Hello. I'm searching for a guided tour that would include (but not limited to) Prague, Vienna, and Budapest around the last week of November (Thanksgiving break). I'm having a difficult time finding tour companies that have tours running at that time. Most end the first week of November and then resume first week of December. I guess I could plan each city myself, with train transfers/hotels, etc... (I've done this before when in Germany) but since I haven't been to Prague and Budapest before I thought an escorted tour would be better; and particularly with the weather at that time of year... Any thoughts or recommendations?
I think the weather is a primary reason why tour operators don't do trips to your desired destinations in November or over the winter months in general. They probably can't get enough people signed up to make it worthwhile. The RS tours to Eastern Europe all go only as late as October, though I think there was one in 2013 that dipped its toe into the first few days of November. You've probably already looked, but click 'Tours' on the global menu above, then 'Eastern Europe', then the title of each tour to see the remaining dates for 2013. The 2014 tour dates will be posted later this year.
Mmm... I've done several Christmas market tours in December over the years so I can't imagine it's the weather. Those tours are always wonderful.
I thought about (and looked at) Christmas Market tours, but they seem to focus on Germany and that's not where the OP wants to go. Also, their focus would likely be shopping. If paying the substantial price for a tour, I think a traveler would want to get what they want from it, and shopping isn't what everyone is looking for when they travel to Europe. This is a bit of a frustrating topic for me as well because I like to travel in November and December and don't mind the colder weather and much shorter days, though some places are decidedly grim in November. I once thought 'Oh, what the hey!' and went, only to discover that the unrelenting cold, grey, wet drizzle really did affect my mood, and not in a good way.
In Prague we used Martina http://www.praguetourguides.com/about-me/. She was very competent and I guess all in all did a good job. She can even help you with an independent overnight stay Cesky Krumlov complete with some castle visits on the way down and the way back. You might also look at the Rick Steve's guide for others. Prague tourism is centered in 3 very distinct well defined and densely visited zones that don't require a lot of guiding unless you have a specialized interest. Vienna also has some pretty well defined zones for tourists and while you can get a good history lesson from the right guide they are absolutely essential other than for convenience. The one I suggested for Budapest Andrew ILLES http://www.guideinbudapest.com/ is the one we hired when we first went to Budapest over a decade ago. We still use him from time to time when we want to discover something unheard of or drill down deep in a subject. For instance http://www.fortmonostor.hu/en Budapest is pretty easy to discover on your own. I am happy to give you help but like Vienna and Prague I think a half day orientation tour is helpful. Andrew ILLES will also pick you up in Vienna and show you the world between Vienna and Budapest. Excellent. I always research the heck out of guides before I hire them to make sure they are going to be "compatible" with us. I do this by checking references and through dozens of emails; so shop around.
I really appreciate the info on tour guides. I never thought to consider this option but this may be the way to go. My mom and I would be traveling; we travel every other year or so to Germany, we know our way around the trains, U-bahns, S-bahns, airports, etc... and even drive there. But we haven't been to Budapest, Prague or Vienna and we want to make good use of our time, visiting new sites and learning about the history, etc... And of course, wander around. We thought a tour would be good as it would include bus transport between cities, as well as hotels and tour guides. But maybe not...
Alexandra, Prague to Vienna is a straight, no change, simple train ride of about 5 hours. Vienna to Budapest is another straight, no change, simple train ride of about 3 hours; simple. You will want at an absolute minimum 2 full days in each Prague and Vienna and 3 full days in Budapest. Add in travel days and you have a 12 day trip. Be sure to end in Budapest and go home on an open jaw ticket. Why end in Budapest? Well, if you dislike any part of Prague or Vienna you can accelerate the schedule and get to Budapest sooner and Budapest is the lowest key of the cities and makes for a great place to decompress. 1 Depart US 2 Arrive Prague 3 Full Day in Prague 4 Full Day in Prague 5 Train to Vienna 6 Full Day in Vienna 7 Full Day in Vienna 8 Train to Budapest 9 Full Day in Budapest 10 Full Day in Budapest 11 Full Day in Budapest 12 Return to the states
If you have more than 12 days you can spend an overnight in Cesky Krumlov and see some castles between Prague and Cesky Krumlov. You can see Melk and the Wachau Valley outside of Vienna or you can visit the Archabbey at Gyor in Hungary or do the Danube Bend tour in Hungary or spend a night in Eger. All depends on your time. I say this because if you are limited in time all you really need is a good guide book and directions to the train station. Sure half day see it all orientation tours can be very helpful when you arrive in each city but it isn't essential. If this were a Jewish Heritage tour or a Cold War sites tour or ..... I would say find an experienced guide but otherwise ........ If you navigated Germany this is going to be a snap.
Try GoAhead Tours. They have one end of Nov. to the three cities. They also have a Christmas Market tour to the same locations but it starts Dec. 1st.
Yes, thank you! I discovered that one when I googled the other day.
Alexandra... I am not really someone who takes tours, but a few other photographers and myself have a need for a tour company for our group, so I did go on a short city tour of Paris to check out GoAhead before our group uses them and I was very happy with the logistics, accommodations and price etc. So I think as far as tours go it is probably a good value.
That GoAhead tour looks good, pretty good pace and enough free time to do your own thing. We took a tour of your three destinations (plus Krakow) last summer and enjoyed it. We could have used more time in each city but I usually feel that way about any big place I visit (at least in Europe). James is a Budapest encyclopedia, you can't go wrong with his advice. Of the three cities, we liked Budapest best, partly because we got there before the tour started and explored on our own. Prague was second. Vienna sort of a disappointment, but maybe it was the very hot weather and our remote dockside location (Kunsthistoriche Museum was great though). You won't have a problem with heat.