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Any Tour Reports for Best of Eastern Europe 2018?

I just completed my 2nd RS tour this year having done the Villages of Italy in 2017 and the Best of Scandinavia this year. I had a wonderful time on both tours. When I get some time I will do a travel post for this year trip.

With that said we planning next year already (yea I am a bit OCD when it comes to making my vacation plans). We (3 or possible 4 couples next year) are considering the Best of Eastern Europe with some up front time in Prague and some after travel in Austria/Germany (Vienna/Saltzburg/Munich). I am looking for any trip reports from this years tours. Just want to get a feel for how active the tour is, the hotel types that are used and the how the bus time is split up. I see a few days with may hours on the bus and was curious how the guide handles this time.

Thanks!

Posted by
456 posts

Hi Mark --
I took this tour in June 2018. It was an excellent tour in many ways. I learned a ton; it was eye opening to talk to many people (including our guide) who had lived under Communism and then experienced the fall of that regime and the building of a new way of life. I found myself thinking more than on past travels, if that makes any sense....and am still thinking about and processing what I've learned. I love history, but had never come face to face with so much recent history.

Our guide was amazing, and from what I've read it seems like most of the guides are quite good on this tour. Navigating so many different countries, languages, and currencies in such a short amount of time is challenging, and would be somewhat overwhelming without a very good guide. I really loved every place we visited.

My biggest complaint (and one that you will see reflected over and over again in the trip reviews) is that I feel the trip tries to do too much in too little time. I am really glad they are adding an extra day in Krakow next year (Krakow is wonderful and we were only able to see such a little bit!!) but I can't tell from the new itinerary whether the extra day will mean more time at Auschwitz (we had "enough" time there, but an extra couple of hours would have been excellent) or more time in Krakow itself. If Auschwitz is now a day trip and you return to Krakow in time for dinner, you really aren't gaining a lot of time in which to experience Krakow. I would have loved an entire extra day in Krakow, and an extra day in Budapest. There are so many things to see and do in Budapest, and we just didn't have enough free time....we had to pick a couple of things and forego everything else.

The structure of the tour has you visiting major urban areas pretty much back to back (with a short break in Eger), which is definitely exhausting. Then the end of the tour is much more relaxed. It was a lovely way to wind down (most of us absolutely adored Plitvice Lakes National Park, Rovinj, Ljubljana, and Lake Bled) and makes sense geographically to travel that way....but it does make for a pretty intense first 2/3 of the tour.

Our hotels were all pretty nice. The urban hotels were centrally located, and the places we stayed in Prague and Budapest both had a/c (which we needed, because we had temperatures in the high 80s in early June!). The hotels in Rovinj and Lake Bled were definitely on the luxury side of RS travel. My least favorite hotel was the one in Budapest, but I understand group hotel space is more difficult to come by there because so many river cruises originate in Budapest.

We had 3 very long bus days (one of which occurred because a major accident closed a road and we were forced to wait over an hour until it was cleared; also there is tons of road construction). There were breaks and our guide told many great stories and provided a lot of historical context on the rides. We did not have wi fi or a way to charge devices on our bus.

Definitely plan to spend several days in Prague at the start of the tour, because what you will see of the city on the tour is limited by time. We actually spent 5 days in Vienna, a day in Cesky Krumlov, and 3 days in Prague before the tour began. If you are interested in such things, I would highly recommend a day tour to Terezin (I can recommend an amazing guide). We stayed in the Lesser Quarter during our solo travel time in Prague and moved to Old Town for the start of the tour; I'd recommend that as well, as it gives you a different perspective on the city.

Hope this is helpful. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have!

Posted by
99 posts

Ruth, thank you for the great reply. This tour sounds very similar to our just completed Best of Scandinavia trip. Large cities to start then smaller locations toward the end of the tour. We always plan to spend time ahead of the tour in the first city and it sound like Prague will have plenty of sites for us to see. We visited Budapest in 2016 at the start of Danube river cruise and did a 2 day local guide tour so we have a pretty good feel what Budapest has to offer. On the river tour we did get to visit Cesky Krumlov and had a great time. The only downside was how crowded it got toward the middle of the day when all the tour buses arrived. We did stop in Vienna but it was on a Sunday so I want to back so we can send some time when business are open. I need to do some research on Terezin. Always interested in finding good local guides.

I agree there is never enough time on these tours, but then there never is when you have a great time with a group of similar minded people.

Thanks again and I will be in touch on the guide information.

Posted by
206 posts

We're also considering this tour - any veterans care to comment on good/bad times of the year?

Posted by
58 posts

Hi, I just returned a few days ago from the Best of Eastern Europe trip-it is definitely an intense, whirlwind trip! I will echo some of the sentiments of the others. Excellent, dedicated tour guide with extensive knowledge of the places we visited. Bus time is longer than we had hoped, but the time on the bus was well-spent sharing history of cities and countries we were visiting. Again, too little time in places like Krakow and Budapest, but I really enjoyed relaxing in Rovinj and Lake Bled at end of tour. They aren't kidding when you're told to prepare for an active tour- my Fitbit told me I reached the 10,000 step goal most days! Not that it helped me lose any weight, since the meals were all filling and calorie-laden(loved those breakfast buffets)! All in all, a well-planned, enjoyable and informative trip. It can be a little confusing using different currencies in 6 countries, so try to use your credit card as much as possible and just get pocket money in each country. Also visit the thermal spas in Budapest- they were wonderful!

Posted by
99 posts

Thank you so much for all the reports on this tour. We are booked on the June 23rd tour. Looking forward to having another great summer. Broekerd, if you could share which thermal baths it would be much appreciated. You can private msg the info if prefer.

Posted by
58 posts

Yes, they were the Sychenel(sp?) baths- don't worry- your guide will be happy to take you there!

Posted by
99 posts

Ah, I see where you went. We visited Budapest 3 years ago before the start of a Danube river cruise. We visited the Szechenyi Thermal baths. However, the experience was overshadowed by an error on our part and what we felt was extortion by the transit checkers. We did not know we needed to validate our ticket before getting on the subway and got caught exiting at the baths stop. We paid the fine but it left a very bad feeling the rest of our time in Budapest. So we know how to navigate the subway but I think we will try a different spa this time around.

Thanks for the replay.

Posted by
145 posts

My husband and I just signed up for this tour for September 2019 (yes, I like to plan ahead). One question that I haven't found answered anywhere is the fact that we will be visiting five countries and four use their own currency. Only one uses euro. I know that we will be mainly using credit cards, but I still like to have some local currency for the "just in case". How have other people handled this?

Posted by
99 posts

Morrowbabette thanks for the question, do take a look at the other forum post on this topic. I found them to very good and pointed out how helpful your RS tour guide is planning your money situation. After taking the Best of Scandinavia this summer where we had four different currency (3 Kroner and the Euro) it can be a bit confusing. Our tour guide was very good in helping us understand how much money we would need in each country. Since we were planning to visit Amsterdam post tour (Euro) any extra money we had left over we were able to convert to a single currency. This kept the fee's to a minimum.

Since we will be going on this tour in June/July 2019 I will try and remember to give an update here on how it all went.

Hope this helps.

Happy Travels.

Posted by
145 posts

CL, thanks for the link. I looked around before posting, but didn't find that discussion.

Mark, enjoy your trip. I hope you remember to come back and post a report.

Posted by
7 posts

Mark,

Thanks for starting the thread and prompting all of the informative posts that followed. As it turns out, my husband and I are booked on the same June 23 Eastern Europe tour. Looking forward to researching our itinerary through the forum and revisiting applicable RS Europe episodes over the coming months!

Bethanie

Posted by
99 posts

Bethanie, welcome aboard! Looking forward to having a great time next summer.

I made a mistake early in the Eastern Europe tour (which was wonderful with a superb guide) which was missing a decimal point on the ATM! I had way more Czech money than needed. My solution was to convert what I needed as I entered each new country. Turned out to be kind of fun. Maybe a bit more expensive, but fun!