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My first European vacation planning for September 2020 for 2 weeks

Hello everyone, my husband and I are planning to go on vacation in September 2020 to Czech Republic, Slovakia, Vienna and Germany OR Czeck Republic Vienna and Hungary. I don't know what combination is better. I know for sure we want to do Czechoslovakia and Austria and 3rd country is really optional - what ever is close to destinations wise and makes sense to do it 10 days.

We have 2 weeks to do. We were thinking to rent a car and travel on our own.

  1. Is driving a car safe in Europe ? We tend to do it here in states - where we travel and have ability to see a lot on our own time with map. We always have general ideas of states we want to see and few places on a way, but majority is basically we explore as we drive.
  2. Is it better to drive rental car or do separate tours ?
  3. Hotels - do we book hotel or apartments ? How do you know safe areas vs non-so safe when you book it?
  4. We want to have scenic rides along with seeing big cities.
  5. Is it realistic to see these 3 countries in 2 weeks
  6. Is weather good there in September ?

Thank you, looking for recommendations.

Posted by
5017 posts

Of course it's safe to drive in Europe. Driving in a foreign country does introduce some extra tasks. Be very careful in the first hour, that's when things will seem most strange and challenging (this is true even for those who have driven extensively overseas - it just takes a little while to make a few mental adjustments).

Questions 2-4 are all about what you prefer.

Realistic...well, you can't see any of these countries in their entirety in 2 weeks, you have to pick and choose. It depends on how many locations you're planning to stop at. Be careful not to overload things.

Nobody can predict weather with certainty. Look at historical averages and be ready for extremes. That said, September is generally a great time to visit much or Europe.

Posted by
6540 posts

We used to rent cars and travel as far and fast as we could in 2 weeks and 3 weekends. The $9 per gallon gasoline in Italy cured us of this manner of travel, and we now travel slower and better.
We now travel by train from city to city if they're not too far apart. Over 6 hours by train, and I'm going by budget European airlines, however. We sometimes will rent cars and go out into the countryside for 2-3 days--rambling from place to place.
The internet has allowed us to plan our trips better. With a tablet, we can make reservations on the fly--as the trip evolves. But we usually know where we are going to be, and make reservations ahead of time. Some cities are very busy, and rooms can also be hard to find.
We most often will book ourselves into B&B's and often into apartments with laundry facilities. That way, we can carry half as many clothes and wash them there. Most of Europe is very safe to travel in as they don't have the sheer poverty we see in our major cities.
We prefer to go on vacations outside of the Summer--except in the far north (like Scandinavia.) The September weather should be just fine for you.
Great cities are worthy of more than just a day or two's visit. I would suggest you fly open jaw into one city and out of another. Back tracking is inefficient and costly.
In your case, I would say fly into Prague, then take a train to Vienna and another train into Budapest. We have made that trek and took in Bratislava for a weekend--to rest. Those cities are fantastic, and all you can handle in the time allotted for your trip.
If you need places to stay in Vienna and Budapest, PM me. I know great places to stay in both cities.

Posted by
3320 posts

Here’s my responses:

  1. Driving is fine, although husband I have never driven in Europe during our 12 trips there. The trains are so handy, and they allow both of us to relax and enjoy the scenery and walk around. The trains aren’t the same as in the US; they’re very popular. If you do decide to drive, don’t drive on the day you land at the airport since you wouldn’t be alert.

  2. You could do either. If you are only staying at a location for 1-2 days, stay at a hotel.

  3. Personally, I wouldn’t count countries. Look at what locations you want to see. Then go to a website such as www.rome2rio.com to get a rough idea of how long the distance will be in hours by your choice of transportation. That will help you eliminate those that are too long. It’s very helpful to write down each date of your trip on a separate line and write the time you will leave a hotel and when you will arrive at the next location. Otherwise, you might think you have two days at a location when you really only have one full day and a late afternoon/evening.

  4. We like to travel in September and have only experienced a few rainy days.

Posted by
8889 posts

1) These "safe" questions perplex me. What is the poster worried about? Being robbed? Accidents? Getting lost? Running out of fuel and dying of thirst in the Australian outback ☺
Yes, it is safe. It is also different. You absolutely need to learn the traffic signs, and the road rules for each country.
You don't say where you are from. If you are from Northe America you might find Europe is a lot less car-orientated than you are used to. Towns and cities especially. It is normal for the centre to be pedestrian only (+deliveries and residents). You park outside (pay) and walk or public transport into the centre
"I didn't see the sign and I just followed a deliver van" is no valid defence to a large fine.
Hotels in cities may not have parking or you may have to pay.

2) "drive rental car or do separate tours" - You missed out the option most recommend: Planning your own trip, travelling between by trains and using local public transport in towns.
Renting a car in one country and returning in another is very expensive.

3) "How do you know safe areas vs non-so safe when you book it?" - oh no, the "safe" question again. Yes, most places in Europe your granny could walk around the city centre at midnight. And walking around town is what everybody does, including grannies.

4) "We want to have scenic rides along with seeing big cities." - no problem. You probabyl need a mix of car for the country, and public transport for in cities and long haul by train.

5) "Is it realistic to see these 3 countries in 2 weeks" - Yes, so long as you restrict yourself, and don't do any "one night stops", minimum 2 preferably at least 3 nights in each place.

6) "Is weather good there in September ?" - medium, not good.

Finally, if you are a train newbie, read the "Man in Seat 61" website.
Start here: https://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-travel.htm
Then he has a page for most routes:

Posted by
16614 posts

How many nights will you have in Europe? Many people write "2 weeks" but it turns out that includes the night on the plane and they only have 13 nights in Europe, which means just 12 full days plus some sleep-deprived, jetlagged hours on the day they fly in after the overnight flight. It will cost you at least 1/2 a day (maybe 3/4 day) every time you switch cities and change hotels, so changing cities will cut significantly into those 12 full days you probably have.

Vienna, Budapest and Prague are all magnificent cities. Twelve days is about right for seeing them at the usual American tourist's (rushed) pace. I would certainly not expect to spend much (if any) time out in the countryside, because that would cut into the time I needed in the cities. But you referred to Czechia and Hungary. Perhaps you don't intend to visit the capital cities; that would definitely allow time to see some countyside or smaller towns. It all depends on what you're interested in.

My preference would be to limit myself to just one or two of the countries so I could, indeed, have a mix of big cities, small towns and rural areas. You probably will not need a car unless you want to visit quite small places or drive freely around the countyside (keeping the very high cost of fuel in mind, and the difficult/cost of parking the car in urban areas). Europe is much more densely populated than the US and has far, far more points of tourist interest per mile. You do not have to drive very to find lots of things of interest. Plenty of people would spend the entire trip in one country.

Posted by
759 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
I bet you have a Czech connection in your DNA. A wonderful place to go. Eat roast duck, garlic toast, and dark beer (Cerne Velkepopovicki). Austria a bit more polished and filled with tourists. Hungary...what fun. How many Z's can you put in one word?

Driving...I have been driving in Europe for decades. At least the continent uses the right hand side to drive upon. So that is good news. Unless you really want to drive through the countryside at your leisure (which is one of the great pleasures of rural Czech and Hungary) the trains in Europe are clean, quiet, and often. I needed to get from London to Bristol, England. I looked up when THE train might leave London. Well how about every half hour? Now Bristol is a big city so don't expect every half hour every where.

Driving continued. Having a car means having to park a car each night. European cities were built for walking not for cars, and especially not for moving cars and parked cars, there just isn't enough room between buildings. I now make sure the place I rent has reserved parking and I learn the extra cost, additionally I find rentals with the easy access from the highway way. Even so, in Granada I got hopelessly lost as the street I was using went underground and I missed my turn. A helpful guy hopped in with us once I explained I was lost and he rode with us until I was reoriented. People are great.

Driving continued part 3. Rent your car from a location that is easy to escape the city. Once again, I thought Foch Avenue in Paris was far enough out to make getting to the countryside easy. Whoooops! Lived to talk about it. And make sure you check how easy it is to return. Clermont-Ferrand in France was a nightmare for returning the car. Returning at an airport is usually pretty easy as the return rental parking lots have sign posts that you follow from well out of the airport mess.

One more. Driving in more than one country requires getting prior permission from the rental company. We are lead to believe that there is some unity in Europe but car rental is a bit chunky, this company permits Czech and Hungary the next doesn't. Make sure your rental agreement has it written on the contract that the car is permitted in the countries you plan on visiting.

Many of these concerns can be handled by Autoeurope, a car rental consolidator.. They have been excellent for me. Great recommendations of where to rent. How to handle multiple countries.

Notice I haven't once said, "Danger danger Will Robinson!" If you are a decent driver, you should be fine. As someone else said, the first hour. Driving the country roads is such a great pleasure it worth the hassles of the rental. Stealing into small rural villages at 10 mph. Finding the cafe or coffee shop, what a joy.

One last thought. Fly in, spend the night or two or three, then pick up the car. Don't pick it up while jet lagged.

The Czech Republic. Here is a thought. Fly into Prague. Spend a few days. Take the train to Brno. Spend a night or two and then rent a car to go to Olomouc and see the beautiful countryside of Moravia. Then drive back to Prague or Brno. If the countryside is not your goal. Trains connect these three cities often.

September is a great time to go. Three countries is too much for me these days. I understand your sense of urgency because this is trip #1. Cut it to 1 and 1/2 countries. You will enjoy yourself much more.

I rent apartments through booking.com, but hotels may be best for you. Safe? Europe is safe, not every nut job has a gun in Europe. . Pick pockets can be the problem.
Rural roads are slow roads. So once again, you might want to limit yourself to the Czech Republic. A slow road slows you down and then you start seeing things to visit. Each town has something, the old castle, the village church, a stone bridge, a museum,...

wayne iNWI, lovely snow fall today.

Posted by
1895 posts

I would start by considering using the train. Convenient, fast, easy, and you may actually encounter some European persons. If you are traveling city to city, a car is not a help. You drive for a period (eyes on the road). But where do you park? And how do you get directions?

The problem is that USA persons are conditioned to think "rent a car". For 2, it's not necessary, it's expensive, and it's a hassle.

One hidden issue is that every time we have rented we get a traffic ticket for speeding.

So, when you have a specific itinerary, consider train v car. You may find that trains make more sense.

Posted by
4637 posts

Driving safe in Europe? I would say so. Little bit more aggressive drivers but practically none of them have gun. Roads are narrower than in the US. You should know international traffic signs. Alcohol limits much lower than in the US, in some countries like Czech Rep. zero tolerance of alcohol behind the wheel. Gas more expensive, rental more expensive, automatic transmission not so spread like in the US, usually more expensive than manual. I never rent a car to travel between cities. Just train or bus. I only book hotels for few first nights then as I go. The fewer destinations you choose the more you see. Weather in September? It all depends on your luck. Generally said it's not as hot as June, July, August. There are many scenic drives in C.R. but certainly not between Brno and Olomouc. Go by train or bus. I would try to rate countries you mentioned by scenery: 1. Austria, 2. Slovakia, 3. Czech Republic, 4. Hungary.

Posted by
356 posts
  1. Driving in Europe is safe, but driving styles and road conditions vary from country to country. I would consider taking the train instead. It’s fast and comfortable, and it is something that you’re not able to do in the US (doing things you're not able to do at home is one of the joys of travelling).
  2. Take the train. The Man in Seat 61 is a wonderful resource on trains in Europe.
  3. Stay in a hotel. Have a look at guest reviews before you book. If there is an issue with the area, then it will be flagged in other guests reviews. On the whole, cities in Europe are far safer than the United States.
  4. Use a website such as booking.com to compare hotels and rooms, and then went you have found one that you like, find the hotel’s own website and email them directly. Most hotels will match the prices that are listed on the booking.com, and they will prefer to deal with you directly, rather than paying 20% commission to a website like booking.com.
  5. Why not consider taking an e-bike tour into the countryside? It will give you a great look at the landscape at a relaxed pace, and you don’t have to push the pedals.
  6. The weather is anyone’s guess. It “should” be pleasant in September, but with climate change has become almost impossible to predict the weather.

Best of luck with the traveling and safe travels.

Posted by
2388 posts

One: Is driving a car safe in Europe? I think it is a matter of perspective. Here's an interesting article, one of many. Look at page 307 (of the Journal, not the article) if you want to cut to the chase. Driving in Europe is the leading cause of death for Americans in Europe. Of course, there are many considerations if you want to read the article. Interesting nonetheless.

Two: I guess I live in the area of the US where taking a train is a no-brainer, so when I'm in Europe I travel that way as well, or bus, depending upon the locale. The way I look at it, neither the driver nor the navigator gets to enjoy a car trip. On a train, everyone can sit and enjoy the scenery or walk around, go to the bathroom whenever. I also worked in insurance so I'm rather paranoid about the worst that can happen. I am not yet familiar with the area to which you are traveling, but I would definitely take the train between cities, especially if it were my first trip to Europe.

That being said, we have successfully rented a car once overseas in 20 years of at least annual international travel. Once while in Nancy, Fr to head over the Vosges Mts to hit the small towns like Ribeauville, etc. It was fine, and the most logical way to see those towns. (I was ordered to sit in the back seat and close my eyes. LOL My daughter and husband took control. But my assigned seat had more to do with the drop offs at the edge of the roads than anything else). But personally, I don't find renting a car internationally relaxing. For comparison, I have no issue renting a car, even solo, anywhere in the US, but I know all the road rules and insurance requirements.

As far as locations outside a town or city, I have used a taxi or tour, but that is, too, a rarity...so far.

Three: I book hotels. They are easy to check into and I like the resource of a front desk, particularly for a first time traveler. I don't like to cook or clean so I don't need an apartment, particularly for short stays.

Four: Again, views out of train windows are often extremely scenic.

Five: You can visit 3 countries in 2 weeks, but you will not have seen them. It is easy to visit three cities in 2 weeks. You need to determine what you'd like to see, and then add or cut from there. Then you will also find it easier to decide if you need to rent a car.