Train or Car When Traveling Germany?

When we moved to Germany this was one of the first questions we asked ourselves: "Should we travel by train or by car during our time in Germany and Europe?"

After a lot of research, asking a few European friends, and weighing out the pros and cons, we came up with what works best for us when it comes to traveling through Germany.  Sharing with you the pros and cons of each and how we made our decision!

 

Train

Initially when we found out we were moving abroad and that traveling through Germany and other close by countries would be frequent, we both agreed that a train would be best.  We dreamed of reading books, working on blog posts, and having so much free time during our train rides! Also, we thought to ourselves, "Oh America, why don't you have these fancy European Train systems, huh?".  

The magical visions of the train soon faded after our first ride to Hamburg on a weekend trip. Our connection was delayed, there were no seats available (we made the common foreigner mistake of sitting in someone else's assigned seat -- whoops!), and the train smelled horrible.  Instead of sitting in a beautiful window seat reading a book, I was standing between sweaty people and crying babies for two hours.  No thank you.

Granted, not all of our train travels have been like the one above and we do still take the train when it makes sense. Here are a few positives of the train...

PROS

  • Quick & Direct (if there aren't delays)
  • Don't have to worry about parking when you arrive to your destination 
  • You can really get to most, if not all, major European Cities by Train
  • If you book a seat, it's comfortable and stress free
  • Can be less expensive than a car -- especially if you're traveling alone

When traveling to big cities like Berlin or Paris, I would take a train over a car any day.  The stress of finding parking, then paying for it daily isn't worth it.  Plus, around the holidays the roads can get quite busy with traffic jams and wrecks.  Granted, the trains will be busy, too, but this is when I would recommend paying extra to reserve a seat and maybe sit in first class.

 

Car

Maybe it's the control freak in me, but I love when we travel by car through Germany.  We have complete control of when we depart and arrive, we can stop for food & bathroom breaks, and I can sing as loud as I want with my feet up.  Also, it smells quite nice in our car compared to the train.

If you're traveling as a tourist to Germany, finding a rental car company is easy.  Most major companies like Budget and Avis are in airports and the rates aren't too pricey.  

Yes, there are some cons with the car, like getting stuck in traffic, having to have GPS navigation, and the Autobahn seems to always have construction going on.  However, for me, the pros greatly way out the cons. 

Pros

  • Cost effective if traveling 2+
  • "Get off the beaten path" -- Bavaria is full of beautiful, small villages and the German Alps that are impossible to get to by train
  • Control, control, control
  • Driving crazy fast on the Autobahn (although, our car doesn't really like it if we push it over 190 kmh)
  • See more & taking stops 

All in all for us, having a car has changed our traveling experience.  We have been able to see so much more with a car than by train, save money, and even slept in our car a time or to when it was too cold to camp.  

If you're traveling to Germany and have questions about getting around, please them in the comments below and I will get back to you!