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Trying to plan itinerary to Poland - Prague - Budapest

I am planning on traveling from USA to Poland in July with my boyfriend. Given the flights I am considering we will have 13 full days worth of sightseeing time available. Debating on itinerary options...do not plan to rent a car, but I suppose we could for a time if someone thinks that is better than bus/train/flights. I have seen Munich and Innsbruck so I'd rather focus on countries I haven't seen yet. Therefore I was thinking Krakow - Prague - Budapest.

  1. I could fly into Warsaw or Krakow. Debating if I should see Warsaw or skip it. If we see it, how many days and how best to get to Krakow?
  2. If I skip Warsaw and fly into Krakow, my flight would go USA to Warsaw and then connects to Krakow... do I go through customs in Warsaw or Krakow? The connection times in Warsaw to Krakow aren't that long and I don't want to run out of time...how does border patrol and customs work in Poland for connections?
  3. I've heard really good things about Krakow. How many days should I spend there? NOTE: I do want to day trip from Krakow to Donosy & Odonow since that is where my family is from. What should I see around Donosy/Odonow? How best to get there and back from Krakow?
  4. Plan to take overnight train from Krakow to Prague and stay in a 2 person sleeper car. Anything I should know about booking that or traveling this way?
  5. Plan to stay in Prague...how many days?
  6. Plan to go to budapest... how many days and would you visit Bratislava in transit? Will fly out of Budapest to USA.

We are in our early 30s and in good shape. I love old architecture, castles, art/cultural stuff, nature, and am a foodie that loves trying beer and wine. I want to see a lot, but I don't want to spread too thin that I don't get to feel like I experienced the place. Please make your recommendations on where to go, how long to stay, what to see, and if you think we need to be more focused to less places as I realize that 13 days is not a lot given travel time between cities...

Thanks
Diane

Posted by
16761 posts

Although I enjoyed a day in Warsaw, I think you can skip it and allot that time to smaller-town daytrips from your three main cities. Your luggage will be checked through, but you go through passport control in Warsaw; timing depends on the length of the line. The airline should not sell a connection that they don't believe will work, but check whether there is a later flight connection, in case you end up needing the option.

I would divide the time equally between Poland/Czech Republic/Hungary. A half-day is enough to get the feel of Bratislava, for instance if you leave Prague at 5:30 or 7:30 a.m., or if you depart at a decent hour and stay one night in Bratislava. Or you could travel from Prague all the way to Eger (adds 2.5 hours beyond Budapest) or Pecs (adds 4 hours) in Hungary, before Budapest.

Posted by
12 posts

Laura, thanks for the info... some of the LOT flights from Warsaw to Krakow have only 50 to 75 minutes in between flights. I can't imagine that would be adequate to go through customs even without bags and get to the gate and board the plane... do you have to go through any security screenings at all or is it just customs/passport check?

Also, flying back most flights from Budapest go through Warsaw or Frankfurt before going to the USA. Do we go through customs in each airport or do we just do customs in Budapest and then the USA?

Posted by
12 posts

what is the best way to arrange smaller town day trips? would that be something to plan prior to the trip or once we arrive? how is best to travel to the small towns?

People are recommending Wieliczka and Zakopane from Krakow...I would like to go to Odonow/Donosy as well

Posted by
4935 posts

ladyuma

to visit those small villages, I would suggest you hire a private guide/driver to take you there and back. You don't have much time to waste trying to work out buses, and I wouldn't rent a car just for that. Zakopane too far for a day trip, and worth more time. Wieliczka salt mine tour is interesting - plan on half a day. Are you really not considering Auschwitz/Birkenau? Plenty to see in Krakow for several days.

Posted by
12 posts

Stan, went to Dachau and spent a good deal of time soaking it in. Not sure a different camp will be much different. Would you skip Zakopane or do an overnight excursion there?

Posted by
4935 posts

Well, Zakopane is a mountain resort destination and well worth an overnight stay. But not as a day trip, which would only give you a few hours there. If you only have a few days in Poland, I would stay in Krakow area and sights there. On the other hand, Zakopane as a stop on the way to Prague would work too.

My choice would be 2 days in Warsaw, 2-3 in Krakow.

Posted by
4637 posts

Unfortunately Zakopane is not on the way to Prague from Krakow. There is not much to see in Zakopane but the surrounding area is superb scenery. If you are in shape and good hikers go from Zakopane to Morskie Oko (beautiful mountain lake) with the highest mountain of Poland right above it. The name is Rysy. You can conquer it in one day round trip if the weather cooperates. Gorgeous but strenuous hike. There is a bus going from Zakopane (maybe originating in Krakow) to Poprad through the Slovakian High Tatras. From Poprad you can catch the train to Prague. There are only few direct trains. In most cases you will change trains in Zilina. This way is more scenic but quite longer than if you go from Krakow to Prague via Katowice and Bohumin, Ostrava.
If you want to see the basics then you need for Krakow at least two days (plus your trip to the villages and High Tatras), for Prague and Budapest at least three days each. The rest you can use for day trips.

Posted by
10860 posts

My two cents

  1. Arrive Krakow
  2. Krakow/ Donosy/Odonow
  3. Krakow/ Donosy/Odonow
  4. Krakow/ Donosy/Odonow
  5. Krakow/ Donosy/Odonow
  6. Krakow to Budapest by Orangeways Bus
  7. Budapest
  8. Budapest
  9. Budapest
  10. Budapest to Prague by train
  11. Prague
  12. Prague
  13. Prague
  14. Home
Posted by
767 posts

I think keeping things to 3 cities is a good idea. I just wanted to chime in on Warsaw. I love Warsaw- I know Krakow gets more of the glory but Warsaw is such an interesting city. They have an old town that was rebuilt after the war and has a similar feel to Krakow and Prague- and then you go a few streets over and you feel like it is 1980 again. There is a main street with a lot of high fashion shops and restaurants that is reminiscent of walking through the shopping districts in Paris or Milan. They have interesting museums (Uprising museum is one of my favorites). A beautiful HUGE park that you could easily get lost for the day. we only planned three days based on what other people had said about Warsaw and I wish I had spend more time there.

If you choose to go to Warsaw, I would give 2 days and it is an easy train ride to Krakow. With day trips, I think you should give Krakow 4 days.

I enjoyed Prague. However, I went there right after Krakow and it felt like a more crowded, slightly less charming version of Krakow. The food/drink, energy, and ambiance of the city were great. But the tourist sites were not as interesting to me as those in Warsaw and Krakow. I wished I had spent more time in Poland. I know my opinion about Prague are probably in the minority and I don't mean to offend anyone.

I can't comment on Budapest because I have never been there but it sounds like the city is a definite since you are flying out of there. But if I had to pick two cities out of Krakow, Warsaw, and Prague, I would pick Krakow and Warsaw. In your case, I would get a guidebook or look at top tourist sites on tripadvisor for the cities you are considering and just make sure that is what interests you.

I think your itinerary sounds great and you will have an amazing time on your trip. I just wanted to offer another point of view. I feel compelled to stick up for Warsaw.

Posted by
767 posts

I also wanted to second Stan's comment about hiring private drivers to take you to the smaller surrounding villages outside of Krakow. It made the day trips a lot easier and was worth the extra money which wasn't really that much.

Re: the concentration camps. I have also been to Dachau, and Auschwitz and Birkenau were still worth the visit to me. The camps all have a very different look and different stories . On my tour of Dachau, we didn't go into a lot of the buildings. We walked around outside and listened to our guide talk. In Auscwitz and Birkenau, there was more walking through buildings and seeing, in addition the listening. But maybe my Dachau tour just wasn't very good. I was also about ten years older for my Poland trip so it could have been a maturity thing on my part.

Posted by
12 posts

Can anyone help me regarding train tickets? Trying to book trains to and from Krakow-Prague, Prague-Bratislava, Bratislava-Budapest, or Prague-Budapest or Krakow-Budapest.

Using http://rozklad-pkp.pl/bin/query.exe/en I found a direct overnight train from Krakow to Prague TLK 402, however I can't figure out how to buy the tickets.

I created an "my e-IC" account with http://intercity.pl/en/site/search.html but the train doesn't come up in a search...only trains with connections. Even when I am logged in, I am not given any purchase ticket options for the trains that do come up in searches.

Am I in the right system to buy international tickets on the TLK, EN and EC? Will they become available closer to the date of travel?

Why can't I find the TLK 402 direct Krakow-Praha?

Posted by
10860 posts

For any train ride originating in Poland go to:
http://booking.polrail.com/

For any train ride originating in the Czech Republic go to:
http://www.cd.cz/en/

For getting between Krakow and Budapest go to:
http://www.orangeways.com/en

For any train originating in the Slovak Republic
http://www.zsr.sk/anglicky.html?page_id=124

Depending on the season and the route, trains rarely sell out so what many do is when they arrive in country they stop and purchase their first train leg. Then at the next arrival they repeat; this way purchasing the tickets 2 -3 days prior to their need. Lot less hassle, but not necessarily a guarantee.

Posted by
12 posts

James, thank you for the info and links...few follow-ups...

  1. In your itinerary above.... you prefer the bus for Krakow-Budapest rather than the train and then Budapest - Prague the train over the bus... any reason for the preference in mode of transport?

  2. Also, I was looking at the overnight trips as to not lose time in the towns. Any pros/cons to this plan?

  3. For flights, what is the shortest layover you would do in Europe on arrival and departure? I travel in the states enough to determine appropriate layovers in the US... but unsure of Europe minimum layover time to get through customs/passport...don't want to miss a connection.

Posted by
10860 posts

I am a little confused about your itinerary. Is your desire Prague, Krakow and Budapest only? You had mentioned I think flying into Krakow? If the plan is wide open then I think I would look at the cost of these two options:

I guess I would fly into Prague. My guess is that would be the cheapest open jaw ticket (just a guess). Between Prague and Krakow you can take the night train. It’s about 8 hours trip which by the time you get to sleep and then wake up in time to get off will mean you might get 6 hours of sleep time (I couldn’t sleep on a train). Then you will find yourself stinky and tired in Krakow with your bag in hand at 6:30 am.

Then the shortest route between Krakow and Budapest I think you will find is the bus. Still about 5 hours but you have to do this in the day time. The scenery through Slovakia is interesting so this isnt the end of the world. There is also an overnight train that takes about 10 hours. So on that one you might get enough time to sleep. It drops you at 8:30 am all stinky with your bag. Wander around for about 3.5 hours and you can check in someplace to take a shower. Now you fly out of Budapest and go home.

Before you plan on night train, which can be a good thing, consider the whole picture. You check out of your hotel at noon with your bag. Now you have 10 hours until the train – bag in hand. At what time will you be sure that you are on your way to the train station? Then what have you planned for what to do upon arrival? To be fair, many hotels will hold your luggage before check in or after check out. But that means you are staying at a hotel and not something more economical like an apartment. Or? You can make this work, just think it through.

Sorry, not more help.