Eastern Europe - car rental

I have 27 days, mid-September to mid-October. Flying into Prague. Krakow and Budapest are primary destinations, but plan on short stay in Vienna/Bratislava. Question is, based upon distances, it seems I could get a car rental in Prague for the freedom it offers, and maybe even extend the trip to Lake Bled as Rick suggests. Major considerations are to see the countryside during that time of year, and also follow a flexible agenda of literary history. Worried I may be trying to do too much - I do love to drive. Any opinions?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7971 posts

What's the question? They're all easy, one-day legs, Make sure the car place in Prague knows which countries are involved so they can get you set up correctly. And return it where you got it.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

First I suggest that while the trip remains flexible you do a little checking on routes between the locations. Next, a car can be more trouble than its worth, but that depends on your travel style. For instance if you flew into Krakow and out of Prague you could do the whole route for a fraction of the cost of a rental by making short train rides and bus trips. Something like: Day1 Depart US Day 2 Arrive Krakow Day 3 See Krakow Day 4 See Krakow Day 5 Van to Orava Castle, SK, then to Strbske Pleso, SK ($225) Day 6 Hired Day Trip sight seeing in the mountains around Strbske Pleso ($200) Day 7 Train Poprad to Kosice, SK ($10) Day 8 See Kosice Day 9 Train to Budapest ($30) Day 10 See Budapest Day 11 See Budapest Day 12 Budapest to Szentnedre by commuter train and return by boat ($15) Day 13 See Budapest Day 14 Budapest to Gyor ($20) Day 15 See Gyor and Archabbey ($40) Day 16 Train to Vienna ($20) Day 17 See Vienna Day 18 See Vienna Day 19 See Vienna Day 20 Train to Prague Day 21 See Prague Day 22 See Prague Day 23 Bus to Cesky Krumlov ($60) Day 24 Bus to Prague Day 25 See Prague Day 26 Prague to the US Day 27 Extra day to play with
Of course you realize that not a stop in this tour is actually in Eastern Europe.

Posted by Garland
Cincinnati, oh, usa
4 posts

@James - thanks for the thorough and considered response. I realize that took time and thought on your part. The first response to my post was correct in pointing out I did not actually ask a question, so I sincerely appreciate your indulgence. Also, in describing this itinerary as "Eastern Europe" I was following the convention established in Rick Steve's Eastern Europe guide although I did question the term.
Now, the flight is already booked - in/out of Prague, Sept. 24/Oct 22. I am a bit older, and this is really a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me, so my anxiety stems from "I don't want to make a mistake." I am thinking a car is worth the extra expense (and it really isn't that much - roughly $650 US). I am travelling alone, enjoy the cities, but really want to stop at little towns, for example, between Krakow and Budapest along the "Amber Road." Considered a bicycle tour, and if I had another month, that would be my decision. Several years ago I toured France by bicycle. I have traversed the states multiple times by car, so know the conventional concerns of travel by that means - when you say "more trouble than they're worth" - if that involves hassles and delays at the borders, that would be a major concern, but if it's just the normal parking spot, gas, maintenance, etc. I am okay with that(?) In reading over the post, it strikes me that maybe I was just looking for conversation, although I sincerely appreciate the input and any more advice anyone would care to offer.

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

If you are spending time in the countryside a car is a good thing, but if you are just driving from big city to big city a car can be a pain. Basically many cities are instituting central zones where you are not allowed to drive unless you live there. Often it is very difficult to understand when you are entering one of these zones - the signs are often not in english, there will still be other (authorized) traffic, and you are focused on finding your hotel (or whatever). If you accidentally drive into one of these areas sometimes police will pull you over other and fine you other times you will just receive huge fines that the rental car company passes to you. Then there is parking. Beyond the inevitable 30 minutes to an hour looking for parking that you have in any big city - often there is zone parking that covers an entire area and if you don't know what is going on there can be problems. I'm not trying to disuade you - I actually usually drive - I am just letting you know that like James mentions it can be a hassle.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

Garland, my pleasure. I generally say cars can be more trouble than they are worth but that depends on a lot of things. It might be perfect for you. Only you know for sure. If they quoted your $650 I would bet it costs another $50 at least for some hidden clause (maybe not), then you have gas and tolls....lots of tolls and figuring out how they work is quite interesting at best. Finally, when you get to the major cities the car is going to be useless and expensive to park. If I were doing this I would budget $1,000 to make sure I had it covered. Something else to think about is that we have met wonderful people on trains over the years. Makes solo travel more interesting.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

I would develop a route with all the little stops you are interested in and then look and see if you can pull it off with trains, busses and cars. Let's take the trip from Krakow to Budapest because it is one I am somewhat familiar with. In past years we have been to the two Banska towns, Poprad, Štrbské Pleso and a few other towns and villages in Slovakia (love Slovakia). Some photos of the region are here: http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/ (look at the country codes at the top for SK) We are going back for our third foray into Slovakia in as many years come September. We fly into Krakow this time and I found a car service to take us to Strbske Pleso by way of the castle at Ovara (really fantastic). We will hold up a few days in Strbske and do some fishing, then car service to Budapest by way of Bojnice and another prime castle. We will spend about $500 on the private transfers. I know, that's not cheap but we also like to see the little places along the way and there are not a lot of options on this route. There are trains between all the other big hubs on your trip and those trains make stops where you can get off for a day and go sightseeing. Another way to do this is to camp in a city and do day trips and overnight trips using local commuter trains and busses.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

Not trying to talk you out of a car. A car may give you the comfort that makes the trip better for you. Just throwing out other options.

Posted by Garland
Cincinnati, oh, usa
4 posts

Thanks again - I regularly drive inner city, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, so I am familiar with pros/cons of driving in general. In the example of Krakow to Budapest, I would probably take 3 full days to make that relatively short journey by car - I stop at parks, overlooks, little stores, etc, and I fear that by train I could not get on/off as frequently as I need to. I will outline a more detailed itinerary over the next few weeks, and post again, once I have more solid info. Thanks again for your input.

Posted by Garland
Cincinnati, oh, usa
4 posts

Thanks again - I regularly drive inner city, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, so I am familiar with pros/cons of driving in general. In the example of Krakow to Budapest, I would probably take 3 full days to make that relatively short journey by car - I stop at parks, overlooks, little stores, etc, and I fear that by train I could not get on/off as frequently as I need to. I will outline a more detailed itinerary over the next few weeks, and post again, once I have more solid info. Thanks again for your input.