We were thinking of renting a car in Munich then driving to Salzburg, Austria, when we are over there in December. Does that sound like a good idea? I'd imagine there's a good chance we could run into snow, but it seems like a pretty straightforward drive. That way we'd also have some freedom to drive around when/where we wanted. Any other suggestions? Thanks!
Tim, this is only a good idea if you are either 1) planning on also driving somewhere else, or 2) planning on not going directly to Salzburg.
This is because the Bayern (or Bavaria) Ticket is your best and easiest way to travel between Munich and Salzburg. It is only 27 Euros to buy online or 29 Euros to buy at the train station. The bonus is that you can get up to 5 people on one ticket!!! The down side is that it's only good for travel on one day within Bavaria. But another piece of good news is that you can travel anywhere within Bavaria on this ticket as long as you're in 2nd class and riding on local trains.
Here is a link to a page with the full explanation.
Tim, of course it is a good idea to rent a car if you want to visit more than just the two cities. There is a lot to discover in the Berchtesgaden and Hallstadt areas around Salzburg, so go for it. If you rent a car in Munich at that time of the year it'll come with winter tyres, by the way. The drive is totally straightforward, however, keep in mind that Autobahn A8 between Munich and Salzburg is a Continental European bottleneck for winter tourists to the Austrian alps. As soon as the school holidays in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany start that freeway turns into something like Europe's longest parking lot if you see what I mean. Also make sure you buy the appropriate Austrian freeway toll sticker, in case you need to drive freeways on the Austrian side. Try to avoid having to fill up your car in Germany as fuel in Austria is signifcantly cheaper than in Germany. Do rent a Diesel/Automatic transmission car as Diesel cars perform much better than regular gas ones, ...
Jarrod, thanks for the information! We really just planned on driving around Austria a little bit but nowhere else. I already planned on flying into Munich on a Thurs. morning to visit friends but they now won't be available until the weekend so we decided we would travel to Salzburg, and St. Wolfgang during that time before heading back to Munich. Are both of those locations easily accesible by train do you know? Thanks again for the help! I'm a rookie European traveler!
... get much better milage and Diesel is more than $1 per gallon cheaper than regular. Personally I recommend Sixt car rental, as their fleet consists of Mercedes, BMW and Audis. I'm not sure if your idea of driving the German autobahn means doing that in a Hyundai (nothing wrong with those great Korean cars).
Tim, I'm not certain about St. Wolfgang. From what I remember, they make the exception of Salzburg on the Bayern ticket and that's it for Austria. But I could be wrong about that.
If you are planning on seeing more than just Salzburg and St. Wolfgang then I would highly recommend renting a car. Otherwise, the Bayern ticket plus the ticket to St. Wolfgang will probably save you money.
Thanks Jarrod and Andreas for the information, it is much appreciated!
I've done a bit of driving from/to Munich, though never in the winter. The roads in and around Munich are usually fine. Normally I really like having a car in Europe, but the trains in and around Germany and Austria are great and almost always on time. The train between Salzburg and Munich runs at least once an hour (check www.raileurope.com) and only takes an hour and a half. It is much less hassle than a car. If you're a rookie traveler I would strongly recommend the train rather than a car. You can get to most places in Austria pretty easily by train.
RailEurope is not a good source for train schedules. What they show is only trains for which they sell tickets, and those are usually only the most expensive ones, and not suitable for the Bayern-Ticket.
Use the German Rail website's schedule query page, http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en. Note: if you are using a Bayern-Ticket, you can see just regional train schedules by selecting "only local transport" under "Means of Transport".
The train/car decision is not either/or. You can use the train to Salzburg for a couple day visit, then rent a car to see the countryside. Both the Salzkammergut lake district and the Danube valley offer some beautiful drives not far from Salzburg. The car is no benefit in Salzburg that I can see.
I had a German rail pass and expected to pay a premium to visit Salzburg. I asked but it's considered the last stop for the DB pass.
I've also driven a seven passenger car to Salzburg with kids in tow. It was fine because we saved money over train fairs and went to a lot of other places, many off the rail routes.
If you don't have a critical mass of passengers to offset the cost of renting and are looking for city center experiences, I'd take the train.