Please sign in to post.

Two week travel starting in Prague and going to Vienna, Budapest, Slovakia and Krakow.

Hi, we are planning a two week trip in in March to Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Krakow. We plan on renting a car in Prague and driving thru Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and then back to Prague. I have been reading that driving in Poland is not the easiest but we enjoy the freedom of making our own schedule and not adhering to bus and train schedules. Is there a city in Slovakia that is between Budapest and Krakow that you would recommend staying for a night and doing some sight seeing before we arrive in Krakow?

Posted by
1995 posts

All Americans start this way, with this idea that the freedom to drive is the key thing. Freedom is great, but it's also the freedom to get traffic tickets, to get lost, and to get surprise fines for driving like a USA citizen. In addition, there is a problem that few consider at the start of the trip: Where do I put the car when I am not driving? You do not drive in cities unless you are a crazy person. You will thus be driving for 4 days and parking for 10. Is that what you want?

If you have never been to these cities, I would consider the train option. All are well-served by inexpensive trains. All have frequent train service. The trains get you to the middle of towns, and you do not have to consult maps, or discuss the traffic violation with a policeman in fluent Polish.

Posted by
17082 posts

How many nights will you have available in Europe, not counting the one spent on the plane? You mention four cities of great touristic importance--not the sort of places you can see in just a couple of day--and it will take time to travel between them. The total distance is over 900 miles. ViaMichelin.com estimates the total driving time at about 19 hours, and that does not include any stops, traffic delays, getting lost, looking for parking, etc.

In short, I doubt that you have enough time for a good visit to all four of the cities you've named, much less an extra night to stop in Slovakia.

I don't know how the travel time by train would compare to the driving time, but I, too, would recommend looking at trains. Cars are best for times when you want to wander around, stopping at will in little towns along the way, but that's not your situation, given the time you have available and the places you want to see.

Posted by
11094 posts

Paul kinda missed the point on traveling by car, and train options between Budapest and Krakow. I'm sort of partial to Štrbské Pleso in Slovakia. Some great Ski Hotels that should be well discounted by March; and beautiful scenery.

Posted by
17082 posts

James, how many nights would you suggest these folks spend in Budapest? Subtract that number from 12 (as I fear), 13 or 14 and tell us how you'd recommend they divide the remaining time among Prague, Vienna, Krakow and somewhere in Slovakia. Don't forget that the last night has to be back in Prague.

Posted by
1995 posts

@James E: I too have driven and enjoyed it. But we had the parking issue. In Budapest, we stayed 5 nights, and that was 5 days we did not use the car but paid for parking. The point of driving is the flexibility. I also remember trying to drive from Budapest to Eger, and it taking 3 hours to get out of Budapest, in that I didn't have Waze, couldn't find the exit (not kidding here), and couldn't find anyone who spoke either English or German to get directions from. Annoying.

Posted by
11094 posts

acraven, boy that sounds like a setup.

Two weeks in my world is 16 days, so ..........
Day 1 Leave US
2 in Prague
3 in Prague
4 on to Vienna
5 Vienna
6 Vienna
7 on to Budapest
8 Budapest
9 Budapest
10 Drive to Slovakia spend the night
11 Drive to Krakow
12 Krakow
13 Krakow
14 Drive to Prague
15 Prague
16 head home.....

Parking charges will be about 400 euro
Rental at least 1000 euro
Tolls maybe 50 euro
Gas maybe 250 euro
Total car trip 1700 euro
Driving time, no less than 20 hours without sight seeing (and at that you will back track quite a bit.)

Prague to Vienna train something less than 50 Euro
Vienna to Budapest train, something less than 20 euro
Flight to Krakow, about 75 euro (monday, tuesday, thursday and friday i believe)
Flight to Prague, about 75 euro (Sunday and Thursday I think)
Total by train and plane 220 euro
Travel time 12 hours
(and you could save more time flying open jaw)

But the question involved driving... so thats what I answered.

Posted by
11094 posts

I also remember trying to drive from Budapest to Eger, and it taking 3
hours to get out of Budapest, in that I didn't have Waze, couldn't
find the exit (not kidding here), and couldn't find anyone who spoke
either English or German to get directions from. Annoying.

My GPS works fine in Hungary. And why would you expect them to speak German? Do you know what happened in the East in 1945,46,47??

Posted by
17082 posts

I admit it: I'm surprised you'd suggest a 2.5-day visit in Budapest! I can't imagine such a short time there, and I know how you love the city. I'd say the same about 2.5 days in Krakow (assuming these folks want to include a trip to Auschwitz). No doubt I'd have the same reaction about Vienna if I had been there recently.

I do plan to go to Slovakia the next time I'm in that part of Europe; I just wasn't willing to cut other places short to fit it into my 2018 itinerary.

Posted by
11094 posts

Acraven, each traveler to their own likes. The folks seem to enjoy the act of travel as much as the destinations, so .... When I was younger I did the same. If they are interested I can give them a good two day tour of Budapest.

My taste these days is 3 or 4 days in Budapest, then a week some place else in Eastern Europe that I can reach on Wizzair (or another non stop discount airline for under $100) then another 3 or 4 days in Budapest. Right now that means Budapest and: Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Poland .... The only places I cant reach easily are Croatia and Slovenia. First preference to countries with trout streams.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you for all the comments, I guess we will NOT rent a car, lol! If we decide to take trains between cities do we need to purchase them now or can we buy same day as it is not busy season?? We are leaving March 18th of this year, only a month away and as you can see we have not done much planning!!!

Posted by
1995 posts

Here's an easy way to answer your question about train tickets. Go to a website for trains in Poland, and price a ticket for travel today vs travel in 1 month. That will tell you what last-min tickets will cost.

I went to Polrail and did that - priced the tix from Bialystok to Czechochowa - on April 1, 66 Pln, tomorrow 87 PLN. So you save 25% by booking early. Note that 1 PLN = .25 USD. So, the savings is $5 USD. That sounds pretty minor to me. The advantage of buying on the day of travel or the day before is flexibility. The total for the same-day trip is about $22.

I'd get going on my hotel stays for the first week. Since your trip is 2 weeks, you could easily plan the whole thing out in a few days. Most people stay in one place for 2-3 days, as that saves the wasted days of packing and unpacking. We have not been to Poland. Last summer, we stayed in Budapest at the Isis Hotel Heroes Square. It was inexpensive ($55/night), with a good breakfast, a bar in the lobby, and across the street from the Heroes' Square. We also stayed in a boat hotel Grand Jules. This was great fun.

@james e: Last summer, in Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia, I had 4-5 conversations in German with persons who did not speak English. Having 2 languages is better than having 1 language. And as to 1945, that is 75 years ago. Almost no one in those countries alive today was alive during WWII. In Serbia, the more important issue is 1999, when NATO and the USA bombed Beograd. You don't find many Serbs who hold that against USA tourists. So, I am not all that concerned with left-over resentments in most countries.

Posted by
11094 posts

Prior to WWII in part thanks to the Austro Hungarian Empire and in part thanks to earlier migration, there were German speaking enclaves all over Eastern Europe. These existed for generations and the people were citizens of the country in which they lived. The language of Hungarian nobles was German as well. Then the WWII "Liberating" armies arrived and exiled the Germans to Germany, sent them to work camps where they died or just murdered them. There is a very interesting book that details what happened after WWII, I will post the title tonight. What went on at the end of WWII was absolutely horrible, a second holocaust of sorts, and the results remain with few people of Germanic ancestry left in Eastern Europe.

Then during the post war occupation Russian was the language taught as a second language. So today if you meet someone that knows German or English most often they are young and have learned it since liberation from the Russians. English is being learned at twice the rate as German so the odds are you will run into twice as many English speakers as you will German. Even then, most of those that speak English or German will be in the cities where communicating for business is essential; and for that, again, English is the preferred language. Didnt mean to imply that a third language was useless. My apologies.

Posted by
11094 posts

Thank you for all the comments, I guess we will NOT rent a car, lol! If we decide to take trains between cities do we need to purchase them now or can we buy same day as it is not busy season?? We are leaving March 18th of this year, only a month away and as you can see we have not done much planning!!!

I would fly into Krakow. That puts the difficult stretch at the beginning of the trip. Then fly to Budapest. There are direct flights a few days of the week for under $100 depending on how you pack. Then train to Vienna, then train to Prague. That doesn't mean you cant rent a car one day at each stop and do a little sight seeing, but there really isnt much you cant reach, or would want to reach with so little time, that you cant do by other forms of transportation. For instance, a great trip out of Budapest is the town of Szentendre. A committer train up and a boat ride back. I would get a lot more out of that than driving. Or if you were willing to spend 1000 euro on a rental, try hiring a guide or just a driver for a day. Figure 200 euro a day for that. Still cheaper and you can stare out the window. I know both in Budapest if you like the idea.

Posted by
1995 posts

My relatives were in those German groups. There are multiple books on the atrocity AFTER the war, in which 12,000,000-14,000,000 Germans were dispossessed of their property without any compensation, declared enemies of the state (In Yugoslavia as well as other states), and put on cattle cars to be sent back to germany/Austria in subzero temperatures. 4-5 of my relatives were in that group. I know hundreds of people in the Donau Schwaben group whose relatives (parents, siblings, themselves) were either sent to Germany or to the Soviet Union. And this was all done with the complete compliance of the USA and UK governments.

Hundreds of thousands, millions, of persons of German heritage were removed from Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine. The Soviets took millions into the Soviet Union, and worked hundreds of thousands to death. Others were held until 1952 in some case.

The current president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, is of Saxon (Germanic) origin. In most countries of this area, there are German societies who protect the interests of the remaining Germans - in Serbia, there is such an organization. Serbia had 350,000 Germanic persons before the war in the Vojvodinja, which was reduced to 45,000 by 1948, and is now down to under 10,000.

So, yes, I am quite familiar with the history of Germans in the MittelEuropa area. My family was part of that Germanic group.

Read "Orderly and Humane" by RM Douglas for a recent discussion. There are many other books.

I use my modest Russian occasionally. In Beograd, a waitress scolded me for trying to speak Russian. "This isn't Russia", although Serbian is a cousin of Russian (both use Cyrillic, share many words, etc). In some cases, people get very annoyed at Russian. They weren't alive for the German occupation, but certainly were for the Russian dictatorship.

Posted by
11094 posts

Politically Serbia and Russia are very close. Some think that Serbia and Russia together were behind the recent coup attempt in Montenegro.

Posted by
14013 posts

Look at this post from someone who is also planning a similar trip.

Back to acraven's first question - how many nights will you have in Europe. Trying to see 4 cities with only 12 nights would be shortchanging at least one of them, maybe all of them.

Posted by
3 posts

We have 13 nights, the last night will have to be in Prague as we depart back to US the following morning. I am considering taking two night trains (couchettes) so we don't waste time with day travel between Prague, Krakow and Budapest, or perhaps even flying, will have to check the flight schedules and see of that is a possibility for at least one of the legs. It looks like there are night trains from Prague to Krakow and also from Krakow to Budapest every night which means we would miss seeing Slovakia but I would rather have three full days in Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Vienna.

Posted by
11094 posts

Also means you will miss how beautiful Budapest is at night.... Prague too for that matter.
Too much ....

Posted by
17082 posts

I would caution you that for some people night trains are a miserable experience. The last one I took--which, the lord willing, will be the last one I ever take--yielded not one minute of sleep. Naturally, I collapsed the next day, which resulted in a jetlag-like situation. It was a problem for me, but I was on a 3-month trip and hadn't prebooked much of anything, so it was only a short-term issue. If one or both of you react to night trains the way I did, you will lose a big chunk of you trip.

At the very least, investigate the night trains you're considering by looking them up on the Deutsche Bahn website. Find your train (Code will probably be "EN"), click on "Show details", then click on "Show intermediate stops". You'll get a list of all the stops the train will make. Observe the times and ask yourself whether you'll sleep through those stops (there will be some degree of braking, station noise and acceleration). For example, it appears that the Prague-Krakow night train makes 8 stops between midnight and 4:37 AM. It gets into Krakow at 6:22 AM, which is probably hours before you'll be able to do anything productive except eat breakfast.

Posted by
11094 posts

If you enjoy the act of travel, you will enjoy this trip. If you enjoy discovering cultures, you will be frustrated by this trip. Both legitimate, just different.

Posted by
1 posts

HI James,
I would love the name of your guide in Budapest. I am planning a trip there in April. Thank you, Ericka

Posted by
11094 posts

First, guides arent essential. A good book like "Eyewitness Top 10 Budapest" will be more than adequate if you take 20 minutes to understand public transportation and if you buy a TravelCard. IF, you have time or just want to drill down deep into a subject, then a guide is excellent. I like this guy. I first used him 15 years ago and still do from time to time. http://www.guideinbudapest.com/

Sometimes its getting from point A to point B that is the issue. For instance you want to see the bears http://www.medveotthon.hu/ First you eat breakfast at https://www.lockerbudapest.com/ Then you take the train up to Szentendre for the morning and have Laszlo pick you up after lunch and drive you to the bears and then back to Budapest or to Vac where you can sight see some more than hop the train back to Budapest. Good day actually. http://silverwings.hu/ Since Laszlo is just a driver and not a guide, he's cheaper and will still tell you all about Hungary from his perspective. If he drives you back to Budapest, then have him drop you at Kadarka dinner and some good wine. http://kadarkawinebar.com/ Yes, I am plugging all my favorites today.