I want to drive, she wants a train.

Munich to Venice, Lake Como and Switzerland and back again. Can I drive or should I let my wife get her way and train it up? Stopping along the way and taking one's time does sound nice...

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

...Munich to Venice, Lake Como and Switzerland and back again... Why not into Munich and back from , say , Zurich ? ( open jaw )

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
608 posts

Last trip we rented a car in Frankfurt and took 6 days traveling to Rothenburg, Fussen, through Switzerland (St. Moritz) to Lake como to Venice on our way to Tuscany and flew out of Florence. we planned each day so we were never driving for more than about 4 hours, which allowed time to stop along the way or having time to enjoy by leaving later, or arriving earlier at a destination.
We really enjoyed the drive, and you absolutely need a GPS. My husband drives and I'm the Navigator. After a couple of times where we missed the exit out of a round about, I told my husband to just keep going around until I figured out which way to exit. After that no more driver/navigator tension.

Posted by Rick
Edmond, Oklahoma, USA
5 posts

Happy wife happy life. Work in some train even if it doesn't make economical sense. Its part of the European experience. I'd train long segments Munich-viena. You won't want or need a car either place. I lived in Munich 2 months and rode in a car only twice.

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
370 posts

The drive you are talking about is not difficult at all once you get out of Munich. The whole trick to driving in Europe is to stay out of the bis cities as much as possible. You will be traveling through some beautiful country and a car gives you the ability, as they say, stop and smell the roses along the way. It also delivers you to your hotel, not the train station, which gives you a lot more latitude along the way. As was said above you want a GPS with a European map card as well as some good paper maps to back it up and give you the big picture of where you are. You can use ViaMichelin or Google maps to plan your drives and get a handle on time and distance for each leg. There are two other things you need to do. 1) Get an International Driving Permit, they are easy to get at AAA and are required in Austria and Italy. You probably will never need it, but if you get stopped and don't have one life gets very ugly very fast starting with a 250 Euro fine on the spot. 2) In Austria and Switzerland you need to have a vignette to drive on the autobahns. If you rental car doesn't have them, you need to buy them immediately after crossing the border. They are available in ant gas station or border crossing, the Swiss one is good for year but the Austrian one can be bought for as little as seven days. Read the instructions an mount the where they are supposed to go on the car. They use road side cameras for enforcement, you might even want to take your own picture of the installation for your records. I hope my cautions don't scare you off, they are just minor necessities to having a great time. Another trip to the Swiss Alps is on my permanent bucket list. Have a great time.

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
370 posts

The drive you are talking about is not difficult at all once you get out of Munich. The whole trick to driving in Europe is to stay out of the big cities as much as possible. You will be traveling through some beautiful country and a car gives you the ability, as they say, stop and smell the roses along the way. It also delivers you to your hotel, not the train station, which gives you a lot more latitude along the way. As was said above you want a GPS with a European map card as well as some good paper maps to back it up and give you the big picture of where you are. You can use ViaMichelin or Google maps to plan your drives and get a handle on time and distance for each leg. There are two other things you need to do. 1) Get an International Driving Permit, they are easy to get at AAA and are required in Austria and Italy. You probably will never need it, but if you get stopped and don't have one life gets very ugly very fast starting with a 250 Euro fine on the spot. 2) In Austria and Switzerland you need to have a vignette to drive on the autobahns. If you rental car doesn't have them, you need to buy them immediately after crossing the border. They are available in any gas station or border crossing, the Swiss one is good for year but the Austrian one can be bought for as little as seven days. Read the instructions and mount them where they are supposed to go on the car. They use road side cameras for enforcement, you might even want to take your own picture of the installation for your records. I hope my cautions don't scare you off, they are just minor necessities to having a great time. Another trip to the Swiss Alps is on my permanent bucket list. Have a great time.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11271 posts

Gosh, it seems that every time I want to go somewhere in Denver, I have to use a car. Part of the fun of a European vacation is freedom from a car. It's so nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery, rather than watch the road. Or, if I don't want to look at the scenery, I can read a book, work on my journal, sleep, whatever. The time is mine. Using the great public transportation in Europe is part of the adventure - doing something you can't do at home. Enjoy a new experience. Save the driving for home. If you really want to drive, get in the car Sunday afternoon and drive to Colorado Springs. That's just about the same as the Autobahn - bumper to bumper at high speed, not quite as fast as the Autobahn, but pretty much the same. "Work in some train even if it doesn't make economical sense." I've compared a car rental to public transportation for most of my trips over the last 12 years, and a rental car has never made economical sense.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1969 posts

I don't know how many tunnels you have to go through on your route, but my husband decided he really hates tunnels after the tens and tens we went through in Switzerland and Italy. We counted 16 just from Interlacken to Bellagio, Lake Como, including the longest tunnel in Europe. We've decided we're taking the train next time we go anywhere near Switzerland. By the way, he's French and used to driving in Europe.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

I would suggest tucking your testosterone back in and buying a train ticket. Sit back and relax. I've found wives are right almost always.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17753 posts

Scott, I tend to agree with the others (and your Wife) that travel by well planned trains would be a better option. Depending on the specific route, in many cases it will be faster than by car especially if using the Freccia (high speed) trains in Italy which run at up to 300 kmH. Whether "stopping along the way and taking one's time" is a good choice will depend to some extent on how much time you have for the trip. I like to get where I'm going as quickly as possible, as the travel time between cities is "wasted touring time". There are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of when riding trains in Italy (and apparently now in Switzerland also). If you need further information, post another note. Whether a car or train is a better option for Lago di Como may depend on which town you plan on staying in? The usual favourite here is the small town of Varenna on the east shore, mid lake area. It's 1H:03M by train from Milan. In addition to the "driving issues" described by Irv, you'll also need to avoid the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas in Italy. If you violate these, expensive fines will result, which you won't know about until several months after you return home. You won't need a car in the locations you mentioned, so it will likely be parked and gathering dust while you're touring (which you'll be paying for). There's also the high cost of fuel, tolls on the motorways, etc. Happy travels!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2174 posts

incidental comment @bets: Germany has far less road tunnels than Switzerland, Italy have a lot of them, 132 to be exact if one drives from Ventimiglia to Reggio Calabria for instance. There are two caveats though: train routes have a lot of tunnels as well, and most road tunnels have an alternate route going up and down the mountain they cross, usually a beautiful route:)

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9109 posts

To help answer this question, perhaps you could provide some further information. Mainly, for what reasons do you want to drive, and why does your wife want to take the train? If the reason you want to drive is to experience the German Autobahn network... I can tell you that the experience is not nearly as fun or fast as it sounds.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
647 posts

...on the other hand, if you have the time and you want to drive for the sheer joy of driving, rent a car. My husband and I rented a car in Stuttgart and "drove the Alps" for the last 2 weeks of June 2011. He loves to drive, I love to ride and I'm a good navigator. We spent very little time on the fast roads, only using them when absolutely necessary. We got the appropriate stickers for Austria and Switzerland at the equivalent of a small grocery or gas station in Germany before heading into Austria and just across the border into Switzerland driving west from Lake Como. We had a great time driving those small back roads, but doing that is for people who like the going as much as the being there. We did go through some tunnels. It was all part of the adventure. We spent nights in the following towns: Fuessen and Berchtesgaden in Germany, Grossglockner (Pass) in Austria, Merano and Varenna in Italy, Zermatt in Switzerland (note: no private vehicles are allowed in Zermatt and you have to park in a little town somewhat down the mountain and take a little train up to it) and Annecy in France. We drove from Annecy to a small town in Germany just over the border from Basel to return the car. Yes, there were days when the car sat idle and yes, it was probably more expensive than taking the train, but it was well worth it. I'm a broken record about this, but go to Gemut.com to learn about driving in Europe and contact Andy if you need questions answered by an expert.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7822 posts

Does the price of gas and tolls does not always add up to economical sense.. train travel can be much cheaper if point to points are purchased ahead of time.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1466 posts

It's a lot of driving. But if you enjoy it and don't mind spending quite more money and occasionally getting lost then I think that your wife would like convenience of starting trip when you want, stop when you want and door to door service. With the car I usually don't even book accommodation ahead (with few exceptions).

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

The nicest thing about a train is not having to drive. You can use the time to peruse your guide book, eat a picnic lunch you bought earlier, or nap. Your wife may want a train because she doesn't want to be stuck navigating (while you keep your eyes on the road). My deciding factors for transportation are options, time and price. Sometimes, training isn't an option - I may have only a car or bus option. The worst thing about trains are connections and limited schedules that can burn a lot of valuable travel time. If your itinerary works well with trains great, if you plan intermediate stops or visiting sights that aren't well served by trains, you may need to consider a car. My general price rule is the break even point for train vs. car is about three people. With four or more, I'll almost always drive. With two people I'll train if I can make it work. It doesn't have to be all one or the other. One leg, or more, may work great with a train while others really call for a car.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11271 posts

There is a Eurocity (EC) train directly from Munich Hbf to Venice, leaves Munich at 11:31, arrives in Venice at 6:10 PM. No changes. It takes a scenic route over Brenner Pass and down through the Alto Adige part of Italy. With sufficient advance purchase, tickets start at 39€ pP; seat reservations are 4€ ea. That's about the cost of gas and tolls, not including days of rental. You don't need a car in Munich and can't use one in Venice. There are fast trains to Milan and other trains from there to Lake Como. LeNord has trains from Cordona Station in Milan right into the harbor at Como, from which you can catch a ferry to any town on the lake.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Unless you have several days to spend between Munich and Venice, a car makes no sense for that part. If you rent the car in Germany you would want to keep it the whole trip and return it in Germany to avoid huge drop fees. But you don't want a car in Venice, and depending where you are going in Switzerland, you might not want one there either. And having seen the line of traffic waiting to crawl through the Gotthard Tunnel from my train window, there is no way I would want to drive that section. Why not mix it up? Take the train Lee suggests from Munich to Venice. After your time in Venice, rent a car at Piazzale Roma for the drive to Verenna. A car could be useful there for touring around the lake and up into the hills. (You can use lake boats to get around the lake, but not anywhee away from the shore). If you could take several days on this drive you could include the Veneto (Bassano de Grappa, Asolo, and other towns) and Lago di Garda. After Varenna you could return the in Italy (Como?) and catch the train into Switzerland. Rent another car when you get back into Germany if your travel plans include touring Bavaria, the Black Forest, etc.

Posted by Toni
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
1 posts

We're going to Switzerland and Italy in May, and I have the opposite issue--I want to take the trains, while my husband wants to rent a car. Since he doesn't really like to drive, meaning I'd have to do the bulk of it, our solution is obvious. We're taking the trains. :-) For your situation, I like the suggestions you've received of mixing it up and doing a bit of both. Could be a win-win. Or, it could be that no one is happy! Good luck.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2374 posts

Probably the key bit of data missing is how much time you are alotting to this trip? If this is a week trip and you are planning 2 or three of those days in Venice, then forget the car, you will be zipping from one point to the next, no time to stop. If this is three weeks and you have plans for stops away from the train routes, then OK. The other point to make is that it need not be either/or. I like to take most of my long hauls either by train or plane, then when I get somewhere that a car might be nice (maybe Lake Como, or a stop in Switzerland) then I rent a car for the day or a few days, returning it to the same agency. That way I avoid drop off fees, insurance issues with taking a car into Italy, etc.