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Driving from Krakow to Budapest through Slovakia

We are thinking of making this drive. We understand that there are some beautiful mountains in Slovakia along the route. Can anyone give us some tips? Where should we stay in the Slovakian mountains? We also want to see if we can visit the castle Spissky Hrad in western Slovakia on the way to Budapest. Can anyone tell us whether it is really out of the way and are there places to stay around there?

Posted by
6535 posts

This isn't what you asked, but also consider the Carpathian Mountains south of Krakow - very easy to get to by bus or car. They mountain range is called Zakopane.

Also, if you're going to rent a car from Poland, are you also going to loop back and return it in Poland as well? Drop off fees will be steep if you rent in one country and return in another. Car is not the only option to get to Budapest. You can take a very inexpensive bus ride via Polski Bus, or take the train.

Posted by
4637 posts

Spissky Hrad is in eastern Slovakia. Very scenic road is to go from Krakow toward Zakopane then to Lysa Polana where you cross the border into Slovakia, drive to Strbske Pleso and stay in hotel Kempinski. Fantastic views from the hotel toward lake and behind it peaks of High Tatra mountains. Then go to Spissky Hrad, it's a little out of way but distances are not that long. If you want to stay close to Spissky Hrad I would recommend Spisske Podhradie or having a car you can stay in nearby Levoca; pretty and historical town. You would want to see Oravsky Hrad. If you have less time you can drive there directly from Krakow, border crossing at Chyzne. Or after seeing Spissky Hrad you can go toward Ruzomberok then Dolny Kubin. After seeing Oravsky Hrad you backtrack to Ruzomberok, cross the Low Tatras ridge via Donovaly, Banska Bystrica, Zvolen and toward Budapest. It all depends how many days you allocate to your drive through Slovakia. It is very beautiful and underrated country and it is on Euro. Much cheaper there than in other Euro countries.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you so much for the replies. We are coming from Hawaii so we don't have much experience in Europe. Questions:
1. We do plan to rent the car in Krakow and drop off in Budapest. What rental car companies should we inquire from that are reliable and will let us drop off?
2. Do these cars all have GPS systems in English?
3. What is the current cost of Petrol?
4. Do you know where we can purchase road maps so we can look at them while we are in Hawaii to better plan for this drive?

Ilja, how many days and driving hours is the itinerary you are suggesting? It sounds amazing.

Posted by
4637 posts

First of all, Ken, I don't know when you are going so I assume that in summer. Your first two questions could be answered best by rental car company. Google rental car company in Krakow, choose the one you like the best and contact them with your questions. The question #3: 1 liter of petrol cost about 1 dollar, maybe little bit more. Cars in Europe generally have better milage than here and distances are shorter so it's not as bad as it looks like. #4 Where can you get road map or road atlas of Slovakia? My educated guess would be that if you can get it in Hawaii it would be in Honolulu in some special map store. If it was Seattle I would say try Metsker Map Company but Honolulu I don't know that well. Get detailed Road Atlas of Slovakia scale 1:100000 once you are there.
You want to know how many hours driving and how many days you spend in Slovakia. About how many days? - the more the better. Having a car you can be flexible and stay overnight where you like it. OK here we go: distance from Krakow to Lysa Polana is 126 km. On the way you can stop in mountain resort Zakopane. In Lysa Polana you can go to the stunningly beautiful mountain lake Morskie Oko (eye of the sea). Krakow to Lysa Polana about 2 hours (or less). From there is logistically better to go to Spissky Hrad (Castle - in reality huge ruins of a castle). Distance from Lysa Polana - little over 70 km - about 1 hour drive. If you want you can stay overnight in Spisske Podhradie or Levoca. From Spissky Hrad to Strbske Pleso 66 km (1 hour plus minus). I recommend hotel Kempinski, little spendy but gorgeous. One of the best hotels I ever stayed. Views over the lake toward jagged peaks of High Tatra mountains. From the distance somewhat resembling our Grand Tetons. From Strbske Pleso to Oravsky Hrad about 90 km (1.5 hour plus minus). The castle is very impressive. From Oravsky Hrad to Budapest 262 km (4 hours plus minus). Once you pass Ruzomberok turn right from the main road and visit beautiful village of Vlkolinec. It's on UNESCO list for it's original village architecture. Then on the way to Banska Bystrica stop in winter resort (it's nice in summer, too) Donovaly. Banska Bystrica is a nice regional town. You can visit Museum and Memorial of Slovak National Uprising against Nazis in WWII. So to your question how many nights in Slovakia. I would say take it easy, at least three. Try hotel Kempinski in Strbske Pleso, it is worth it. Otherwise you can be flexible having a car and stay where you like it. There is plenty of private accommodation in the villages on your route so called pensions (something like cheaper B&B).

Posted by
83 posts

petrol prices as of today: Pb95 4.7-4.9PLN/litre, diesel 4.5-4.7PLN/litre

Posted by
6 posts

I have spent 5 weeks doing some research after the last post. I found a road map. Here is my tentative driving itinerary.
JUNE 20-at 9am take E77south from Krakow to Orassky Hrad(visit) then to Vlkolinec (visit Unesco site) then thru Banska Bystrica (no visit) and take cut off to 525 to visit Banska Stiavnica (Unesco Site). That seems like a long one day drive. HOW LONG A DRIVE WITH ALL THE STOPS? Need a place to stay. Any suggestions?
JUNE 21- Backtrack north E77 thru Orrasky Hrad to Trestena without visiting any places and take cut off to take side road to Zakopane to Lysa Polana to see Lake Morskie Oko and then spend the night in Story Smokovec.(Any sugestions on accomodations).ALSO SHOULD WE STOP OFF IN ZAKOPANE TO DO SOME EXPLORING? IS THIS TOO CRAZY AND TOO FAR AND TOO MUCH TIME TO BACKTRACK FOR THE FIRST 2 DAYS? I want to see the UNESCO sites and the the beautiful mountains and lakes. we considered staying at Hotel Kempinski in Strbske Pleso but at $US 450 / nite, it was a little too rich for our tastes. However, do you recommend that we go there for lunch or dinner?

JUNE 22- Spend a half day hiking around Smokovec , then in afternoon visit Bardejov (Unesco site). Drive back from Bardejov to stay in Levoca or maybe stay second nite in Smokovec?. (ANY SUGGESTIONS?)

JUNE 23- In the morning visit Spissky Hrad (HOW MANY HOURS SHOULD WE SPEND AT CASTLE?) and explore Levoca in the afternoon and then stay in Levoca.for the nite. If we spend the nite of June 22 in Levoca, it would mean two nights there. Is that too much?

June 24-drive to Eger, Hungary from Levoca. take E50 East, then E50 south thru Kosice and then EE71 south to take cut off to Eger. Spend nite in Eger. HOW LONG IS DRIVE FROM SPISSKY HRAD TO EGER?
JUNE 25- Spend all day in Eger and drive to Budapest starting around 4 pm.. This is a Sunday; is the traffic worse on Sundays bc of people driving back from Eger to Budapest? Spend nite in Budapest and return car 9 am June 26. HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD WE ALLOT TO EXPLORE EGER?

I would appreciate any suggestions, especially the 1st 2 days as it seems like an awful lot of driving. I am open to suggestions to changing my itinerary to make the drives and places more realistic, doable and enjoyable. It is hard for me to estimate the number of hours of driving from one place to another because I am not familiar with the roads or the traffic.

As we say in Hawaii, Mahalo (thank you). Ken

Posted by
14225 posts

I'm planning a trip that includes Krakow to Budapest through Slovakia so this question really grabbed me. I tried autoeurope.com and the only company they showed was Avis. Next stop - avis.com. They returned a notice that there may be drop-off fees assessed and to call their toll-free number to make a reservation.

Posted by
12124 posts

I bet its expensive with car cost, tolls, gas, drop off fees,nparking along the way. If it were me i would spend two nights in one hotel in the Slovakian high Tatras (the Kempinsky maybe) and then use the car for touring the immediate area. Then another night in one of the Banska towns, then go into Budapest and get rid of the car. For Eger I would do an overnight train trip out of Budapest. Actually, to be honest, I would hire a service and let someone else drive while I looked at the scenery.

Posted by
6 posts

Chani, I just booked my car several days ago through Auto Europe and Avis was the cheapest. For 6 days and nights it came out to $345 which includes all taxes, property damage insurance to the car and a full tank of gas. However, there is a dropoff fee of approximately $400 to be paid in Budapest since this is a one way rental from Krakow to Budapest. You can get the details online, but I called the toll free number to help me book. It's better to call the number while you are online bc the online will not tell you the drop off fee. You can only get that by talking to them. Use this number 1-800- 223-5555. This is a 24/7 number that is not listed on the website. I called the 888 number several times and both times the recording said it was closed for the day. BC of the steep drop off fee I researched whether it was better to return the car to Krakow after driving around Slovakia and decided against it bc of these reasons: 1. The airfare from Krakow to Budapest was $200/person for my wife and I; 2. The train was cheaper but it takes around 10-12 hours and from the reviews, it is not a very good train ride; 3. You lose valuable sightseeing time (maybe 1 day) backtracking to Krakow so you may have to miss other sights in Slovakia worth seeing; 4. Slovakia apparently is a gem of a country and still a relative unknown to hordes of tourists (but avoid Levoca during the Mary festival in July like the guidebooks warn) and relatively cheap with many Unesco sites and beautiful mountains and lakes in the northern region.

Posted by
6 posts

James,
how much would a service charge to drive my wife and I to Eger from Budapest? Any suggestions on a company to use?

Posted by
4637 posts

Banska Bystrica is a regional town much bigger than Banska Stiavnica which is more historical. They are both former mining towns (that's why Banska which means mining). James and I like them both. See both but stay overnight in Banska Stiavnica. Quieter and history will more breath at you. They mostly mined copper in Banska Bystrica, silver in Banska Stiavnica and gold in nearby Kremnica.

Posted by
4637 posts

Ken, you got a lot of backtracking in your itinerary. You can save time and money and see the same if you follow my suggestions in my previous replies. On your way to Budapest from Banska Bystrica to Budapest drive to Kremnica (another historical mining town - gold) and then Banska Stiavnica where you can stay overnight. To get more ideas read posts under Slovakia, especially: Slovakia road trip, Slovakia the forgotten country, Is this country most underrated on this Travel Forum?, Best destination in Slovakia?
One of the best guidebooks about Slovakia in English is Lucy Mallows: Slovakia. It's in edition Bradt. If you can get it, do it and read it.

Posted by
12124 posts

I phrased it wrong. I would hire the car to get from Krakow to Budapest. I would take the train to Eger. The train from Budapest is about 2 hours and about $12. The Hotel Senator Haz was pretty nice.

Our 3rd trip to Slovakia about two years ago began at the Grand Kempinsky High Tatras and not in Krakow but i know the hotel will send a car to Krakow to pick you up. Once at the hotel we hired a local guide to see the castles and the country side. We also spent a few days fly fishing.

On the second trip into Slovakia it was back to the High Tatras for more fly fishing. For that we hired a driver each way.

On our first trip to Slovakia we hired a car and drove up to the Banska Towns. We stayed in the Salamander Hotel in Banska S., but the Bristol looks a little nicer. This was just an overnight trip so we returned to Budapest late the next day.

So piece the three trips together and you would hire a Polish service to get you to the kempensky where you would stay for two days and see the castles and maybe go rafting. Then get a guide to take you to Banska B and Banska S where you spend the night. Then then next day you have a Hungarian driver bring you into Budapest. Three fairly direct and fairly short legs with lots of good stuff to see. And i would suspect not a whole lot more than renting a car and paying the drop off fees. Okay, maybe twice as much but still terrible by a lot of standards.

Posted by
14225 posts

Thanks for the car rental fee info. I will stick with Plan A - 7.5 hour scenic bus ride from Krakow to Budapest for $25 or less (depending on which bus line). I'd love to spend time exploring Slovakia, but that will have to wait for another trip. It looks like I'm up to about 3 weeks just for 3 Polish cities and Budapest and surroundings.

Hello fellow travelers to Slovakia

Which company did you use to have a driver take you from Budapest to Krakow? I have contacted JayWay a boutique agency, but would like to get a referral too of a company of which others have used as well. Thank you!

Debbie Smith

Posted by
12124 posts

I have never used a driver to go from Budapest to Krakow. I have used three different agencies to get from Budapest to the Slovakian High Tatras abut 3/4 of the way to Krakow; and I know they will go all the way.

The first was a driver sent by the Grand Kempenski High Tatras hotel. Great and stunningly beautiful place for the night on the way to Krakow. Other than calling the hotel, cant help you much.

The second was http://www.fclimo.hu/ the driver was a kid named Eric and he was amazing.

The third was http://transferbudapesthungary.com/ and they were very adequate.

I would also suggest checking with this guy http://www.silverwings.hu/ we use him a lot, but not in that direction yet.

If it is after October, I would be very tempted to fly Budapest to Lviv, spend a few days, then fly to Krakow. Alll possible, nonstop, in about an hour each flight, for about $100 each flight.