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judymol Jul 19th, 2004 07:18 AM

Advice for Vienna/Prague/Budapest
We are planning a trip for next year to Vienna, Prague and Budapest and because we are using our mileage for the flight we need to get our dates early. We have traveled to Europe before and never on a tour but have never been to Eastern Europe. I have many questions but need help on some now so that we can begin the preliminaries.

1. What is the best time to go? Is mid or late May OK? Or June?

2. Would it be better to go on a tour or just arrange for tours once we arrive at each location? (We have friends who just got back and went on a tour through Tauck and it was very expensive).

3. Should we use a travel agent or just book through internet (which we have done in the past).

Your help is appreciated. Thanks, Judy

joeyrm7 Jul 19th, 2004 09:07 AM

We just returned on Friday from the same cities. We originally had the same concerns as you, but after reading through the posts, we decided to do the 3 cities on our own. It really worked out great. We booked our hotels from the internet, through a combination of fodors and We used private tour guides in each city obtained from the hotel concierges or recommendations from this site. The trains between cities were as easy to use as in western Europe. The food was great. Enjoy the planning and the trip.

amyb Jul 19th, 2004 09:28 AM

You might want to check into Laifer Tours for this. I booked with them for Prague/Vienna for later this year and I could not beat their prices on my own. Adding in the between cities connection by plane rather than train, the half-day tour in each city and the transfer between airport and hotels was key for me. Maybe they can work out a way to allow you to use miles but they'll arrange all the rest???

julies Jul 19th, 2004 09:35 AM

This is really really easy to do on your own. These parts of eastern Europe have a well-develpoed tourist infrastructure. Frankly, unless you feel you need to have a guide, you can easily do it on your own. Get some good guide books for recommendations to start narrowing down your lodging choices. Thsn check out the stuff on the net. We've visited all three cities (Budapest 2 times) and have always done it on our own. WE did a walking tour or two in these places, but other than that didn't use any organized tour at all.

BigRuss Jul 19th, 2004 09:51 AM

There is no need to do a tour -- that's a wasted expense. In Budapest and Prague you can take walking tours with various groups. I'd recommend the communist walk in Budapest and a tour of the Jewish Quarter. Prague is highly self-tourable and also has various walking tour groups. Check out for Prague information. Considering that Vienna was the eastern outpost of Western Europe during the Cold War, I would expect it to be even more tourist-friendly than Prague and Budapest.

Late May is fine -- we had great weather except for one rainy night in Budapest and one grey day out of 1.5 weeks.

Booking through the Internet is fine and you can check out Paul Laifer Tours -- they specialize in Eastern Europe.

salzburglover Jul 19th, 2004 05:00 PM

I did vienna prague and budapest with cosmos last december. I could never have done it on my own for the price i paid. maybe different if you are a couple as accommodation would work out cheaper. i always do some of my travels on my own and other bits in tours but find i am far more relaxed when on a tour as all the hard work is done and you just turn up.

amyb Jul 19th, 2004 05:59 PM

Just as follow-up since I wasn't clear this morning, Laifer Tours isn't a guided tour group, just a travel agency that will arrange everything. I'm going independently, but Paul's prices couldn't be beat by me on the net or otherwise!

MaureenB Jul 22nd, 2004 09:51 AM

Judy, FYI, my notes are below, from our recent trip to eastern Europe. Since you have so much time, I think you can put the trip together yourself, like I did, using this site for information, and others to purchase tickets. We didn't hire tour guides, either, as each city was compact enough to just walk and see the sites on our own. Definitely stay in hotels in the middle of the old town areas, to get a flavor for the cities. They are enchanting.
"We just returned from our wonderful visit to Eastern Europe in early June. The weather was spectacular, even though we'd read that June is a very rainy month there. It was 70-something most everyday. We saw only a few rain showers in our two weeks' there. And the crowds weren't nearly as intense as they are later in the summer, from what we were told.
Our itinerary was ideal: five nights in Vienna, three in Prague and four in Munich. We arrived by plane in Vienna, traveled by train to Prague, train to Munich, then flew home from Munich. was very helpful, and saved us money on the Prague pass and other train fares.
We were very happy with our hotels, mostly discovered with help from
In Vienna, the Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth, a four-star boutique-type hotel very near the Stephansdom and the U-bahn, is hard to beat. The price was higher than other places, but well worth it for the elegance, the service, the location and the more sumptious breakfast buffet, even with hot eggs made to order.
We bought the "combi" pass at the train station for the train trip to Melk, monastery tour tickets, boat to Krems, return train trip to Vienna. Definitely a good way to do the trip and worth seeing it all. It was just 39 Euro apiece for the day.
We saw the Lipizzaner stallions' "morning exercise with music" in lieu of an actual performance, since we weren't in town on a Sunday. It was well worth it, for those of us horse-lovers (the guys went their own way that morning!). We also toured the stables.
In Prague, we stayed at the Pension U Lilie, right near the Charles Bridge, in the Old Town area. It was nice enough, nothing special, but clean and friendly. Next time, we might choose Pension Dientzenhofer, a place in Lesser Town by the Bridge, as it seemed to be less hectic than the Old Town side and had a view of the river. But we did love Prague.
The Bayern pass was just 22 Euro for all four of us, round trip, each day, from Munich to Salzburg and then to Fussen. I believe it's good for up to five people on the same pass.
So, that's it. Thanks for all the help!"

zbjoon Jul 23rd, 2004 10:41 PM

I was in Prague and Vienna from mid May til end of May this year. The weather was great with the exception of one rain shower. I was told that in May sudden rain showers are expected but they pass through quickly. The rain shower was so bad that my umberella almost broke and people stayed under shelter till rain and wind ended.

I had Fodors and two other travel books with me for reference. I did not feel I need an organized tour in Prague at all. I read or if audio tour was available, I got that. For example, Prague castle has both audio tour and a guided tour available. I got the audio and I found it quite sufficient.

May is the time of Music fsetival in Prague. You might want to look into that. The hotels get pretty much booked. I ran into that and finally found a single room in a Pension based on recommendation from a very reliable travel book.

MaureenB - Incidentally, I also stayed in Pension U Lilie in Prague. I was very very happy with the location. It is walking distance to Charles Bridge and old town square. It was very clean and orderly which served what I had in mind, somewhere safe and clean to sleep at night. It is a family run business and the staff was really friendly and helpful. The price was also very reasonable. I could stay out til late at night and feel safe since it was a very busy area. I was kind of happy that I did not find room in the hotels I called since I ended up paying less and staying in a place that I was quite happy at.

Now, Vienna was a totally different story. Vienna was the first city that although I had travel books, and have done a fair amount of travelling on my own, I did not do as well with it. I found it somehow confusing. I had a hard time figuring out the places I should not miss although I had travel books. I finally got on one those hopon-hopoff buses that give you around 5 hour tour of the city so you can see the highlights. Afterwards, I went to see some of the places more in depth. I ended up seeing quite a lot but it was not as easy as Prague. I stayed in a hotel 3 minutes walking distance to the opera house. It is a great location to stay. I like places that are in the center and provide easy access for tourists to the sites and stay alive till late at night.

I was in Budapest in Aug couple of years ago. I found it an easy city to do on your own by using travel books and local infomation. Again, I stayed in one of the hotels next to Danub. It ws very alive til late at night and good lacation for tourists.

MaureenB Jul 24th, 2004 12:17 PM

zbjoon: I agree about the safety of the U Lilie location. No problem there at all. We also returned late at night often, with our two teenagers, and never felt at all unsafe. It is a great location for walking through all the serpentine streets and seeing all the gorgeous old buildings. We saw production crews filming at a couple of places there, too. My thought was that the other side of the bridge might be a bit less crowded. Also, at the U Lilie, even though we were promised "two extra beds", it turned out to mean 'bedding for two' which was a sofa sleeper-- not good for one teenage daughter and one teenage son. So our son made a make-shift bed on the floor. Funny thing was, when we asked at the front desk for just one extra sheet, even with the interpreter's help, the manager said "No." We thought there must be a language barrier, so asked again, "Just one extra sheet?" She emphatically said "No." So we thought that was oddly funny. (On our way back to the room, though, the linen closet was completely accessible in the hallway, so we simply helped ourselves to another sheet!)

zbjoon Jul 24th, 2004 05:00 PM

MaureenB - I actually remember the accessible linen closet:) Sorry to hear you run into issues with them. My experience with them was totally different. I decided to stay two extra days in Prague. Although was difficult to find rooms in Prague, they were nice enough to let me stay in a double room and charged me only for a single room. I thought that was nice.

Well, sorry for digressing from the original subject of the post.

MaureenB Jul 24th, 2004 08:49 PM

Not to side-line the original point of this thread-- but I do think the U Lilie made a nice gesture in giving you a double room for a single rate, for the final two nights you needed at the last minute. Not many places would have done that to help you out. I didn't mean to say we didn't like it there, just to pass along a funny experience.

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