The tax on rental cars at airports and rail stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland has gotten out of hand. In Switzerland and Austria it's 15% and Germany just raised its fee for such pickups to 17%. This from a country that five years ago levied a flat charge of DM 10 or about $4 to $5 for anything from a subcompact to an S-Class Mercedes. And the 15% or 17% is figured on the entire cost of the rental, not just the basic charge. For example, a car whose base rental price is $200 per week in Germany jumps to $232 with the 16% value added tax. The 17% airport tax is figured on the $232 and comes to an extra $39 - a total of $271. If you extend this rental to three-weeks, the airport charge becomes $117. Need a midsize wagon for a month in Germany? You're looking at an extra $150 to rent it at an airport or rail station.

The obvious solution, of course, is to get the car at a location other than an airport or rail station. Inconvenient? Compared to going immediately upon arrival to an airport rental car counter, absolutely. But only you can decide how much such convenience is worth.

To help you make that decision here is some information regarding public transport to and from four major airports in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Frankfurt

Taxi: A taxi to the center of town costs about E20 ($22) and takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic. The nearest Frankfurt Avis location, Schmidt Str. 39, is just across the river north of the airport. Europcars most convenient non-tax rental office is northwest of the airport near the Autobahn at Am Industriehof 3-5. Taxi to it in about 20-30 minutes at a cost of about E25 ($27). This location will be more convenient to travelers who want to avoid downtown traffic.

Rail: From the airport it costs only E3.15 ($3.40) to go to the main rail station. The trip takes about 10 minutes. But if you want to get to a rental car location, your best bet from there is a taxi.

The Frankfurt Airport has two terminals and two rail stations. To catch a train to downtown, follow the signs marked Regionalbahnhof from the departure/arrivals hall in Terminal 1 to platforms 1-3 on level 01 (underground railway station), via the escalators. Trains to Frankfurt depart from platform 1. From Terminal 2, take the Sky Line (runs every two minutes) to departure hall B in Terminal 1 and then follow the Regionalbahnhof signs as described above. The Sky Line rail shuttle that connects the two terminals does not allow luggage carts on board.

Other Info: There are two gas stations at the airport. BP is not far from Terminal 1, next to the Sheraton Hotel, on the access road to the visitors bus garage P 36. There's an Esso station near the Steigenberger Airport Hotel (at the turning circle on Unterschweinstiege, next to the A 3 highway exit).

The English version of the Frankfurt Airport's Website recommends minute trips for travelers who have time to kill before their next flight. There are 14 recommended walking tours of the airport and its shops.

Munich

Taxi: Price of a taxi from the airport to the city center, which is where you'll have to go to pick up a rental car if you want to avoid the airport tax, is E50 to E53 ($54-$57).

Rail: A single trip ticket on S-1 or S-8 is E8 ($9) and takes you to the main rail station. If there are several in your group buy a Partner Ticket for E15 ($16) which is good for 24 hours travel for up to five persons throughout the Munich transportation network. From the main station, a taxi to one of several downtown car rental offices will cost from about E10 to E15 ($11-$16). The airport rail station is on the lower level; follow the S signs.

There is also a bus from the airport to the main rail station. Cost is E9 ($10).

Other Info: For some flights at the Munich Airport you can check-in the night before, get a boarding pass and check baggage.

Munich Airport has a number of attraction for passengers who have long layovers or arrive hours prior to their flight. There are historic aircraft to tour, an outdoor viewing hill, a multimedia show, something called a MovieRide simulator, and an outdoor kids playground.

Tip: For questions about the Munich Airport, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Gemütlichkeit got a response to its question within 15 minutes. Otherwise, from 6am to 11pm (Germany time) phone +49 89 9 75-00 for airport info. Zürich

Rail: There are trains every few minutes to and from the airports terminal B. The trip downtown takes 10 to 16 minutes, depending on the train. A 2nd class ticket is CHF 6.60. ($4.84). Taxi fare is about CHF 50 ($37) and the ride is 20-25 minutes.

Vienna

In Vienna, the best way to the center of the city is via Vienna Airport Lines buses that link the airport with the city's two trains stations - West Bahnhof and Sud Bahnhof - and a city center terminal at the City Hilton Hotel. Price is E5.80 ($9) per person and includes three pieces of luggage. Schnellbahn 7, a local train, also connects the airport with the center of Vienna. The trip takes about 25 minutes and costs only E2.91 ($3).

Taxi: When going to the airport, it is cheaper to take an airport taxi (Flughafen Taxi), such as Airport service Mazur or C & K Airport Service than a normal city cab because airport taxis charge flat rates. Your hotel can order one for you. The price for as many as four persons is from E23 to E27 ($25-$29), depending on your city location.