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Flying into Prague and out of Budapest with 20 days

We are arriving in Prague mid September with 20 days to spend, then flying out of Budapest. We will be using only public transportation. Would really appreciate itinerary advice on where to go, how much time to spend in each city. I'm thinking Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, but would also consider Krakow and the tatras if time allows. We do not want to rush. Help me please!
Kate

Posted by
4637 posts

There are obviously many options how to do it. One of them would be: From Prague go to Cesky Krumlov (pricewise the best is Student Agency bus so called Yellow bus). You can stay overnight in Cesky Krumlov. From there to Linz by a shuttle (more expensive but much faster than train), from Linz to Vienna by train. From Vienna to Krakow by train is about 9 hours with at least one change in Katowice. Only one overnight train goes directly but on schedule it looks like it does not have sleeping compartments. By plane it is one hour. The cheapest was 247 dollars by LOT (Polish airline). From Krakow go to Zakopane by train or by bus. From Zakopane by bus to Stary Smokovec in Slovakia (central resort in High Tatra mountains). Last time I did it the bus was direct. Because progress is unstoppable in the case there is no more direct bus you will change buses in Lysa Polana. From Stary Smokovec to Poprad by a litttle electrical train to Poprad then to Kosice, from there to Budapest by train. You can spend 3 to 4 days in each city and you will have about the same time left for Tatra Mountains. September is usually nice weather.

Posted by
12383 posts
  1. leave the US
  2. Arrive Prague
  3. Prague
  4. Prague
  5. Prague to Cesky Krumlov by Bean Shuttle Service. Stay at the Hotel Dvoark (get the balcony room)
  6. Cesky Krumlov to Vienna by Bean Shuttle Service
  7. Vienna
  8. Day trip to Melk and the Wachau Valley
  9. Vienna
  10. Vienna to Bratislava by train
  11. Bratislava to Poprad, Slovakia by train and then transfer to a hotel in Strbske Pleso. I like the Kempenski and Sept is off season. But there are very nice cheaper ones too.
  12. Day trip to one of a couple of Castles in the area. Hotel can arrange
  13. Poprad to Kosice Slovakia
  14. Kosice to Budapest by train
  15. Budapest
  16. Budapest
  17. Budapest to Pecs by train – Hotel Palatinus (Pecs for history or as an alternate go to Eger for the wine – Senator Haus Hotel)
  18. Pecs to Budapest by train
  19. Day trip to the Danube Bend
  20. Return to the US
Posted by
5 posts

Thanks James,
Interesting itinerary. Thanks for all the hard work. We actually have 20 full days, arriving around 8:30 AM the first day. We are both early 60's . My original thought was to split the time between Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, but it seems most posts think the time would be too long in each location, so maybe include Krakow and Slovokia, yet don't want to move around a lot. I'm spending some time looking at both your suggestions. Very appreciative.
Kate

Posted by
4637 posts

Yes, Kate,
with twenty full days you can easily add Krakow and Slovakia (High Tatras {Vysoke Tatry}), see my suggestion above.

Posted by
11262 posts

Your original plan of splitting 20 days between Prague, Vienna and Budapest is also a good one. With travel time, that gives 6 full days in each. There's lots to see in the cities themselves if you like them, and various daytrip possibilities if you don't (or simply want a change of venue).

I will repeat my standard caveat that although the three cities are spoken of as triplets, and they have geographic proximity and shared history, they are as different as apples, oranges, and bananas. Furthermore, opinions of the three are all over the map (some love one but hate another, for instance). You will have a very varied trip even if you just see these three places.

Posted by
16860 posts

I like James' plan. I hope you'll fill in the details using Rick's guidebooks for that region. Train tickets for those links are cheap to buy as you go and you may not have enough train travel to need a railpass. Once you're plans are firmer, you can compare the coverage of a European East pass, which starts at $240 per person for 5 days of travel, and covers Austria-Czech Rep-Slovakia-Hungary, but no longer includes Poland.

Posted by
12383 posts

Harlod is right in that each of the three cities is incredibly unique. For that reason, no matter what you decide, design in some degree of flexibility so that if, for instance, you find that Vienna doesn't light your fire you can move on a day early.

Posted by
6567 posts

We just got back from visiting Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague.
I threw Bratislava in as a good place to slow down and rest after a busy 4 days in Budapest.

The big three cities are each worthy of a 7 day visit with incredible museums and tourist sights.
You'll have plenty to see along the way.

Posted by
5 posts

Llja, Are you suggesting we should overnight in Zakopane, Stary Smokev, Poprad, and Kosice? Sorry but I'm a little confused whether we would just be passing through or actually overnights. Thanks everyone for the help. I have been traveling and not responding too quickly.

Posted by
5 posts

James, How would you do it if adding Krakow for 3 day and skipping the side trips in Hungary?

Posted by
4637 posts

Kate,
I did not mean all those towns as overnight. This could be one example:
Prague 4 nights, then to Cesky Krumlov by Student Agency Bus (sometimes called Yellow bus {yes, it's yellow}).
Cesky Krumlov 1 night, then by shuttle to Linz Train Station and by train to Vienna.
Vienna 4 nights, for suggestions of day trips etc. read posts under Austria on this Travel Forum. Fly to Krakow (or overnight train).
Krakow 3 nights, day trips to Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mines. Go by bus to Stary Smokovec. You will find out in Krakow if you have to change buses in Zakopane, possibly also in Lysa Polana. When I did it there used to be a direct bus. The ride between Zakopane and Stary Smokovec is one of the most scenic anywhere.
2 or 3 nights in Stary Smokovec, depending on weather. Day trips: Tatranska Lomnica, from there by cable car to Skalnate Pleso and from there by another cable car to Lomnicky stit, the second highest peak in the High Tatras. Another trip from S.S.: to Strbske Pleso, walk around the lake, see hotel Kempinski (James' favorite), the most expensive hotel in the High Tatras but of course you get what you paid for. From S.P. you can walk to Popradske Pleso and visit a symbolic cemetery for victims of the mountains. From there just walk downhill on a little road to the train station Popradske Pleso and by little electrical train back to S.S. For more what to see in High Tatras (Vysoke Tatry) read Best Destinations under Slovakia in this Travel Forum.
From Stary Smokovec by little electrical train to Poprad-Tatry where you change for train to Kosice. You can stay one night in Kosice if you want or just change trains to Budapest.
Budapest 4 or 5 nights (depending if you stay one night in Kosice). For more read the posts under Hungary.

Posted by
12383 posts

Okay, here is an idea with Krakow. But I like Ilja's version too.

  1. leave the US
  2. Arrive Prague
  3. Prague
  4. Prague
  5. Prague to Cesky Krumlov by Bean Shuttle Service. Stay at the Hotel Dvoark (get the balcony room)
  6. Cesky Krumlov to Vienna by Bean Shuttle Service
  7. Vienna
  8. Day trip to Melk and the Wachau Valley
  9. Vienna
  10. Vienna to Bratislava by train
  11. Bratislava to Poprad, Slovakia by train and then transfer to a hotel in Strbske Pleso. I like the Kempenski and Sept is off season. But there are very nice cheaper ones too.
  12. Day trip to one of a couple of Castles in the area. Hotel can arrange
  13. River Rafting ???? / Fishing / Another Castle

Okay, Zakopane or Poprad; really doesn’t matter, getting to Krakow isn’t pretty. That’s always been one of the problems with Krakow no matter where you are coming from. I believe you will find the trains out of Zakopane take something like 5 hours to reach Krakow. You could drive it in an hour and a half; or two and a half from Strbske Pleso. So if I had to do it I would hire a guide and drive it or use the transfer service at the Kempenski (yes, sometimes I travel pretty nice, other times pretty rough). My guess would be something in the range of $400US. Or, take the train for a day for something I would guess less than $50US a ticket. Since most folks are counting pennies I will assume the train.

  1. Strbske Pleso to Zakopane by bus or hotel transfer. Go early and enjoy the town a bit (1 hour by car) then get on the last train to Krakow (6+ Hours)
  2. Krakow
  3. Krakow
  4. Krakow to Budapest by Orangeways Bus Service (7+ Hours)
  5. Budapest
  6. Budapest
  7. Budapest
  8. Return to the US

Doing this you lose two entire days to travel. I try and keep travel times to no more than 4 hours so that every day is a chance to experience something. But………………………..

Posted by
4637 posts

I just found that there is a direct bus between Poprad and Krakow going via Stary Smokovec, Lysa Polana, Zakopane which would make your trip easier no matter if you choose my or James' itinerary. If money is no object then I would prefer James' itinerary (staying in hotel Kempinski traveling around by car with personal chauffeur and guide). If you want to go by train from Zakopane to Krakow (or vice versa) it takes between 3 h and 45 m to 4 hours. If you choose my itinerary then you can go direct from Krakow to Stary Smokovec by bus. With James' itinerary (if you won't consider personal chauffer) you can go by bus or little electrical train from Strbske Pleso to Stary Smokovec and get on bus to Krakow in S.S. To go by train from Strbske Pleso to Krakow is an enormous detour via Zilina, Bohumin, Katowice changing trains at least 4 times. I don't recommend.

Posted by
4637 posts

Hey James, I just noticed that you moved again, this time to Frisco Nevada. First time I saw you on this Forum (Helpline) it was San Antonio then Frisco nearby Dallas and now Frisco in Nevada. But there is no Frisco in Nevada. I hope you are not honoring that free grazing, gun-toting wacko in Nevada?:-)

Posted by
5 posts

We have decided to skip Krakow, and do something like this:
Prague - 5 days to inlclude day trips
Cesky Krumlov - 2 days
Hallstatt - 3 days
Vienna - 5 days, with at least 1 day trip to a day trip to Bratislava & 1 to Melk (would Melk be better to visit on return from Hallstatt?
Budapest - 5 days
Thoughts, comments??? Is it worth it to throw Hallstatt in, since I am attempting to simplify?
Kate

Posted by
12383 posts

I like that better, but that's because I would rather spend more time poking in shops, and wandering streets, and exploring architecture and culture and less time on a train, plane or bus. I am dying to get to Krakow myself but every trip the trade off of 10 to 12 hours travel time (in and out) just hasn't been worth the investment vs other opportunities. Compounded by the fact that I have absolutely no desire to see the camps so for me it would be at best a 2 day visit on a 12 hour trip. Some day I will make it work.

Posted by
12383 posts

Ktarble; you know everyone's tasted and enjoyments differ and you are about to make a large investment in time and money so I would set up some flexibility in the schedule. Five days in each Vienna, Prague and Budapest is five days each in three very, very, very different towns. You might love one and hate the others. I try and keep Plan B's on my trips. It was a Plan B that brought me to Budapest. If I hadn't I would have spent 3 more days in a town I knew I didn't enjoy after the first day. The Plan B's can be leaving one early for the next or a hand full of day trip that you only take if you are bored off your keister.

What else can I throw out?

Prague: Ventana Hotel was one of the nicest hotels we have ever visited. The location about 50 yards from Old Town was pretty perfect too.

Cesky Krumlov: If its in the budget get a guide or a driver and stop at Karlsteijn Castle on the way down. We stayed at the Hotel Dvorak which was a sort of average place but it had this one room with a balcony that faced the Castle which made it all worth while. Really beautiful to be on that balcony in the evening.

Budapest: Sort of my hobby. Let me know if I can help.