What is the best way to get from Warsaw, stopping in Krakow for 2 nights, then on to Budapest for 3 nights? The return would be direct Budapest to Warsaw. We would be traveling in late September. Any idea of costs?
I did a similar trip 6 months ago. I landed in Warsaw then took a 3 1/2 hour train ride to Krakow. To get to Budapest from Krakow I had the choice of a 15 hour train ride or a 1 1/2 hour plane ride. Budapest to Warsaw was a long train tide or a short plane ride.
Warsaw to Krakow is an easy train ride of 3 to 3.5 hours. For Krakow to Budapest, the Orangeways bus (7.5 hours) could be an option, but I believe they only run three days a week. There is an overnight train every night on that route (leaves at 10pm), taking 10.5 hours, significantly more expensive than the bus apparently. For flights from Budapest to Warsaw, check out skyscanner.com to see your options. On one date I saw that Wizz Air, a budget airline, had a cheap direct flight at 6:20am. You could check out Krakow-Budapest flight options as well-- doesn't look like there are any direct flights, so total travel time wouldn't beat the bus by much.
Check Deutsche Bahn website. All train schedules are there. Warsaw to Krakow is a little over 3 hours. From Krakow if you want to make your way very scenic, go to Zakopane by train or bus then to alpine mountain resort in Slovakia High Tatras Stary Smokovec (by bus). You could stay overnight there or in nearby Strbske Pleso. From there to Poprad where you can catch express train to Budapest with one change in Bratislava. Or you can go by boring way from Krakow via Katowice and Breclav to Budapest. 2 changes. Budapest to Warsaw is far enough to justify flying.
I am humbly reminded about the value of advice based on firsthand experience. A stop in Strbske Pleso was suggested by Ilja and she is generally spot on with her recommendations. We have stayed at the Kempinski High Tatras in Strbske Pleso on a couple of occasions and it is among our better experiences in Central Europe. If your budget permits the hotel will pick you up in Krakow and will drop you off in Budapest at the end of your stay. We have had them deliver us to Budapest and we turned the trip into a driving tour of Slovakia that was really, really enjoyable. As a result we have made a few other forays into Slovakia from Budapest and it's among our favorite countries. We have not yet made it to Krakow, we have gotten within an hour's drive but its not a place I am ready for at this point in my life. Another suggestion was the train to Budapest through Bratislava. You might also look at getting to Budapest by way of Kosice. Kosice is apparently worth an overnight stay. Haven't been there yet but it's on our list when we are back in Budapest in September. As always pleased to help with Budapest where I do have first hand knowledge. Happy Trails.