Please sign in to post.

MUC - Salzburg - Munich: train or car rental in December?

We will be landing in Munich, arriving from London on Dec. 7th. Our flight lands at around 2:30pm. The two of us will be headed straight to our Salzburg accommodation (outskirts) for 3 nights, before heading back to Munich.

We had been planning on taking the train there and back, but I'm reconsidering. The price of a car rental is very reasonable and we will have easy access to parking at our B&B in the outskirts of Salzburg (Moosstrasse). We will want to arrive there as soon as possible, but we'll be able to take our time on the day that we return to Munich.

The car would be an Intermediate with winter tires. It's a return visit to Salzburg, so I'm thinking that the car might be fun for exploring a bit outside of Salzburg for one day (especially points south?) and on the way back to Munich.

What do you think? Train or car?
Would there be a pretty Christmas market outside of Salzburg, but not more than a 60-90 minutes drive away?

Posted by
756 posts

In winter you always run a risk of weather problems but otherwise from your description of the car it sounds like a reasonable thing to do especially since your B&B is very far outside of Salzburg and you would like to do some exploring. Check with your rental car company regarding pick up and drop of charges at the airport ... a cab ride to a different pick up location might be a bargain. Also remember you will need an autobahn vignette in Austria (a short time one is really cheap) and each driver must have an IDP. Have fun.

Posted by
12040 posts

I would NOT drive a rental car between Munich and Salzburg immediately after an overseas flight. You will be tired, jet-lagged, and your reaction time will be significantly slowed. The main Autobahn route between the two cities, A8, is usually quite congested, and most of that stretch is only four lanes. There's also a bit of up and down hill driving with a few blind curves. Throw in the Alpine and lake scenery to distract you from the road, and we're talking about a very unsafe jet-lagged drive.

Posted by
5201 posts

"You will be tired, jet-lagged, and your reaction time will be significantly slowed."

Yes. And you'll be navigating unfamiliar surroundings. And even if your plane is on time, it takes time to get your bags, get through passport control and customs, and fetch your rental car, and with sunset at around 4 pm, you'll be doing much of this drive, and finding your way around Salzburg, in the dark.

The train will get the two of you from MUC to Salzburg for 26€ on a Bayern Ticket in 2.5 hours. No advance purchase is needed. Use the local trains and travel via München Ost station. Buy ticket at MUC.
Bayern Ticket details

(The fast trains travel via Munich's main station and save you maybe 13 minutes travel time but they cost 80€ regular fare for two to Salzburg.)

Still, by positioning yourselves in a B&B on the outskirts of Salzburg, you have added at least a small amount of built-in rigor to your journey once you're in Salzburg. I believe Moosstrasse is well served bus from the station, but you have to catch a connecting bus to get out there from the center of town, correct? If so, and if you're loaded down with bags, I honestly don't know how much trouble that is. You might ask whether the innkeeper offers station pick-up. You might look into taxi fares, or you might spend your first night (or all three nights) closer in. Haus Lechner, for example, is an easy walk to the station.

It would be a simple matter to pick up a car in Salzburg if you decide you want to do day trips by car.

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi,

Everyone's different, but we always (8 trips) drive from Munich airport to either the Salzburg area or Innsbruck area upon arrival. We did a "Christmas Market" trip in 2010. Loved it. While we had 4 days with some snow, the driving wasn't a problem. Maybe stop at Herrenchiemsee on the way back to Munich.

For other markets, check out Berchtesgaden, Bad Reichenhall in Germany, Hallein, St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang and Strobl in Austria.

Buy the Austrian "vignette" at a gas station after leaving Munich. About 8 Euro.

Paul

Posted by
1437 posts

We will not be jet lagged, as we will have spent a week in London, before hopping a flight to Munich.

Thank you for the info regarding the Austrian vignette - that is very helpful indeed!
Is the IDP truly necessary? or is it just recommended?

Paul, thank you for the suggestions of areas to explore nearby - I'll look them up. St Leonhard will be quite close... we might combine it with a visit to Bad Reichenhall on the Sunday - maybe even soak in the Therme. Would the car make it easier to get to the Helbrunn Christmas market?

We will be staying at Haus Am Moos - it's a repeat visit. We like the family, the hospitality and the setting. It is well served by a direct bus to the historic center and the beer garden on the way (connection to the train station). In the past, I have taken a taxi to/from the train station with my luggage.

I used a very good discount code with Avis for a rental quote in Germany for December - so the price will be pretty equal to the Bayern ticket and taxi. I'm seriously leaning towards picking it up, as it would give us the chance to explore a bit. I booked the car, but did not pay for it in advance. That way, if the weather is poor when we arrive, we'll take the train instead.

Posted by
102 posts

Rent a car. With what you have planned you'll be able to save time and do more.

Technically you will need an IDP to drive in Austria. The vignette is only necessary if you plan to drive on the motor ways.

Posted by
12040 posts

"We will not be jet lagged, as we will have spent a week in London, before hopping a flight to Munich." OK, then ignore what I wrote earlier. It will probably be dark by the time you arrive in Salzburg, however.

Posted by
1437 posts

Thanks Tom for reminding me that it will be getting dark early. It's definitely going to be a consideration.

Posted by
784 posts

Diane,
I did this drive about the same time last year, and between the snowstorm and a Stau on the A-1, Munich downtown to Salzburg took FOUR hours! But I would still take a car. If you're staying on Moosstrasse it's very easy to get out of Salzburg to more pretty towns. Bertchesgaten has market stalls scatted throughout its center, and the nearby tiny St. Leonhart had a beautiful market of little cabins in a snowy field. In the same direction is Konigsee where you can take a mahogany boat through perfectly clear water surrounded by steep mountains, to the small island with the domed church of St Barthaloma. The drive back to Munich over the Alpinestrasse or through Innsbruck can be beautiful if you have time. Envious.

Posted by
5201 posts

"I used a very good discount code with Avis for a rental quote in Germany for December - so the price will be pretty equal to the Bayern ticket and taxi."

The Bayern ticket for two is 26€. A taxi from Salburg Hbf to 186 Moosstr. is 16€, at least according to THIS WEBSITE. 42€ total.

Gas alone for the average car for MUC - Salzburg will be around 30€. Did you really snag a rental car with winter tires for 12€/day?? I thought the daily winter tire supplement was more than 12€. Good deal if you did.

Posted by
6570 posts

Have you considered flying directly into Salzburg from London? There are a number of budget European airlines flying there, especially during the Winter.

If flying into Munich, taking the train to Salzburg might be a better option. Especially since you can catch a bus into the city for your tourist days.

You could then rent a car if the weather cooperates for day trips into the mountains. Tirol and the lake region east of Salzburg is best if seen by an automobile. We especially enjoy just rambling from village to village without any planned itinerary.

Remember that any car rentals that start in airports are subject to additional fees, taxes, surcharges, etc. Renting cars inside the city centers is always less expensive.

Posted by
1437 posts

The car rental is 60 euros (all fees in). We'd have to take the train for the return journey to Munich too. Plus taxi to/from the B&B is around 20 euros each way. So, yes, the math works ;-)

Thanks Ruth for mentioning Bertchesgaten and Konigsee. We're only planning one day for touring a bit outside of Salzburg. On our return day to Munich, a Tuesday, we will have the time to leisurely work our way back. Which route would you suggest? And at what time would you estimate the arrival in Munich to be? Ideally, we would like to be back in Munich before it got completely dark...

Posted by
18021 posts

"The car rental is 60 euros" Plus about 30€ for fuel according to ViaMichelin for the fastest route without tolls.

If you come back to Munich by public transportation, you can purchase a Bayern-Ticket in Salzburg and take the train from Salzburg Hbf to Berchtesgaden via Freilassing. The Bayern-Ticket will also cover your bus transportation in Berchtesgaden to Königssee. Then you can use the Bayern-Ticket for the trains all the way back to Munich. The trip from Berchtesgaden to Munich by regional trains takes just under 3 hours with a 12 minute, 1 platform change in Freilassing. Trains leave Berchtesgaden every hour at 20 minutes past.

You can't use the Bayern-Ticket before 9 AM workdays and the trip by train via Freilassing takes a little longer than 46 minutes for the bus. The bus (RVO 840) will cost about 4,50€ to go through Austria to Berchtesgaden, and you can leave any time (at 5 to 15 minutes past from Salzburg Hbf). Again, get the Bayern-Ticket in Salzburg and use it after 9 AM in Berchtesgaden.

I'm looking at the RVO schedules. The Watzmann Express (RVO 840) leaves Salzburg Hbf at 8:15 and gets to Berchtesgaden at 9:01. RVO 841 leaves from the Bhf at 9:15 and gets to Königssee at 9:24. Same schedule hourly through 12:15

Posted by
102 posts

Diane, Instead of leisurely working your way back from Salzburg, maybe drive back directly back to Munich to see the Christmas sites. There's the Christmas market on Marienplatz (which stretches all the way to the Christmas market on Karlsplatz), the medieval Christmas market on Wittelsbacherplatz nearby, and the Bavarian National Museum opens up their nativity scene collection.

Alternatively, if Munich doesn't interest you, you could easily spend the day driving from Salzburg to Munich through North Tyrol. Maybe stopping in Kitzbühel, Hall in Tirol, Innsbruck, Mittenwald, or Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Without stops you can do the drive in under 3 hour 30 minutes and the scenery is fantastic.

Posted by
1437 posts

Thank you Christopher, we will be spending another 2 days in Munich as well! We are already planning on hitting the markets (Marienplatz, Neuhauser Strasse, and ?Wittelsbacherplatz), catch some advent music in front of the Town Hall, and see the creche (?Krippensammlung) exhibit at the Bavarian National Museum. ;-)

We got a good rate at the Motel One München Sendlinger Tor. I am planning on munching my way through the markets, enjoying the mulled wine. Any suggestions for a reasonably priced restaurant/cafe in the center that would serve a really good Apfelstrudel? I will also be on the hunt for lebkuchen - the spicier the better!

Posted by
1437 posts

Lee, thank you so much for the detailed and very useful info!!

The route sounds very feasible for us and I shall keep it in my back pocket, in the event that we don't pick up the rental car after all. I'll check it out and pick out one in-between spot to stop in, using the Bayern ticket. The 9 a.m. restriction will not be a problem.

So, as things now stand: we shall pick up the rental car if the weather is good on arrival at Munich Airport. If it's snowing, then we do the Bayern ticket for two to Salzburg. Thanks everyone... we have the bases covered well!! :-)

Posted by
12040 posts

"Which route would you suggest?" At a minimum, and if it's open, I would say take the Alpenstraße from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden. Very scenic drive, although access may be weather-dependent.

Posted by
102 posts

Diane, Maybe try Café Glockenspiel? I’ve actually never been but it’s right on Marienplatz and has a great (indoor) view of the square. Or the Ratskeller? I’m honestly not a big Apfelstrudel fan.

Lebkuchen shouldn’t be a problem. It’s everywhere this time of year.

Also, keep in mind the Advent music is only for a half hour a day or so. I think around 6ish? But being on Marienplatz, Glühwein in hand, with the music and a little snow…. It’s perfect.

Have fun exploring!

Posted by
18021 posts

If you take the RVO bus from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, it follows Route 305, which some maps label the Alpenstrasse, but according to most websites about the Alpenstrasse, it ends in Berchtesgaden. Like the Romantic Road, the road between Salzburg and Berchtesgaden is scenic, but nothing particularly unique.

At one time or another, I've been on most of the Alpenstrasse (using public transportation, mostly buses). I think the prettiest, most interesting parts are around Reit im Winkel, the part over the mountains from Bayrischzell to Brannenburg, and the part from Bad Hindelang via Oberjoch to Wertach.

Posted by
1437 posts

Wow - thanks again, Lee! The bus instead of the train to Munich... right?

"being on Marienplatz, Glühwein in hand, with the music and a little snow…. It’s perfect."

Yes!!! The holidays will be a bit of a non-event family-wise this year (bummer!), so I'm really looking forward to this Christmas-themed trip. Since it's a repeat visit to these wonderful cities, DH and I won't need to be rushing to do all the regular sightseeing stuff...

London (1 week): Aside from gawking at the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, we've got tickets for The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House (cheap seats), the Bach Christmas Oratorio in St. Martin-In-The-Fields, a day-trip (train) to the Christmas market in Bath, and a Christmas lights bus tour (Groupon).

Salzburg (3 days): The Christmas markets, a Krampus run, an Advent concert in the Romanischen Saal of St Peter's monastery, and maybe a drive or at least a scenic bus ride through the mountains!

Munich (2 1/2 days): The Christmas markets, an outdoor advent concert, and the creche exhibition.

And thanks to a cheap Air Dolomiti fare (snagged back in April), we finish the trip in Florence for a few days... I'll always grab any excuse to go back to my favorite Italian city!

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi again Diane,

Concerning the "Alpine Road", my opinion is the best part is between Berchtesgaden and Inzell, "maybe" to Reit im Winkl. We found most of it less than amazing and quite ordinary. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded, as an Alpine Road in my opinion is the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse or alpine passes in the Dolomites. We drove a good part of the German Alpine Road just to see for ourselves. I wouldn't be bothered to do it again.

On the plus side, even if you've been to Salzburg before, wait till you experience it during the Christmas Markets. It's even more beautiful! We had visited 5 previous times, yet during the Christmas markets, it was even better.

Paul

Posted by
18021 posts

The section from Ramsau to Inzell is one of the few parts I haven't been on. The part from Inzell to Reit im Winkl is mixed forest and agriculture, big farm building with white stucco farm houses on one end and rustic wood barns on the other. Bucolic and scenic, but not particularly spectacular. The area around Reit is pretty, but from there to Bernau, it's pretty mundane. I'd skip that part entirely and go directly via Freilassing and Rosenheim to Oberaudorf. The route from Oberaudorf to Bayrischzell, via Tatzlwurm is uniquely spectacular, very mountainous, with grades up to about 9%. There is only one bus each afternoon, leaving Oberaudorf Bahnhof at 16:46, getting to Bayrischzell Bahnhof at 17:20, from which you can catch the BOB train to Munich, arriving around 7 PM.

Posted by
1437 posts

I wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this topic. We landed a little bit late at Munich airport on the Saturday, but the driving conditions were good. We were upgraded to a Mercedes B class diesel, which drove like a charm! We got to our B&B in the south end of Salzburg in under 2 hours. Although the last hour of the drive was done in darkness, I had printed a good map and we got there directly. Our vignette costs 8.50 euros and we appreciated the suggestion of buying it from a gas station - it was very easy to do!

Since we had the car, on the Sunday, we drove to Wolfgangsee in the Salzkammergut. We went through St. Gilgen and Strobl, and spent almost the whole afternoon in the wonderful Christmas market in St. Wolfgang. We finished the day by heading to Eugendorf for a fun, fun, fun Krampus run!

One group delighted us with a bunch of Orcs and a Gollum - I was thrilled! The costumes were scary, the 60 or so Krampus were playful, and the local kids just cheeky in egging them on. Hats kept getting pulled over the eyes, coal smeared on older kids faces, some candies handed out to the cute littlest ones, and lots and lots of scary, in-your-face, interaction! I got thwacked a few times and squealed once or twice. There couldn't have been more than a few tourists there, as all we could see around us were local families.

We went into Salzburg by bus. There we visited the Christmas market, attended an advent concert and finished one evening at the Augustiner beerhall. We lucked into a very good German band from Leipzig playing English- and German-language classic rock'n'roll, in room #3. We never found out if it was a private event or not, as we were invited to sit with a group of German-speaking people when we poked our nose in. The extent of our conversation went like this: Canada = hockey = good, and signing along to the English covers! :-) :-) :-)

The drive back to Munich was over the mountain from Moosstrasse to Bad Reichenhall. We went up the oldest alpine arial tram and had lunch at the small Christmas market there. We then took a leisurely drive only as far as Reit im Winkl, before heading into Munich to drop off the car near Ostbanhof.

We were very happy with our decision to rent a car. Since Salzburg was a repeat visit, it afforded us the freedom and time-saving to do quite a bit more than if we had gone with our original plan of taking the train. We had a superb car, gas cost a total of about 40 euros, we got everywhere we wanted to get to easily and we had no issues with traffic or driving conditions.

So thanks again for all the great info, recommendations and suggestions!

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi Diane,

Thanks for the update. Glad to hear your trip went so well. We returned from our "Christmas market" trip 2 weeks ago, our second in 3 years. This was our first time to St. Wolfgang, which we loved. We took the ship from St. Gilgan, but we based in Schonau am Konigsee. We also ran into many Krampus' in Schladming and Altenmarkt in the Dachstein area. thanks again for writing.

Paul