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Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw - itinerary and logistics help please.

I've read many of the posts for the individual forums and found a wealth of helpful information; but I have a couple of questions. Our tentative itinerary is as follows (for May/June 2016 - planning ahead is fun...):
Prague: 7 nights (day trips to castles, etc)
Cesky Krumlov: 2 nights
Vienna: 7 nights (day trip to Melk and Wachau)
Bratislava: 3 nights (after reading worldinbetween)
Gyor: 2 nights
Budapest: 7 nights (after many interesting posts by James)
Eger: 2 nights
Pecs: 2 nights
Krakow: 6 or 7 nights depending on train or plane
Warsaw: 3 nights

Will it be difficult connecting to Gyor from Bratislava? I've found the train schedules confusing.

If we do a long travel days between Eger, through Budapest without stopping, and onto Pecs will that be too difficult to schedule? It looks like about 5 hours travel overall, with some waiting time. Our thinking is that with a week in Budapest, we might just want to travel on through to reach Pecs. I couldn't see any other way of connecting Eger with Pecs other than by train through Budapest - am I correct?
Travelling from Pecs back to Budapest and then by either train or plane to Krakow (why we'd ever take the o/n train after reading James' hilarious account of what it's like, I don't know, but....) - will we be able to manage time and schedule-wise if we don't stop o/n in Budapest?
Also - are there any glaring missteps in the itinerary? We have a lot of time, guidebooks and energy to plan the trip in advance, so changes are possible. All we've booked is our flights and an apartment in Prague. Our preference is to stay in one place for a length of time to absorb the feel of it, while trying not to exhaust ourselves visiting every monument, museum and church (we don't always succeed). We are also hoping to take in opera/ballet in Prague - tickets on sale now and either concert/opera in Budapest, though it seemed the schedule is not up yet on the website (is that correct?) Thanks in advance for any advice.

Posted by
6742 posts

I think you may have too many nights in Krakow - it's fairly compact and, unless you want to visit every possible church or are doing all day side-trips like Zakopane or Auschwitz or the salt mine etc., about 4 full days will do it justice (so I would give it 4-5 nights max). That's not to say that you couldn't fill your time if you wanted to really do it leisurely (or you have a lot of sites you want to see there), but I'm leaning on 6-7 nights being a bit long based on my travels there. Warsaw is more spread out with its attractions so, while it doesn't get the same tourist cache or perceived charm as Krakow, there are actually more things to do there that take up more time since they aren't concentrated in one area (another way of saying, I would spend more time in Warsaw than Krakow).

In terms of the order of cities, check out the Polski Bus (http://www.polskibus.com/en) destinations to see if it makes more sense to link two or more cities on your itinerary together depending on the routes. Assuming you are willing to take the bus, of course, as an option. Just throwing it out there in case it makes sense for you. Between Krakow and Warsaw, I would definitely do train - it's quick.

Posted by
3319 posts

My only comment would be to consider adjusting the order of your cities...you are starting in Prague, going south to Budapest and then going way north past Prague, up to Poland.
I would try to fly open jaw either to Budapest - out of Warsaw or the opposite, Warsaw - Budapest, hitting the other destinations in the middle either on the way south or the way north. You have a lot of backtracking otherwise which is a waste of time.
I guess you have already booked your flights but maybe you can change for a small fee? Completely depends on the airline you have chosen...

Posted by
6570 posts

We went from Budapest to Bratislava (train) to Vienna (bus) and to Prague last year. The trains were old and slow--uncomfortable.
But the journey was in a straight line, and it was a pretty efficient route.
The bottleneck may be from Prague to Krakow--333 miles to the east. It's about a 8 1/2 hour, all day, train ride. And there are not any flights between the two cities. After you get to Krakow, you can easily get to Warsaw by a new fast train service.
I don't know about staying 2 days in some of the cities you're visiting and even some of the big cities may warrant staying a day or two less. Bratislava is a great 2 night stop, and it's so close to Vienna by hydrofoil if you're going May to September.
I would suggest you look at some online maps to plot the order to visit your proposed cities.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks, Anita and David. We are flying into Prague and out of Warsaw. We finally got to use our pesky aeroplan points for the airfares, so there's no latitude there. We were attempting to do a sort of semi horseshoe in our route, though can't avoid the backtracking between Eger and Pecs as the only route seems to be through Budapest. Being retired, we have nothing but time, so a couple of down days in a lovely town doesn't worry us too much... (We found in driving 7 weeks around France that by the time we left our B&B in the morning and dawdled along the way, one whole day was shot for a short distance...😊)

Posted by
24 posts

PS David - hydrofoil sounds fun - will investigate.

Posted by
4637 posts

Correct: going from Eger to Pecs you have to go via Budapest. To get from Bratislava to Gyor you either go from Bratislava hlavna stanica (Main Train Station) to Vienna then to Gyor or from Bratislava Petrzalka to Gyor with one train change. I would take some nights from Krakow and give it to Gdansk. I was surprised how beautiful city it is and I actually liked it more than Krakow. Krakow is of course beautiful but for me Gdansk even more. If you are into classical music you will be in paradise in Prague in May. So called Prague Spring.

Posted by
24 posts

This is great, thanks. I can push days from Kraków to Warsaw to Gdansk - I read RS's article recently and now with your post, I'm convinced. We just need to get back to Gdansk for return flight. Good advice!

Posted by
12538 posts

Will it be difficult connecting to Gyor from Bratislava? I've found
the train schedules confusing.

Yes, well, there is not train. You have to take a train to Vienna then take a train to Gyor. I don’t think the Hydrofoil stops in Bratislava any longer. Never met anyone that enjoyed it.

If we do a long travel days between Eger, through Budapest without
stopping, and onto Pecs will that be too difficult to schedule? It
looks like about 5 hours travel overall, with some waiting time. Our
thinking is that with a week in Budapest, we might just want to travel
on through to reach Pecs. I couldn't see any other way of connecting
Eger with Pecs other than by train through Budapest - am I correct?

You are correct. All trains go through Budapest. With the change in Budapest it’s 6 hours. That exceeds my train tolerance. With 7 nights in Budapest why don’t you rent an apartment and use it for a base. You are doing a lot of 2 night stays which I respect but personally it’s a little long for me for your first trip to Pecs, Eger and Gyor. A few days in Budapest, a morning train to Pecs with a late afternoon train the next day. Another day or two in Budapest and another morning train to Eger for another night with a late afternoon train back. The exception to this might be if you are a big wine person; then I would spend two nights at each and go to the vineyards. If you spend one night each in Pecs and Edger then you will be paying for an empty apartment for 2 nights. You can get a great apartment for 65 euro a night. But with an 11 night rental I would negotiate them down to at least a 10% discount which sort of pays for the nights you don’t use it. Add Obuda, Godollo, Szentendre and Vac to your list of day trips.

Travelling from Pecs back to Budapest and then by either train or
plane to Krakow (why we'd ever take the o/n train after reading James'
hilarious account of what it's like, I don't know, but....) - will we
be able to manage time and schedule-wise if we don't stop o/n in
Budapest?

I took some overnight trains when I was younger and prior to “the change” in Eastern Europe. I bet things are better……………still wouldn’t do it :-) You could use that second night from Pecs, Gyor and Edger and use them to work your way across Slovakia to Krakow.

Also - are there any glaring missteps in the itinerary? We have a lot
of time, guidebooks and energy to plan the trip in advance, so changes
are possible. All we've booked is our flights and an apartment in
Prague. Our preference is to stay in one place for a length of time to
absorb the feel of it, while trying not to exhaust ourselves visiting
every monument, museum and church (we don't always succeed). We are
also hoping to take in opera/ballet in Prague - tickets on sale now
and either concert/opera in Budapest, though it seemed the schedule is
not up yet on the website (is that correct?) Thanks in advance for any
advice.

The May/June 2016 program is on the site. http://www.opera.hu/programme#?y=2016&m=6&helyszin=mind&mufaj=mind purchase soon as most performances sell out. The Operett hasn’t listed yet, but will by the end of the year. Again, sells out fast. http://www.operett.hu/ The other good venue the Liszt Academy is also not up yet: http://zeneakademia.hu/en/home I think its great that you are doing this in Prague and Budapest. You can compare the audience; I think you will see a huge difference.

Posted by
14399 posts

I am planning a trip from Warsaw to Budapest. See this thread . There's some information on some of your cities.

After a lot of research, the best way to get from Hungary to Krakow is the 7 hour bus ride from Budapest - details and discussion on the above thread. There are no direct trains or flights.

I've been to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I think Budapest has the most to offer, including day trips. If you like wine, Hungary has excellent ones and there's a good tasting room in Budapest in the bowels of the Hilton next to Fisherman's Bastion (worth going to just to see the Hilton - and the bathrooms are very nice and free, unlike the public ones outside). I also had some very good wines in Austria.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you James and Chani. I may re-work some of the scheduling based on your comments. And the thread on your upcoming trip, Chani, was very useful - I must have missed it in my search! I like the idea of an apartment base in Budapest with trips to Gyor, Eger and Pecs, but it will depend on what I can find/negotiate as to whether it makes sense to retain it while on day(s) away. I didn't think about breaking up the Budapest stay, but I guess as a plan that also has merit. I spent some time investigating bus transportation from Eger through Kosice and into the Tatras (Levoca?) then to Zakopane and from there to Krakow. I found it difficult sifting through information on transportation and finally concluded that it might be another trip, with some hiking time built in, but I might re-visit based on the comments so far. We had friends who visited both Krakow and Warsaw this year and raved about both destinations, though I think I will try to include Gdansk as a 2 day from Warsaw (thanks, Ilya - and Christa for her trip report) and get back in time for our return flight home. There is much to digest in the posts! and I'm sure I will have more questions. I will keep checking the music websites for updated schedules, James - thanks for the links. This forum and the travel expertise and generosity of people to take the time to provide feedback is outstanding. Thanks again.

Posted by
12538 posts

After a lot of research, the best way to get from Hungary to Krakow is
the 7 hour bus ride from Budapest - details and discussion on the
above thread. There are no direct trains or flights.

Depends on how you define "Best". This, or something similar, is my preferred "best" way: About 200 euros a person for two. http://transferbudapesthungary.com/budapest-to-krakow-transport-transfer-taxi.html

I am absolutely certain you can get 11 nights in a very good, well situated apartment in Budapest for between 500 and 600 euro. Sort of hard to beat for convenience. When you go on the overnight trips you only carry enough for that night so you don't lug bags around. You get to live in the culture for a week and really get to know the place. This is exactly what we do when in Budapest. Generally its about 16 days with a few side trips and overnighters to break it up. The flexibility is amazing too. If the weather is bad on the day you had planned to go to Pecs, you simply go the next day. Simple and efficient. I would do the same in Prague and Vienna. As for Krakow, having been within 100km, but not having ever actually gotten there I don't know too much but from what I have heard I cant imagine spending a week there. But that's just me.

The train from Eger to Kosice goes through and requires a change in Füzesabony. Not too complicated. With the change and the layover, its about 3 hours. From Kosice there are trains into the tatras with all sorts of great places to stay and sight see.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks, James - the site looks promising for a transportation option. We've taken overnight trains recently in Vietnam and Egypt and have no wish to repeat any time soon, though I can't imagine European trains these days being any worse:) Flying from Budapest to Krakow via Vienna or Warsaw is also an option and may be cheaper than the private car, though I like the idea of seeing the countryside whenever possible. I've sent an enquiry to Andrassy Apartments, the link for which I found in another of your posts. ( I couldn't get the automatic availability calendar to work that far in advance.) The rate seemed pretty reasonable for what looks like a thoroughly modern, well-situated apartment, with good reviews. I'd like to get as much nailed down in terms of longer-term accommodation in the next few weeks, as we will be away most of November in India. Got to work on Vienna next, though I'm less worried about it, having been once before, though long ago. (btw, I will have to edit my profile to indicate that my first name is Loreen and that I'm in Victoria, BC...)

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

I'm assuming that taking the night train such as that from Budapest to Krakow is a less than ideal option...maybe but it's direct and a time saver. That would be my choice. In East Central Europe Krakow is one the two hubs for night trains.

When I was in Krakow, what I regretted was the time factor, 3-4 nights were not enough but it wasn't my call then. My next visit to Krakow, aside from the seeing some missed sights, I would included by train a day trip to Pszczyna...doable time wise. See the historic chateau. connected to US history too.

Posted by
24 posts

Very good - thank you Fred. Noted. Based on friends's advice, I am bent on having enough time in Kraków for such excursions, while still allocating enough time to Warsaw and maybe sneaking in a couple of days in Gdansk. I find that no matter how much I adopt the RS motto of - you can always return- that the world just offers too much and too many exciting destinations for a repeat visit anywhere....(there are always exceptions of course.)

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

You're welcome. One thing you can bet on (if you're a betting person...lol) is that night trains in Central Europe are not going to be anything you experienced in Egypt or Vietnam, nothing comparable in the lack of luxury. . What you see in an EN (EuroNight) night train are coaches from different countries linked up together to form the entire train. There could be an Hungarian coach connected to a Polish one or two, connected to a Czech coach then connected to an Austrian coach(s). The common language spelled out in big letters on the coaches is German...Schlafwagen for a sleeper, Liegewagen (couchette).

The town Pszczyna has a Schloss/chateau of historical significance also pertaining to US history because of the decision taken there in 1917 that was bound to adversely affect the US. The town's former name was Pless in Upper Silesia ie, Pleß/Oberschlesien. Logistically, going there is a bit easier from Katowice but still doable from Krakow. In 2001 the train's first stop after departing from Krakow was Katowice. I wished I could have gotten off to see Katowice and do that day trip but we were pressed for time and had to get back to Berlin. Hopefully, you've factored in the time to see that chateau.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you Fred and Worldinbetween (enjoyed your blog, by the way). Reworking itinerary as we speak, er, write...

James, am I looking at selling my youngest to pay for the private car service?

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

You're very welcome...again. "...get back to Gdansk for a return flight." To where? London? I ask because from Gdansk to London can be done with Wizzair. If you're going to be Gdansk anyway, I would suggest at least reserve three-four days to see the place, above all, the old town, the former Altstadt. In terms of the buildings you'll see some going back to the Middle Ages. I found the city absolutely fascinating visiting it in 2003, just being in that part of Europe, ie, in the lower Vistula area was fascinating enough!

If you get a rental car, I would suggest going out of the city to see some of the small towns, not all of them were wrecked, destroyed by bombs or shell fire in 1945. One town that came out unscathed was Gniew. What I should have gone to in Gdansk since I stayed at a Pension in the old town, ie saw the sign pointing to it, was Westerplatte, where the Germans began the attack on Poland. Both the old and new town are great walking areas, walked all over to see the sights. Take the train, ca. 40 mins to Malbork (Marienburg) to see the huge castle...well worth your time. . Tours are given in 5-6 languages.

There was mentioned above a reference to an Austrian WW 1 military cemetery. If you want to see something like that in Vienna, go to the Zentral Friedhof (central cemetery), (the tram goes to it) one reason to see where the famous composers are buried, also on the WW1 the military cemetery is located there too. If you read German, the inscriptions aren't only very interesting but revealing..

Posted by
4637 posts

Yes, Westerplatte, I went there. Interesting. You are being at the place where WWII started. And I would also strongly recommend excellent new museum of the trade unions Solidarity in Gdansk. They ultimately started the end of communism.

Posted by
24 posts

My "get back to" Gdansk was a typo, I meant "from". More research indicates Gdansk warrants more time than we've got and will be bookmarked for the next trip along with a decent time in Berlin (haven't been since 1971 - flew into Tempelhof, crossed to East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie, wandered down a very eerie Unter den Linden - really want to go back) and the Baltic countries.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Loreen..

Were we on the same plane? I flew on July 20, 1971 from Hannover-Langenhagen to Berlin Tempelhof, can't remember whether it was BEA (remember them?) or Air France for this first visit to Berlin. By 1973 on my second visit to Berlin , Templehof was no longer being used but had been replaced by Tegel for civilian tourist flights.

Posted by
24 posts

@Fred
I don't remember the airline, but I was flying from Frankfurt. I'd come from London and then the ferry from Dover and night train to Frankfurt the day before, having spent 2 months earlier in the summer working in a pension in the Schwarzwald as part of an exchange program my university offered. The trip to Berlin for all of us was a bonus laid on by the German contingent. Hence my wish to return! (Not to mention practising a little German!) But - another year.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

Flying into Tempelhof from Frankfurt was through one corridor, as was from Hannover, another corridor. When I first saw East Berlin on a bus tour (strictly East Berlin) in 1984, it was strange...obviously. That was eleven years since the last time in Berlin in 1973. So, I can well imagine that "eerie" feeling you had on Unter den Linden. In 1984 the buildings or columns on Unter den Linden, such as Neue Wache, etc were still black, worse than what I had seen in Vienna in the '70s They must have been that way which is what you saw in 1971. My first time seeing the Brandenburger Tor was on the bus tour from the east and the Quadriga facing eastwards only from the bus. In 1971 or 1973 I didn't even know how to get over to the East except by way of a tour, let alone know how to get to Checkpoint Charlie.

Not until 1987 when I went back to Berlin again did I know how to get over to the East w/o a tour by the other entrance point...Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse...a really unique and singular experience with the Vopo guards standing everywhere, I mean everywhere, to the point you knew that you were being watched all the time from different angles, on the ground and above ground. Remember the mandatory amount in the currency exchange each time you crossed over?

Posted by
14399 posts

James is an amusing mix of contradictions - he recommends saving $5-10 a night on modestly priced lodgings in Budapest but suggests a $400 (or is it €400?) driver from Krakow to Budapest instead of the $15 scenic bus ride.

Posted by
12538 posts

James is an amusing mix of contradictions - he recommends saving $5-10
a night on modestly priced lodgings in Budapest but suggests a $400
(or is it €400?) driver from Krakow to Budapest instead of the $15
scenic bus ride.

I have been called a lot of things, sometimes in polite company. But I have never been called amusing. For me everything must have a purpose and every opportunity must be capitalized on.

Accommodations: First of all they must be in the absolute ideal location to facilitate my time in the town or city or ... “only a 10 minute tram from the … “ doesn’t cut it for me. Then they must provide some added value beyond a place to sleep. That added value can be history (sleeping where Washington slept), or architectural (the Flame Towers in Baku for instance), or something unique (an ice hotel); or even just plain spoil my pants off opulent. It doesn’t have to be expensive and the cost isn’t the point. In Moscow we stayed where visiting world leaders stay. I wanted to experience the place. I did, now next time I will look for something totally different. In Bulgaria it was rural inns that cost less than 1/10 of the Moscow hotel. In Paris I wanted the room on the Isle St. Louis that looked down on the bakery across the street so I could watch the coming and the going in the early hours (and for a croissant). The apartment we stay in in Budapest is 2 minutes from Andrassy ut and the Opera House which is spectacular when lit up at night, across the street from an old synagogue and we watch their traditions and coming and going. It’s next to an art gallery and 200 feet from a wine bar. The neighbors in the building are Hungarians and they welcome us in and are courteous and polite. So, in so much as it is possible the added value is being in the center of the culture without a lot of tourist pressure. Again, modestly priced.

So that brings us to the 400 euro transfer. You can actually get it done for 325 euro. Door to door would be about 6.5 hours. OrangeWays Bus charges about 23 euro and takes 7 hours and 15 minutes. Then figure another hour for early arrival at the bus station and the time to get to and from the bus station at each end of the journey. And heck, let’s toss in 2 euro for the metro rides while we are at it. Total 8 hours and 15 minutes. So for two that would be 325 euro & 6.5 hours vs 48 euro and 8.25 hours.

For me the bus time would be pure cash savings and absolutely no added value. Sure the country side is pretty, but no history, no explanation, no interaction, no context; just watching it fly by. We took a private transfer in Hungary about 3 weeks ago and spent the time talking about Hungary’s history and customs with the driver. We actually enjoyed his company. We had some spare time so when he discovered we like to fish he made a side trip to a lake and introduced us to some fishermen who shared their techniques with us. Incredible added value. We have had similar experiences with most of the private transfers we have taken. So, no, they are not a waste of money by my count. Still there are limitations to what I am willing to or can spend. But I solve that problem by planning the trips in such a way that I can afford them without having to waste time on low vacation value pursuits like 8 hour bus rides.

Would I pay 325 euro for a private transfer Budapest to Krakow? No. Nor would I ride the bus. Basically I wouldn’t tie Krakow to Budapest. I will see Krakow when it fits into a schedule that does not require that sort of decision. I have been considering flying into Krakow as my first stop from the states. Then to the Slovakian Tatras to do some fishing, then to Kosice. Then the next to Budapest. Train or Driver? Or even a Guide? have to work that out depending on cost and value for the buck.

Am I right? There is no right or wrong; just what works for you.

Posted by
4372 posts

I'd love to know and understand what warrants 3 nights in Bratislava. I've been there a few times and felt like an afternoon was more than enough.

I would also note that it is very challenging to get from Cesky Krumlov to Vienna. Have a look at the Bean Shuttle to make it easier.

Posted by
12538 posts

worldinbetween; I am confused. Should I be amused or offended? Keep in mind that i dont write as eloquently as you do. Emily, you should be offended. And what did take you so long?

Posted by
12538 posts

Granted I over plan. Then to be honest I stick to maybe half of it. I have gotten better in recent years to plan options ............ and I toss half of those as well. But I avoid long wasted days. Of course my definition of a wasted day of traveling might be enjoyable to someone else and my idea of a great day at a wine bar sidewalk table watching people go by might be a waste for someone else.

Posted by
24 posts

At the risk of intruding into the midst of what seems to be a well-trampled (but I'm guessing basically friendly) sandbox:

Bratislava is now 2 days (no biking this time, worldinbetween)

Bean shuttle for both Prague - CK and CK - Vienna

Private driver option being explored for (what I think will be) a spectacular trip from the Eger wine region (somewhere) through the Tatras to Zakapone and then train the rest of the way to Krakow.

Once again, thanks for all the contributions.

Posted by
12538 posts

Loreen, for the most part we all get along very well. I like your ideas, ... not that it matters. And I love Slovakia enough to justify 3 trips there in the last 5 years. Have fun!

Posted by
4372 posts

Loreen - your trip sounds like it will be great.

I'll just return now to my very predictable posts. Worldinbetween, I hope you can pull yourself away from the computer to resume your fabulous life ;).

Posted by
2127 posts

The bus from Zakopane to Kraków is quite a bit faster than the train. The buses run frequently. You just show up at the bus station, get on the bus, and pay the driver. Only 15 zloty.

Posted by
4637 posts

Yes, bus takes about half of time as train. Last June train was not even going, they were doing big reconstruction of the tracks. It looked like that would be going for a long time.

Posted by
24 posts

@Carroll
@Ilya
The bus info is useful thank you. Any tips on where to stay in Z?

Posted by
14399 posts

James, I hope I didn't offend. From my point of view, the two suggestions seemed incongruous - but then for about $300, I could fly home from Warsaw, do laundry, have a good night's sleep in my own bed and then fly to Budapest :-)

Posted by
12538 posts

Chani, you never offend. For about $300 I could fly Budapest to Tel Aviv and come visit you. Actually did that a couple years back and enjoyed it. Sorry I missed you on that trip. Next time?

But do remember that for an American $300 is a much smaller percentage of the overall cost.

Posted by
2127 posts

Loreen, I stayed at Residence Bambi, which is about a 15 minute walk from the main pedestrian free street and another 5-10 minutes walk to the bus station. We had a small apartment for about $75 a night. I think they have regular rooms there too. We liked it.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks, Carroll - I had a quick look at their website and it looks lovely - great suggestion. We won't have our hiking boots and poles with us this trip, but it looks like there are a few "walks" that we could undertake from there.

(Unless of course we get side-tracked in James' Kempinski paradise).