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Is there a bias here against renting cars in Europe?

Is there a bias or prejudice, on the Helpline, against renting cars in Italy and elsewhere in Europe?

Posted by
21249 posts

Sure, but so what ?? If you could do a profile of the average poster here, I am sure it would not match the profile of the typical tourist, especially Am tourist. It is just the nature of who is attracted to this site. I don't think trains are anti-Am but Americans no experience with form of transportation other than planes and min experience with big city public transit. We have been well trained by our airline systems to expect poor service, terrible seats, crowded conditions, buy tickets early, high prices, etc., etc. so the idea of purchasing a reasonable priced ticket at the last minutes, frequent service, and riding in decent comfort in a second class car is very foreign to us. It is the cultural difference thing.

Posted by
18022 posts

I guess some people would say that I have a bias against rental cars, but it's based on practicality. Before almost every trip, I've gotten prices (including from the favorite source here) for a rental car and added the gas cost estimate from ViaMichelin. I always find that using a car would cost me 2-1/2 to 3 times as much as using public transportation, and in 10 years, I have only found one place I couldn't get to conveniently by train (however, I saw someplace just as interesting that I wouldn't have otherwise seen). . . . . ¶ When I was in college, I had to read Franz Kafka's Amerika. Kafka had never been to America, but he imagined it as just like Europe, only in a grander scale (the hotels, for instance, were bigger, with more elevators and bellboys). Of course, that was just what he was imagining. Similarly, people who don't really know Europe imagine it as just like America. Over here, public transportation sucks and you need a car to get anywhere. So Europe must be the same, right? You must need a car. . . . . ¶ Until you learn it, European transportation is intimidating. But if you use it, your trips will cost you less, and you can afford to come back more often.

Posted by
4362 posts

When someone automatically 'reaches for' the car rental, it's very appropriate to point out the differences between travel in Europe and the USA...typically, they don't know about the extensive train system, and/or they're extremely intimidated by it. And I won't even go into the ZTL problem...To berate someone or deride their choice to rent a car, however, isn't called for. And there's been some of that over the years on the Helpline. Perhaps the people on the Helpline have more than the average tourists' interest and curiosity to dig for ways to get around that aren't always spelled out in the guidebooks. And some people here actually read the guidebooks 8^/ ...Too many people have reported how much more difficult it was to drive in Europe than they expected - and they deal with terrible traffic everyday; some people are motivated by a desire to prepare a 'newbie renter' about the pitfalls. And some of us just think the trains are FUN and more relaxing than driving and want to share the gospel! ;-)

Posted by
2297 posts

I think there is a definite bias in favour of trains on the helpline. For good reason, it is a very good transportation option for most people on the helpline - those travelling with a mid-range budget, usually as a couple, usually trying to see the top sights. And sometimes it's the BEST transportation option, especially when it's the top capitals like Paris, Rome or London few here would argue to take a car. Just like nobody would suggest to rent a car to see Manhatten as a tourist .......................................................................................... Problems and debates arise when the itinerary of the poster is not quite clear, when it's hard to see whether they are travelling in a group which could change the economics in favour of a car. There are places in Europe that are difficult to explore without a car. Rural Tuscany, Sicily, Normandy, Brittany, many rural areas in Germany ... But all those details are often missed in debates. ..............................................................................................And yes, then there are also those visitors to the helpline that are new to European travel and while some of them might have done already a lot of background research sometimes that is not clear and questions that include daytrips with 8 hours travelling times let me wonder if they actually thought about what transportation looks like in Europe .................................................................................... Not that they are alone in this. We've had visitors from Germany here asking if we could do a day trip to see Niagara Falls!

Posted by
2297 posts

My pet peeve is more when people make a decision to rent a car in Europe but then expect driving to be like at home, e.g. renting the largest car they can afford not understanding it will be difficult and expensive to park and expensive to gas up. Not to mention it's harder to drive through narrow streets. Or getting surprised by "expensive" parking (please try out downtown Calgary!) or lack of signage which is more often than not lack of understanding of signage.

Posted by
12376 posts

From an online dictionary: bi·as? ?/?ba??s/ –noun- 1. an oblique or diagonal line of direction, esp. across a woven fabric. 2. a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice. 3. Statistics . a systematic as opposed to a random distortion of a statistic as a result of sampling procedure. In which sense are you using the word? I think most of us who advocate using trains for travel to places like Venice, Cinque Terre, etc. in Italy are expressing an informed opinion, based on experience and reason, not a "bias". Certainly there are places in Italy, such as the rural areas of Tuscany, Lombardy, etc., where a car can be an asset. But I do think it is a kindness to suggest to newbies that renting a car for a stay that includes Florence, Rome, Cinque Terre, Siena, and/or Lucca miget not be a good idea. I will freely admit to a "bias" toward trains and other public transportation (cablecars, gondola, boats) when it comes to Switzerland. The Swiss have created a marvelous transport system for a purpose: to promote clear air and to ease traffic congestion. So I like to help them in that purpose by advocating for public transport there. Besides, it's fun to take a cablecar to reach your destination. The first time we rode the cablecar down from Gimmelwald, my then 14-year-old nephew exclaimed "Hey, this is just like Disneyland - only it's real!"

Posted by
2634 posts

Yes, I think there are bias against rental cars from some posters. I love to travel by train, but I also enjoy having a car, especially in the UK so we can see some of the small quiant villages where trains and even buses do not go. But what gets me is when a poster proclaims the only way to travel is by public transportation and tells how horrible it is to drive, when they have never driven in that country. I think if someone has never driven in a country, lets say the UK, then they shouldn't be telling people that they shouldn't do it. I personally this it's easy and great fun driving in the UK, but as I said I do love using the trains also.

Posted by
10344 posts

Lola: "But I do think it is a kindness to suggest to newbies that renting a car for a stay that includes Florence, Rome, Cinque Terre, Siena, and/or Lucca might not be a good idea." .....¶ Exactly so.

Posted by
12376 posts

Kent[INVALID]-and yes, I didn't really think you were talking about fabric! But you could have been talking about bias in the statistical sense. I think one should distinguish between "bias" and "informed opinion." Robin is talking about people who are biased, and I totally agree with her that in some countries a car makes good sense. I have happily rented cars for travel in England, Ireland, Norway and Denmark. We were quite UNhappy with a car for even 2 days in Italy.

Posted by
5366 posts

Myself, I try to use Public transportation first, then a car if it comes out to be the best option. I think I use the same logic in talking with posters on the board, especially since many from North America do tend to gravitate toward a Car first and trains second. I think many equate a car with "freedom", not realizing that it more likely ties you down and costs way more than just the rental cost. One of the most common rationale I hear is "we plan to travel through the small towns and exlore" but then leave little more than travel time between destinations easily connected by trains, and the reality often is that there may be little to see in many of these small towns. In the end, cars are great if you have a specific plan and no other easy access (Ireland, Cornwall, and Tuscany come to mind in my travels) but you need to exlore all options.

Posted by
552 posts

Non-drivers don't have a clue how to carry a real picnic and schlep copious amounts of good wine on the road. Without a cooler full of farmer's market finds, it's just not a vacation. Once we move on to big cities and train travel, the cost of cocktailing goes WAY up.

Posted by
668 posts

In Europe I generally travel by train or cheap airlines, but I have rented cars. First time visitors to Europe seldom understand that the road systems, off the autobahns or motorways can be very narrow (often uncomfortably so to us from NA so used to wide roads and hard shoulders) and parking in cities is expensive to non-existant, hence, the seasoned traveller tries to steer the novice to a more practical means of transport - usually the railway system. If that is a bias, so be it and I plead guilty.

Posted by
875 posts

We love riding the trains in Europe, but have also used a rental car driving through portions of France. Next year will be a rental car from Venice to Slovenia, Austria, and Germany. After much research trying to do everything by train, it just looked like more hassle and time than we were willing to give to it. And we have somewhat more freedom with the car....but I'd really rather be taking the train.

Posted by
31303 posts

Kent, Perhaps this is a PERCEIVED Bias as the majority of posters here have found that the trains and other public transport work so well in Europe, so that's the advice they provide to others. I tend to use trains or other forms of transit as much as possible, as it's often the fastest, most efficient and least problematic form of travel. As I travel solo a lot of the time, a car is not really a cost effective method of travel. I rent cars on a "strategic basis" if I need to reach an area that's not well served by public transit OR I need to fit a certain time frame that would be difficult to co-ordinate with other forms of transport. A good example would be my rental of a car on Santorini this year. I wanted to get to various parts of the Island without wasting any time so that I could get as many photos as possible. I only had the car for one day and then returned it. It served it's purpose well! I find that it's much nicer to have a relaxing trip on the train and go directly to my Hotel, rather than having to worry about parking (if the Hotel doesn't provide any) or other issues. To elaborate on the "efficiency" that I mentioned above, minimizing travel times, especially with fast trains, provides more time for touring in each destination. It's great to board the TGV in Switzerland and be in Paris in a few hours, with no worries about traffic or parking. My travel style is more a matter of personal preference and pragmatism rather than bias. Cheers!

Posted by
12040 posts

From what I read, the train-bias, if you want to call it that, comes out when someone has an itinerary that is heavy on major cities, but thinks a rental car would be a good option. If you´ve traveled to even a few cities in Europe, you can see why that isn´t a good idea.

Posted by
78 posts

<<<<<Until you learn it, European transportation is intimidating. But if you use it, your trips will cost you less, and you can afford to come back more often.>>>>> The problem with absolutes like this is that they rarely hold true. Transportation for my Ireland trip with 6-people was considerably cheaper with a car rental. Four of us are spending 3-weeks primarily in Tuscany and Provence next summer. It is again considerably cheaper to rent a car than take public transportation. Aside from this, many small towns we plan to visit are incredibly inconvenient to reach without a car. To answer the OP's question, I don' think there is a bias here. It may seem so because many of the "anti-rental" crowd tend to overstate their case. As with everything here, do what works for you and ignore advice that doesn't.

Posted by
2828 posts

I do think there in a partially unwarranted bias against cars here. It has partly to do with what Rick writes, part to do with people who think that trains are cool (for me, now living in Netherlands, they are nothing more than a mean of transportation, while cars can be means of freedom to go wherever I want). For obvious reasons, driving in a foreign country is not as simple as... walk on a street on a foreign country or taking a plane in a foreign country. However, if one dedicates 2 hours of his time before departure to check some basic differences on traffic law and signs, and design a route that is suitable for cars, then a rental car can be a very pleasant choice. Some people written off otherwise interesting places to visit because they are unaccessible by convenient public transportation. It's a mistake. At the same time, it's a mistake to use cars as mere replacement to trains and planes, going only city-center to city-center through highways. Wisely used, road trips can be very interesting. Yet, some people want "vacations" from driving-awareness , they want freedom to drink on lunch as much as they want (without DUI concerns) and as so they choose not to rent a car.

Posted by
456 posts

Just observations, but so far none of the responses have come from the metropolitan northeast US where driving in congested major cities is a common experience AND use of public transit and intercity trains is an everyday experience. I'm also noting an assumption by some posters that those who choose car rentals must be ignorant of other options. When we travel in Europe, my husband and I choose between cars or public transit based on convenience. In general, when trips involve a lot of smaller towns or rural destinations, we opt to drive because the train and bus conenctions are often slow and convoluted. Mostly urban destinations usually seem easier by train. But then we also look at costs, how extensive the road and rail systems are, etc. I've noticed many posts over the years cautioning people that it's "impossible" to drive in Paris, London, etc. Those posts make me cringe because we haven't found those cities to be any more difficult to navigate than major US cities. It isn't convenient to use a car to get around in those cities, but we've found it to be completely reasonable and convenient to pick up or drop off a rental car in those cities. Maybe one of the deciding factors in choosing between rental cars vs. public transit is just one's personal comfort and experience.

Posted by
81 posts

Perhaps, the prejudice is only perceived. I see both sides of the coin and have used all modes of transportation. It all depends on the situation, the needs and the number of people involved. I consider the freedom of choice of transportation in Europe so liberating, unlike my own country.

Posted by
2349 posts

Bill from San Diego-you need one of those rolling coolers! Maybe we can have a debate about hard-sided rolling coolers over cobblestone vs soft sided backpack coolers.

Posted by
18 posts

Even if you do live in a big city and are used to driving in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York City it is a holiday from the car that can be appealing. Both parties can sit in a train and read, watch scenery or take a nap! We enjoy the ability to ride trains in Europe and be very comfortable as opposed to worrying about long drives and where to park the car. Rental cars are good, as previously mentioned, in areas not easily accessible by trains and can be the answer for a couple days to tour a certain area. For two people, a rental car for 2-3 weeks can be much more expensive than taking the train and puts a vote in favor for public transport. No bias.

Posted by
5564 posts

I think that there is a bias on the part of some posters. Even when an original post states that they are a group of three or four and that the trip includes the countryside, there are still people who will state that the train is better and that driving in Europe or the UK will make their vacation a misery. Alright, a slight exaggeration here. ; ) Absolutely, for many trips to Europe, you don't need or want a car, but there are times when a car will let you go to places that you can't otherwise get to either efficiently or at all. And, if you can drive in big cities in the US, then you can drive in big cities in Europe. The helpline can be most helpful by looking at the specifics of a post and respond to those specifics rather than in generalities. Point out that you want a smaller car, because the roads are smaller, but also point out the need for handling luggage. Point out that you don't need a car in Edinburgh, but if exploring the Borders of Scotland is on the itinerary, a car is a good idea. Also, I think that there are other factors in addition to cost and convenience that go into the decision to drive or not drive. One poster here pointed out that cars represented freedom her, but a train is transport. My young nephew would have the opposite view. And others enjoy driving. So, let's remember all of these factors when we give our advice. Pam

Posted by
12040 posts

There´s one major difference between driving in congested European cities, and driving in congested NE US cities (I grew up in Philadelphia and lived for a few years in DC)... With the glaring exception of Boston, most of the major cities in the US are built on a grid pattern, making navigation fairly easy. Besides Mannheim, parts of St. Petersburg, and to a small extent Paris and Amsterdam, the street layouts of most European cities are a confusing tangle of one-way roads. Even a GPS is often no help, because inevitably, there´s always road work that alters the planned flow of traffic. In the US, if you miss a turn, you can often simply circle around the block to find your way again. In Europe, you usually have to navigate a labyrinthene series of turns to find your way back.

Posted by
4362 posts

Bill - that's precisely why some of us like train travel...one can 'schelp' on those Long Train Rides ;-)............Many OPs come to this Helpline by way of Google; they've never even heard of Rick Steves! They've just started their European research and don't know anything about the fantastic public transportation there. AND the vast majority of us in the USA make it well into adulthood without EVER riding public transportation. So, it's just not on our radar...Here, you rent a car. Most of us are extremely intimidated by public transportation - buses are scary LOL! - and the only people I grew up with who had ever been on a train were being shipped off to war...So I believe that our mission - should we choose to accept it - is to point out the obvious places to use public transportation, and to steer probably most people away from renting a car. Many newbies have a very distorted and extremely romanticised vision of their European trip - they don't appreciate the distances involved, and think it will be this dream-like 'quaint' Disneyland. (I think we've all been guilty of this - to some degree - in one way or another). And like Paul said, many want to 'explore the quaint towns' and want to drive, but then don't allow themselves ANY time to explore - THEY would be better served by taking the train; driving will be a disappointment to them...

Posted by
18022 posts

There might be parts of Europe where what I said is not so generally true. In some countries, privatization has all but ruined public transportation. However, my experience has been traveling in Germany and with public transportation in Germany, and I can say that in every case I have analyzed, a car rental has been more expensive.   ¶ This is equally true for one person or for larger groups. Travel in an individual state using Länder tickets is no more expensive for 5 people than for 2 and only 40% more expensive, total, than for 1. ¶ And that is for each day of travel. If you don't travel that day, you spend nothing for transportation, but the car, sitting idle, still costs you.

Posted by
552 posts

Eileen, I'll be busy carrying my wife's shoes on the train. Will you be my Potables Porter on the next trip?

Posted by
18022 posts

A better question might have been, "Is there a bias here in favor of renting cars." . . . . . . . . ¶ I think that many people here, knowing nothing about public transportation in Europe, and, again, like Kafke, assuming travel over there is like America, make the knee-jerk assumption that renting a car is the only way. In 2007, sick of hearing the faux experts state that "you must have a car to see the Romantic Road", I went to Bavaria and proved them wrong! I flew into Munich, spent two nights in Oberammergau, seeing Linderhof in the interim, then went from Wieskirche to Landsberg am Lech by bus, from Landsberg to Nördlingen by train, and from Nördlingen via Dinkelsbühl to Rothenburg to Weikersheim by bus, then by train from Weikersheim to Würzburg. Before I left I got a car rental quote from the on-this-website acknowledged best source for a very small car, a hatchback, for $273 for a week, pickup at Munich Hbf, drop in Würzburg. Fuel, at today's exch rate would have brought the total to $335. I actually did the trip, from Munich to Oberammergau to Würzburg, 7 days, for $120. Recent analysis showed that today that trip for 5 people would have cost $261, total, by public transportation, and the car they quoted me would not have been adequate for 5 people.

Posted by
1976 posts

~Pamela - you have a good point. It does depend on where you're going in which country. A German friend of mine went to Scotland for 8 days with her boyfriend last month and they rented a car for their trip to the Highlands (I know they went to the town of Inverie and I'm not sure where else). They did their research and knew that a car would let them get around very easily.

Posted by
552 posts

Let me ask this,... how many Europeans do you know that don't own a car? My cousins from Amsterdam use public transport most of the time, but love to take weekend road trips like anyone else would.

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi, My opinion is "to each his or her own". We prefer renting a car. First, my wife has great difficulty walking, let alone trying to manage a backpack or any other kind of luggage getting to/from train stations. For us it's convenience. Then there's the fact we enjoy driving the alpine passes. For me, it wouldn't be the same sitting on a bus as it is to drive the Gardena or Timmelsjoch Passes, as examples. To add to this, we don't visit cities all that often in Europe. We prefer quiet villages in the countryside. To get to the point... If a poster is asking about trains, I don't respond, since I don't have first hand advice. If they're asking about driving, I'll give my opinion based on my experiences. It used to be quite frequent when there was a question about driving or driving routes, they would be persuaded to use trains and sometimes made to feel ignorant if they rented a car.

Posted by
2297 posts

"how many Europeans do you know that don't own a car? " ............................................... I actually do know quite a few, including my brother. He still rented car when we all spend a week in Tuscany. Picked it up at the train station in Florence after taking the train from Germany (he lives in the Ruhr region) to Florence. And that train ride was an 18 hour nightmare instead of a leisurely night train - their original train had a 3 hour delay which meant they missed all their connections and all their reservations and ended up standing for the last 2 hours of their trip after a sleepless night. And no, he still doesn't plan to purchase a car ;-)

Posted by
2297 posts

"I can say that in every case I have analyzed, a car rental has been more expensive. ¶ This is equally true for one person or for larger groups. " ................................................................................................ That hasn't been our experience. The one time we decided to do an entire trip in Germany by train without using a car we did so knowing that it was the more expensive option. It still was the better option in that particular case as train travel in winter was not quite as chaotic (though far from smooth) as would have been the alternative routes by car. We travel as a family of 4. While Laendertickets work for regional trains they don't on ICEs. And those or other fast trains are the ones that really help you to maximise your precious little vacation time in Europe. And they don't allow much savings for kids either (well, that has apparently changed somewhat since spring of this year but was not available to us before then). For the 4 of us we never had a car bigger than a VW Golf or equivalent, always a diesel that gets well over 1,000 km out of a tank of gas.

Posted by
11450 posts

My relatives that live in Paris do own a car. It is in a special garage,, they are used my many to store their cars for months at a time, you drive into a box and the box is then stacked . They take their car out to drive south for the summer, and to visit their children in Geneva. In Paris they walk, or now that my cousines legs are bad,, they take taxis. They would never take their car out to drive around the city.

Posted by
100 posts

I don't know about a bias on the board against car rentals but I got my own massive bias against it yet I'm resigned to doing just that for a couple of days....I simply can't do what I want to do when I want to. I'm just glad its only 2 days out of my 2 weeks in Europe..I doubt that we in the U.S. will ever see the level of transportation services in Europe..its too bad.

Posted by
7947 posts

Ok, I will chime in as a European that doesn't own a car, even though I am American. Having lived here for almost 24 years without ever needing to drive anywhere, then I may be biased a bit, but also see the need for a car in many situations. Health problems, people with multiple children, strollers, suitcases, etc. or plans to go to very remote villages. So, I never come out and criticize anyone for renting a car. What I do post about though, is information about riding the trains that many people may not think about.1)It is often a whole lot faster to get from point A to point B. 2)With kids, they have bathrooms and dining cars, the kids can play a bit and walk around or lay down for a nap 3)Arriving after a long trans-atlantic flight, I often think people underestimate the fact that driving a car on foreign roads with jet-lag and tiredness is positively dangerous 4)The person driving does not get to see too much scenery if they are concentrating on driving. Riding the train is stress-free and frankly, fun. 5) Kids under 12 still need to be in a booster car seat. Does your 11 year old want to do this? Do you feel like buying or renting car-seats while here? 6)If you feel like indulging in a couple of glasses of beer or wine, you don't have to worry about driving 7)'Tis a lot greener way of traveling than driving a car 8) Price of gasoline 9) It is part of the European experience to ride public transportation, I think it is fun to be on a bus in a little town when all the kids from 1st grade and up, jump on to ride to or from school. 10)Traffic jams! The last place I would want to spend my vacation 11)Time spent renting a car. Arriving at FF airport, you can be checking into a hotel in the middle of the city with-in an hour, tops, after landing or half-way to Bingen or Heidelberg. If renting a car, this would take much longer. Plus you don't have the stress of insurance, damage, etc.

Posted by
375 posts

We do have a car here in Germany and use it regularly, but for vacation trips we are often likely to use the train, depending on the trip. I don't know that there should be any conflict. Different trips call for different solutions. Perhaps when answering an OP's questions we should be careful to simply state our own preferences and why we arrived at that, instead of telling others what they should do. Then the OP could make a decision based on the pros and cons of other people's experiences. And we might also remember that what's right for one person may not be right for another, for a variety of reasons.

Posted by
18022 posts

Jo, you bring up some very good points. Since I usually travel single, #4 is important. There would be no one in the car to see the scenery but me, and I would have to stop to really see it. I've made some road trips in this country where I was frequently stopping to see the scenery. It certainly added to the time. . . . . .¶ I'm not sure I agree with #1, unless you are traveling via ICE/IC or in town. Of course not having to stop for gas, for the bathroom, or for meals saves time. And the train is rarely delayed by traffic jams or getting lost. . . . . .¶ But #3 is possibly the most critical. I've nodded off on the train on the first day in Germany. Good thing I wasn't driving. I saw a statistic once that showed the highway fatality rate for Americans (or all foreigners, don't remember) in Europe, and it was several times that for natives. I would attribute a lot of that to first day jet lag or just lack of understanding of safety signs. . . . . . ¶ The thing you touched on, but didn't number, was "the stress of insurance, damage, etc." When people compare costs they don't usually compare full "walkaway" CDW for a car, but that is the only equivalent to the train. You don't have any liability for damaging the train. Some people use there credit cards for insurance, but, as people have found out, that doesn't always work. Credit card companies don't make money paying out insurance claim.

Posted by
7947 posts

I decided on #1 due to hearing about friends who drove from Frankfurt to Berlin and having had it take 8-12 hours, when a train would have taken 4. Or driving from Cologne to Frankfurt, can take the twice the time as the ICE and sometimes even longer than the scenic slower Regional train. There is no way you can get to Paris from Frankfurt in under 4 hours like the ICE does, and I once had a trip from south of Regengsburg take over 8 hours, when it should have just been 3 or 4. Seeing the autobahn jammed up between Wiesbaden and Frankfurt or on the way down to Heidelberg really puts me off driving. I guess I prefer to read a book or look out the window and arrive all relaxed. Even in town, when people offer me rides to places, I usually turn them down as it takes so much longer to get there much of the time. If I do want a ride late at night, I just jump in a taxi, they aren't that expensive. That all said, I am in agreement that no one way is always the best way, and that every situation is different. Thus, I would not ever criticize someones decision to rent a car and drive.

Posted by
552 posts

Jo really knows how to dissuade people from taking kids on vacation. ^_^

Posted by
2703 posts

Just curious... why would how someone prefers to travel really bother someone else?

Posted by
4362 posts

Yeah, what Jo said...and I do try to remember to ask about things that Jo and Paul mentioned - the travelers' ages, physical condition, comfort level with driving in general and esp. in a foreign country, and mention that many people thought they'd like driving only to discover that they missed all of the scenery because they were watching out for road signs, etc.........and sure, Bill, I'll be the Porter - I want a really cool uniform, I work for tips, and you will need a sturdy rolling cooler ;-)

Posted by
1064 posts

Where train service is frequent and reliable, as between most cities in Europe, it really is the best travel choice. That is especially true if you are traveling solo and stick to the metro area. But good luck trying to find trains or buses to visit places like Maria Laach Abbey or Linderhof Palace in Germany, or any remote castle in Europe. You will probably have to make several connections to reach your destination and then you could be stranded for hours if you miss the bus on the ride back. Do not attempt this in cold or wet weather. On the other hand, solo travel by auto, besides being a needless expense for just one person, can be very lonely, whereas there is often a chance to strike up a conversation with fellow travelers on a train. (This is based on personal experience from my younger days, not recent travels.) Two things I learned the hard way about travel by car: 1. Take a GPS as well as maps and a navigator or else you could spend hours just passing through one town after another. And, 2., just like in the U.S., avoid even modest-sized cities during morning and afternoon rush hours.

Posted by
18022 posts

"good luck trying to find trains or buses to visit places like ... Linderhof Palace in Germany." Sorry, Roy, but I'm going to have to make an example of you, because this is what happens when people who don't understand public transportation in Germany try to advise. It is not difficult to get to Linderhof. There is hourly train survice between Munich and Oberammergau, and between 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM about 9 buses (almost one per hour) from Oberammergau to Linderhof. (www.rvo-bus.de/site/rvo__bus/de/fahrplan__regionales/fahrplaene/suche/fpl/9622.pdf&#41;. I visited Linderhof as the first stage of my 2007 trip on the Romantic Road when I proved wrong all the people who said you have to have a car to do the Romantic Road.

Posted by
2703 posts

"In 2007, sick of hearing the faux experts state that "you must have a car to see the Romantic Road", I went to Bavaria and proved them wrong!"[INVALID][INVALID][INVALID]"when I proved wrong all the people who said you have to have a car ..." Is this the reason you planned a trip? To prove people you don't know wrong? Roy didn't say it was impossible. You stated: "There is hourly train survice between Munich and Oberammergau, and between 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM about 9 buses (almost one per hour) from Oberammergau to Linderhof. "[INVALID][INVALID]Roy stated: "you will probably have to make several connections to reach your destination and then you could be stranded for hours if you miss the bus on the ride back.[INVALID][INVALID] Seems like Roy's statement pretty much matches yours.

Posted by
1064 posts

I value Lee's opinion on use of trains and buses in Germany. But we disagree about their value, as opposed to cars, in rural areas. Train plus bus each way to Linderhof, for example, is doable and can save a few euros, but vacation days are just as hard to come by as money for many of us. I don't believe in rushing through a vacation, but I also don't want to spend all day getting to and from just one place, when a car enables me to visit a couple of other remote places, such as Wieskirche and Hohenschwangau the same day at my own pace. Also, I trust trains to keep to their schedule but I do not trust rural buses, but that is another matter. Simply put, public transportation is great for the cities, but trains and buses are not the best option in the countryside if your time is limited.

Posted by
1313 posts

I think that for most first time travelers, especially, it makes sense to avoid cars as they will be primarily focusing on big city sights where cars are a headache. For us, since we drive in our day to day lives here in the U.S., not driving and taking trains is both relaxing and a novel experience, and part of the reason we travel in Europe is to do things we don't normally do at home. Added to that, no one in the family is particularly fond of driving to start with so it's hard to get anyone to volunteer.

Posted by
2828 posts

Trains are means of transportation, public ones. As such, they are prone to be filthy, prone to have people you'd better avoid or rather not encounter if you were given a choice and so. I respect those who prefer it as a mean of transportation, it's their money after all, but I feel strange about this talk of trains being "fun" and "good for environment" LOL. A transatlantic flight spills a lot of CO2 that would make any driving in Europe pale. Ir you are prone to less one minute of your sleep with these "run to Mars global warming is coming" brouhaha, it's better not to leave America first place.

Posted by
1064 posts

"...they are prone to be filthy, prone to have people you'd better avoid or rather not encounter if you were given a choice..." Sounds like my wife's car. :)

Posted by
2193 posts

Andre: Until the boys over at Toyota figure out a way for the Prius to float at 500 miles per hour, it looks like we're stuck with Boeing and Airbus.

Posted by
5366 posts

I will pick up a point of Lee's. While certainly many on here have a bias towards trains as opposed to cars (for good reason) nearly all completely overlook buses (even to a point within cities, but especially intercity or in rural areas) as a viable form of transport. I know some of this is validated by a real lack of schedule info available online, but in figuring out how a system operates, you really can get nearly anywhere. I will admit that sometimes it is easier to just rent a car rather than figure out a bus route, but very few areas are not reachable by public transport.

Posted by
18022 posts

"real lack of schedule info available online". . . . . ¶ Actually, many of these alternative bus connections show up on the Bahn website. Unfortunately, often there is a faster rail connection, and it gets shown first.

Posted by
7947 posts

Wondering what trains Andre' is riding on? Just trains in the Netherlands? I have never, ever been on a filthy train in Germany, France, or Belgium. Have also met some delightful people on the trains while traveling. Only once would I say, there was a problem with other passengers, but considering I have been here 23 years, I would say that would not be the "norm" for train riding experiences....I really do enjoy riding the trains and I do think they are "fun". Having seen tons of kids and yes, adults too, enjoying their ride, my guess is that they were also having fun.

Posted by
12040 posts

I've been on a filthy train in Poland, but never Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands, including some old, local Nederlands Spoorweg trains. Except for a few leftover newspapers, I've always found the trains of NS very clean... although Andre presumably has more experience on the NS rail system than I do...

Posted by
152 posts

Traveling in Europe, especially England, I have always preferred the train, and hated driving. Now that I have some ortho and neurologic problems, I can only walk slowly and not very far, with a cane. With those limitations train travel becomes problematic: getting to the platforms, changing platforms, the cattle-call race to the train when the platform is announced minutes before departure, lugging even a 22" Rick Steves rollaboard, etc., etc. So, our next trip, which includes the Cotswolds, N. Wales, and Yorkshire will mostly be with a car. So, for those smug, smarmy "public transport only" posters, I would only comment that each traveler needs to do what is best for him/her on any particular itinerary.

Posted by
18022 posts

I think most everyone here, pro- or anti-public transportation, has agreed that the country makes a big difference. I've ridden on hundreds of trains in Germany, and the last time I know of that a train used a track other than the one on the schedule (printed up to six month in advance), was in 1988. Also, a great many German stations, almost every major one, has provisions for the handicapped (eg, elevators to the platforms). The long distance trains, like ICEs, have platform level boarding. So do the modern REs. You don't even have to lift your rollaboard, like you would out of your car. www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/services/overview/handicap.shtml

Posted by
4362 posts

Jerry brings up a very good point (shared by my own self a few posts earlier). Many people ask for advice on transportation, get heavy advice to use cars, trains, or buses, THEN...It comes out in dribbles that 1) they're missing one leg, 2) they'll be carrying 7 42" cases full of opera costumes, 3) "Oh, did I mention I'm part of a traveling opera company?", and 4) they'll be traveling with 9 94-year-olds using walkers. Well, If Only We'd Known THAT LOL! OR, "I'm going here and there; can you help me?" And then it comes out that ACTUALLY she'll have her 4-year-old triplets with her, and No Other Help! The train we thought we were suggesting to a single person is certainly not the best idea now... The more info in the OP, the better...Several times, the advice has turned FROM trains TO CARS and vice-versa because of the info dribble. Stop The Dribble! (punches fist into the air)

Posted by
4362 posts

And on my last trip I noticed how many trains ARE flat with the platform, so Lee brought up a good point. 'Big' trains, 'little' trains, many were level with the platform; made life MUCH easier for my slow-walking in-laws and their roller bags, and for me, too, quite frankly. I'm not that wild about climbing up and down from trains, either. Many train websites, plus other 'rail sources', show pictures of their trains and have 'Limited Mobility' sections, too (thanks again, Lee) - love the internet (thanks, Al!).

Posted by
4362 posts

Stop The Dribble! Stop The Dribble! (oh my gosh - I can hear the roar outside from my living room window now...the crowd is moving closer, fists pumping...) Can the Webmaster put that into the Posting Guidelines ;-) Rude Rudy, I love your 'slogan'; I think I'll have some T-shirts made up (or, just change my tag on the Helpline; I've already changed my name...)

Posted by
2828 posts

Well, somebody pointed that the overall coverage of public transportation in Europe is greater than in US, which is true. The smaller villages will have some kind of PT serving it, whilst most American small cities have any (and a good chunk of the subdivision I badly miss here in Europe don't have them either). However, the fact a place is reachable by bus doesn't mean it is convenient to get there, and I kindly disagree that getting timetable info is the major hurdle. Overall journey time (including those slow-buses-that-stop-every-5-blocks-and-every-farm), unpleasant connections in the middle of nowhere, lack of flexibility and so are other factors.

Posted by
1064 posts

Andre makes a point I wish I had made earlier: Just because we choose a different option does not mean that we have not done the research.