Drive from Munich to Strasbourg

We're trying to figure out where to meet some relatives that live in Brussels when we're over in Europe. We'd like to meet halfway and it looks like Strasbourg might be a good place (and not super expensive for either of us). My question is, would it be worth driving there for one night? The rest of my family doesn't even want to stay overnight, they just want to drive there and come back the same day, but I told them they are crazy for wanting to sit for 8 hours in a car. :) And taking the train is cost prohibitive (especially since we have a car). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I already know what I want to do, but I guess I need all the ammo I can get to make my case. :) Thank you!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9108 posts

"but I guess I need all the ammo I can get to make my case. :" How about this? The route you would drive, A8, is one of the most congested, Stau-prone roads in Germany, particularly around Stuttgart. I wouldn't want to drive that Autobahn twice in one week, much less the same day!

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

I've driven in Los Angeles and drive regularly in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm not afraid of traffic congestion! If it's as bad as LA, I might be concerned and suggest we fly. :)

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9108 posts

Actually, if you want to find a better half-way point, I would recommend Frankfurt. If your relatives catch the direct Deutsche Bahn train from Brussels, they can be in Frankfurt in about 3 hours. I'm pretty sure it takes much longer than that to reach Strasbourg from Brussels. The drive from Munich to Frankfurt, while not exactly easy, is nowhere near as frustrating as going on A8 to Strasbourg.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8742 posts

Ann, have you ever driven long distance on the Autobahns? Especially the A6 or A8? I have. Listen to Tom. I've also commuted in both the Bay Area and in LaLaLand. It is completely different than both. Driving from Santa Cruz to Larkspur at the rush hour, up the peninsula, would be a walk in the park.
Driving from Bakersfield to LA would be much easier than the A6 or A8. Why? First, all the construction. Major parts of the Autobahns are under construction so there are lots of places where the lanes narrow, the speed is very reduced, and you are doing 60 or 80 kph next to a wall of trucks doing the same thing for 15 km at a time. You are so close you could reach out and touch the trucks. Second, the construction. Traffic backs up a long way before the construction. Bear in mind that Germany tried building its way out of the recession. It mostly worked. There is a lot of congestion, and a lot of it is in the southern third of the country. Third, the traffic and the trucks. Sometimes the autobahn is relatively free flowing. Usually the autobahn is two lanes each way, with rows of large trucks occupying the slow lane. That means that the slow lane is too slow so you want to drive in the left lane. But the left lane is too fast. You duck out into the fast lane to past a truck and you have to speed up from about 90 kph to 110 or 130 kph, and 130 would feel nice. But behind you, flashing their lights is a train of closely packed beemers and audis moving at about 150 kph who will absolutely flatten you. So its back with the trucks. Trust me, it sounds so much more fun to drive on autobahns than it is. ... more

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8742 posts

... more Fourth. Stau. The traffic will be flying along for a short while (see third) and suddenly stop. Completely stop, often with no obvious reason. If you are not alert you become the meat in a car or truck sandwich, and everybody else has to be alert too. You must be alert for stauen. Bad accidents sometimes result. I've seen terrible ones. If you get caught in a long stau turn off your engine. There are apps which tell you where the existing ones are (I use 2 good ones) but they only tell you about existing ones not ones about to develop. I'd take the train. Deals can be had which are much cheaper than the walk up fares. That's an awfully long way to drive out and back, even overnight, and if it is important to you to see these rellies - it must be or you wouldn't go through all this - you will want to be relaxed and fresh when you see them, not stressed after half a day on the A6 or A8.

Posted by Catherine
Springfield
18 posts

Ann,listen to Tom and Nigel. It's not a matter of being afraid of traffic congestion or driving conditions, it's a question of patience and how much you enjoy wasting time, especially on vacation. In June we drove from Paris to Munich, and from Karlsruhe on found the congestion to be absolutely infuriating. The A8 had random slow-downs and complete stops due to construction, or for no apparent reason. We thought we would leave Karlsruhe in the morning and easily visit Dachau before noon. Instead, we arrived there an hour before closing (4:00). We thought our GSP had gone crazy when it gave ridiculously long estimated arrival times, but it was pretty much correct. We also drove Munich to Frankfurt, and it was better, but still slower than our standard 60 miles = no more than 60 minutes of driving. Coming from California you already will have gone well over halfway in meeting the relatives. They may enjoy a visit to Munich!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9108 posts

What Nigel wrote is probably the single most dead-on accurate description of Autobahn driving that exists in the English language. Particularly on the A5 and A8 west of Munich. I'm not saying it isn't unreasonable to drive to and back from Strasbourg, particularly if separated by a few days. But you're going to be sitting in the car, wasting valuable vacation time for much longer than you're probably thinking. "And taking the train is cost prohibitive" And before we rule out the train all together, let's just make sure you're using the right resource. Have you checked the 2nd class, advanced purchase fares directly from the Deutsche Bahn website? If so, and you've found it's not economical for your party's situation, then by all means, drive. But if the prices you saw quoted were for rail passes or from a 3rd party agency like Rail Europe... check again with Deutsche Bahn.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11268 posts

First you say, "And taking the train is cost prohibitive" Then you say, "I might be concerned and suggest we fly." Flying is sure to be more cost prohibitive than the train, plus take longer. With advance purchase you can get Europa-Spezial fares for 39€/p one way. The train takes around 4 hours. By the time you get to the airport, check in, go through security, wait to board, fly, deplane, get from the airport to town, you'll spend more like 5-6 hours. Regional trains will take a little longer than 6 hours, but a party of up to 3 can make the trip for 56€ per day of travel during the week with a Quer durchs Land Ticket, 42€ per day with a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket, without the stress of driving or being cramped in a car all those hours.

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

Lee - we won't be flying, it was sarcasm which doesn't come across in written form very well. :) Thanks for all the advice. To the "have you driven long distances on the Autobahn, especially A6 or A8" yes, I have. It's been 8 years but I have driven and am aware of the sudden stopping. I checked prices on DB and from Tegnersee (closest station to where we're staying) to Strasbourg, I got "Unknown Tarriff Abroad". When I input Munich, it was 168 Euro. I know my brothers will not want to pay 168 Euro when we have a rental car. I think it costs so much because we'll be there in 3 weeks. I know I'll be corrected if I'm wrong. ;) I really do appreciate all the advice. I'm not worried about driving in Germany, I love driving there. It's refreshing to drive somewhere where people don't camp out in the fast lane. I get no road rage like I do here on I-880 or 101!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11268 posts

"I think it costs so much because we'll be there in 3 weeks." Very possibly. Discount fares are for purchase 92 days out and are tiered, ie, there are only so many tickets at the lowest price, then more at a higher price, etc. When the lowest priced tickets sell out, the price goes up. The closer to travel date, the higher the discounted price. The reason you get "unknown tariff abroad" is that the connection starts with BOB (Bayerische Oberlandbahn) which is not part of the German Rail system, and ends in France. You can get a partial fare from Holzkirchen (using the S-Bahn to Munich) to Strasbourg or Tegernsee to Kehl (right across the river, a 3,90€ fare, from Strasbourg).

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

So here's the next question. It says it could take 4.5 - 5 hours to drive from Tegernsee to Strasbourg. I'm assuming that's an average? Are there better times during the day to leave, (like early Saturday mornings in the Bay Area are pretty good for driving, but by 10 a.m. the traffic picks up)? So far, the consensus is to drive because my brothers don't want to pay more for transportation than they have to (since we already have the rental car, they don't want to pay 48 EUR or more to take the train when all we really have to pay for is gas & tolls & we can stop as much or as little as we want along the way). Again, you all have been extremely helpful to me! I became the travel planner for a group of 9 and I really wish I could have shoved it off onto someone else! Next time, we are hiring a travel agent.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8742 posts

No,no medals. I'll leave that to you military types. You have many more medals than I'll ever deserve. Maybe no new skills, but certainly alertness comes to the front. And the technique of looking in all the mirrors much more frequently. I think we have a duty to tell people preparing to drive on the autobahns that the experience is not the same as getting on the Interstate, setting the cruise control and sitting back. You can on many of the French autoroutes but my experience that you can't on the Autobahns. I'm often in the train of faster movers and it is vital to be well aware.
I have had to respond to far too many fatalities in various roles over my career. Anything I can do to prevent one is good work in my book. I've seen too many in Germany, especially on the A5. I find via Michelin to be very helpful in planning time and costs. If you go there you will see about €50.00 for fuel each way, no tolls. I have found via Michelin slightly optimistic for time when I drive, and as I said above I don't hang about. You might be happy adding about 20% plus stau time to their projection if you are an average speed driver.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Nigel is absolutely correct. For the most part, driving in Germany is wonderful. However, there are parts that are a complete nightmare. Far worse than LA or SF areas could ever be. I spent many years driving in both California metro areas and they were never as bad as parts of Germany. Strasbourg is a wonderful city. Your family will be so happy that they went.

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

We're probably going to drive so we can take the scenic route back from Strasbourg. One of my brothers wants to drive through the Black Forest along with touring the countryside over there. We're going to stay for 2 nights instead of one as well. I appreciate all the advice and will have to try and remember to report back when the drive is done to let you know if it was as bad as I was warned.

Posted by Ken
Lafayette, Colorado
81 posts

Strasbourg is definitely worth an overnight. The cathedral is beautiful and they have a wonderful laser light show set to music at night. Cannel tours are great and lots of timbered framed buildings. I vote to spend a night there.