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Berlin, Prague & Budapest in July - To train or not to train?

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May 8th, 2012, 01:04 AM
  #1
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Berlin, Prague & Budapest in July - To train or not to train?

We are a group of 6, aged 7 to 77 years, interests ranging from history/art to the outdoors planning the above for July. So want a mix of both musea and the outdoors - a rural/mountain day trip if possible, nearby.

After combing through the helpful forums, came up with this itinerary. Critique and advise please.

Berlin - 5/6 nights - apartment at Mitte/Charlottenburg area. Is a day trip to Potsdam and Spreewald (Lubbenau areas) worth it? Are trains better or day hire cars?
Dresden - 2/3 nights. Train or car? Day trip to Meissen, may be Leipzig too. Ferry to Bad Schanau and then train to Prague.
Prague - 5/6 nights. Apartment at Mala Strada or the like. Day trips to KV, CK, Kutna Hora. Any other? Drive or take the train to these places?
Budapest - 2 days. But not sure yet: to go or not to go? What say? Train or plane? Might have to fly out of Berlin so debating Budapest-Berlin flight or return to Prague and then take train back?

Combed through train threads and enjoyed the banter. But, don't quite want to fork out some 2000 Euros for rail passes - point to point cheaper - But then, we are six, so is driving a cheaper option? Checked with Hertz - driving across borders is STEEP, day trips works out to about 100+ Euros a day. Is that the way to go? Do I buy train tickets in advance or go there and buy? Please help!
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May 8th, 2012, 10:49 AM
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Train, I'd say. Point-to-point tickets are the way to go. With a group of 6 you get substantial discounts from Deutsche Bahn e.g. even for the ride to Prague.

Berlin - yes, the day trips are worth it. But with 5 nights I would skip one of the day trips, it's not really much time in Berlin. Better stay 6 nights and do both. (And skip Budapest entirely.)

Dresden - if you want to do day trips then you *must* stay 3 nights. Meissen is a nice day trip, maybe you can squeeze in a wine tasting in Radebeul (the commuter train between Meissen and Dresden passes through Radebeul). Or take the paddle steamer to Meissen. I would skip Leipzig, not enough time.

Prague - 3 day trips with only 5 nights? Again, skip one day trip or stay another night. Karlovy Vary and Kutna Hora are easy day trips by train or bus, Cesky Krumlov is a bit inconvenient (and long) to get to by train.

Thus skip Budapest!
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May 8th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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Combed through train threads and enjoyed the banter. But, don't quite want to fork out some 2000 Euros for rail passes>

there is no railpass of use to you anyway with such limited travels on trains -Problem with car rental may be you have to return it to the country you pick it up in or face a steep drop-off charge - trains are great, even in old eastern Europe nowadays.

You can save on German train fares and to Prague at www.bahn.de - German railways web site with online discounts of 29 or 39 euros and up - flat fares regardless of distance traveled - but these are train-specific and cannot be changed nor refunded I believe and must be bought weeks early to guarantee as they are indeed sold in limited numbers and not on all trains you may wish to take - buying as you go along on those routes may not be much more and give you total flexibility to chose which trains to take when you feel like it. Can buy right at the station just before the trains - trains are so numerous rarely sell out. If I had a party of six I would pay the relatively little extra to go first class - lots more empty seats so six can easily sit near each other, etc - kids can run around with more room, etc.

Anyways for oodles and oodles of great info on trains in that part of Europe I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites - www.seat61.com (good info on online discounts); www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - all great primers for planning a European train trip.
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May 8th, 2012, 01:46 PM
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there is an overnight train between Prague and Budapest - save sightseeing time and on the cost of a hotel - flying takes much of the day - schlepping out to the airport - waiting mandatory time before boarding - waiting for bags and perhaps Customs - getting into the city center.
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May 9th, 2012, 06:45 AM
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Thanks so much Ingo and PalenQ - just love the forums and advice I get here!
Yes, extended stay to 6 nights in Berlin and in Prague too. Skipping Leipzig while adding another night at Dresden. And now, only two are now doing the overnight train to Budapest and back so don't have to drag everybody there. Phew!

1)CK - Can I give that a miss?
2) should we do Meissen by paddle steamer or the Bad Schanadau one? Which is easier/more picturesque?
3) to go to KH/KV, would you suggest we get van plus driver/guide or do the trains?

PalenQ - just thought how apt is the name if derived from "palanquin" given your love for train travel, first class at that! If I may say so...

On db - was delighted to find the lander and wuchs? Lander group tickets - significant savings. So, to recap: buy all tickets after landing in Berlin - at the airport station? Will I get the discounts then as well for group travel? I am keen to avail of the them, any class! Ditto for Prague onward?

As I research more, it's a fine line between concluded and confused!

Back soon!!!!
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May 9th, 2012, 07:16 AM
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I would use various forms of transportation. For longer journeys take the train (Berlin to Prague, for instance). It's usually less expensive if you book German trains in advance using the German rail site. I see tickets for E29 in July.

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml

The tickets are etickets and you need to show the train conductor the credit card you used to book the ticket to confirm that they are your tickets.

Pack a picnic lunch and have a good time.

For trips to CK and KH I would use a car service which will get you to the towns quickly and easily and, in the case of KH, transport you from the cathedral to the bone chapel (these sights are not near each other).

I would not go all the way to Budapest (Prague to Budapest is 7 hours plus time getting to and from the train stations) for 2 days. Better to add the 2 days on to other cities such as Prague where you want to do 3 day trips in 5 days.
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May 9th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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Thanks Adrienne, so I take it to best buy the trains now for July rather than going there and figuring it out? Are you saying that I won't get the same pricing if i buy a week before actual travel dates? Do I need to " reserve" trains (time and seat) in advance now?

My understanding is that I can buy group tickets for within Berlin quite reasonably.

For Berlin-Potsdam return,I can get the Landers thing for 6 of us.
For Berlin-Dresden, am thinking of getting the landers or the querduschland/schones weekend Tickets. Have seen so many price variations that its all befuddled but it was about E68 for all of us.
Similar plan for Dresden-Prague and then Prague -Berlin.

BUT, again, do I need to get them now well in advance to avail of discounts?

Dudfully yours,
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May 9th, 2012, 09:18 AM
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<< Are you saying that I won't get the same pricing if i buy a week before actual travel dates >>

Yes. The tickets (for German trains) are less expensive when bought in advance. So it's better to buy your tickets now rather than buy them in Berlin. I used an arbitrary date in July and some trains were E29 and some were E39. Also get seat reservations with the tickets. If you're not sure of your exact itinerary or travel dates then wait until your itinerary is final to buy the tickets as there is a change fee.
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May 9th, 2012, 09:29 AM
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Got it! finally. Danke Shun!

Now, I have a problem in booking online: idiotic as it may sound. I have two seniors and two under 14. So, are we equivalent to 5 adults or are we a group of 6 ( does not qualify as per drop downs) or do I not count my 6 year old! Can't book unless do it in batches....Frustrating too.

A call to the DB sales office is merited.
Till I figure that out....
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May 9th, 2012, 11:07 AM
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Since you will stop in Dresden you cannot buy the discount tickets Berlin - Prague in one leg. You would have to buy separate portions (two tickets): Berlin - Dresden and Dresden - Prague (or Bad Schandau - Prague). Also, note that these discounted tickets are fix for ONE specific train - if you miss it due to whatever reason it is your loss. You have to buy new tickets (undiscounted).

I would travel on the Ländertickets or Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket in your case. You can only use regional trains (no ICE/IC/EC - the faster trains), but they are not so much slower on the Berlin - Dresden - Prague route. You can easily buy these tickets after arrival.

Paddle steamer to Bad Schandau is loooong - upstream. The first section within Dresden is very beautiful and interesting (castles, mansions etc.) but then follows a rather boring section between Pillnitz Palace and Pirna (flat). From Pirna on it is VERY scenic with the sandstone formations to both sides. But it is really a long trip.

Dresden - Meissen is much shorter, not as scenic but quite beautiful also - lovely little villages, vineyards, hills and finally the arrival in Meissen - stunning the castle on the hill above the old town.

Yep, I'd probably do the Dresden - Meissen steamer trip. Especially because the train Dresden - Prague follows the same route in the river valley from Pirna to Bad Schandau. Sit on the left side, more scenic.

It takes about 3 hours to get to Cesky Krumlov. Connections are frequently. You're not *that* much faster driving.

Prague - Kutna Hora only takes one hour (roughly) and connections are also frequently. No need for a driver.

I would only visit either KH or CK - both are picturesque small towns.

Karlovy Vary is two hours or a bit more on a bus. I do not think it is a *must* see, and two hours on a bus and again the same back ... ugh.
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May 9th, 2012, 11:35 AM
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Keep in mind that Lander tickets cannot be used on the fastest trains but only on regional trains and perhaps the weekend special I believe is also restricted from the fastest trains - sometimes this may make it much slower say Berlin to Dresden. Potsdam can be eached by S-Bahn as well as mainline rail and the S-bahn station if i recall right is closer to Sans Soucci and its park - there are family day or weekend tickets for the Berlin S-Bahn system that could be cheaper all in all than the Lander Pass for one day - not sure but check it out!
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May 9th, 2012, 12:05 PM
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<< Prague - Kutna Hora only takes one hour (roughly) and connections are also frequently. No need for a driver. >>

Ingo - I was thinking about the convenience and making for an easy trip for 6 people plus getting from the cathedral to the bone chapel and the other cathedral. I drove so I don't know how convenient the bus is from one sight to the other or where the train station is in Kutna Hora. I encountered few people who spoke English in this town.

Sometimes it's worth the money to make things more convenient. The half day trip is $160.

http://mike-chauffeur.cz/bohemian-countryside-trips

tongsa - In the Czech Republic definitely have the Czech words for everything you want to see. There are sign posts in Prague, pointing to the sights, but only in English. I had a heck of a time finding the bone chapel because I forgot to have the Czech word for it and passed the sign lots of times, not knowing what it was. If you have something written down you can show the paper to anyone and they can direct you. That's how I found my hotel in KH!

Here's some of my photos you can look at for KH & CK.
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May 10th, 2012, 12:53 AM
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Thanks again for the wonderful advice. I am now dreaming trains, picturesque villages and castle spires whizzing past!

One more transport question - Do I need to pre-book the paddle steamer to Meissen? Return will take train, right?

While these big ones get ironed out, thinking of taking the train to Plsen as Dad is a beer lover and quite keen. So, will skip KV in favour of that. Mike is a good idea given 6, I agree and we can set our own pace.

Now back to apartment hunting! Apparently have left it too late....
Back soon again!
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May 10th, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Oops - I meant the sign posts in Prague are not in English - only in Czech.

Also I forgot the link to my photos. It must have been near my nap time - LOL

http://modigliani.shutterfly.com/cze...kowfrankfurtpa

Sounds like it's a gonna be a great trip!
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May 10th, 2012, 10:33 AM
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adrienne - agreed, convenience is a major point and always to consider carefully. I personally am a fan of bus and train, so I would not hire a driver.

No need to pre-book the paddler steamer to Meissen. But show up at least 15 minutes before departure (better earlier) and get in line to get a good table (upper deck if possible, in front, right side is more interesting). Back by train, yes. Runs every 30 minutes.
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May 10th, 2012, 10:41 AM
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You asked about Potsdam. IMO a trip out (you can use the rails easily) is worth the time and effort and you have two different palaces to choose from and can walk between the two.

And if you actually have the time I would not skip Budapest. Let's face it: you aren't going to be able to do it all but at least you'll have the highlights to remember. You are paying plenty to get OVER there so make the most of it IMO. So-called "depth" is in the eye of the traveler.
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May 10th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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Thanks Adrienne and Ingo. Looking forward to the holiday even more. Dukey - totally agree. - doing both Potsdam and Budapest and Pilsen too! Plotting crystal purchase too, fingers crossed and a clock or two!
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May 10th, 2012, 11:13 AM
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For your Berlin-Potsdam trip you won't need a Länder pass or any other from German Rail.
You'll get a "Small Group Ticket" from BVG, the Berlin Transit Authority, which is a day pass for up to 5 people for €15.50 (fare zones ABC)
In addition, you'll need a day pass for person #6 of your group. Which should be one of the kids to benefit from reduced fare, which would be €5.10 for a day pass zones ABC.
So the total will be €20.60
This will cover all regional and suburban trains to Potsdam, buses, trams both in Potsdam and Berlin, and the Berlin subway and ferries until next day 3am.
YOu will get those tickets from any BVG vending machine at subway stations or major bus stops. Or the staffed desks in major subway stations or neighborhood newspaper agents.
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May 10th, 2012, 11:15 AM
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And Adrienne, now I want to go to Telc too! Not to mention your London photos. - have been there so many times but not quite captured it as you have!

Ok, now on to more acco hunting!
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May 11th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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Thanks Cowboy1968. One more daft question and perhaps completely meaningless - is location near an S bahn or u bahn in the mitte area better? I know that Berlin has 9 u bahn lines but is the s bahn easier for the elderly? And that one is bvg-run?
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