People have asked me repeatedly why I hire cars so much when I travel. This weekend I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t initially intend to leave Berlin, but I’m reminded why I prefer to have a set of wheels:
1. Shelter from the elements. When I arrived Friday night, I was welcomed by a thunderstorm and a lot of wind, a fun combination when you’re on foot. I could take a bus, but I’m still stuck waiting outside. I could grab a taxi, but that’s hardly an affordable option in northern Europe.
2. I don’t have to carry my backpack everywhere, nor do I have to find a locker for it, and I can splay out the contents in the trunk if I want, rather than constantly having to repack everything. I bring a lot of electronics – DSLR camera, drone, GoPro, and spare batteries, chargers, and USB cables. I also have either a laptop or tablet in tow. I tend to do a lot of walking, and particularly when it’s hot outside like it was this weekend, carrying a big weight around isn’t much fun, and my back and feet are aching as a result.
3. I can control the air temperature during my journeys. Two of the three trains I rode this weekend (Berlin-Leipzig, Leipzig-Dresden, Dresden-Berlin) were quite full, and air conditioning was limited. The train cars didn’t smell too great as result, either.
4. Trains aren’t cheap, especially for the impulsive traveler. My tickets this weekend cost a combined €95. Add to that the locker fees (€10) and inner-city transit (trams, buses, etc. – about €15) and I’m up to €120. I’m confident a car + fuel would have been cheaper. And this is with German trains, which are cheaper than British ones (and dramatically cheaper than in Japan). Granted, a car has to be parked, but I can pretty consistently find accommodation with parking that’s either free or under $10, which seems a small price to pay for the added comfort and convenience. Some countries have toll roads, but I can usually avoid these without adding too much time to my journey.