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Please help: Zlin vs Prague (Updated!)

I will be going for a 6 week student exchange programme and have been offered the three choices - Zlin, Bucharest & Lodz. Any suggestions on which I should choose? I would like a city that makes it for easy travelling to other cities & parts of Europe as I have 6 free weekends (Friday 2pm to Sunday 12pm). Also, I would likely spend a week after my programme to travel to close parts. I prefer cultural heritage over city like areas (with skyscrapers & modern living as I come from a city like such). I would like to experience something different!
Any tips or suggestions which would be a better option? In terms of pricing, heritage, tourism spots and accessibility to other cities in europe. Thank you very much in advance! :)
I love these board because the advice offered has reassured and I have chosen Czech Republic but will make my weekends worthwhile in the surrounding regions. I am now contemplating over Zlin & Prague. Please feel free to add on. Regardless, thank you everyone. A desperate student loves forums like this ;)

Posted by
7050 posts

Accessibility to other parts of Europe really depends on what other cities you want to travel to. Bucharest is further out from Western/Central Europe than the other two cities, but if you were most interested in seeing Romania or Bulgaria or Serbia, then it would be perfect. Lodz would be perfect if you wanted to explore more of Poland, Germany, and Czech Republic (the city has a very cool industrial feel to it and a great heritage in film). I don't think public transport would be difficult in any one of these cities and they should all be relatively inexpensive (I'm least sure about the Czech city, but I assume it's affordable since it's not on the Euro either). You get the drift, I hope... (download the PDF version) (download the PDF version)
(Sorry, I couldn't find anything on Zlin...maybe that's a sign :-)

Posted by
27359 posts

I hope you get some responses from folks who know all three countries. I, unfortunately, have only been to Romania. I spent less than 24 hours in Bucharest itself last September, but I traveled throughout Romania for 16 days.

As someone who lived through the Cold War, I found Romania fascinating. I had interesting discussions with locals about their lives; many of the young speak excellent English. There aren't an awful lot of tourists in the country, which is always a plus. At least in good weather there are lots of sidewalk cafes and a lively street scene in the core of most cities.

One difficulty tourists face in Romania (Poland may well be the same) is that travel by bus and train, while inexpensive, is very slow. I roughly calculated that you can’t expect to cover more than 30 miles (about 50 km.) per hour via public transportation, less if you have to make connections. And it is not a small country. On the other hand, there are a lot of buses (not so much train service). I have no experience with European flights, so I can't tell you where you can fly cheaply from Bucharest. As you can see from the list below, a lot of the places I visited would probably require air travel if you wanted to make a weekend trip. I suggest Googling "day trips Bucharest" to see what's actually close by.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bucharest itself. The guide books typically warn you that Ceausescu destroyed old Bucharest, but he didn't manage to knock down quite all the old buildings. He did make a good start, however. The architecture is pretty spotty. It wouldn't be anyone's favorite city from an architectural standpoint, that's for sure.

There are many other/smaller cities with much of historical interest that have more carefully preserved historic districts. I didn't get to all of them, of course, but I liked these, all of which have some interesting architecture:

  • Sinaia (small town in skiing area not far from Brasov; has popular castle): 1:30 by train, about 2:30 by bus one-way.

  • Brasov (attractive major city in Transylvania): 2:40 – 3:30 by train/bus. Large enough to be a good weekend destination.

  • Sibiu (medium-sized city with rather large restored historical district): 4:15 to 5:30 by bus/train

  • Sighisoara (attractively restored medieval core, touristy; in Transylvania): 5 hours by train and bus

  • Suceava (medium-sized city in the northeast, less obviously pretty than others listed, but important as jumping off point for tours to the painted monasteries in Bucovina): 5 to 7 hours by bus/train

  • Timisoara (major city in the west, birthplace of the revolution as well as nicely restored center city and obvious student influence): 9 hours by train

  • Cluj-Napoca (attractive major city in the northwest; some tours to the folklore-rich Maramures area depart from here): 8 to 11 hours by bus/train

  • Oradea (near Hungarian border, noted for its art deco feel): 12-14 hours by bus or train

Located in southern Romania, Bucharest is fairly close to Bulgaria, and the very worthwhile Veliko Trnovo (historic capital with ravine running through town) is 3:30 by bus, longer by train

A few important places I have not visited:

  • Tulcea (gateway to the wildlife-rich Danube Delta): 4:30 to 5:30 hours away

  • Constanta (major city on the Black Sea Cost): 2:30 to 3 hours by train/bus

  • Ruse, Bulgaria (reportedly very attractive city on the Bulgarian side of the border): about 1 hour by bus

As you can see, a lot of the popular tourist sites in Romania are a time-consuming trek from Bucharest. Bucharest itself does has a lot going on, though. You can work with and see how far you can get from Zlin and Lodz in comparison. I suspect that Zlin gives you better access to big-time weekend destinations, but I don't know that there's much of interest in the city itself.

Posted by
7050 posts

One difficulty tourists face in Romania (Poland may well be the same) is that travel by bus and train, while inexpensive, is very slow.
Train service has improved in Poland remarkably due to investment in high speed and new trains on several routes, so I would say this is less true of Poland. The trains there are very modern (not everywhere but between the main cities).

Posted by
4637 posts

Zlin is a relatively modern city, smaller than your other choices, about 100 thousand inhabitants. Read more about it here:
Out of your 3 choices Zlin has the best accessibility to other European cities. The main train station for Zlin is Otrokovice. It is connected by frequent and fast trolleybus transport with Zlin (about 10 to 30 minutes depending which part of Zlin). In about 1 hour you get to Brno by bus. It takes 1 hour 42 minutes by train to Vienna, under three hours to Prague by train, three and half hours to Krakow (by train to Ostrava then by bus), under four and half hours to Budapest by train (with one change in Breclav).
There are two nice historical towns nearby (little over half an hour by public transportation) Uherske Hradiste and Kromeriz. Famous health spa in nearby Luhacovice. Castle Buchlov and chateau Buchlovice (half an hour to 1 hour), skansen in Roznov, hiking in nearby Beskydy mountains and Hostyn hills. If you decide for Zlin you will get more detailed information in local visitor center.
I suspect that pricewise Zlin, Bucharest and Lodz are pretty similar.

Posted by
4637 posts

"...and they should all be relatively inexpensive (I'm least sure about the Czech city, but I assume it's affordable since it's not on the Euro either)."
I would not assume if the country is expensive or not based on whether they use Euro or not. Example: Switzerland does not use Euro but Swiss Frank and it's very expensive. The same about Norway. Slovakia is on Euro and is cheaper than Czech Republic or Hungary which don't use Euro. The same about Slovenia, Latvia, Litvenia and Estonia which use Euro and are cheaper than countries which don't use Euro, for example UK.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for your responses. I have been closely following this forum and done the necessary research based on your replies.

@Agnes: I agree – it depends what kind of cities I want to travel to :) I guess I would choose cities that are not filled with skyscrapers but instead immersed with more traditions and country side/nature/museums. Actually pretty much tourist stuff but more connected to nature only because my country is way modern and fast paced. And thank you for the links you provided. I have been offered Prague now so that might take precedence over Zlin… ;)

@Acraven: I really appreciate your take/experience on/in Romania – a very detailed one which I really needed. So thank you so much for that, I have researched on few of the places you have suggested and also possibly day trips I can take. Romania is huge as you said and so probably, I should spend more time thereafter/before my programme. I’m not exactly planning to take domestic flights (or flights within Europe) – trying to budget a little haha but gotta compromise for the long hours then. And I really think Romania fits my idea of ‘the opposite of my country’. Mostly excited by Tulcea too and Ruse.

Also, agree that Zlin gives me better access and that’s why I have completely eliminated Lodz. I have been offered Prague too. Not sure if that would be better in giving me better access to more countries and cities where its easier to travel to Poland & Germany (From Prague) vs Austria, Romania & Slovakia (for Zlin).
Thanks regardless!

@IIja You have gotten me excited on the travel possibilities at Zlin, thank you very much! Indeed, I am more attracted to Zlin because of this very reason. I’ve been offered Prague but I am contemplating because I feel Zlin offers me more places to travel too (lesser travel time rather). What do you think? (Also thanks for pointing out the Euro difference)

Posted by
4637 posts

You say that your country is way modern and fast paced. I am curious. Is it Singapore?
Zlin or Prague? Tough choice. Zlin is more than 10 times smaller and more modern. Prague center is very historical and medieval. Zlin is more modern but in park like setting. From Prague you would have better connections to Germany (Dresden 2 hours, Berlin and Munich about 5 hours by train). Connections to Poland are better from Zlin. To Warsaw 5 hours 14 minutes, from Prague 7 h 24 m the fastest train, also direct train to Gdansk from Otrokovice (main station for Zlin) in 8 h 15 min. If you really like big city with everything what comes with it - then Prague. But consider being a student there for 6 weeks. It is likely that accommodation will be better and cheaper in Zlin. It is also likely that it would take less time to get from your accommodation to school. I guess that also more opportunity for socializing will be in Zlin. The air is definitely cleaner there. Zlin for the city of its size is very sophisticated and upscale. Restaurants, caffees, pubs, wine bars. And Zlin is not overwhelmed with tourists. And you can get to Prague in about three hours. I know both cities pretty well and if I were a student from a big city to decide where to spend 6 weeks it would be Zlin. Less hectic than Prague, shorter distances, much fewer tourists, easier and faster to get to the most foreign destinations you want to see. Clean city with cleaner air than Prague.

Posted by
27359 posts

Note: I've heavily edited this posting because I mis-read what Ilja wrote.

It looks as if Zlin has a real time advantage to a lot of attractive destinations in central Europe. Prague is better for trips to Germany.

I visited several cities in the former German Democratic Republic territory last year and found them relatively low cost and full of interesting architecture: Erfurt, Goerlitz, and (my favorite) Quedlinburg. And Berlin is a very popular destination, reachable via fast train in 5 hours from Prague (over 9 hours from Zlin). But that's not a destination I'd want to cram into a weekend, anyway.

Posted by
4637 posts

Acraven, I said that Prague has better connection to Germany (Dresden 2 hours, Berlin and Munich about 5 hours). You can check it on Deutsche Bahn website. Also the differences in travel time between Prague and Zlin to other destinations are greater than 30 to 90 minutes. Prague-Vienna about 4 hours, Otrokovice (main station for Zlin)-Vienna 1h 42mi., Prague-Krakow 5h 41 min. and that's the fastest otherwise 7 to 8 hours, Otrokovice-Krakow 3 and half hours, Prague-Warsaw 7h 24min., Otrokovice-Warsaw 5h 14min., Prague-Budapest 7h, Otrokovice-Budapest 4 and half hours so clearly differences are not 30 to 90 minutes but rather twice or three times as much.

Posted by
27359 posts

So you did, Ilja. I'm sorry. I'm cross-eyed from reading so many threads here!

Posted by
4637 posts

By your description of your country and your name. Nothing else crossed my mind.