limited time for berlin prague vienna budapest

My husband and I are planning our anniversary trip. we have 10 days/ 8 nights - berlin (3 nights) prague (3 nights) vienna (2 nights). (Flying from US to Berlin is an overnight flight) Should we take away a night from our itinery and add budapest? i feel like we are so close ; however i also know we are already squeezing in 3 countries/cities in such a limited time. any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated. also getting to each city is open for discussion (train/fly/rental car) Thanks so much for your advice!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Your instinct is correct: you simply do not have time to add a fourth major city in such a short trip. In fact, you'll be rushing to see each of your three cities, when you add transit time to the mix. Each of these city pairs takes a bit under 5 hours by train. A 5 hour train ride, plus time getting to and from the station and checking out of and into hotels, means much of a day is used up, each time you change cities. Flying won't save time once you take into account getting to and from the airports and need to get to the airport early (vs getting to the train station just 10 minutes or so before your train leaves). And a car would cost a fortune, since there's a high fee for renting in one country and leaving it in another; furthermore, there are often restrictions on taking cars into the Czech Republic if they're rented in Germany. I hope you're flying open jaws, into Berlin and out of Vienna. To find these flights, use the "multi city" option on www.Kayak.com. Don't book two one-way tickets - that's much more expensive. On such a short trip, you don't have time to backtrack to Berlin. For Berlin to Prague, use http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en. If you need tips on using this site, go to http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm. For Prague to Vienna, use http://www.cd.cz/en/ or http://www.oebb.at/en/index.jsp You should be able to get substantial discounts if you book in advance on these sites, as long as you can accept tickets with little or no option of exchange or refund.

Posted by James
Frisco
1785 posts

As much as I love Budapest you just can't make it there unless you skip something else. For my personal, very biased, taste you will be missing the best of the Imperial three (Vienna, Prague and Budapest); but for everyone that thinks like me there is at least one other that thinks the opposite. There is no right answer. My comments on Prague, Vienna and Budapest are among the lasts posts at: https://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/100250/europe-trip-in-may-2013.html Never been to Berlin so cannot comment on that. Its all new and that makes it all good. Have a blast.

Posted by Adele
Philadelphia, pa, usa
7 posts

Thank you Harold, yes we are flying open jaws. we appreciate your recommendations for train sites as well. Thank you James. I think we may just have to plan Budapest on it's own. We appreciate your time to answer.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2174 posts

You are already on a tight schedule with 3 cities. Let's look what it means day 1 - arriving at Berlin, jet-lag, mostly lost rest of afternoon/nigh day 2 and 3 - full days to enjoy at Berlin day 4 - losing half day at least to get to Praha, settle in etc. days 5 and 6 - full days to enjoy at Praha day 7 - losing half day to get to Wien (at least) days 8 - ful days to enjoy at Wien
day 9 - return trip late in the day, lost day for travel purposes So you already have only 6 full days in which you can enjoy the place you will be staying. I'd not add another any other city and, if I were in your position, I'd actually limit my stay to only 2 cities (but that is just my style of preferring more time to enjoy each place instead of "seeing quickly the highlights" of many more).

Posted by john
sumter, SC, United States
13 posts

Leave Budapest for another day. I have been to all four cities and Budapest, although interesting, would be the one I would omit.

Posted by Adele
Philadelphia, pa, usa
7 posts

Thank you all for your advice. We are putting Budapest on hold for another time when we can truly enjoy the city. This brings us to further investigate the train schedules (Berlin to Prague) and (Prague to Vienna) to see whether or not we should consider removing Vienna leg. Since our time is so limited the train schedule may enable us to cancel Vienna so we can get 4 nights in each Berlin and Prague. After looking at the "5 hour" train schedule from Berlin to Prague and Prague to Vienna, We have a few questions for the tenured traveler. Currently the fares for the dates we are ing in September are not posted. I put in a "fake" date (same day of the week) in May to view the fare. Train fares differ dramatically between EC and ICE. From Berlin to Prague. EC posts 29 to 66 Euros (or $40-85 US dollars.) ICE posts $114 US dollars. Both are around the same time without train change. How can this very so much? Why is there such a difference? Any recommendations? Also from Prague to Vienna. EC posts 298 CZK (or $25 us dollars). ICE posts $105-155 US dollars. Am I missing something? Can we purchase the day of or is it best to prepurchase and plan exact times? Do fares increase closer to date? How far in advance will fares be published online (we are planning September travel.)
Thank you again.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2687 posts

Hi, Why the price hike between the EC train that goes directly to Prague and the ICE that requirss transfers? The ICE is a German train, it doesn't go into CZ, Poland or Hungary. If you're going to Budapest or Prague from Germany, it's not going to be on an ICE. That ICE route you saw goes Berlin-Leipzig where you would change to a different train to proceed to Prague. The EC train most likely is a Czech train going from Berlin-Prague, which is older less comfortable train compared to the ICE. The seating is different. You sit in a 6 seat compartment (three across facing three across), just as you did 30-40 years ago. In Central Europe the ICE is the most modern and fastest train (but not faster than the TGV in France), which explains its higher price. I would take the EC Berlin-Prague direct since I don't want to be bothered transfering 3-4 times, esp with luggage.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

An addition to what Fred said: in September 2012, my mother and I took that EC from Berlin to Dresden, and 3 days later, took it in the opposite direction from Dresden to Berlin. On the outbound leg, we had "airline style" seating; on the way back, we had compartments. We saved a fortune booking these ahead, and it was very easy. You print out the PDF, and show this to the conductor along with the credit card you used to purchase the ticket (required). They scan the PDF, swipe your credit card, and you're set. Furthermore, be sure you book the ticket for 2; we saved even more this way (it was €39 full fare per person each way, but discount fare €19 for one or €29 for 2). Also, while reservations were not required, we got them on advice from this Helpline, and we were very glad we did. Particularly on the way back, the train was quite full, and it would have been very hard to find two seats together with space for our luggage (people were in the aisles, sitting on their luggage). But with our reservations, we just went to our seats, put the luggage above them, and settled in for the ride.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2687 posts

Adele, Yes, that's exactly it, as described above, on a full 2nd class train in Germany, even the IC and ICE, with people sitting (or standing) in aisles, luggage everywhere, and you wished you had reserved!