Getting to the Top Departure Port for Danube Cruises
Passau with its lovely Baroque old town is the premier departure port for Danube River boat cruise vacations in Germany and Austria. Getting here is easy by train, car, or plane.
The Bavarian city Passau is right on the German-Austrian border at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz Rivers. Passau is the most popular departure port for luxury riverboat cruise vacation cruises on the Danube River (Donau). Getting to Passau is easy by car or train, which is fortunate as the town has many splendid sights making it worth arriving a day early for cruise vacations. The Passauer Dom is the largest Baroque cathedral in Germany but even more impressively has the largest pipe organ in the world.
Passau can easily be reached by car or train. Passau is a stop on the fast high-speed Inter-City-Express (ICE) trains that runs from Frankfurt to Vienna via amongst others Nuremberg and Regensburg. Good rail connections are also available to Munich. The Autobahn A3 passes near Passau allowing for fast driving times. The nearest airport to Passau is Munich Airport (MUC) but intercontinental passengers may well prefer to take the train from Frankfurt International Airport if direct flights are not available to Munich.
Private airport shuttles are available but best reserved in advance. The cost for a transfer from Munich Airport to Passau is around €250 for a private car / €350 for a minibus making it worth comparing service providers. My Driver gives online quotations for private airport transfers without first requiring personal details or flight numbers. The convenience, especially when traveling with luggage, small children, or in a group, may be worth the splurge but public transportation is much cheaper.
Traveling by Car to Passau on the German-Austrian Border
Passau can easily be reached from all parts of Germany on the Autobahn A3 that passes just to the south of Passau. The Autobahn A3 is a very important highway that runs from Cologne via Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg / Nürnberg, and Regensburg to Passau before continuing into Austria (Linz and Vienna).
Drivers arriving from Munich (München) should take the Autobahn A92 via Munich Airport and Landshut to the junction with the A3 near Deggendorf on the Danube..
The Danube River is seldom seen from the Autobahn itself and generally it is not worth using smaller roads next to the river when driving in Germany. However, the riverside road downstream from Passau to Linz goes through a beautiful part of the Danube Valley and well worth the slower travel compared to the autobahn.
Passau is by far the most popular departure point for luxury Danube River boat cruise vacations. As a result, most cruise lines offer safe parking in Passau for passengers of Danube riverboat cruises. Many Passau hotels offer similar services that may include delivery of the car to the ship at the completion of the cruise.
Travel on High-Speed Inter-City-Express Trains to Passau
Passau is on the German Railways high-speed railway line that links Frankfurt am Main and Vienna. The exceptionally comfortable Deutsche Bahn Inter-City Express (ICE) trains run on this route roughly every two hours.
ICE trains from Passau to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) take around four hours and stop en route in Plattling (30 minutes), Regensburg (1h), Nürnberg / Nuremberg (2h), and Würzburg (3h). Many ICE trains continue to Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) and on to Cologne (Köln). Nürnberg, Frankfurt, and Cologne are very important railway hubs with trains available to all parts of Germany.
From Passau, Deutsche Bahn ICE trains continue into Austria reaching Linz in just over an hour and terminating in Vienna (Wien) only three hours after leaving Passau.
Passau’s train station (Bahnhof) is at the edge of the old town across the road from a large shopping center and the comfortable, if bland, Holiday Inn hotel. It is an easy fifteen minute walk from the station to the Passauer Dom and old town.
Check trains to Passau at Deutsche Bahn.
Save by Traveling to Passau on Regional Trains
Passau may also be reached on regional trains, which are cheaper than ICE trains and on shorter distances often only marginally slower. By using regional trains only, passengers may use the Bayern Ticket and Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket, which allow for huge savings especially when traveling in small groups.
From München Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and Munich Airport (MUC), only regional trains are available to Passau. Trains run generally every two hours and direct trains from Munich to Passau take 2h15. More connections are available but require transfers in Plattling (36 min on regional trains / 30 min on ICE) or Regensburg (1h40 on regional trains / 1h on ICE).
The special German discount tickets for regional trains are not valid for travel into Austria but once again regional trains will be cheaper. Austrian railways also have some discount tickets for regional trains although not as extensive as in Germany. Regional trains from Passau into Austria go amongst others to Linz (90 min to 2h) and even as far as Vienna (5h).
See trains to Passau online at Deutsche Bahn – check the “only local transport” box for trains and buses that allow for Bayern Ticket savings.
Flying to Airports near Passau in Germany
There are no significant airports near Passau. The closest airport to Passau is Munich Airport (MUC) but intercontinental travelers may often find taking the train from Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) faster than transiting by air to Munich.
Fly to Passau via Munich Airport (MUC)
Munich Airport (München Flughafen / MUC) is at around 160 km / 100 miles the closest airport to Passau. Munich Airport has the largest number of European destinations of all German airports and a growing number of intercontinental arrivals too. Low-cost airlines fly to Munich Airport and cheap fares are thus often available from popular European destinations.
The driving time from Munich Airport to Passau is around 90 minutes. From Munich Airport, take the Autobahn A92 towards Deggendorf and follow the Autobahn A3 to Passau when reaching the Danube River.
Public transportation from Munich Airport to Passau is more time consuming. The basic option is the local bus and German Railways trains:
The bus and train option is available generally once per hour. From Munich Airport take bus 635 to Freising (18 minutes) and from Freising the direct Regional Express (RE) train to Passau. (It is also possible to reach Freising from the airport by S-Bahn train but it requires two transfers for no time or price advantage.) The total traveling time is around 2.20 from München Flughafen to Passau Hauptbahnhof. (Changing en route to an ICE train will save 5 minutes at great expense and discomfort.)
The Bayern Ticket is valid on the bus and train but do note its restrictions such as traveling after 9 am on weekdays, any time on weekends. The Bayern Ticket may usually be purchased on the bus but is €2 cheaper at an airport vending machine or online from Deutsche Bahn. See timetables at Deutsche Bahn – MUC to Passau / Passau to MUC. The maximum price if traveling during Bayern Ticket hours is €23 (and only €43 for up to five traveling together) and around €33-40 at other times. The Bayern Ticket is valid on the bus but regular train tickets are not!
It is also worth checking if one of Germany’s main long-distance bus providers run on Munich Airport to Passau route. Flixbus sometimes has direct connections with traveling time 2h to 2h30. Buses are often spectacularly cheap with special deals very common.
Private airport shuttle bus services are also available and may be time and price competitive for families of small groups. Compare online services as fares and especially cancellation conditions can vary widely. My Driver gives online quotations for private airport transfers without first requiring personal details or flight numbers. Expect to pay around €250 for a car / €350 for a minibus.
Travel to Passau via Frankfurt International Airport (FRA)
Travelers arriving at Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) may find traveling directly from here to Passau on the ICE trains faster than catching a connecting flight to Munich Airport. Traveling time is just over four hours and usually requires no transfers. Even if a transfer is required at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, it will be simpler than the travel arrangements needed to travel by train from Munich Airport to Passau. Rail & Fly is a good option if available from the airline.
Passau has a lovely location and an interesting old town worth exploring. Its huge cathedral (Dom) claims to be the largest Baroque church in Germany and its organ is the largest pipe organ in the world. Hotels in Passau are often priced pleasantly low making it worth arriving a day early before departing on luxury Danube Riverboat holiday cruises.