A Gorgeous (and Expensive) Drive Through the Alps

Hi friends,

So back to last Wednesday morning, Chris and his dad left the hotel early to pick up our rental car so that we could get on out of Munich. We would be driving about 2 hours from Munich to Salzburg to drop Chris’s parents off (it was so sad to say goodbye!), and then Chris and I would be continuing on to Venice.

We knew that we were starting off with an expensive journey, since renting a car in one country and returning it in another is, you know, not that cheap.

Little did we know that was just the beginning …

Anyway, back to the beginning of Wednesday, the four of us settled into our car for the journey ahead.

The drive from Munich to Salzburg turned out to be pretty painless (although I will say that for such a small town, Salzburgh sure has a lot of traffic). Once in the town, we had the valet at Chris’s parents’ hotel park the car in the basement parking lot, (This is important. Remember this for later.) and we grabbed a quick lunch with the Connor’s at the little cafe connected to their hotel before they caught their ride to the Sound of Music Tour.

After our quick interlude, it was back into the car we went. The ride from Salzburg to Venice is approximately 4 and 1/2 hours, and it’s mostly directly through the gorgeous, awe-inspiring Alps. We spent a lot of time staring at this:

And all of this was fun and beautiful and lovely. We grabbed some snacks while refueling–chocolate milk and spicy pop chips and milk chocolate. We were on our way to Italy! Everything was ah-mazing!

And then we got here:

And that, my friends, is when our troubles began.

Now, if we’re being honest, both Chris and I had been listening to the lovely GPS lady, so eloquently explaining to us just exactly how to get from Point Munich to Point Venice, and we both had heard her mention, on more than one occasion, that some of the roads we were on were “toll sticker roads.”

Toll sticker roads?

Eh, who cares, right? Well, it’s not exactly that we didn’t care, per say…we just didn’t know what the lovely GPS lady was talking about, and so therefore neither one of us thought to look into it any further.

And it’s too bad we didn’t.

As soon as we crossed the border from Austria into Italy we were pulled over at the checkpoint.

“You guys have been driving through the Alps,” said the scary-looking Austrian border crossing guard. “But you don’t have a toll sticker.” He looked at our vacant front window. “Where’s your toll sticker?”

Chris and I looked at each other.

“Umm, what toll sticker is that?” I asked, trying my best to be polite.

“When you’re driving through the Alps you have to purchase a toll sticker to keep in your window,” the nice man holding the gun informed us.

“We didn’t know that. How would we have known that?” I was getting angry.

“There are signs for it everywhere,” said the guard. “Even in your language.”


Turns out we were meant to purchase said toll sticker for the low, low price of 8 euro from any gas station along the way.

However, now that we had essentially finished our drive without the sticker, we would be forced to pay the fine.

“How much is the fine?” I asked meekly.

“120 euro,” said Mr. Cop Man, not even bothering to look at us as he gave us the astronomical price.

And just like that, complete and total ignorance on both my and Chris’s part had cost us 112 Euro. I considered telling Mr. Cop Man that we didn’t have the cash, but quickly realized that was a really, really bad idea.

So I just forked over the cash (all the while still firmly believing that this guy was taking us for a ride, mind you. Turns out he wasn’t. Chris looked into it afterwards.).

And after all of that we still didn’t even get a sticker. He did, however, give us a receipt, so at least we felt a little bit like it was legit.

After the toll sticker debacle, and with the price of filling up on gas twice and renting the car in the first place, Chris and I place the value at our simple drive from Munich to Venice at a little over $700.

That’s one expensive car ride, folks.

Still, despite the cost, we were happy to have done it, and at the end of the day, we found ourselves in Venice. Finally!

Our adventure wasn’t done yet, though. You see, we would be staying at the Casa Sant’ Andrea hostel (my first hostel experience!), which is a 500-year-old former monastery located Santa Croce, a place which is incredibly difficult to find if you’ve never been to Venice before, and even more so if you’re only arriving in Venice after dark.

Still, we managed to find our parking garage and clambered out of the car together, eager to get on with our evening in Venice, since we’d be catching a 12:30 train to Rome the following day and we needed to make the most of the short time we had there.

So you can imagine how I felt when Chris opened the trunk of the car and said, “Where are our suitcases?”

I peered into the empty back trunk of our $700 rental car and just. lost. it. I started laughing, and nothing could stop me. We had driven 601 km and spent over $700 to get to Venice, and apparently we had left our luggage back in Salzburg with Chris’s parents.

And that’s exactly what had happened. When we arrived at our hotel, we had messages from Chris’s parents, who had discovered our luggage when they got back from their tour. This could have been a really annoying hindrance, but to make a long story short, the hotel more than made up for the mistake (I mean, no one had told them to take our bags out!) by sending a carrier first thing in the morning to deliver them back to us.

So we were sans bags for one night. It didn’t really seem all that bad. Determined to make the best of it, Chris did a quick TripAdvisor search for a good restaurant in our area, and we headed out into the night.

Now, when you think of a tourist destination like Venice, you probably assume certain things–like the fact that people will be around. Or that everything will be bright.

At least that’s what I thought. And boy was I wrong.

Creepy Venice streets at night.

The streets were dark, and not a sole was out. As Chris and I walked the couple of blocks from our hostel to the restaurant, I wondered if we might not end up dying in Venice, after spending so much money to get there in the first place.

Of course nothing even remotely bad happened, and the restaurant Chris found, Pane Vino, turned out to be fabulous:

The restaurant was tiny, and charming and tucked away, exactly the “non touristy” type of place we were looking for after a long and tiring day.

So–fat, full and happy, we headed back out into the sketchy streets to make our way back to our hostel.

A word about our hostel. I’ll say this–it got the job done. The rooms were relatively cheap (I think we paid about $99 for the night), and it was quiet and the reception people were lovely. Plus, breakfast was free in the morning. We did have to share a bathroom, though, which wasn’t my favorite, and the rooms were absolutely bare minimum:

But since we were only staying for one night, it was totally fine. No frills were necessary.

And on Thursday morning we woke up to returned luggage and a sunny Venetian day. It seemed our luck had turned, so we decided to see as much of Venice as we could before we caught our train to Rome. As this was my first time in Venice (well, my first time since I was a baby), I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

But can I just say–I LOVED Venice. It was absolutely gorgeous and one-of-a-kind. This is a city unlike any other, and if you ever get the chance, I absolutely recommend checking it out.

Here’s some of what we saw:

We took this photo for my parents in Piazza San Marco to represent the time they lost me in the same square about 27 years ago. They found me chasing pigeons. Good times.
We took a water taxi back from San Marco to our hotel. Seemed cheaper than taking an actual gondola ride, and it was equally as fun!

And so, my friends, that was about it. We had an amazing 17 hours in Venice, and if I had the chance to go back, I absolutely would. Back at our hostel we picked up our bags and booked it to the train station, which was within walking distance (another perk of the hostel).

And that was it. We were off! Our fourth and final stop–Rome!

But not, of course, before…

Train beers!
And train wine!

Oh, and one more thing before I leave today. I was so, so excited when I saw this sign leaving a gas station in Salzburg:

Ha! Bis bald, my friends! And I’ll see you back here tomorrow for my final European installment … Rome!

16 thoughts on “A Gorgeous (and Expensive) Drive Through the Alps

  1. Hey really interesting read thank you – almost exactly what we are doing in january so very helpful!!! especially the toll sticker!!! that is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to us haha!!! trying to decide if flying would be way easier and cheaper but i so very badly want to drive through the alps even if it will be winter!!!! anwyays thanks for a great blog!!!

  2. Hi Brenton! So happy to help–DEFINITELY keep the toll sticker in mind … it’ll save you lots of cash! Flying probably would have been cheaper and faster for us in the end, but driving through the Alps is quite the experience! I’d highly recommend it ….
    Have fun, whatever you decide!

  3. I’m in a predicament. Paying $600 and taking 4 different trains to Venice which will take 9 hours. or renting a car, $660 before gas and tolls and driving. now that you’ve done it what would you recommend?

    1. Hi Lisa — I’d definitely have to say that that’s a personal choice, but if you really want my opinion, the drive to Venice is gorgeous, and it actually seems like it might not be too much more expensive than your trains, plus will be so much shorter and perhaps less stressful than a train with so many transfers? Again, it’s totally up to you, but even though we ended up spending a bit more on our drive from Munich to Venice, it’s one of my all-time favorite European experiences. Hope that helps!

  4. I agree, driving from Salzburg to Venice is really awesome. However the drive after entering to Italy is regular highway drive without much nature. We especially loved the first few kilometers after Salzburg. Sad that you guys had to shell out 120 Euros. On our return journey we drove from Pisa to Innsbruck and that was also a drive where you witness great nature especially on the Italy side just before entering the Austrian border.

  5. Hi there! how much did you estimate cost being for a rental car for a day from one point to one point?

    1. Hi there Lindsey! You know it’s hard to say because it was a couple years ago, but I do remember us talking about how it was more expensive than just flying probably would have been! Totally worth it, though! I’d estimate for at least a couple hundred though, including gas, and DON”T FORGET YOUR TOLL STICKER!

  6. Hi
    Thanks alot for the information. What eiuld you say if similar trip is taken now in Aug 2017 as I plan to visit both vinice Italy and munickh Germany .


    1. Hi Farrah!

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking about the trip — do you mean how much it might cost? I wouldn’t say that I’m up on the current fees, but this link might help you:


      I’d say that estimated cost ($130) is probably on the lower side, but that’s likely because we paid a fine for not having the sticker on our car before entering the new country.

      Hope that helps!

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