Perhaps the best way to explore the Bodensee, is to arrive by train and travel between towns by ship. Auto travel disadvantages are heavy traffic and minimal parking. In a car one is also acutely aware of the urban sprawl that has hit even this mostly rural region. But from the water it's all far away and one can remain in denial that much longer. Ship travel offers a sense of adventure and romance. Waves and wind can kick up a fury, and fog can sock in with surprising speed. Plus there's a certain excitement about disembarking, suitcase in hand, in a new location.
Five lines run 34 boats among the cities of the three countries. Fares are reasonable: as low as -4 from Kölnstanz to Meersburg to €9.80 from Kölnstanz to Lindau. German Rail Passes offer a 50% discount on ships operated by Bodensee Schiffsbetriebe and the Eurailpass discounts various Austrian and Swiss boats. The Bodensee Erlebniskarte ' a discount card ' offers free passage on all Lake Constance boats, admission to Mainau, various cable cars and lifts in Austria and Switzerland and all bus lines, as well as free or reduced entrance fees at many attractions. It's available at tourist offices for €47 for three days or €60 for seven days.