Please sign in to post.

Driving Germany in Winter

A friend and I am planning to tour Holland, France, Germany and Czech this December. Planning on maybe 6-7 location total. Is it not a good idea to Drive in Europe in the winter? Can it be treacherous? or just time consuming? We Really really like the idea of having a portable "locker"(car) so we wont have to drag our stuff around. also we think it will be cheaper than rail. The eurorail website is listing a 2 week pass for just over $500 a head. 500 x2 =1K The rental car is estimated at $500 for the same period less tolls and gas. (500+fuel and tolls)/2= estimated less than or equal to 1k. any and all input/suggestions welcome Thanks

Posted by
18064 posts

Pat, your numbers don't add up! (You calculated the total price for rail passes vs. the per person cost for a car.) Your rental car is $500. ViaMichelin estimates gas cost for an economy hatchback, VW Polo or equivalent, at €320 or $430. That's $930 for two people. Compare two 4 country, 5 day select passes for $398 per person, or $798 for two. $130 less for the rail passes. And I'm sure with some advance purchase you could do better, <$500 with point-point, than with the rail passes. . . . . ¶ Why are you so "hell bent" on driving that you would fudge the number to justify it? Oh, there is the Nürburgring thing. They probably won't be open that time of year, but I hope you're not planning on entertaining some juvenile Walter Middy fantasy by driving your rental car on the race track. Unless you hold something equivalent to an SCCA National license, you're not qualified to do that.

Posted by
10344 posts

There's also a downside to thinking of your rental car as a portable locker. Some other folks could think of the car, or all of your stuff in it while parked, as "portable", this has been known to happen, especially in some areas of Eastern Europe. This is one of the things that often makes rental car drivers nervous, rolling the dice every time you have to leave your car in a parking lot with all your stuff in it.

Posted by
12040 posts

First of all, don't compare the price of a pass on Eurorail to the price of a rental car. Eurorail is a third-party ticket agent that doesn't show you all the options and charges premium prices. The only way to know the real prices of point-to-point tickets versus a rail pass versus a rental car is to go to the national rail websites, and plot the cost of each leg of the trip. Only then can you see what rail will actually cost. ~ But as to driving in December, the big question would be "Where"? Snow is most common in the Alps, but even there, the major roads rarely close for more than a few hours after a snowstorm. Significant snow falls in most of the rest of the country aren't nearly as common, although of course, there are many regional variations. Far more likely to pose a driving hazard in December is rain and thick morning fog. The Netherlands will also likely be foggy, but I would not expect snow. Couldn't comment on the Czech Republic.

Posted by
1357 posts

Also, some rental companies won't let you take their cars into the Czech republic. And, if you're flying open-jaw, drop fees in a different country are outrageous.

Posted by
2297 posts

We chose the train for our trip to Germany last December even though we can borrow a car for free and the train was the more expensive option for us. Booking the tickets ahead of time (point-to-point tickets with special fares) I had no idea what kind of weather Europe would experience but driving in December is seldom really fun. While some areas are less likely to get snow it is still very common to see fog and black ice. As it turned out, last December got an extraordinary amount of snow plunging streets into chaos. We were sitting in a warm train and looking at traffic jams outside ... the one time we had to drive by car because public transit wasnt' an option it took us over 2 hours for 90 km. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Are you saying you want to see 6-7 locations in 2 weeks? That is ambitious even at the best of times but in winter no matter what means of transport you're choosing you have to take delays into account and will spend a lot of time either on the road or in a train. I'd cut down on the number of locations, that way point-to-point train tickets are a better option than a rail pass and cheaper than a car rental.

Posted by
73 posts

I tend to agree with Beatrix, even though I am not a fan of public transportation in the Netherlands. Last year, it started snowing around half december, and it did not stop until March. The funny thing is, just even think of snow, and the whole country seems to come to a full stop. As in: get in your car and park it on the highway. It is too early to tell, but expectations so far for this winter are wet (rain) or white (snow), due to La Nina, a warm gulfstream in the ocean that is expected to cause depressions in north western Europe. I am no expert on that, though.

Posted by
2297 posts

I have to side with Ronald on the Dutch trains. When we headed back to Schiphol it was a very stressful train ride. Our first train had a 8 min delay and the connecting train in Enschede didn't wait. So we waited for half an hour and took the next one ... one where the heating didn't work and ice was forming on the inside of the windows ... at 7am this does not make for a comfortable ride. On the plus side, that day Schiphol was running on time while the entire airport had shut down the day we arrived in Europe due to the snow ... BUT this was still A LOT better than the alternative of being stuck in a traffic jam on the highway.

Posted by
8 posts

Updated more info. trip Starting Dec18 Approximatly slightly more than 2 week total trip time. I will be flying in and out of Paris. The planned route is Paris, Franfurt, Prague,(maybe Berlin), Hamburg, Amsterdam and back to Paris. Also depending if the race track is open the Nuerburgring might be a destination while on the way to Frankfurt. Is this route central enough to avoid the worst of the weather or is destine to have sever road issues? Thanks again all. I really Appreciate the input!

Posted by
8434 posts

I am in Germany with a rental car right now, and both Germany and Italy (where I was before I came here) do not allow their rentals into the Czech Republic. Berlin should not be a problem. I suggest that in the winter, trains might be your best bet. I understand the benefits of a car, but with weather issues I would reconsider. Many train stations have a left luggage room or lockers, so if you just want to check something out briefly in a town while traveling through you can utilize them.

Posted by
26448 posts

http://www.nurburgring.org.uk/carhire.html is a good website about the Nuerburgring and driving there. Note what they say about rental car spotters watching. Anybody who can pay can drive it. My insurance company even suggests it. But not everybody leaves walking, and not all cars or bikes leave on 4 or 2 wheels. .... A word to the wise is sufficient. >>In December?!?!?<<

Posted by
8 posts

Don't worry fellas Im not planning on driving on the race track. The idea was to watch or hire a taxi.

Posted by
31325 posts

Pat, I wouldn't recommend driving in December in the countries you mentioned, as the roads COULD BE treacherous. Given your location, have you had much experience with winter driving? I most definitely agree with the others on two points: First, as Kent mentioned it's not a real good idea to use the car as a "portable locker", as thieves will absolutely take advantage of that. Secondly, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to take the car to the Czech Republic. ¶ One other concern I'd have is whether the car is equipped with adequate WINTER tires. I know from my own experience that rental agencies here only use all-season tires on their vehicles, which are NOT ADEQUATE!!! I don't know whether the laws for rental agencies are different in Europe? I've been driving in Canadian winters for over 40 years, and proper winter tires on all four wheels are ESSENTIAL (trust me on that)! ¶ Another point to consider is that with a very limited time frame and 6-7 locations to visit, travel by car is going to be considerably slower and less efficient than travel by train (especially in winter). Whether rental car is "cheaper than rail" shouldn't be a factor. I'd suggest looking at the best method that will get you to the locations you want to see. ¶ Hopefully you'll be "packing light" so won't have too much "stuff" to drag around? ¶ While the trains can also be delayed by inclement weather, they will be much faster than travel by car. Happy travels!

Posted by
8 posts

I appreciate the advice. I am now heavily looking into the train method. I have been poking around on the RailEurope site and I am becoming a little frustrated. If I go the Rail pass route I still have to pay an additional reservation Fee?! For those that have experience, should I go point to point or should I go with a pass? And also if I book through RailEurope do I have to worry about any more fees in addition to the Reservation fee? Thanks again All.

Posted by
18064 posts

This might be heresy considering our benefactor's sponsorship relationship with RailEurope, but based on many years of analyses, I wouldn't ever buy point-point tickets for Germany from RailEurope. You'll pay more than the counter price over there. German Rail (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en&#41; sells advance purchase tickets online for far less than the counter price. You can, for example, get tickets on a route starting outside Germany, for a single connection into Germany, and than to anywhere using as many trains as you need in Germany, for as low as €39. Or you could do it the opposite direction. You can do the same thing from anywhere in Germany to anywhere in Germany for as low as €49 (€29 + €20) for two people. The only restriction (like planes, really) is that the tickets are for specific dates and express trains. You'll find these tickets shown under "savings fares" on the Bahn website, and they are only available online from Bahn.de. Right now, I can see a ticket for two people on December 1 from Paris (9:09) to Frankfurt (12:58) for €78 for both. I'm also seeing two people, Frankfurt to Nürnberg by ICE and Nürnberg to Prague by special non-stop bus, for €58 (for both). . . . . . ¶ I know how to find the best fares in, or partially in Germany. Someone else will have to advise you from Amsterdam back to Paris (or book the flight "open jaws"). (Or go Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Paris and use German Rail.)

Posted by
10344 posts

"This might be heresy considering our benafactor's relationship with RailEurope...." Lee, you bad boy, are you trying to get yourself in trouble?

Posted by
26448 posts

Good advice Lee. But Amsterdam to Paris via F-a-M? That's a bit around the sun to get to the moon, don't you think? Amsterdam to Paris, I suggest is a straightforward decision to take Thalys, and get an advance reservation for the strange low-slung red train. You could go International train to Brussels then Thalys, but why not go straight through? Its not a bad ride. Good advice with all else. Then there will be a few €€€s to spend on Thalys.

Posted by
2828 posts

Whomever has ever driven in an American road during winter has NOTHING to fear about European roads. Snowstorms are FAR lighter that those found in, for instance, New England. If you have ever driven to Colorado slopes in winter, you are more than trained to face European winter traffic, snow-wise. The only difference is that there is less sunlight in Europe, generally speaking, as latitudes are higher than the weather might make you think (a place with a Florida-like weather is probably at New Jersey's latitude).

Posted by
12040 posts

"trip Starting Dec18 Approximatly slightly more than 2 week total trip time. I will be flying in and out of Paris. The planned route is Paris, Franfurt, Prague,(maybe Berlin), Hamburg, Amsterdam and back to Paris" That is an awful lot of traveling for only two weeks...

Posted by
791 posts

Driving is fine in the winter unless you're going through the Alps which can be treacherous but don't forget that most European countries don't use salt on the roads like in the US for environmental reasons I guess. I love the freedom of driving around Europe but be warned, the gas is VERY expensive over here, as are tolls. And if you're planning on driving into the big cities, parking will be a problem and you'll probably have to pay for that as well. I'm no expert but I would not be surprised if you end up paying over 1k just for gas, tolls and parking with all the driving you'll be doing.

Posted by
791 posts

Guess it's been a while since I drove in Germany in the winter time, my apologies.

Posted by
2297 posts

Areas like Holland and Northern Germany (Hamburg was mentioned as a destination) usually don't get much snow. So yes, there is a good chance you won't see any snow at all in December. But that doesn't always make winter travel much easier. In part, because fog and ice (rain freezing as soon as it touches the road !!!!!) are still major issues for road travel during this time of year. And in part because if there is indeed snow people in these areas aren't used driving in those conditions and you get slowed down anyways. My husband has lived and driven through dozens of Canadian winters and is used to winter driving conditions. But if somebody is driving in front of him doing 30 km/h there is no way he can speed up and pass when he's on one of those narrow (and snowy) European roads. And don't forget the lack of snow removal equipment in some of these areas. What we've seen to remove snow on country roads in NW Germany is the kind of equipment used for Calgary sidewalks ...

Posted by
2297 posts

This is all about YOUR willingness to take risks. People can travel for 2 weeks to the busiest tourist destinations of Italy, not wearing a money belt or other protective devices, and don't become victims of theft. But others aren't willing to let their vacation be put in peril due to a rare pickpocket event and prefer to protect themselves. In a similar vain, you can travel through Central Europe in December by car and chances are it will work out just fine. But there is a risk that your travel plans could be seriously be impacted by weather. Nobody here can predict how large that risk will be this year. We weren't willing to take the risk last winter and were very glad we had train tickets in our pockets. The first time ever out of many European vacations we did train travel only. And the next non-winter vacation will include a car again.

Posted by
1357 posts

Something else to consider is whether you want a car in the cities that you're visiting. You won't want (or need) one in Paris, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt. Haven't been to Hamburg, but you probably won't want a car there, either. The only time I've wanted a car in Europe is when I'm visiting smaller towns, where parking and driving there isn't much of an issue. In any of these towns, you'll either have to find a place on the outskirts where you can park for free, or pony up for parking.