwork. If you´re dreaming of cruising down an open road at 200 km/hr, I can tell you that the more likely scenario will be you´ll get stuck behind a line of trucks in the right lane doing barely 100 km/hr, waiting in vain for the opportunity to pass.
Great to see all these posts from those who live in Germany. Good, valid points about the autobahn too.
Aaron- I've used Google and other drive calculators before and rarely did I get the times that were estimated..sometimes under but mostly over. I'm planning a drive from the Munich airport area to Neuschwanstein very early in the morning and I have to go through/around Munich to do it and I'm giving myself 3 hours although a lot of sources say it's under 2. That'll hopefully do me right considering also this drive of mine will be in the first half of December and any weather problems. You'd probably be safe to stick another half hour on that 2.5
3 hrs. Hmm. That's how long the train takes and you can count on it, regardless of weather.
I wish I could do the train but I have more to do after seeing the Castle and a car gives me the flexibility I need in this particular case....otherwise take the train, let somebody else do the driving. I happen to love trains
Yep, like the experts have said: the Autobahn can be a dream or a nightmare. I am not a frequent visitor (anymore), but I have flown down the Autobahn (ahhh, I wish Americans drove like that), and I have also sat parked on it. If there is a bad accident (and they can be really bad- like 20+ car accidents), there can be really long back-ups. Lee, I love your train advice, but sometimes it isn't feasible for all of us! I use public transportation when it works for me and switch to a car when I need to go to the countryside and specific itineraries (small towns, visiting relatives at their homes).