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Old 29th June 2016, 20:30   #1
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Default Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Dear friends,

Hello after a long time - recently moved to Germany and was thus caught up in settling down. Finally the sun shines bright and I have started to enjoy my morning cup of coffee. One such fine morning, with a fine sip, I thought it was time...time to get behind the wheels on the autobahn!

Two questions that followed that sip of coffee were:
  1. Which destination?
  2. Which car rental?

Before I move on, I must share this passing thought that if Alice were to be a BHPian, Germany would be her 'Wonderland'! This nation is crazy about cars and yes, speed.

A big factor which influenced question 1 was the route - which had to be really scenic and had to have Autobahn leading to it. For first timers, its very simple, just choose the Black Forest in Germany which hosts one of the world's most beautiful motorways, the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (route 500)! Black Forest just in case you did not know, is the home of Black Forest Cherry Cakes (in Germany known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) and the world famous Kuckoo clocks.
A quick search on Airbnb and our base was set as Baden Baden which is also known as the spa town as it hosts some of the most exquisite combinations of Roman and Irish baths.

With the destination fixed, question to hit next was what car rental? After spending a lot of time on the European car rental market, what was evident is that its always best to go with big car rental companies for assurance on good car condition, better liability cover for peace of mind and better coverage over the travel map. With that I finalised on SIXT as it was closer to my house and had a very attractive line up of cars in pristine condition.

A few tips on car rentals in Germany,
  1. They usually come with a KM (~250) cap per day. This is inline to German laws where they consider anything more than that dangerous for a person to drive in a single day. Anything more than the cap is charged around 17 cents/km.
  2. In case you don't wish to be constrained by this cap, book your car through UK or US website of the same car rental and most likely you will get more mile coverage per day if not indefinite.
  3. If you do not have a separate insurance always opt for the maximum liability damage waiver. Usually it's about 12 euros per day. You should NEVER miss this. It gives you the peace of mind and the cover for anything that is unexpected.
  4. Go for full2full tank deal rather than opting for a prepaid one, because in the latter you end up loosing the money for the unused fuel in the tank when you return the car.


You could get a Mini/Audi A3/BMW 1,2,3 series/Merc A,C class - all in the range of 30 euros per day. Add in another 12 euros for 100% liability coverage, another 7 euros for GPS (if not factory fitted in the car), so around 50 euros per day you have a nice set of wheels to explore the map with. All you need is a valid driving license and an ID to get you your rental contract.

Now, with the basic information on car rentals clear, let's look at some other doubts that might cloud your mind.

Should I drive?
This is one of the most important question that you should ask before you get tempted around the car rentals here. Well, if you know how to drive there is no reason you should not drive here or be afraid of. Rules are far less aggressive here and you will be fined only if you intentionally mess around. Yes, driving in the city is a little more complex because of the trams, metro and busses plying on the same road as you but as long as you follow the traffic lights you should be able to manage fine. And for your trips anyways you would be spending 90% of the time on expressways and small towns which is fairly easy.
One more advantages of renting a car is that you can think of reaching out to more exotic/hidden places on the map which other wise is not possible if you choose the option of air/train travel.
But, if you are not comfortable driving, please DO NOT think about renting a car. It can cause a lot of trouble to a lot of people including you.


The Left Hand Drive?
Given that your answer to the question above this - "Should I drive?" is yes, then switching onto the left hand drive is not as big a hurdle as it looks. Within the first 30 minutes your mind will automatically toggle to LHD from RHD mode. There is no skill needed as such. Having said that, the first 30 minutes are the key. The garage that I picked the car from had a Shell petrol bunk sharing the area so there was ample opportunity for me to try different manoeuvres before I hit out on the main road. So I would recommend moving the car around in as many ways as you can - taking left is fairly simple, have to be careful when taking a right initially. Also need to be attentive in narrow alleys with objects/cars on the right side of the road. But yes, thinking more and more about it does no good, when you start, you will get the hang of it. No big deal!


The Autobahn?

As correctly known, it is a motoring delight! I floored it and still had cars flashing in my rear view. The sight of glistening concrete all the way ahead till the horizon is very tempting and very difficult to resist, for anyone. Don't be surprised if you get flashed at 200 kmph and a car flies by, only to meet you again at the rest stop 50 kms further driven by an sixty year old couple!!
It's crazy out there!

Before getting behind the wheels, I read about the Autobahn and its do and don'ts on the internet and found many blogs actually scaring the readers than providing actual information. So please don't be so overwhelmed by what is provided over the net. There are only three fundamentals of driving on the Autobahn:
  1. Stick to the speed-lane rule
  2. Always maintain distance from the car ahead of you
  3. Always be careful when joining the autobahn from a lay-by/rest stop
Also need to be careful about the speed zones on the highway - there are plenty. Some 80, some 130. Also there is plenty of construction that keeps happening so be mindful of the narrow lanes. People over take in that as well! So best is to keep right and follow the car/truck ahead of you till the road opens up. All in all a GPS comes in very handy, so do not ignore that.

Follow these and enjoy driving on one of the best highways of this world!

Schwarzwaldhochstrasse or Route 500 or Black Forest High Road is one of the oldest themed drives in Germany. It also is one of the best scenic motor ways of the world. Its also a delight for the motorcyclists who get to better their last lean with every cornering on this twisty highway. No wonder why you see so many biker gangs enroute route 500!

Though you will find it easily on the map, showing it below so that you know I am talking about the same thing.

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A few pics of driving through the route 500. There are many lay-bys on this route where you can park and take a small trek up or down in the forest. Speed limits in this route are 60, 80 and 100.

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_103618.jpg

"The woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep"

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_112117.jpg

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_105319.jpg

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_105345.jpg

Biker gang on gearing up to cover the remaining 50% of route 500 from hotel Mummelsee. This hotel is famous for its 'Black Forest Cake' and is definitely worth it.

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_115309.jpg

Black forest at its darkest best. This picture is taken from the Merkur Mountain which is accessible by funicular railway from Baden Baden.

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160612_152011.jpg

A beautiful town Gernsbach, near Baden Baden.

Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse-20160611_1621480.jpg

Cheers!

Last edited by raveesh_k : 3rd July 2016 at 22:59.
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Old 4th July 2016, 08:21   #2
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Default re: Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the International Automotive Scene. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 5th July 2016, 12:43   #3
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Default Re: Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Quite an informative post there raveesh. Those are some really useful tips on renting cars in Germany. They will definitely help those planning to visit the place and drive themselves. Driving through the Black Forest is one of my dreams and those pictures are very tempting. 250 kms seems too less for a cap though.

The amount of discipline required to drive on international roads, particularly autobahns is immense. But, as you said, follow the basics and you are likely to be safe.
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Old 6th July 2016, 00:37   #4
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Default Re: Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Crispy article. Thanks for posting!
I am planning the same route in July end, but from Koblenz. Do you have any suggestion for specific detours leading to nice trekking paths along the way?
Thank you
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Old 6th July 2016, 15:52   #5
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Default Re: Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
250 kms seems too less for a cap though.
True, but as I said you can book through http://www.sixt.co.uk and get unlimited mileage. I knew 250 cap was very limiting and I would cross that. I paid 25 Euros on top post my trip. Next time, I book through the UK website.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vivee90 View Post
Do you have any suggestion for specific detours leading to nice trekking paths along the way?
Thank you
You can search for Hotel Mummelsee next to the lake. There is a very popular trekking trail that starts from behind that hotel. Other than that, just when you enter route 500 from Baden Baden, approx 5 kms into, you have a trail that leads to a waterfall.

Cheers!
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Old 8th July 2016, 17:40   #6
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Default Re: Car rentals in Germany, the Autobahn and Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

Very informative and thanks for the post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by raveesh_k View Post
The Left Hand Drive?
Driving on dual carriageways isnt as much a problem as driving on single carriage ways. When I drove in France, I did drift to the wrong side when the road was empty. Fortunately, I quickly realized the mistake. I then kept on checking that the driver's side was in the middle of the road (for a left hand drive). I was also extra cautious on exits from autoroutes\autobahns.
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