Central Europe Trip Planning

Dec 21st, 2015, 06:27 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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I like Thursday's suggestion of printing out blank calendar pages and using them to plan your trip. That is exactly what I do, and it's very useful, especially for long trips. On the spaces, I write the date, the city, the name of the hotel, method of transportation and how much time it will take to travel to a new city.

Be sure to take travel time into account. I failed to do this on my 7-hour bus trip from St.Petersburg to Tallinn, Estonia and really shorted myself out of a day in Tallinn.

Second class travel is perfectly acceptable. I'd check bahn.de or the man in seat 61 for travel information--departure and travel times, etc.. Sometimes bus travel is a good, cheap option if destinations are fairly close.

I don't bother too much about finding the cheapest fares or with using rail passes. I'm lazy, and it's usually too much trouble. If I can get a rail pass that covers several destinations, I will do that, but in general, I buy a mix of bus, train, and plane tickets.

I suggest that you use one or more guidebooks, which can give you much of the information you seek. Since you want to visit numerous destinations, you will need to do a lot of research and planning, but if you're like most of us who post on Fodors, that will be part of the fun of travel.

Lonely Planet is good for listing cheap accommodation, but I have to say that while the two Lonely Planet suggestions I used on my last trip were acceptable, they weren't as comfortable as my usual choices. Other guidebooks list a range of prices, and I always look on the internet for other suggestions.

Check hotel ratings on booking.com or TripAdvisor.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Dec 21st, 2015, 08:07 AM
  #22  
 
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I'm interested in the inexpensive option of 2nd Class travel. So, given the itinerary above, would buying a East European Pass work cheaper?>

thursdays has shown that for your train ticket 2nd class discounted tickets are the best bet. Only if you want total flexibility to hop any train anytime might the pass be better and in first class but 2nd class is perfectly OK just a lot more crowded IME.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 21st, 2015, 10:49 AM
  #23  
 
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In Italy use trenitalia.com to book discounted tickets - to go to Salzburg try Trenitalia or www.bahn.de/en - the German Railways site that runs trains to Verona from Germany via Austria.

And in Austria as thursdys says use Westbahn - a competitor to the Austrian Railways (though owned by them I believe or largely) with their flat fares even on a walk up basis.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 21st, 2015, 12:10 PM
  #24  
 
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https://westbahn.at/en

Westbahn official site - can and should book in advance not to save money but to have everything taken care of - think it is an open ticket that can be used on any train but you may want to make a reservation as those trains, with cheap walk up prices, can be rather crowded I would suspect.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2015, 01:00 AM
  #25  
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Thank you for your suggestions PalenQ and Pegontheroad.
Jay3008 is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2015, 12:05 PM
  #26  
 
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also thanks thursdays for his/her valuable insights into various discounted tickets - invaluable info - passes can be great for various reasons if you have a carte blanche budget but as thursdays says they are often not the cheapest way - again www.seat61.com has invaluable info leading you through the booking of those tickets or buying them once there in some cases.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 1st, 2016, 01:31 AM
  #27  
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How do buses compare to trains when it comes to travelling in Central and East Europe?
Jay3008 is offline  
Jan 1st, 2016, 04:40 AM
  #28  
 
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No - I would not count out Czech Republic. Prague is unique in most of europe in that it was not destroyed and rebuilt in WWII. What you see has grown organically over hundreds of years and is more authentic and reflective of the various types of central european architecture than other sizable cities.

For travel between cities trains is definitely the way to go. Faster and more efficient than buses - and in many places buses do not duplicate train routes. They are better used for either bus tours from major cities or areas not easiy reached by train.

The only way to tell if a pass will work is to lay out your itinerary and cost it out via individual tickets but using the deep discount rates available if tickets are bought far in advance from the official train company in each country.

Strongly suggest you get Michelin green guides which not only evaluate the various sights (on a * basis) but also have detailed info on each sight and tell you how long you can expect to see it (that is, is it a 2 hour sight or will it take 4 hours?).

In each city I would check with the town hall or tourist office to identify walking tours - often with architecture or history grad students and usually very low cost - that give you a real feel for the city with a local perspective.

But nothing can take the place of doing your own research. I was a history major - even if during the last ice age - and have several times found myself knowing more than the official guides recount - sine they are often operating as the least common denominator. If the venue has an audio guide that is usually helpful - although in some smaller sights they may be too basic as well.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 1st, 2016, 01:45 PM
  #29  
 
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The only way to tell if a pass will work is to lay out your itinerary and cost it out via individual tickets but using the deep discount rates available if tickets are bought far in advance from the official train company in each country.>

there are other criteria besides total cost - does one want flexibility to hop just about any train anytime - those type of fully flexible tickets can cost a ton.

Discounted tickets are usually train-specific cannot be changed nor refunded and as are often sold in limited quantities must be booked in stone weeks, months in advance.

So the efficacy of a pass depends not just on total cost but whether one wants to freedom to just head to the station and hop any train anytime and not be booked in stone weeks/months in advance.

The cheapest is often the discounted train ticket route but IMO price is not the only criteria.

Not saying a pass is good or not for the OP - just general comments on nytraveler's price only take. Cheapest is not always best. And I would also encourage first class travel as being more relaxed and discounted tickets also often come in first class. Cheapest is not always best though this seems to be a Fodor mantra.

BTW- nytraveler gives great advice on other things he/she mentions above.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 1st, 2016, 05:19 PM
  #30  
 
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PalenQ -

I can't believe that after all of these years you don't know I'm a woman.

And I don;t think cost is the only issue with trains - but if someone is looking at a pass that is generally their thinking.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 1st, 2016, 08:08 PM
  #31  
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Thanks for your advice, nytraveler and PalenQ. But i checked out some bus prices, and found, buses are far cheaper than trains, and more flexible. They take more time. Not sure if they are reliable , though. Thats what i was asking about.
Jay3008 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 08:58 AM
  #32  
 
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And I don;t think cost is the only issue with trains - but if someone is looking at a pass that is generally their thinking.>

And that's fine - just sometimes cheapest is not for everyone the best and that's all I point out - always mentioning the discounted tickets too and unlike nearly every post about them mention their drawbacks as well as their pluses.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 10:25 AM
  #33  
 
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Buses will get you to places trains won't, and may (or may not) be cheaper. But given a choice of a train or a bus, I take the train. Because:

-- On the bus your bag goes underneath, where you can't keep an eye on it.

-- You can't get up and walk around

-- If there is a toilet on board, you're unlikely to want to use it

-- There will be no restaurant car or rolling cart for coffee

Trains, in the general case, are just all around more comfortable. Not to say I haven't been on some dubious trains, although not in western or central Europe, but they still beat most buses. For any trip over a couple of hours, I'd much rather pay a bit more and take the train.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 10:37 AM
  #34  
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Which part of europe was your dubious train journey, thursdaysd?
i travelled in Romania by train, and they have some of the slowest but most scenic train routes that i've seen.
Jay3008 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 10:58 AM
  #35  
 
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@Jay3008 - some of the dubious trains were in Asia. The worst was a tie between the night train from Hanoi to Sapa (thought they had failed to couple the carriage correctly) and third class over night from Sungai Kolok to Bangkok.

A fairly recent dubious train in Europe was Nis to Sofia. We watched a group of smugglers stash their contraband. Then there was an unconscionably long wait at the border, during part of which the customs guys looked in all the wrong places. Roll across the border, another long wait, another lot of inept (read bribed) officials, then we watched the smugglers retrieve the loot. (See: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...sofia-via-nis/ )

On the same trip there was also Sarajevo to Pecs, a route that no longer operates. Thanks to a strike in Republika Srpska, it took three trains and a bus to make the trek. (See: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...o-the-balkans/ )
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 01:30 PM
  #36  
 
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They take more time. Not sure if they are reliable , though.>

Well buses that are part of a national network are very reliable - like those in the U.K., Ireland, Switzerland, etc. but long-distance international buses can run spotty schedules at inconvenient times as nearly all Europeans would certainly take the train - if you check out some of the discounted train fares they can be as cheap as a bus - and much faster.

Overnight trains connect dozens of cities and you save on the cost of a hotel for that night. buses do too at times but a night on a bus to me would be very uncomfortable - with trains get a berth in a couchette compartment at least and you'll get a mattress, blanket and pillow, etc.

Bus yes IME buses are reliable just not nearly as extensive schedules except where trains don't go.
PalenQ is offline  
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