We rented an RV through Switzerland & Germany and it was awesome!

This campground has a lot of fun activities for kids.  There are trampolies, a pond with rafts you can paddle.  In the town center, there is a monastary that makes cheese, and a gondola (Brunni-bahn shown below).

Note, there is no passenger side front door on this model.  This made it a bit of a hussle for someone to jump out the back door, and guide the driver when reversing.  


This RV also did not have shore powered (230V) air conditioning, but there are rentals that include rear AC.  

There was only one night in Zurich (in mid July) that we felt uncomfortably warm.  None of the sunroofs include a fan unfortunately.

I don't think many people consider the option of renting an RV when traveling to Europe. I wanted to share our positive experience, and maybe you'll be convinced to give it a try.



This is the RV we rented.  It has two queen size beds, and seatbelts for 4.  The front bed drops down from the ceiling, this requires the front seats to be reclined.  On this model, two people can still sit at the table while the front bed is lowered.  

It was quite convenient always having a clean bathroom, and snacks in the fridge during our trip.  We also never realized, when we travel by train, how much time we typically spend walking to train stations, waiting to buy train tickets, waiting for trains, walking to subways, walking to hotels, waiting to check in, unpacking luggage, re-packing luggage, storing luggage in lockers... then and doing it all again the next day.  With an RV, we spent more time enjoying our trip.  We often buy groceries from the local farmers markets, bakeries, and cheese shops.  It's nice to have the option of a healthy home cooked meal, it also keeps us from spending too much eating at restaurants every day.  


Switzerland is littered with castles and parks, many of them we would see from the freeway, it's really easy to exit and explore, something you wouldn't experience by train.  

The RV we rented was a Dethleffs Globebus i15.  The total length was 6.3 meters (20.6 feet), which was quite manageable on the narrow Swiss roads, we never had an issue finding a parking spot for it.  Most times we could find a spot large enough, some times we had to find a spot that allowed the rear end to hang over as pictured above.

There is a large garage in the rear of the RV, enough storgage for several bicycles, chairs, power cord reel and our rented kitchen tote.   The height of this storage area takes away head room from the bed located above.  Some RVs have a bed that can adjust up and down, so if you aren't using the garage area, you can gain head room.  

Unlike RV campsites in the USA, there typcially isn't a power connection at each camp site.  Instead, there is a central box where each RV will connect using a 100' long power cord.  The power cords are much thinner since 230V is used, ampacity requirements are less; also most RVs do not have air conditioning.

This RV is powered by a 2.3 Liter, 4 cylinder Turbo Diesel, and 6 speed manaul transmisison.  We would comfortably cruise at 110km/hr (68mph); speed limits permitting.  It never felt underpowered, even on steep mountain roads (typically moving slow because they are twisty).  We got amzaing gas mileage, about 1000km per tank.  I don't think we spent much more than $100 euro for gas the entire week we drove it.  

What's it like to drive?

Is it hard to find parking?

We both felt comfortable driving the RV after a few hours.  Our kid was happy to have a table for doing artwork, and playing on the iPad.  The center console has a popup desk to hold our phone and dashcam.  Be sure to bring extra12v USB adapters, and a bluetooth receiver if you want to go wireless.

This RV is a Class A, meaning it's basically a bus built from the frame up, rather than a standard truck cab with a camper box behind it.  This makes the cab much larger, and the windsheild is huge.  

How much did it cost?

We rented from McRent, and the cost was $1089 Euro for 1 full week. This included extra charges for bedding ($51x2), kitchenware ($41), and full comprehensive insurance (free).  Campground costs were about $40-50 per night.  One hidden benefit; since we rented the RV in Germany, we paid German prices for groceries, we paid German prices for transportation and gas, we paid German prices for lodging.  Switzerland is quite expensive to visit; for a family of 4, hotels would easily be $200/night; restaurants $150/day and train tickets $150/day.  You can visit Switzerland on a Germany budget.  Prices vary by location, so it pays to shop around.  We found Basel to be one of the cheaper McRent locations.



How does this compare with traveling by train?

Is there anything you didn't like?

Most American RVs are built on top of a truck chassis, and the floor of the living area is about 2 feet off the ground, requiring several steps to get up.  The floor is much closer to the road in this RV,  making it easier to enter, reduces the overall height of the vehicle, and makes it less tippy when driving.


The rear door has a retractable screen door, trashcan, storage shelves and powered retractable step.  Great use of space.  

How are European RVs different than American RVs?

The integrated LED light over the door is a nice touch.


How is RV camping in Europe different than the USA?

This RV uses its Truma tankless water heater to also heat the living space, rather than having a seperate furnace.  One of the heater ducts runs a loop around the bed to keep toes warm.

We found the interior more space effecient and upscale compared to American RVs.  The cabinets are curved, and the LED lighting is well integrated.  The front seats swivel around.  There are integrated wrap around shades covering the front windows and windsheild.  All the sunroofs and windows in the living space feature integrated bug screens and black out shades.  

The front bed is located above the driver's seat and it drops down from the ceiling.  There is a safety net to keep kids from rolling off the bed.

Look at the size of this sunroof, it's freaking huge.  There is a retratable reflective cover integrated, as well as a bug screen.

There are 3 sunroofs on this RV.

The bathroom has a few configurable options.  The sink and vanity can swivel around over the toilet to make the shower area larger.  The toilet can also swivel.  The shower has glass shower doors rather than a curtain.

The kitchen has a full size freezer, fridge and microwave.  It's pretty great being able to have ice cubes, and a bottle of ketchup, some things American tourists in Europe take for granted.  There are several drawers, and covers over the stove and sink to expand counter space.  

Our RV had a cassette type black tank.  We found it convenient for dumping, no need to drive the RV to a dump station.  Some campgrounds had a pull down hatch for draining the cassette at each campsite (right picture).   Others had a big sink (maybe it was a squat toilet) specificaly for cassettes.  Campgrounds typically had an open gutter drain in the street, or a suction pump hose for grey water.  A sewer hose is not part of RV equipment carried in Europe like it is in the USA.  

I was able to rent the RV using just my typical California drivers license.  The RV is under 3500kg, above this may require a different class license for some people. Best to call your rental agency and make sure.

Our RV had current road tax stickers (vignette) for Switzerland.  When you are ready to pick up your RV it might be worth looking around for one with a current sticker, otherwise you may be asked to pay for the annual renewal; around 40 CHF.

Enjoying a home made meal.

Here is our list of favorite campgrounds in Swtizerland

The campground is located right on the shores of Lake Zurich, with a great view of the old town.  The restaurant at the campground is great, specializing in fresh seafood.

Fischers Fritz Campground, Zurich

Camping Jungfrau is a place we return to every time we visit Europe. It is literally at the base of a waterfall.  There are camping spots, small cabins, and hotel/hostel type accomodations.  It is surrounded by mountains, and green fields with happy cows.  There is a grocery store, restaurant, laundry facilities, even dishwashers. The cograil to Jungfraujoch departs from the Lauterbrunnen train station, and many skydiving, paragliding, and rafting trips can be booked near by.  There are many places to hike and rent bikes.

Camping Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen.  

Located near Lake Brienz is the Ballenberg outdoor museum.  100 historic homes were transplanted here, and arranged cronologically of course. You can walk inside each home and see the furniture, clothes in the closets, kitchenware, even take in the aroma of the wood burning stoves.  Several homes are setup as business, such as hat maker, black smith, cheese maker, even a water wheel powered saw mill.  The restaurants here serve food locally sourced, the cheese shop makes cheese from the cow out front.  There are lots of demonstrations showing how the saw mill works, and a black smith is there making horse shoes.  Plan for an entire day to see everything, it is well worth it.  This is my favorite attraction in Switzerland.

Ballenberg Outdoor Museum, Brienz

Take the Brunni-Bahn Gondola up the mountain, and you'll find the Brunni Tickle trail.   The trail has many differnt surfaces of rock, gravel, mud, and poo to walk through barefoot.  There is an alpine lake at the top, huge play ground for kids, and an alpine slide.

Brunni Tickle trail and Alpine Slide, Engelberg

Our RV had a cassette type black tank.  We found it convenient for dumping, no need to drive the RV to a dump station.  Some campgrounds had a pull down hatch for draining the cassette at each campsite (pictured right).   Others had a big sink (maybe it was a squat toilet) specificaly for cassettes.  Campgrounds typically had an open gutter drain in the street, or a suction pump hose for grey water.  A sewer hose is not part of RV equipment carried in Europe like it is in the USA.  

Our RV had a cassette type black tank.  We found it convenient for dumping, no need to drive the RV to a dump station.  Some campgrounds had a pull down hatch for draining the cassette at each campsite (pictured right).   Others had a big sink (maybe it was a squat toilet) specificaly for cassettes.  Campgrounds typically had an open gutter drain in the street, or a suction pump hose for grey water.  A sewer hose is not part of RV equipment carried in Europe like it is in the USA.  

Mount Pilatus

There are two ways to visit Mt. Pilatus, Gondola (departing from Kriens)  or Cograil (deparing from Alpnachstad); we decided to do both.  The Cograil is advertized as being the world's steepest at 48% grade. The views are amazing, and there is a great playground on the Gondola side.  At the top is an observatory and restaurant. This is much cheaper than Jungfraujoch, and probably a more fun experience for kids.

Swiss Mini

Camping Eienwaeldli, Engelberg

... and a few favorite places to visit in Germany & Switzerland

All the Swiss landmarks in one spot.  The park is huge, and the models are very detailed and accurate, as one would expect of anything Swiss made.

Interlaken, Swtizerland

Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

Aarburg Castle

The windows in the living space are dual pane and can hinge open fully, rather than only half of the window sliding open.

Lindt Chocolate factory

Also not part of the RV kit in our trailer is a fresh water hose.  Instead a 4 gallon watering can is supplied, this is to prevent possible contamination if someone were to use the fresh water hose to rinse out the black tank.  I actually liked having the watering can, since you don't have to move the RV to fill up the fresh water, we have since purchsed a watering can for our travel trailer at home.

Murren

Allmendhubel Nature park is a nature trail through fields of wild flowers, kids are treated to a great playground with lots of tunnels and slides at the end.  There is a finicular that takes you to the playground, we arrived around 3pm and the Allmendhubelbahn was already closed.  We were able to call a taxi to take us to the playground, and we hiked the trail back to the train staiton.



Trummelbach falls is also a great hike near Murren/Lauterbrunnen.  We were treated to some interesting vending machines along the way with dried meats and cheeses. (Below)

Romantic Road in Germany

A must see in Fussen are Neuschwanstine's and Hohenschwangau castles.  All the sites along the Romantishstrasse are setup for tourists, including RV parking.


Spend a day in Rothenburg o.D.T.  You can walk the midieval perimiter walls that enclose the city, and it is just beautiful everywhere you go.

We booked one of the VIP sites, and camped right along the edge of Lake Lugano.  We swam with baby ducklings in the lake, and the pool was nice and warm.  

TCS Camping Lugano

Perfect place to camp if you're planning on visiting Neuschwanstine's Castle.  Amazing indoor pool area.

Camping Hopfensee, Fussen Germany

Rhine & Mosel River  

We spent a day in Koblenz to visit Eltz castle.  There are no bridges for 50+ miles crossing the Rhine river, so we drove our RV on a ferry to cross.  We spent another day taking a river cruise up the Rhine river, there are lots of castles to see along the way, and it's a nice relaxing day without driving.

If you're in St. Goar, stop by Stefan's Wine Paradise for some incredible peach brandy.


Heidelburg Castle, here you can see the worlds largest wine barrel, the castle tour is very well done.

Our 2018 Route Map (Campgrounds)

This is the route we took on our second RV trip in June 2018.

We covered 1250 miles over 18 days starting and ending in Basel where we picked up and dropped off the RV.  695 miles through Germany (blue line) + 551 miles through Switzerland (purple line).