Car or train after Rhine cruise from Koblenz to Bingen?

Hi. We are trying to plan our trip to Europe, but the one part that has us baffled is the Rhine cruise. I've been told that the trip from Koblenz to Bingen is the best stretch. I have questions about what happens when we get off at Bingen. We need to eventually go to Heidelberg after the Rhine, but don't know if it's possible to get a train straight to Heidelberg or if they have car rentals in Bingen, and we can go at our leisure. If by train, how far is the train station from the KD cruise dropoff at Bingen? We are eventually going to rent a car for the rest of our trip in Germany, but don't really know where in our trip to rent. We are very flexible on where we get a car, but are unsure if the car rental places are open late. we arrive in Bingen around 3pm. If we take a train to Heidelberg from Bingen, will there be a place to rent a car there? Another possibility is to find a way from Bingen to Mainz or Weisbaden, and rent a car there and drive to Heidelberg. Heidelberg was a bonus for us, and I wouldn't be devastated if we skipped Heidelberg altogether and went straight to Freiburg (see itinerary below). I would be interested in any thoughts on the easiest way to accomplish this. Here's is our proposed itinerary: Arrive Koblenz and stay the night Travel down the Rhine the next morning on KD boat to Bingen (arrive ~3pm) Travel to Heidelberg Stay the night in Heidelberg Travel next day to Freiburg Thank you.
-Dave

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

David, Just a couple of thoughts, I've done the boat trip for the most scenic bits, and I think you have got more there than you need for that unless you really just want a relaxing long boat ride (nothing wrong with that but most folk go for the gorge and the castles. It can get a bit long beyond that, IMHO). Using the boat upstream (towards Switzerland) you fight the current all the way and riding the current away from Switzerland is considerably faster. The train can easily be your friend in the Rhine gorge.

Posted by David
Laramie, USA
7 posts

Nigel,
Thank you for your insight into the Rhine river trip. We were wanting to see the most scenic stretch, and I'm not too concerned with seeing everything. Can you recommend a length of river that would be a bit shorter that gives a great overview of the area and castles? The reason I chose Koblenz to Bingen, was that it's only around 20+ miles long. I also didn't want to backtrack if we flowed downstream, because we ultimately want to end up in Freiburg to the south. Maybe I was over thinking the whole Rhine experience. Maybe a short couple hour tour would be the perfect trip. -Dave

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2278 posts

There are lots of trains to Heidelberg. The best is a 3:47 PM from the Bingen Rhine station to Mainz, changing to an IC train to Heidelberg. 1 hour 45 min.
Rent car in Heidelberg when you leave town.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4767 posts

Are you locked into staying the night in Koblenz? If not, why not travel just a bit further on the Rhine and overnight in Bacharach or St. Goar and then head South on the Rhine from there for a couple of hours. It doesn't have to be Bingen, as the boats stop in lots of towns, where you can then catch a train that will take you to Mainz, Wiesbaden or Frankfurt and then on to Heidelberg. Do you need a car for this part of the trip? I like Heidelberg a lot, but if it isn't high on your priority list, I don't understand why you would go there and stay the night when there are tons of other towns in between Bingen/Mainz/etc. and Freiburg that might appeal to you more. What are your interests? Churches, museums, scenery, historical sites, castles, medievel towns, architecture, or art?

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

Rick's pages on the Rhine don't change much from year to year. So you can read about Bingen to Boppard in any old copy in your public library. You don't mention the month of your trip. The KD boats can be very crowded at peak season. I'm sure there's still room for your luggage. The train to KD in Bingen is all level and along the river, except the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks. I can't figure out which side (of the tracks-you you need to be on. It's about 1/3 of a mile. We did it without luggage. I'm raising the back-tracking possibility of training to Bingen, boating back but downstream to Koblenz, and picking up your luggage at the hotel you checked out of that morning. The train is very fast, much faster than the boat or a car. But the car is (see Google Maps) only a half-hour longer from Koblenz to Heidelberg than Bingen to Heidelberg. And I'm sure every rental company is available in Koblenz. I believe you have shown only a segment of the whole trip, but I presume you have allowed time to see Koblenz, which is urban but attractive. Please note that you are apparently relying on Heidelberg and Freiburg for "local charm". But most Rick Steves readers get more of that from the towns like Boppard and Brubach, among others on the Rhine. Freiburg is also attractive, but it is a Black Forest city, not a Black Forest town. I haven't been to Heidelberg. I found driving in the Black Forest to be a lot of work, like driving in Vermont. Does your Black Forest hotel include a free one-day local train pass? I can't decide your objectives for you, but I think your are planning a high-speed Rick Steves-type tour, which is too fast for me.

Posted by David
Laramie, USA
7 posts

Thank you all for your tremendous help. I think we have now got a more solid plan. We decided we'd like to stay in Oberwesel and just take a short round trip or two, up or down the Rhine. We heard from some people at home and on the message boards, that what we were trying to do was too much. My original thoughts were to see as much as possible, but that's changed now to just getting a good overview of the area and settle down to enjoy it more. We booked a room at Schoenburg Castle, so that should be fun. Heidelburg would be nice, but since I've already been there, it will only be thought of as a diversion if we have time. We mainly like to see the historic places in Germany, maybe visit a few museums or small towns as we drive to our destinations. I love the culture of the country and really like the impulsive times in between our scheduled stops. That's why I think it was so important to get a car and have some days marked as unplanned. It makes for great memories that can't be duplicated. It's nice to know there are so many options for train travel and car rentals in the area. Very impressive. I didn't think it was so developed, but in a way that's good for people traveling without a car. There are still some details to work out, but so far, this part of the trip is coming together nicely. Thank you again for all of your help. -Dave