My wife and I have 30 days to visit Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania this fall. We plan to fly between capitals of each county and spend several days in these cities and then rent a car to visit the country side. The question is should I give each country 10 days or should I give more days to one country or another. I might add that we typically enjoy the county side of countries we visit as much or more than the largest city. Would you visit them in any particular order? I can not find a direct flight from the USA to any of there capitals. Any ideas? Your comments on this or other observations will be appreciated.
I have been to all three but spent more time in the countryside of Romania than the other two. I spent only 1 day in Bucharest picking up the car, and that was enough for me. I also enjoy the countryside and really loved Romania, especially the Transylvania area. It was beautiful and very different from the European countries further west. I think if you give each country 10 days that would be about right. In Hungary I mostly spent time in Budapest and a few other places fairly close. I do love Budapest and have been a few times. There are a few people here who can give you lots of details on what to see, etc. I did take a boat cruise there. As far as Prague and Czech Republic, obviously the city and also Cesky Krumlov. Had a car and did a bit of driving going to CK, the bone church, and drove to Krakow. I found the countryside in Romania more interesting, but I did not have as much time in CR. I would love to have that much time to spend. Favorites in Romania (Constanta, Black Sea, Brasov, Singashora, Pele's Castle, and of course the whole Transylvania area. The drive through small towns and villages was also very interesting. The packs of wild dogs barking and the brightly painted stone fences...:)) Cows tied up right by the street and benches right along the street (outside of their fence) with Romanians sitting and watching the traffic... just a few memories!
Czech Republic seems most westernized (maybe because it is the most western), easy to get around by car or public transport. Countryside is mostly picturesque, rolling hills, few mountains (not alpine) around borders. Hungary has more of eastern flavor (even in its food), it was occupied by Ottoman Empire for about hundred years. Countryside is mostly flat with few exceptions. Budapest was a co-capital of Austrian-Hungarian Empire therefore looks more grandiose and bigger than you would expect of small country as Hungary is today. Romania is quite larger than C.R. or Hungary, the least developed and most exotic out of these three countries. Very beautiful mostly mountainous countryside also some alpine. Many forgotten villages where you can easily feel like you arrived hundred years earlier. There is also one country between C.R. and Hungary: Slovakia. Before 1993 it used to be together with the C.R. Czechoslovakia. One can say that is like smaller more developed Romania. Very mountainous, some alpine areas, imposing castles. Read Rick Steves guides and this Travel Forum. C.R., Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania does not have its own, you will find it under General Europe.
I know that our Eastern Europe co-author enjoyed very much driving around the rural areas of Romania, although he had nothing nice to say about Bucharest. (Rick says that Bucharest's "top-selling postcard is of the InterContinental Hotel.") If you're going that far, and it is off the beaten path, then I would give Romania equal time.
Thanks to all for the great information. I had a suspicion that Romania is a neat country, but since Rick does not have a tour book I was not sure. With deep appreciation. Larry
How about Prague, Budapest and Romania as a whole.
You know those tests where they show you an ink blot and you say what comes into your mind. Well this isn’t much different, and it’s just my opinion so disagree but don’t argue with me.
Prague: Amazing architecture, Great vistas, Disneyland, crowded, touristy, stag parties, constrained, overly exploited. (Prague is on the map. It is a tourist destination by every definition of Tourist Definition. Finding a RS “Back Door” will be difficult.)
Budapest: Intact 19th Century architecture and culture, Great Vistas, Gritty, Authentic, Great Food, Accessible Culture. (Budapest is the opposite of Prague. Prague is almost entirely about the “things” Budapest has a lot of good “things” but is best appreciated by experiencing the culture. This is a town with more Back Doors than Front Doors)
Romania: Struggling, Intact, Rare, Now before it changes, lifetime experience (Ha! Romania has no Front Door. What an amazing place; even Bucharest. But you need a little help in discovering it all).
Larry, Prague is what it is and it isn't going to change any time soon. I don't have the same feeling about Romania. See as much of it as you can while signs of the past are still very evident. Every day you wait you loose something. Need help, let me know
But all are outstanding destinations depending on your interests and style. i have been to all but I know more about Bpest so here is a little background on just that:
.2013 Trip Advisor Top 25 Destinations – Europe
2013 Traveler’s Choice Winner
2013 US News and World Reports top 20 places to visit - world
2013 Conde Nast Traveler: The 10 Best Cities in the World
2013 Lonely Planet Top 10 European Destinations
NYT Article from 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/travel/36-hours-in-budapest.html
NYT Article from 2013: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/travel/wintertime-bargains-in-budapest.html
On a "direct flight from the USA to any of these capitals," those I knew who went from SFO with the final destination Budapest flew to Frankfurt, changed at FRA to a connecting flight to Budapest.
If you fly to London LHR or Frankfurt, you can connect to Budapest.
The Czech Republic is touristically the most interesting of the three countries. It has the most preserved towns, castles, palaces, cute villages etc. It's a shame that most people only visit Prague and Cesky Krumlov. I love Southern Bohemia/Moravia and the Spa triangle for instance, but also the "difficult part" of the country, the former Sudetenland.
Hungary is Budapest and not much else. The country really suffered during the Ottoman occupation, that's why there isn't that much to see. Even Budapest is mainly a city of the 19th century. The Puszta is interesting, and the Balaton quite nice, but IMHO they are no must-sees.
Romania is a land in transition, in many ways. The capital was turned upside down by the Commies, and will probably never become the Paris of the East again. The countryside is beautiful, but the most beautiful part of it, Transylvania, is in transition too. For centuries Transylvania was home to the Transylvanian Saxons, who built most of the famous fortified churches and cute towns and villages. Almost all of them (90%) left for Germany since the late 70s, and it has to be seen if their cultural heritage can be preserved.
I would spend most of the time in Czechia, maybe 12-14 days. The first 4-5 days in Prague, the rest of the time in other parts of the country, for always 2 or 3 days. Like the Spa triangle + Southern Bohemia + Southern Moaravia. Or Bohemian/Saxon Switzerland + Sudetenland (Krkonosze) + Moravia. Return the car in Brno and take the train to Budapest. Spend a week in Hungary and do day trip to Szentendre, the Donau bend or Eszergom. Take the train to the nearest Romanian city, like Arad or Timisoara, rent a car and spend the rest of the time in Transylvania, before you return it in Bucharest.
I missed the flight part of the question all together. There are no direct flights that I am aware of. None for certain in or out of Budapest. We generally fly one of three routes
Dallas to London to Budapest
Houston to Frankfurt to Budapest
Atlanta to Amsterdam to Budapest.
Total travel time from each destination city to Budapest is 14 to 16 hours depending on lay over times
In summer there is a direct flight by Delta from Atlanta to Prague and also from JFK to Prague.
Again, I thank all of your for your wise comments. While we do not plan to travel until October we are already quite excited. I might mention that while we are 75 years of age my wife and I enjoy traveling all over the world and refuse to take tours and be one of the 'penguins' . We have not had any problem renting a car once we leave the large city and traveling all over the country. Like Rick we enjoy talking to locals and eating where the locals eat. On most of our trips we never even see another American ....and that is just fine with us. As previous mentioned I am grateful for your comments. Larry
Larry, if you enjoy trips where you never meet an American then I would avoid Prague, Vienna and Budapest. At least you are traveling in the fall when Prague isn't "as crowded" but it is still a Bee Hive of tourist activity in a pretty compact area. Vienna is a little better. In Budapest it is possible to go a day in the fall without seeing an American but not every day and not on Vaci utca. For what you describe think of Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia (except Dubrovnik), Albania, etc. All great places by the way!!
As usual, you're right on the money about these countries.
What really surprised us about going to Budapest-Bratislava-Vienna-Prague 3/25-4/8 was that there were relatively few North Americans in those cities. I assume it may be the same in the Fall of this year.
But look out for Summer, 2014. Americans will be everywhere.
I'd hate to see the Summer conditions on trains we traveled on with barely functioning air conditioning.
Many European airports transport travelers cramped into oversized buses (with marginal air conditioning) out to the tarmac where the planes wait for passengers to climb stairs. The heat was pretty uncomfortable for us even in April.
And we will continue our yearly vacations in the off season--when temperatures are more reasonable.