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Switzerland & Austria - Rental Car or Public Transportation

We are flying into Zurich mid September, staying one week at a timeshare just east of Geneva. Then, we travel to another timeshare located between Salzburg and Innsbruck for the final week. We fly home via Munich. Each timeshare will be used as a hub for day trips, with an occasional overnight trip. Should we rent a car for the two weeks or rely on public transportation? If PT, what type of pass should we consider? Thank you.

Posted by
2779 posts

Definitely rent one car per location, i.e. one in Switzerland and another one, local one, in Austria. There is so much to do and see, especially the small Alpine villages, you definitely need to be flexible, need to get there. Cars rented in Switerland already come with the Swiss freeway toll sticker. For day trips to France, like Chamonix, you pay at the toll booths where applicable. An Austrian rental car comes with the Austrian toll sticker. There is no freeway toll on the German/Bavarian side. In Italy you pay at toll booths, again. Even though the Swiss have a great train system it just doesn't take you anywhere in and at the time needed. Afterall, a train requires several serpentines to climb a mountain which slows it down significantly.

Posted by
8976 posts

You shouldn't need a car for Switzerland. Switzerland has one of the best train networks in the world, that connects both the large cities and small villages. The Swiss Pass covers most all modes of transportation:rail, buses, boats, cable cars, municipal transit systems, and free entry to most all museums. The few scenic rail railways/cable cars not covered, get you a 50% discount

Posted by
6898 posts

I agree with Micheal. Switzerland has more miles of railroad track per citizen than any other country in the world. It is extensive and is everywhere. There are very few places where you would need a car. And, in places where there may be a bit of distance from the train station to where you want to go, you can bet that there's a local bus. It's an amazing and efficient system. Also, there are Swiss villages higher up where cars aren't permitted but you can get there by train or gondola. Take the train in Switzerland.

Posted by
2779 posts

Dean, thank you. That's exactly my point! And I travel to both of the country several times per year and always drive... admitted, I live in Frankfurt and just bring my own car. But I'd never even think about making myself dependent on train schedules and the reach of the rail system.

Posted by
8976 posts

I just returned from a week long trip to Switzerland last week(my fourth trip to CH). Except for one day in Basel, I spent all my time in the countryside using trains and a couple of buses. Never had to wait more than 15 minutes for any train, never had any problems handling my one bag, and like I said in my original post, trains extensively serve small town Switzerland. In fact, in my rail travels I noticed a lot of the highways were at a standstill with heavy traffic; I was glad to be riding the rails! As far as I'm concerned public transit and Switzerland is a no brainer.

Posted by
7205 posts

I can't believe anyone would recommend renting a car in Switzerland. The transportation network is extensive and includes not only trains but boats, gondolas, cogwheels, buses...it's all integrated, clean, efficient and on-time! Several of the alpine villages don't even allow cars - access is only by public transport.

Posted by
3551 posts

I would train it in Switzerland and to Salzburg but after you see Salzburg rent a car to visit rest of Austria. Don't miss tranquil Hallstatt.

Posted by
67 posts

There seems to be a bias against auto rentals. Train travel does have some advantages, but overall the constant baggage handling, waiting for trains and the inability to see the countryside makes this option unnatractive to me. I have travelled to Europe many times and have with one exception rented a car. The one time I did not rent was when we stayed in London for one week. When you go from city center to city center, trains make sense. Otherwise I vote for a car.

Mike asked specifically about Switzerland and Austria. I have been to both and recommend driving if he wants to see the countryside.

Posted by
7205 posts

I agree totally with the previous poster! When dealing with rental cars then you get into all kinds of other issues like CDW with big deductibles, high petrol costs, expensive and/or non-existent parking, traffic, etc.

At least in Switzerland, there's very little reason to ever need a car.

Posted by
10344 posts

It may not be so much a bias against car rentals (previous post) as it is trying to give the most prudent advice to the first-time traveler who writes in looking for advice. The experienced traveler already knows what is the best choice (train or car rental) for his/her trip; you know what is best for you and Michael knows what is best for him. But what we frequently get on this HelpLine is the first time traveler to Europe writing to us and saying: "Please advise me, I've never driven in Italy but am thinking about renting a car to drive to Florence (among other places)." We're trying to help them by making the point that the decision to rent a car in some places in Europe is not necessarily the no-brainer that it is when traveling in the US.

Posted by
29 posts

This message board is fantastic! You are all very helpful, willing to share and I really appreciate your quick responses. I will digest the options and make an informed decision. This IS our first trip and certainly won't be our last. We have always had a love affair with this area from afar.

Thank you all.
Mike

Posted by
67 posts

The posts in this helpline has been excellent. As mentioned by others, our opinion has been formed by our own experiences as well as our own personalities.

There is no doubt that public transportation in Europe is far superior to ours here. Plans should be made not on our experiences in the USA, but on what exists in Europe. Kent had it right. This forum is about new travelers - not people like me who has decided what works best for him.

Mike, enjoy your upcoming trip - and let us know what you did.

My wife and I will be going in June of next year to Switzerland - and will lease a car. I am too old to change habits.

Posted by
8976 posts

Dean,
Just a heads up that next June Switzerland and Austria are co-hosting the European Soccer Championships. It's the third most popular sporting event behind the Olympics and the World Cup. So expect sky high hotel rates and large crowds.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Dean,

Thanks very much. I can't wait to share our experiences. We've waited 25 years for this opportunity!

Mike

Posted by
850 posts

Matter of personal preference. I much prefer a car. The freedom to come and go when you want and the felxibility to stop anywhere you wish for photo ops, picnics and to easily visit out of the way places are things to consider. For me these offset the negatives of renting a car. I don't mind driving at all but understand those who do. Maybe you can mix it up and do both and then decide for yourself. We park our car and take the train into big cities. If you drive look into getting a gps.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Lane, that is very good advice as well. I have a GPS. I just need to purchase the appropriate map software.

Thanks.

Posted by
4 posts

We were in Switzerland for Christmas 2006. We took the train through places you could never see by car. The mountain scenery is breathtaking and there were very few roads in many of the areas we traveled. We have traveled all over Europe and the Swiss Rail system is by far the best we have found. Trains run on time (to the minute) as you would expect from the country that created the Swiss Watch!

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
12926 posts

I have spent eight weeks (on different trips) traveling around Switzerland with my family. I have never, even for a second, wished we had a car. The Swiss travel system (trains, boats, cablecars, and post busses) is amazing, and takes you many places that you cannot even reach by car. You don't have to worry about navigation, parking, tolls, price of gasoline, proper insurance, . . . anything. The best places in Switzerland---the carfree villages, some beautiful lakes, mountaintops---are not accessible by car. As for the countryside, I feel I can see it much better from my comfortable seat on the train than I can from a car. And if we want to get off the train and ride partway by boat, we can do that on our travel pass at no extra expense. For us, using the trains, boats, and cablecars is one of the pleasures of visiting our favorite country. Learning to use it is fun and easy (and one is "never too old").

On the other hand, I would recommend renting a car in Austris

Posted by
29 posts

There is merit to trying both. This way we can better decide for the next time we go. Is there one rail pass better than another based on the following? Flying into Zurich, staying in Torgon, Switzerland (east of Geneva) for one week. We want to tour the surrounding area. Then, I would imagine we would take a train to Munich, pick up a rental car and drive to Maria Alm, Austria (between Innsbruck and Salzburg) for the second week. Then, return the car and fly out of Munich.

Thanks again.

Posted by
12926 posts

Hi Mike---I'm am going to revise my recommendation. There is no train to Torgon! It is accessible only by car or Postbus. The busses do not run very frequently (several hours apart), so that is not very convenient. You'll be much better off with a car if you want to leave there and see the surrounding area. The location looks lovely---have a great time.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Lola,

Thanks very much. I should have been more specific with the location. Now my decision is much easier.

September is so far off!

Mike

Posted by
12926 posts

Ah, but you have lots of time to plan! I've always wondered if was possible to actually get a timeshare week in Switzerland---I hope this works out for you.

You will be in a great location for daytrips in the beautiful Valais region. One I can highly recommend is a trip to Bettmeralp or up the Eggishorn to see the Aletschgletscher. Check out these websites: www.bettmeralp.ch and www.eggishorn.ch You would leave the car in either Betten or Fiesch (carparks available) and ride a cablecar up to one of the most amazing views.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Lola,

We have "average" traders and had a choice of 7 in Switzerland and 6 in Austria. I booked them two weeks ago. Recently, I checked to see what was still available for that time period (September) and they are all gone. Good thing I didn't wait!

Thanks for your additional helpful information.

Mike