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Driving Zagreb-Budapest-Vienna-Prague

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I'm thinking of a similar trip to bgmoxie, with a few minor differences.

This is a "geneology tour" for me. My maternal grandfather and his parents were all born in Croatia. My maternal grandmother's parents were both born in "Hungary".

Now, they were all born in what was then the "Austro-Hungarian" empire. Fortunately, we have the baptismal certificate of my grandfather and it is from a still-existing church in Karlovac, Croatia.

Unfortunately, my great-grandparents born in "Hungary" is an open book. Though, their surname does suggest they may have been born near then-Buda. They did speak Slovak, so that might be a clue. I'm in the process of looking for more records that might better define the city they were born in.

Anyway, October next year, I'm putting together this tour for my cousin and I. We want to drive, if at all possible, because we want to see the country. It looks doable (ie. 3-1/2 hrs from Zagreb to Budapest; 2-1/2 hrs Budapest to Vienna; and 3-1/2 hours Vienna to Prague. We also might take a little longer from Budapest to Vienna, taking some time through Slovakia and going through Bratislava.

So, questions-

1) Is it possible to pick up a car in Zagreb and drop it in Prague? Would the cost be prohibitive? Any suggestions on agencies?

2) I am lousy at driving a manual transmission. Will I be able to rent a car that has an automatic transmission?

3) Would there be any benefit to starting/ending in one city over another?

4) I would like to plan this trip for October, but I may have to push it off to summer of 2016. If we did this in July, would we need to get A/C in our hotel rooms? Or is it relatively bearable in summer in this area?

5) I'm completely ignorant about terrain. How much, if any, of this is "mountain" driving?

6) Do I need to worry about tolls or special travel stickers, etc?

7) Would it be cheaper to drop the car in Vienna and train to Prague?

8) What side of the road do they drive on in Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria?

9) I understand these are all EU countries, so there should be no issue with crossing borders, correct?

10) We will have 2 full weeks on the ground. More time in Zagreb and Budapest (looking for ancestry); Vienna and Prague for sight-seeing only. :) So, if y'all recommend dropping one city, would you drop Vienna or Prague?

11) What am I forgetting?

(I understand the monetary differences. thank heavens for my conversion app!) haha

Thanks for any/all input. I know it's early planning, but I like to collect as much data as I can and starting early always works for me!

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    1) Is it possible to pick up a car in Zagreb and drop it in Prague? Would the cost be prohibitive? Any suggestions on agencies?

    -- what means "prohibitive" to you? The likelihood is, yes, it will be expensive to drop the car ($600) in another country and the car will be useless in Vienna and Budapest (the intermediate destinations).

    2) I am lousy at driving a manual transmission. Will I be able to rent a car that has an automatic transmission?

    -- Yes. Even the Europeans have moved past 1940s technology. And no, the manuals do not get vastly better mileage - that's an anachronism. If you must drive, try to get something with a diesel engine that gets 35+ mpg.

    3) Would there be any benefit to starting/ending in one city over another?

    -- Flight availability. Plus, the weather becomes more severe going south to north in October.

    4) I would like to plan this trip for October, but I may have to push it off to summer of 2016. If we did this in July, would we need to get A/C in our hotel rooms? Or is it relatively bearable in summer in this area?

    -- What's bearable? If you're Minnesotan or Alaskan, you'll need AC. Also depends upon your budget. At some levels, AC isn't an option.

    5) I'm completely ignorant about terrain. How much, if any, of this is "mountain" driving?

    -- Dunno. Go look at the maps and google and viamichelin and mappy.com, etc. If you're on highways, it's not really mountain driving.

    6) Do I need to worry about tolls or special travel stickers, etc?

    -- Yes, very much. Google "vignette" for each country.

    7) Would it be cheaper to drop the car in Vienna and train to Prague?

    Check Orbitz or the various agencies. Check Europcar.

    8) What side of the road do they drive on in Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria?

    -- Cmon now. The same side as Canada, US (except the USVI), Mexico, and the rest of continental Europe.

    9) I understand these are all EU countries, so there should be no issue with crossing borders, correct?

    -- EU isn't the issue, Schengen is.

    10) We will have 2 full weeks on the ground. More time in Zagreb and Budapest (looking for ancestry); Vienna and Prague for sight-seeing only. :) So, if y'all recommend dropping one city, would you drop Vienna or Prague?

    -- I wouldn't miss Prague for Vienna.

    11) What am I forgetting?

    -- That trains run over the terrain so you can see the countryside. That Budapest has a hovercraft connection up the Danube to Vienna, which is a tour in itself. That cities are not equal, therefore an equal time split is kind of foolish.

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    1, 6, 7. Sometimes the "other country" drop off fee depends on the country. Play around on autoeurope and similar sites to see what the fees are, along with petrol and vignette costs. Though, cars really aren't necessary in any of your destinations. Whenever we travel to one of those cities the car gets parked for the duration of our stay and we rely on walking and public transportation. Vignettes are needed for CZ, A, and H; in Croatia one pays at the toll gates on the highways (Chip and Pin cards are accepted, but I do not know about other cards).

    2. Yes, though Europe hasn't entirely moved beyond manual transmissions, and you will pay more for an automatic. Our car is an "EcoDrive," which means the engine turns off at stoplights to reduce idling emissions, so perhaps rental companies are shifting to those, as well.

    4. Who knows? We sweltered in those cities in June 2013, and this past July was very cool in Vienna and Budapest. Your need for AC depends on your own personal tolerance. October, also, is a gamble. In 2012 we had snow before Halloween in Vienna; last year was gorgeous.

    5. I do not know about Zagreb to Budapest. Budapest to Vienna is not "mountainous," and neither is the route from Vienna to Prague. There are hills, but given your travel months there likely wouldn't be anything more than rain. There is horrific construction traffic en route from Vienna to Prague, though, that shows no sign of abating. The CZ autobahn route is undergoing a badly needed overhaul and travels times are longer than expected.

    10. Which city to drop depends on your interests. Think of Vienna as a ball gown, fancy. Prague, like Budapest (at least to us) is like a favorite pair of jeans, comfortable. You'll enjoy great sights in each city; and both will be busy with tourists. I love Czech food and wine, but there is more to Viennese cuisine than Schnitzel (plus, Austria's Grüner Veltliners are rather quaffable). Prague will be easier on your pocketbook than Vienna.

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