I need help!! We are traveling to Europe for the first time this summer for 2 weeks. Our itinerary is to fly into Zurich, and go south to Lucerne towards Zermatt. We then want to go to the Lake Como area and then to Florence. The last leg will be to end up in Salzburg. Is this route doable by train or would it be best to rent a car. I need honest advice. Thank You in advance!!!!
Most of it will work well by train. Realize that you must go to Milan from Florence then train it to Lake Como depending upon which town you visit on the lake.You need to decide ahead to work routing. the part you need to carefully plan is your way/route back up to Salzburg from Como area.Will you take the swiss express trains back toward germany then Austria? I would then depending on time restraints decide train or a short car rental dropping off in Salzburg.Me I would car rental it back fromItaly to Salzburg enjoy everything along the way and realize there will be a one way drop off charge for the car rental.
Those "one-way" drop charges can be killers...several hundred Euros. We've both trained and driven on several different trips, and we all agree that "Train" is much more preferable. The train network is just unbelieveable. However, Switzerland was our favorite country for scenery AND for trains.
I prefer to travel economically - but I do not choose budget as the sole determining factor. For my wife and I - we much prefer renting a car. We can come and go when we want to. We can go to towns not serviced by the railway. We can turn down any road that stikes us as interesting (some of the best restaurants have been found that way). When I think of the great experiences we've had in our funky rental cars - it was well worth any added expense.
My favorite strategy is to mix it up. My view of your itinerary is that if you had a car, you would be pretty much just driving point to point as opposed to "Exploring" your way from one spot to another. In Larger cities, a car is a liability, so Florence, Zurich and even Salzburg pose issues, but a car is very handy for someplace like Lake Como. I suggest looking at renting a car for a couple days at each place that it makes sense, using a train for the long hauls. Offers the best of both worlds.
I say mix it up as well.
Double check the drop off charges some places do not have drop charges depending on where it is.
For such a jam packed itinery, take a car. Unless you plan on taking night trains, you can find yourself with wasted time waiting for trains instead of travelling the routes. For the places you're visiting, you'll be able to catch some great scenery that you may want to stop and enjoy, instead of zipping through on a train. FYI, there's a 30 EUR driving permit you must purchase to drive in Switzerland...and you'll have to research how to park in Florence. I've heard you cannot bring cars into the core of the city. My husband and I first started driving in Europe 3 yrs ago in France and have now done so in Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia. We can't imagine travelling any other way. The freedom you have with a car, being able to change your itinery spontaneously is priceless. Big cities are great, but really it's all the little villages you see in between that really show you what living in Europe is like.