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Europe > Switzerland > Basel

See: Why rent a car in Basel ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Basel?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Basel?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Basel car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Basel with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Basel? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Basel, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Basel is in car rental price band: 5/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Basel? 

Sometimes. Economy rental prices are average by global standards.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Basel between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 8/10

Non car score:6/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


One city, 3 countries….

Naturally for the city of Basel itself, it goes without saying that as with any other Swiss city, public transport is excellent. However, unlike Geneva or Zürich, there is no direct rail link from Basel airport to the Central Station. The city of Freiburg has a long-standing reputation as being one of Germany’s greenest cities, and again the public transport is excellent. Public transport is also perfectly reasonable in the French city of Mulhouse, although it is less good for exploring the areas around it.

Once outside the cities, what are your best options?

Why? Visiting Basel using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Basel ?

Reasons why you might need to hire a car in Basel

  • Variable public transport — Basel is a very important hub on the Swiss rail network, and there are three routes going into south-west Germany. However, only one of the German routes is a mainline, and there is only one line going into France, although this is the line to Mulhouse, which is served by the French TGV, albeit at a slower pace than when it is on a dedicated high speed line.
  • Cost — unless booked in advance (but you can only do this up to 15 days before the date of travel), Swiss trains can be ridiculously expensive, so booking a seemingly cheap flight to Basel instead of Zürich, and then taking the train into eastern Switzerland might be a false economy. Although car hire in Switzerland isn’t that cheap either, for a group of three or four, picking up a rental car at Basel airport might well be far cheaper than taking the train.
  • Cheaper to drive? It is easy to justify the high cost of train travel in Switzerland when the views are so superb, but apart from the route to Neuchâtel mentioned below, the train routes around Basel are nothing like as special as they are heading south from Zürich or Bern. If it is cheaper to drive, then you might as well do so.
  • Vosges – go for a drive in the Ballons des Vosges Natural Park, just beyond Mulhouse.

Why not? Visiting Basel without a car

Why don't you need a car in Basel ?

Saving money by visiting Basel without a car?

  • Cost — even if you have a choice of arriving in two countries, neither France nor Switzerland, nor Basel in particular are good value for car hire.
  • Swiss rail passes — a number of different rail passes are available in Switzerland, usually giving unlimited travel on a set number of days. If you take advantage of this option, it doesn’t matter that Basel is further away from some alpine destinations than Zürich.
  • Swiss transfer ticket — another option for long-distance train travel within Switzerland is to take advantage of the Swiss transfer ticket, which gives halfprice travel to anywhere in Switzerland on the same day that your flight arrives (or departs on the way out). Basel is a good airport to use for the Bernese Oberland, or for continuing through the Lotchberg Base Tunnel and on to the world-famous resort of Zermatt, which sits under the iconic Matterhorn.
  • Swiss trains — Swiss trains are famous for good reason, and this needs no introduction — see our Zürich and Bern pages for more information.

Where to visit?

  • Neuchâtel — the lake and city of Neuchâtel are one of the most underrated places to visit in the Swiss Lowlands. The view from the city across the lake with the Alps behind is superb. Take the train from Basel to Moutier, then to the bilingual city of Biel / Bienne via Sonceboz, and then towards Geneva via Neuchâtel, and you can enjoy outstanding scenery for virtually the whole journey.
  • Vitra — whether you are appreciative of good design or great architecture, the Vitra design Museum, designed by the late deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid, is in nearby Weil-am-Rhein (Germany).

Ratings: How does Basel compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Basel? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Basel, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Basel? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Basel (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Basel? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Basel airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Basel car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 6

2019 - 7

2021 - 6

Average score - 6



If you started with the natural assumption that there would be no point in hiring a car in Basel, then there are plenty of reasons to think again. Whereas it might be clearer that a hire car in either Zürich or Bern is a bad idea, it is much less clear-cut in Basel. Therefore, relative to Swiss expectations, a hire car is certainly worth looking at.


Do you or don't you need a car in Basel ?

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