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3 week train trip Eastern Europe - need tips for itinerary and trains

Hi, we are planning a trip to Eastern Europe - in October. We are planning to use trains through out. We would start in Budapest for 3 nights, 1 night in Eger, back through Budapest and 1 night in Bratislava, on to Vienna for 3 nights, then a stop in Melk on the way to Hallstatt for 2 nights, then 3 nights in Salzburg, up to Cesky Krumlov for 2 nights and finishing in Prague for 3 nights. We can travel for up to 3 weeks, and don't want to miss any must-see places. Do the trains offer 1 large bag and 1 carry on like a plane? Any train tips we should know? Any great places we are missing? Your help is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Posted by
16608 posts

All your destinations sound good to me, but you are giving yourselves just two full days in Budapest, Vienna and Prague, three cities with a lot to see and do. I wouldn't go to so many secondary destinations until I had allocated adequate time for those major spots--and I am a big fan of including smaller cities in itineraries.

As far as luggage is concerned, you must be able to get your luggage up and down the shallow, narrow, but sometimes steep steps onto and off the train. And you need to find a place to stow it. It is 100% you responsibility, and you must be able to manage it efficiently because other people will need to get off and on the train, too. The train may stop at a station only very briefly. From experience I can tell you that when you have a bag over 25" (including wheels and handle), it becomes quite awkward to get it on and off a train. It will also be harder to find a place to stow it.

So, how large will the large bag(s) be?

Posted by
1384 posts

Do the trains offer 1 large bag and 1 carry on like a plane?
The trains won't impose such limitations, but rather the practicalities (as described by acraven, above) will.

Any train tips we should know?
You'll find lots of great point-to-point tips from the Man in Seat 61. Enter your departure and destination cities to get tips such as Budapest to Bratislava.

Some destinations, such as Cesky Krumlov, are also well-served by shuttles, such as CK Shuttle, offering transfers between Cesky Krumlov and other cities, including Prague and Salzburg. Space for luggage will be more limited in the shuttles than on the trains: see their luggage FAQs.

Posted by
1384 posts

Any great places we are missing?
There are a lot of sites in each of the cities you're considering, as well as great day trips from each. I wouldn't add any more destinations. The question in my mind is whether you can see the sights in each city with the time you have, or whether you want to consider more depth in each city.

Posted by
5017 posts

Not to be pedantic (who, me?!) but just something to be aware of: many people (including a lot of those who live there) would not refer to the places in your post as being in "Eastern Europe". Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary - those would be Central Europe to most people.

Such labels are always problematic and flawed, but some residents of these countries don't really appreciate the "eastern" label as it tends to emphasize the unhappy times under Soviet domination, something they are keen to put behind them. Calling Austria part of Eastern Europe won't get you in a bar fight, but might get you some odd looks. For most residents of Europe these days, I think "Eastern Europe" means Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria and Romania (and points even further east - Transnistria!), but even Poland and parts of the Balkans would probably rather be lumped into a "Central Europe" bucket.

Yeah, the labels can be tricky. It's just worth being aware of local sensitivities.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi again, our bags are a high sierra 26" roller suitcase (it also has backpack straps - the suitcase is long but not wide) and 21" carry-on backpacks. Maybe need to reconsider the larger suitcase. On the cities, I have never visited any of them except Salzburg for one day en route from Munich to Venice. Maybe we should remove Melk and Eger? Would Hallstatt work for 1 night freeing up another night for Prague? Is there a better secondary place to visit in Czech Republic instead of Cesky Krumlov? We are castle and medieval town lovers! Thank you again for your help.

Posted by
10707 posts

I prefer the UN designation for the region (excluding Austria). It readily identifies the area I enjoy. Places like Hungary, Czech Rep, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Montenegro, Ukraine, etc....

Posted by
13904 posts

Do you really need that much luggage space? Especially since you are changing locations every 2-3 days, you'll want to have a minimum of stuff with you or you'll spend too much time packing and unpacking. Figure out where to spend two hours every 6-8 days to do laundry at a laundromat or pay for laundry service if you don't want to do hand laundry every other night. There are lots of tips for light packing on the forum.

Hallstatt is over-touristed and it's a trek to get there. The rain only takes you to the other side of the lake from the quaint town you want to visit. Then you have to wait for a ferry. When I was there they only ran from about 9 to 4. Bratislava is a day trip from Vienna, so is Melk.

Posted by
16608 posts

Bratislava is on my list for either this year or next; I have never been to Slovakia. I believe it is not considered an exceptionally interesting destination (there's an art museum I want to see, for sure), so in this situation, you could consider omitting it. Many people, I suspect, would recommend just one night in Cesky Krumlov (mid-day's apparently disastrously crowded there) and also in Hallstatt. Two nights might be enough in Salzburg unless you plan a lot of rural exploration from the latter. However, I've only been to Salzburg, and that was a long time ago. Perhaps others will weigh in.

Yes, I'd down-size that suitcase (or is it two of them--eek!). I don't think you'll need anything like that much space, given that you also plan to take large backpacks. I think there are three basic keys to packing light (and there's an entire forum here where you can get lots of good tips):

  • Take only the amount of toiletries you need for the length of your trip. Decant to smaller bottles as necessary. Use solids instead of liquids where possible. Plan to use hotel-supplied soap and shampoo unless you're picky. (Hotels virtually always provide a hairdryer as well.)

  • Don't pack "outfits". Pack (and wear on the plane) mix-and-match tops and bottoms (unless you prefer dresses). Maybe 5 tops and 3 bottoms (not 3 pairs of heavy jeans); add about 5 days' worth of underwear. Then add warm layers as necessary and a rain jacket. It's not all that bulky.

  • Minimize shoes. I travel for 4 months with just the pair on my feet, which I'm sure others consider extreme. Stick with shoes that will allow you to walk miles on cobblestones if you need to.

I highly recommend the Packing forum (link above). There are some great ideas in there.

Posted by
4866 posts

Laurie, think about what it would be like getting on and off a city bus, the subway or metro, etc., with that luggage. There is no baggage check or porters to help, or grace period for getting on and off trains. Blocking the doorway for people getting off or on is the biggest offense. You need to be ready, with your bags, to get off the train before the train comes to your stop. If you wait until the train stops, you could be caught up in the people coming up and down the aisle getting before you can pull your large bags out of the end rack. Dont fret about it, but be aware that you have to manage all you bring with you.

Posted by
10707 posts

Ive never been to Bratislava; but Slovakia in general is a beautiful destination full of nature and castles. I think one of Europe's best kept secrets and one of my favorite places in Eastern Europe.