Eastern Europe Travel

Dec 18th, 1997, 07:37 AM
  #1  
E Green
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Eastern Europe Travel

I am managing a tour for 40 people (chorus)
which will start in Warsaw (Poland), continue on
to Berlin, to Prague, to Vienna and then to
Venice.

Have others travelled in this area? Should we
rely on the trains (all different systems...) or hire a bus to take us throughout the first 4 destinations at least??

thanks!
 
Dec 18th, 1997, 08:14 AM
  #2  
Gino
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You can purchase a European East Rail Pass for $195 which allows first class travel for 5 days in one month in Austria, Czech Republic, Hungry, Poland, and Slovakia. Each additional day @$21. Then purchase rail tickets from Vienna to Venice. The total for the 40 of you will exceed $8,000. I guess the next move would be to check out bus charters.
 
Dec 18th, 1997, 09:56 PM
  #3  
Sally
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I would recommend using a travel agent who handles
travel for groups such as yours. The expertise will,
in the end, save you money. Dealing with arrangements for a group your size in Eastern Europe isn't easy, even for someone experienced in making those arrangements. Agreements aren't always kept. Schedules change etc... [The reason I know is because a friend of mine who is an experienced agent with groups did a similar tour a few years ago.] It is better to have a professional who knows the "ropes" doing the work. One piece of advice... keep the people going over early or staying on to a minumum. This is the one thing that will drive you completely crazy as the one in charge of arrangements. In any case good luck!
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 03:15 AM
  #4  
Maira Senick
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Mr. Green: Sally's advice is a good one. I used the train system while traveling in Prague. The trains were usually late, the schedules canceled and the if you get confused or in trouble, there is nobody on sight to help. Otherwise, it was the most beautiful city I have ever been to.
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 07:04 AM
  #5  
E Green
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Thanks for your advice (it is as I suspected). In fact, yesterday I sent 3 FAXes to tour agencies in Poland and also to the World Tourism Council to see if I can get a read on the best tour agencies over there. (I am also checking with Gray Line on their recommendations for bus travel in Eastern Europe.)
I will keep this site posted on what I discover about travel options (best in quality/best in price!!)
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 08:13 AM
  #6  
Gino
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Orbis is the largest tour operator in Poland and also handles other Eastern European countries. Their website is: http://www.orbis-usa.com/
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 11:14 AM
  #7  
Steph Marks
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I am looking for information on Lithauania. Where to stay, prices, aattractions etc. Please help.
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 12:11 PM
  #8  
Erika
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For the Lithuanian travel, I recommend checking out the website: www.inyourpocket.com. They have wonderful guides for Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda. I use these guides (about $1.00USD when purchasing over there) all the time for Riga. They have info on hotels/motels/hostels, restaurants/cafes/bars, shopping, language, currency, etc etc. Plus there are wonderfully funny anecdotes throughout the guide. The website has everything that the printed guide has. Plus, some info on what other folks liked/disliked about hotels etc.
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 01:27 PM
  #9  
Ben Haines
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I would plump for rail travel, and where possible night travel, using 3-berth, second class, sleepers. You complete an evening in one city, travel asleep, and awake in the morning at your next city. It's true you cannot go straight to hotel rooms in your next city, as they are usually available only from 11am or noon, but you can book a couple of doubles as a place to drop bags, and treat them as lounges until the whole set of rooms becomes available. Or if you negotiate beforehand the hotel may be able to offer you without charge an empty restaurant for the morning period. Since a sleeping car berth takes a supplement of 50 US dollars you it usually undercuts a hotel bill (especially so in Berlin, Vienna and Venice). And night rail journeys eat up miles that are long and tedious by daytime bus or train. Like your correspondent I have taken trains in the Czech Republic: they were seldom late. The trains you use are internationbal, and run within the international system, the Confederation Internationale des Chemins de Fer.

On present timetables the detail is this. I am using the Thomas Cook Europewan Timetable, which is probably in the reference library of a large city near you, and which you can buy by phone on US Toolfree 800 367 7984.

Warsaw Central board leave 2335. To get to bed earlier travel eastwards across Warsaw, and board at Warsaw Wschodna at 2250. Don't be early at Wschodna: it's a grubby station. Whereas if you leave from Warsaw Central you can wait for your train in the lounge or cafe of the fine international hotel just south of the station, and walk over to the platform ten minutes before departure. Arrive Berlin Lichtenberg 0736. If your accomodation is in west Berlin it's best to go with your luggage on to the city railway (the S-bahn, with good views of the city) straight to West Berlin for breakfast: Lichtenberg is not strong on breakfasts.
Berlin Lichtenberg 0846, restaurant car train, Prague Holesovice 1339. Similar trains every two hours.
Prague Hlavni 0921, restaurant car train, Vienna South 1433
Vienna South board about 2200, leave 2245. Venice 0842.

I agree that you should use a tour agency. Orbis in Warsaw, DER in Germany, Cedok in Prasue, or Oesterreicher Verkehrsbuero in Vienna all have skills at rail bookings, but I'd plump for Orbis or Cedok, to get central European expertise. To make phoning easy, I'd look for their office in New York. If phone enquiries can't find them then the New York consulates can. The prices you've been given for rail passes may well be irrelevant, as international trains offer handsome reductions for a party as big as forty, or if you use non-party tickets you can book people under 26 or over 60 at about a quarter off.

Few things are pleasanter than rolling over the lagoon viaduct into morning Venice, or espying the landmarks of Berlin from the S-bahn ten minutes after you get to the city.

None of this stops you booking local busses to run around suburbs once you're in a city. I say "suburbs", as public transport is much more convenient than hired busses in city centres, and quicker, and as you can't hire a bus in Venice.

Please write again if I can help further. When are your choir singing, and are they MIT people ?

Ben Haines, London
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 02:57 PM
  #10  
Sally
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If you are in or near a big city there will be plenty of travel agents experienced with putting together tours for groups. I would recommend using one of them rather than one based in Eastern Europe. You want an agent with experience in Eastern Europe of course, but also one you can reach easily and who understands American preferences. There should be many such agents. Look for those who do educational and alumni tours. They will have good relationshships with the airlines and other providers. Hope it goes well!
 
Dec 19th, 1997, 04:07 PM
  #11  
Gino
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Gee, Ben, I couldn't have said it better myself. I have used both Oribis and Cedok in my travels in Eastern Europe. I couldn't have said it better myself. I guess I must have had hiccups. Rather than complicate the situation, I thought it best to start with Orbis. Things then would have progressed to Cedok in Praque etc. But I couldn't agree with you more. I feel that's the way to go. Been there, done that!
 
Dec 24th, 1997, 09:21 AM
  #12  
Elizabeth Green
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Ben -- I am a part-time adminsitrator at MIT to support my habit -- music and the arts! I have a small business running cultural and performing tours in the arts itnernationally. The group I am "biding" on a tour for is the Zamir Chorale. I am also prepping a tour for a group from Cape Cod who is headed to Scotland in June/July. I do sing myself (with The Cambridge Madrigal Singers -- of Cambridge, MA of course -- the commute would be rough to the UK). We toured last year in Northern Italy. Do you sing?

Elizabeth Green
 
Dec 24th, 1997, 10:32 AM
  #13  
Ben Haines
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Dear Ms Green

I'm sorry I was unclear on one point. My suggestion is that you use the New York office of Orbis or Cedok, rather than their officve in-country, for just the reason Ms Fowler gives -- to have an office that you can reach easily and that knows American preferences. You would choose one for the whole trip, taking car to have a named officer, a phone number and an address for their branches or agents in your intended cities. You would phone the named officer in each city before ever you leave the Commonwealth of Massachusettes, to be sure they are not on leave, and have been properly briefed about you.

As you gather, I see your choice as between busses and trains, and myself choose trains. You'll naturally need to get costings, but I think air trips would be expensive, and lead to much sitting about in airports and waiting for airport busses.

I'm afraid I don't sing myself, but it's my opinion that somebody has to be audience. I'm glad that even colonial Cambridge has madrigals. If ever you get to hear them sung in early June in college courts in the other Cambridge you might like the experience. I find it magical: these young people enjoy what their ancestors enjoyed, in the place where they enjoyed it.

Puer nobis natus est.

Ben Haines

 
Dec 24th, 1997, 10:34 AM
  #14  
Ben Haines
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Dear Ms Green

I'm sorry I was unclear on one point. My suggestion is that you use the New York office of Orbis or Cedok, rather than their officve in-country, for just the reason Ms Fowler gives -- to have an office that you can reach easily and that knows American preferences. You would choose one for the whole trip, taking car to have a named officer, a phone number and an address for their branches or agents in your intended cities. You would phone the named officer in each city before ever you leave the Commonwealth of Massachusettes, to be sure they are not on leave, and have been properly briefed about you.

As you gather, I see your choice as between busses and trains, and myself choose trains. You'll naturally need to get costings, but I think air trips would be expensive, and lead to much sitting about in airports and waiting for airport busses.

I'm afraid I don't sing myself, but it's my opinion that somebody has to be audience. I'm glad that even colonial Cambridge has madrigals. If ever you get to hear them sung in early June in college courts in the other Cambridge you might like the experience. I find it magical: these young people enjoy what their ancestors enjoyed, in the place where they enjoyed it.

Puer nobis natus est.

Ben Haines

 
Dec 29th, 1997, 06:29 PM
  #15  
Pete Prunkl
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Will be going to Timisoara, Romania in June with my son who is living in Budapest, Hungary and speaks Hungarian like a native. Our purpose is to visit sites where my grandfather lived before he emigrated to the USA at the turn of the century. Thought of renting a car in Budapest. Thought also of arranging to stay with a family in Timisoara - maybe even a Prunkl - during our brief stay. Wanted to find Prunkls before visiting. Any thoughts on any of these issues? This is my first time to Europe and as my son says, "Dad, you're not visiting Europe. This is Hungary and Romania."
 
Jan 1st, 1998, 02:22 PM
  #16  
Ben Haines
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Dear Mr Prunkl,........................................... .................................................. ..
You have all my admiration, your son, I fear, little of it.......................................
I'd say you could write now to the tourist information office at Timisoara to ask them whether thety have any bed and breakfast houses listed under your name. My problem is that neiher Lonely Planet nor the Rough Guide show such an office. So I think you need to go to Timisoara, for a first night in one of the hotels shown on http://www.mediaport.org/~arthur/digitim/hotels.html
You could hire in Budapest and drive, or you could take the train at 1355 from Budapest Keleti station, arrive in Timisoara at 2027. Then you'd sort out car and accomodation next morning........................................... ..................................................
My compliments to your son, but may I give my opinion that Hungary and Romania are fully Europe ? It's true they are not the Europe that has grown into close alignment with the USA over fifty years. They hold a great deal of their own character -- as once all Europe did. It's true Hungary will be inside the European Union in a few years, but even then I hope she will still have a clear flavour of her own -- or flavours in the various regions -- to delight her visitors and enrich our continent. In my view the places that are not quite Europe are Milton Keynes and La Defense........................................... ...........................
Please write again if I can help further........................................... .............................
Welcome to Europe............................................ ...........................................
Ben Haines, London
 

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