We are in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to Eastern Europe. There were a few cities that were Must-Do's on my list: Prague, Budapest, Krakow and Dubrovnik. There are a few others that would be nice, but they're all close to the first three cities mentioned above. So my problem is this: Dubrovnik is SO far from most of the cities (25 hours from Budapest!). Although I could add in some stops in between, (Split, Plitvice, etc), the quest to get to Dubrovnik is taking up more and more days. And flying to or from Dubrovnik between other E. European cities is not as cheap as I'd thought it would be. So my question is, if you've been to Dubrovnik as part of a trip to Eastern Europe, what was your itinerary? How did you get to/from Dubrovnik? At this point, my husband just wants to cut Dubrovnik out of the itinerary entirely to make it easier. Is there a more northern Croatian beach town that we could do instead? (i.e., Istria?) Any advice would be great!
Thank you everyone. This info is very useful. I’m sorry, I forgot to mention the length of our trip: about 18 nights. I see now that a flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik (via Croatian Airlines) is both quick, very affordable and fast. And Kyla, I did want to go to Plitvice, which I see off the bus timetable from Zagreb is only about 2 ½ hours. So that is definitely doable… Sharon, we were in Prague in 2007 and fell in love with it. It’s non-negotiable on this trip as we swore we’d go back… So thanks for all your input, does this itinerary sound doable?
1. Arrive Prague, 3 nights, depart via night train for Krakow on 4th night
2. Krakow, 2 nights, depart via night train for Budapest on 3rd night
3. Budapest, 2 nights, depart via night train for Ljubljana on 3rd night
4. Ljubljana, 2 nights
5. Depart for Plitvice, 2 nights, flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik
6. Dubrovnik, 4 nights, fly back to US
I flew into Dubrovnik and out of Budapest in 2006, but I didn't go to Prague or Krakow. It wasn't that bad of a bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split (plus I can say I've been to Bosnia!), but the journey to Budapest from Ljubljana was an entire day (more than 7 hours). As my focus was on Croatia, Slovenia, and Budapest, all the transit time was worth it, but if I'd been trying to visit other places (like you), I might've flown into Split or Zagreb. Don't overlook Plitvice, though: it was the highlight of my trip!
How long is your trip? Dubrovnik is rather out of the way, given the rest of your itinerary. I spent a bit over a month in Central Europe two summers ago and did Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest (with some briefer stops in Bratislava, Dresden, and Gorlitz), and that pace was just about right.
Our itinerary about 3 years ago was as follows:
Fly into Budapest.
Train from Budapest to Ljubljana.
Train from Ljubljana to Zagreb.
Fly Croatia Air from Zagreb to Dubrovnik.
From there we traveled around Croatia a bit--took a ferry to Kortula and then flew home from Split.
Personally, I like Dubrovnik better than Prague. Prague is more expensive than it used to be and very crowded.
Not sure this will help you.
2 years ago we flew into Dubrovnik and then went Montenegro-Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria-Romania-Denver.
We flew on frequent flyer tickets and were supposed to fly DEN-FRA-VIE-DBV but ended my missing our connection in FRA so flew via Zagreb to get to DBV.
In general I try not to do places that are far apart from one another figuring I will be back to Europe. Doing places a distance apart adds to the travel time and cost.
I notice you have three night trains scheduled. Do you do well on night trains? I find that I hardly sleep on them (stops, screeching, jerking of the car, rail noises, etc.) so that the next day it's as bad as jet lag for me, and I don't get a lot of sightseeing done. At the very least, consider a sleeping compartment as opposed to a couchette. Also, make sure you wear your money belt at night and keep any valuables that won't fit on your person--theft has been a serious issue on European night trains for many years.
My daughter did her first independent trip to Europe last summer, and on night trains, she brought along a sleep sack (cross between a sleeping bag and a sheet) and put her goodies inside by her feet. She figured a thief would have to really work at it to get at her stuff without waking her up.
Jer, thanks for the good advice on protecting valuables. We have been on a night train once, and we didn't sleep very well, but we were still okay the next day. Night train is not my #1 option, but the alternative would be spending an entire day on a train and then we wouldn't be able to do any sightseeing whatsoever anyway. So even if we can only sneak in a few hours of sleep, we can still do a little sightseeing and just go to bed early that night. We'll be a group of primarily younger people (okay, that means a median age of 30-35ish, but that's young to me, okay! :) so I don't think this will be too big of a deal. As far as theft, although it's a concern, everything I've read on here said there are locks on the couchette doors. If this is true, I'll be cautious, but not scared. And my husband also suggested bringing bungie cords to help... Not to mention that about 50% of our group will be men who are law enforcement, so they'll be ready for a fight if anyone tries to take our stuff. (Unless of course there's a weapon involved....) I've searched and searched, and can NOT find flights between a lot of these cities. Where can I look up prices of sleeper berths over couchettes? (I didn't know there was a difference....)
Did you check out www.whichbudget.com to look for discount flights? It looks like Click4sky goes between Prague and Krakow.
I haven't done any of hte night trains you are planning on, so I'm afraid I can't help you on specifics on reservations. But let me make a couple more comments about safety. Bring a cable lock--there are some lightweight ones made especially for travelling--and lock your backpack or luggage to something solid and attached in your compartment. When you leave your compartment to use the bathroom or go to the dining or bar car, make sure your valuables go with you. If possible, don't leave your compartment when the train is stopped--that is when thieves enter to grab stuff and make a quick getaway.
But I wouldn't worry about weapons or violence--that kind of crime is very rare in Europe. Pickpocketing and that kind of sneak theft is all too common, but robbery is not.
Bottom line--be prepared, take reasonable precautions, and then relax and enjoy yourself. My daughter had traveled quite a bit with us through her childhood and adolescence, so she knew what to expect, and I nagged her to remember basic precautions, but she had no problems at all in her solo trip. (She did meet quite a few pickpocket victims in her hostel stays, though, so it impressed on her that being prepared is a good idea.)
GREAT advice, JER. And thank you for the info on flights. I would much rather take a quick cheap hop by plane than a night train. (Plus, night trains can get costly!) This trip is a ways off, but since I am totally unfamiliar with Eastern Europe, I am trying to learn as early as possible. I will check that site out. I may be private messaging you in the future! ;)