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Looking for help with Eastern Europe Trip

Looking for help with Eastern Europe Trip

Old Oct 24th, 2008, 08:10 AM
  #1  
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Looking for help with Eastern Europe Trip

My husband and I are interested in planning a trip to Eastern Europe, specifically Prague & Budapest, as we've heard how beautiful that region is. We wouldn't mind taking a few extra days to see Vienna or Salzburg, depending on how much time it would take to get there. Any suggestions for when to go? My husband is a teacher, so we are limited as to when we can go since he only has 2 weeks off during Christmas and summer break. We prefer to avoid the crowds of tourists, but I don't want to miss out on any activities either due to the cold. We are also looking for tips on how to travel economically (but comfortably) due to the dollar being so weak right now. We aren't looking for the luxury experience, but prefer to stay close to the city and have nice, clean accomodations. If anyone has any suggestions, we would love to hear them. This would be our first non-escorted tour experience so we are new to the independent vacation scene. I'm really not sure how to go about planning the trip, is it better to go through a travel agent or do it on my own through a website (if so, any recommended sites)? Thanks!
Crazycatlady75 is offline  
Old Oct 24th, 2008, 09:25 AM
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I would definitely go during summer - earlier as possible to avoid the peak tourist season of mid-July thru August. winter can be gray and cool and with extremely short days in this area.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Oct 24th, 2008, 09:41 AM
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First off I advise you go in summer and here's why - airfare to Eastern/CentralEurope is relatively high so you should go when you can spend as much time as possible - and for teachers (I'm one) that's summer. Also, since your other option is Christmas, that's just as popular a time, if not more so, than summer - so there's no benefit in terms of airfare price, hotel price, or crowds. And summer has much more hours of daylight. Not to mention warm temps and flowers. I travel to Europe in July every year and love it.

Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg are all very easy to do on your own, no need for a tour or package. Trains between them are fairly inexpensive and can be booked once you get over there, just a couple of days before the day you want to travel. For example, this summer I took the train from Vienna to Budapest for €19, bought my ticket at the train station two days before I wanted to go, had a choice of several different times of day to travel. Trip was 3 hours. If in addition to the cities you want to sample some small towns, there are possible day trips from all those cities that are easy to do by public transportation. In the case of Prague I wanted to visit Cesky Krumlov and wasn't comfortable with public transportation to get there so I took a one day group tour. They sell these tours from kiosks all over the city, just book the day before.

I suggest a minimum of 3-4 days in each city, not counting travel days. I spent 5 days in Prague in 04 (part of a three week trip that included Italy) and this summer spent 4 days in Vienna and 7 in Budapest (part of a three week trip that included Italy). I only spent 1 night in Salzburg several years ago but it's smaller than the others and I think can be done in much less time. Also, if it doesn't fit in your schedule, it had the least to offer so would be the first one I'd drop.

I start planning trips by looking at photos and reading people's trip reports. My photos of all these places are at www.pbase.com/annforcier

Once you've done some research and have specific questions this forum is a wealth of information.

My main recommendation for lodging is in Budapest at the Buda B&B (www.budabab.com/index.htm) run by two Americans. Prices are really reasonable and it's a wonderful place to stay. In Vienna I can recommend the Pension City (www.citypension.at/en/index.html). I don't really recommend the place I stayed in Prague.

Happy planning
isabel is online now  
Old Oct 25th, 2008, 06:09 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Just to add another perspective, we went this year at Spring Break since our son was in school. We did not encounter terrible crowds (it was late March)...we did have some cold weather during our Prague stay but managed fine. We were gone ten days and just did Budapest and Prague. just an FYI.
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Old Oct 26th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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I have been to Budapest at Christmas time and in the summer. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Christmas in Europe is wonderful and there are great performances to see ( many free) and the Christmas markets to wander, but on the down side, it is dark at about 4pm and it can be chilly and the weather can be messy.
Summer time there's a sense of freedom and happiness because the dark is gone and the days are really long. There are tons of festivals to take advantage of and the sightseeing is easier with the extended daylight. I think other than airfare ( but it's expensive now even for winter travel)you can do an economical trip in the summer with good planning and just the normal budget trip ideas ( picnicing and taking advantage of passes). If I were to pick places, I would go to Budapest, Prague and Salzburg and Vienna. Out of those 4,the Austrian destinations would be the most expensive but there are tons of recommendations on this board for every budget.
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 10:25 AM
  #6  
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This is very helpful information, thank you for the tips! I think we will shoot for the summer to go on our vacation. It sounds like we would have more freedom to see the local sites during that time. Do these countries use the Euro or do they have their own currency? I know Austria has the Euro, wasn't sure about the Czech Republic & Hungary. Also, how expensive are meals and tours in Budapest/Prague vs. other parts of Europe? We found that some areas were a lot more expensive (London, Switzerland) than others in 2007 when we did our last European trip. I wasn't sure how much we should budget for. I figured we would go less expensive for breakfast & lunch and spend more on our dinners. Thanks so much for your help!
Crazycatlady75 is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2008, 11:31 AM
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The Central European countries that were part of the Communist bloc (including Czech Republic and Hungary) will be somewhat less expensvie that the areas that were alwasy part of the west. Will probalby be a little cheoaer than London or Paris - but nothing like the US (unless the dollar continues to rise).

This area in winter an be great as long as you don;t mind cold - fewer tourists, more locals and still a lot to do - but some things have shorter opening hours.

Summer can be MOBBED, quite warm - and prices will probably be higher.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2008, 11:36 AM
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To save some money on lodging and breakfast you can try to rent an apartment. My notes from resent experience with apartment rentals in Budapest and Prague posted at http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35155633

With school age kids we also plan our travels around school brakes. I try to leave as soon as school ends and enjoy longest days at the end of June; or at the end of August/beginning September when I often find better deals on tickets.
travfirst is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2008, 02:32 PM
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I just came back from Budapest, Vienna, Cesky Krumlov & Prague. I highly recommend all of them. Vienna, of course uses the Euro. However, Hungary & the Czech Republic, while now part of the EU don't yet use the Euro. Hungary uses the Hungarian Forint, the Czech Republic uses the Czech Koruna (although some places in Prague & Cesky Krumlov did take Euros and even American Dollars). I ordered a small amount of each currency from my bank so I wouldn't have to run for the ATM the moment I got there.

I don't think meals in any of these places are cheaper or substantially cheaper than in other parts of Europe, although probably less expensive than Italy.
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 07:10 AM
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We went to Prague, Krakow and Budapest this past August. Prague was the most crowdwd, but we did not meet any American travelers. We found food prices to be reasonable (like here in the US). In Prague, we stayed right near the Astronomical clock at the Arcadia Old Town Residences. Our apartment was fabulous! We got a full, wonderful breakfast each morning. The cost was also quite resonable. In Budapest we stayed in another aparment that was also fabulous. The site is BVR- Budapest Vacation Rental. My family rented 2 apts, Belle and Sarah. We highly recommend these places. John, the owner was wonderful. He is American. He and his wife stocked our refrigerator and gave us great suggestions for meals, tours and shopping. . In between cities we took night trains. In all, we traveled for 12 days. I had most of our tours and guides lined up a head of time so we really did not have any problem with crowds. Also, all of our apartments were air-conditioned so we were always very comfortable. Hope this info helps. Also, I bought train tickes in advance from Budget Europe Travel . I also highly reccomend them. service was excellent.
money4mice is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2008, 07:24 AM
  #11  
 
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We just returned from Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Italy.

In Prague we stayed at the Lida Guest House. We took a taxi from the airport to the guest house - it was arranged by the guest house.

It is not in the center of Prague but we enjoyed walking down to the tram or metro which wasn't far. There are a couple of good restaurants in the area of the b&b.

In Vienna we stayed at Pension Suzanne which was a wonderful location and a great place to stay. One block from the opera house and close to the metro. Many good restaurants within walking distance as you are right off the main walking mall.

In Budapest, we stayed at the Hotel Pest. The largest room we have ever stayed in. A great hotel one block off Andrassy Avenue so it is close to the bus and metros and one block from the opera house.

We did take the taxi back and forth from the train station as the metros and buses were always crowded to try to take your bag on too. And with 3 of us sharing the cost it wasn't that much more.

Took the night train to Venice from Budapest.

We can recommend the places we stayed - no problems and the people were so helpful and welcoming.

You will have no problem going on your own. When we arrived in a city we immediately purchased our train ticket for our next stop. We asked for discounted tickets and could usually get them.
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 10:13 AM
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Prague & Budapest, as we've heard how beautiful that region is. We wouldn't mind taking a few extra days to see Vienna or Salzburg, depending on how much time it would take to get there.

If you are using the train and going to Salzburg as well then check out the Eastern Europe Railpass, valid in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovaka, Hungary and most important Austria, where trains are more expensive than the other countries. For lots on train travel in general in this area and on the pass i always recommend www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - both sites give lots of good objective content in addition to what many sites only do - list pass prices and have an add to cart option. Byron at budgeteuropetravel.com is a font of info on trains in these countries IME.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2008, 10:32 AM
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I have files on Prague, Vienna and Budapest that I put together when planning our trip to those cities. It's been a few years since we made that trip, but I think you would find some useful information. If you would like them just e-mail me.
Giovanna is offline  
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