A major decision in any DYI vacation is the type of transportation to use.
Last year when we went to Italy, the train, bus, taxi and ferry system was all that we used to get around, which proved to be very successful. Our activities were geared for a carless adventure.
Visiting three countries
This vacation we were visiting three counties, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The choice of transportation became very fluid. At first we were going to just use the public transportation system. As we started planning, we soon determined that most of our time would be on the train rather than enjoying the sites. An example was visiting the castles near Fussen Germany, we would need several hours of travel by train then transfer to a bus just to get there.
How to Rent a Car in Europe
This made us rethink our plans and we decided to rent a car for the entire stay. Picking it up at the Munich Train Station and returning it to the Zurich Airport. This seemed to solve the problem, as we could just get in a car and drive to any destination. A drive to tour the castles from Garmisch was only about an hour away. A car would allow us the freedom to go where we wanted, especially for last minute changes.
When we started planning our trip in Switzerland, we discovered that many of the places we would be visiting were not accessible by car. In fact, quite a few of the towns are car free. Another problem would be parking and the cost of parking. The town of Wengen where we planned to stay, is only accessible by train. We would have to park our car in Lauterbrunnen and take the train to the town. Further investigation into using a car in Switzerland is that the weather can turn bad in an instance. We could potentially be stranded on the day we are supposed to leave due to the weather. I contacted several people who told me how great the train system was in Switzerland and they all recommended not renting a car.
We ended up picking up the car when we were leaving Munich so we did not have to pay for parking. Then dropping the car off at Garmisch on the night before we left Germany and continued by train to Switzerland. This proved to be a winning combination for us.
Swiss Travel Pass
We further investigated our option into the Switzerland transportation system and purchased in advance a Swiss Travel Pass for eight days. This allowed us to board any train, ferry, bus, and some gondolas without needing to purchase a ticket. Just board a train, produce the ticket and you are on your way.
Renting a Car in Europe from Gemut
After reading the boards and hearing rave reviews about Gemut, we contacted them to rent our car. We filled out the form on line and dealt with Andy Bestor who put up with us changing our minds on the car rental several times. We had a hard time reaching him by phone, but he always returned our calls and responded quickly to all of our emails. We prepaid our car rental ahead of time and took the voucher to Avis at the Munich train station. His rates were cheaper than what I could get renting directly. When we went to pick up our car, Avis charged us a 25 Euro fee for a one way rental, even though I told them we paid for the car in full. We paid the fee and I contacted Andy and he took care of getting it refunded. We did not need to carry extra insurance, as our credit card covered this. Andy provided a detailed document of what to expect ahead of time and it was an easy process. I had no hassles what so ever.
Our total price including taxes and drop off fee (as we were picking up in Munich and dropping off in Garmisch) was $189.88 for a 5 day rental. Much cheaper than purchasing train/bus tickets to get around and the valuable time we saved not waiting for a train or bus. We could come and go anywhere we pleased, stopping along the road to take pictures if something caught our eye.
We rented a stick shift and it used regular gas. It even had a backup camera in the car which came in handy. It took J a little time to get used to the dashboard, but after he figured it out, there were no problems. If you need a car rental in Europe, I would highly recommend Gemut. They made it a very easy process.