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Maitai's Eastern European Dilemma Continues - Car vs. Train

Maitai's Eastern European Dilemma Continues - Car vs. Train

May 29th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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Maitai's Eastern European Dilemma Continues - Car vs. Train

Perhaps not as important as Roe vs. Wade, Yankees vs. Red Sox or Manchester United vs. Real Madid, but my 2008 Eastern (really Central) European trip has me confused...and I'm sober.

Here's what I think, but perhaps you can tell me what you know.

In talking with rental car companies and looking at train costs, it looks like I could rent a car in Prague, drive to Cesky Krumlov, Olomouc, Krakow, Stary Smokovec (Slovakia), Eger and drop in Budapest, then train to Zagreb, rent another car and drive around northern Croatia, Slovenia, into Trieste and dropp in Porec for less money than renting and dropping car in CR, training to Krakow, overnight training to Budapest, training to Zagreb and renting the car for last part of the trip,

Other than being the longest sentence I have ever written, does the above make sense?

The driving times are not overly long (longest seems to be about four hours from CK to Olomouc and a little more than four hours from Olomouc to Krakow.

Unless I made a mathematical error (which is possible because I attended San Diego State), it saves us about $500 to drive most of the trip than take three trains and rent twice. Has anyone driven in all these countries? Am I missing something about driving vs. trains? Do you think I am correct or crazy (well, you don't have to answer the latter)?


maitaitom is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:41 AM
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It's a sad day for me in Fodorsville.

After working hard the last couple of days (yes, it does happen), I thought there might be some good advice waiting for me, but alas, a big goose egg.

I looked at Padraig's rant on why he doesn't answer questions, and I believe I was not imperious. I'm always thankful. I do my homework (unlike my college days).

Oh well, one final time. If you have driven from Prague to Krakow or Krakow to Budapest, I would be interested in the viability of such drives, or should I rethink paying more for the train travel?

Much thanks.

maitaitom is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 02:35 PM
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I guess it all depends on your point of view. Ben Haines (RIP) would have recommended you take trains, without question. Personally, I think trains are good for point-to-point, but not so for multi-point meanderings.
The economics, including the drop charge for one-way rental, are yours to work out.
Logistically, though, we rented a car in Vienna, drove to Budapest, Eger, up thru Slovakia to Bardejov, to Krakow, back thru CR to Vienna with no problem. Lots of nice scenery, interesting sites. Roads were better than I expected. How much time do you have planned?
tomboy is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 03:51 PM
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Thank you tomboy. I knew I could count on someone with tom in their name.

We are renting in Prague, driving to Cesky Krumolv for a day, Olomouc for a day and then on to Krakow, where we will be for five days. Then on to Stary Smokovc for an afternoon and night, Eger for an afternonn, night and following morning and then dropping in Budapest.

Auto Europe said we could not drop the car in Poland, which is why we opted to drive instead of overnight train. It seems keeping car even in Krakow and dropping in Budapest will be a little less than the trains (even with a few hundred dollar drop-off charge).

Plus, I really wasn't looking forward to the overnight train from Krakow to Budapest where they awaken you as you reach each country.

None of the drives seem to be more than four hours, and we are all pretty early risers, so though this might be best way to go as long as traffic is not too bad.

It also gives us a chance to see some of the smaller towns and area than just Prague-Krakow-Budapest.

We will also rent a car in Croatia for Croatia, Slovenia, Trieste part of the journey (long trip).

The only thing I have read anywhere negative seems to be the traffic in Poland, but much of the driving won't be there. If there is anything you can add on Krakow, Slovakia, Eger, Budapest route, it would be appreciated. Thanks again.

maitaitom is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 05:09 PM
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Tom: Here's some advice. Many cars in Eastern Europe (to say nothing of Western Europe as well) have diesel engines. It's not a good idea to fill such cars with gasoline, or vice versa. Dire consequences follow.

Happy motoring.
laverendrye is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 05:39 PM
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Yes, when we were there, diesel was 10% less and got 10% better mileage.
It's easy to differentiate, though; as I recall the diesel pumps are green.

MY-TY: I could suggest more if I knew your likes/dislikes/interests, etc.

I found the driving fairly easy in those countries. The traffic in Poland was heavy between SE Poland and Krakow, due partially to road construction and partially to prosperity (more cars than infrastructure). But we figured we could either be tense driving, or just enjoy the surroundings leisurely. Chose the latter.

Eger's a very nice town; that's on our list to return to, when the new Learjet arrives. There is virtually nothing between there and Budapest, though, except an historic village named Holloko, which wasn't worth detouring to see.

You'll enjoy Olomouc; we only spent 2-1/2 hours there. Could have done 2 days.

Cesky Krumlov is enjoyable, too.

We drove from our pension in Krakow to the salt mine...I HIGHLY recommend getting michelin.com directions if you drive to it...there's very little above-ground structure to it, and it's in the middle of mixed-use zoning in a metropolitan suburban area. Hard to find without a map, particularly when you don't know the language enough to say,"where's the salt mine" to a native.

We REALLY liked Budapest!
tomboy is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 09:30 AM
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I'm usually a fan of trains. Not in this case. Prague - CK is much easier done by car and so is CK - Olomouc. From Prague to CK make sure to stop in Ceske Budejovice (Budweis) or in Hluboka n. Vltavou (castle).

From CK to Olomouc you'll pass some other beautiful small towns: Trebon and Telc. Brno is bigger, but also worth a short stop. Too much, yeah, I see

Unfortunately the direct route from Olomouc to Krakow is not very scenic. If you drive the roads a bit further south you'll drive through some beautiful mountains: the Beskydy (Valasske Mezirici, Horni Becva) then the Mala Fatra (Zilina - continue either via Terchova or Martin - to Dolny Kubin and on to Krakow). It adds probably two hours to the drive, but IMO it is worth the detour. Have driven it a couple of times years ago when roads where still in worse condition.

I cannot comment on Eger/Budapest, sorry.

Ingo is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 09:36 AM
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We've driven in parts of Hungary and Czech Republic and throughout Croatia and Slovenia. Given your itinerary I would probably choose to drive. I too has a similar dilemma and decided to go with cars on both of the trips and were happy we did so.

The road systems are faily easy to navigate and most are in good condition. And given how you travel (from reading your past trip reports) I personally think a car would be the way to go.

tcreath is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 11:45 AM
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Thanks. We are more the "driving" types.

laverendrye - What kind of idiot would put gas in a diesel car?? Oh wait, it's coming back to me.

tomboy - glad you liked Eger. I was really trying to fit that in the itinerary. Did you stop in Slovakia? We just felt it would be nice to get out of the big towns for a day or two in between.

ingo - I will get a map and look at the longer route. We'll just wake up a little earlier. Thanks.

maitaitom is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 12:32 PM
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what about Coke vs. Pepsi ?

I'm not sure how much I can add to this thread, but I'll weigh in since maitaitom's trip reports are some of my favorite.

We rented a car in Prague about 10 years ago and drove to Cesky Krumlov. We really wanted to see CK, so we squeezed it in at the end of our trip. Unfortunately, it left little time to explore surrounding areas, but we did like Ceske Budejovice's main square (and the origins of Budweiser).

After investigating the trains, we decided to rent a car. I remember it being a pretty easy trip - a straight shot, but it definitely took longer than we expected. CK is also extremely confusing to find things, so know EXACTLY where you are going when you get there. We drove around the city about 3 times before I finally got out, walked up the hill to our hotel, and asked them how to drive there from where the car was. We ended up circling (yet again) to get to the right one-way street. Parking is also a hassle in CK, so I would recommend finding a hotel that has parking facilities.

We then drove back to Prague and stayed overnight near the airport and returned the car to the airport rental agency (picked up at a downtown location). Worked out well b/c we did not have to pay cab fare (or whatever) to get back to the airport -- it was part of the cost of the car rental.

do we really have to wait until 2008 for another trip report ?
surfmom is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:34 PM
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Yes, we did. Enter 'tomboy slovak or hungary or poland' in the search box and you'll see some previous comments. Sorry, no trip report...I lack the self confidence to make it sound interesting. But interesting it was.
We stopped in Bardejov 2 different times, visited a 3rd cousin descended from common great-great-grandfather.
Interesting, enjoyable town, just east of which were about 40 wooden churches within a 30 mile radius (inquire at tourinfo office for map) which my wife was fascinated with. I was intrigued by Spis Hrad (castle) west of there. We'd hoped for a charming pension, but settled for a nice hotel in Bardejov.

We went straight north from Eger to Bardejov, which was just ordinary country, somewhat similar to eastern Ohio. Might have been more scenic a little further to the east in HU, which would be foothills of the Carpathians.
tomboy is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 11:50 AM
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tomboy - those wooden curches sound interesting. I will look into that. How was Spis Hrad? It looks like about 2 1/2 hours from Krakow to Stary Smokevec, and I read there is a lift nearby, so I'll check into that. Thanks for the info.

surfmom - thanks for the nice comments. I took interest in your driving into Cesky problem, as I have been known to drive on town squares, so we will be careful.

I am a little concerned about driving into Krakow. If anyone could tell me the difficulty factor in that, it would be appreciated.

My only trip report this year (unless something unforeseen happens) will be about me and four of my middle age buddies traveling to Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony of San Diego's Tony Gwynn (oh yeah, and some guy named Ripken).

The locals are already worried about us. Because we were late in getting reservations, the five of us are spending three nights in two stationary RVS (disaster waiting to happen!) at a campground near Oneonta, New York. Eastern Europe will be a piece of cake after this trip.

maitaitom is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 12:43 PM
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laverendry - many years ago I was stationed in Louisiana and drove a Jaguar Mark II. I stopped at a gas station, told the attendant to "fill 'er up" and walked off to make a phone call. I came back as he was hanging up the diesel pump. His explanation? "All them furrin cars use diesel."
basingstoke2 is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 01:22 PM
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Make it easy...bring a GPS navigator with Europe loaded. Be sure it speaks in your L1. All Western and Central Europe main roads are truck routes. Don't rent the smallest car available. It is difficult to average more than 50K per hour as roads transit villages with speed limits. Don't overlook buses.
GSteed is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 01:43 PM
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Spis Hrad: depends on one's point of view. An unimaginative cynic would say that it's a ruin atop a hill. We were both adventurous and imaginative. We drove up the hill, parked, walked further up the hill to the ruins. These are in fair shape for ruins, they could certainly be more ruined. Warwick Castle it ain't. But you can still look thru windows in its walls, you can imagine it filled with people. One can see from its peak how the castle controlled the land for miles around. It seems about 500' above the surrounding plane; one looks downward at a 45 degree slope to see a town below; one can see at least 10 miles, maybe more to the horizon.

Driving in Krakow: we stayed at a pension about 3-4 miles from center, and took the tram in each day. Driving to the pension, and to the salt mine, was no different than driving here in the US; would not have wanted to drive to the center, due both to congestion and I don't know where we would have parked if we had driven. The 2 mile trip from the pension to the salt mine took about 1-1/2 hours, as my mine didn't retain (for long) the ostensibly simple instructions from our host, and we had no road map of Krakow.
tomboy is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 01:47 PM
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maitatom, I'm waiting forward the trip report of your boys-only trip LOL
kenderina is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 05:10 PM
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Maitaitom, have just returned from a trip which almost follows your plan identically, up to the Budapest stage.

We hired a car in Prague, drove to Cesky Krumlov, onto Oloumouc (via Telc) then Krakow, down to Zakopane and Stary Smokovec, Levoca, Eger and finished in Budapest.

I will do a bit of a trip report in the next few days. In the meantime, I would say that it was definitely cheaper for us to do it this way, and gave much more flexibility. We hired an Opel Astra and we didn't need anything bigger. In fact, the roads in some of cities are so congested with cars parked either side and the locals swap lanes so quickly you really wouldn't anything bigger - likewise some of country lanes were very small and two small cars passing took up the whole room, even when one came to a complete stop. We had the loan of a BMW 7 Series whilst we were in Prague for a couple of day drips and actually found it rather nervewracking because of the size of it. Petrol effeciency was very good.

If you have a Navigation System, take it, or seriously consider hiring one. I think it is about 14 Euros a day. We took ours from home and it definitely made life a lot easier. If we had spent the money on hiring one we would have said it was money well spent. We have done a lot of driving in Europe before without one, so I can look at it from both sides. I have become a convert.

In terms of driving times we found that for a trip which was meant to take 3 ours it was generally a good extra half an hour on the suggested times given by the Tom Tom or via Michelin. (I had also downloaded all the via Michelin directions as well). There were a lot of roadworks, especially in Poland, and there were very few passing lanes anywhere so if you got stuck behind a truck it was a long time before you could pass. The only days in which we did a substantial part of the trip on motorway was CK to Oloumouc, Olomouc to Krakow (and it was roadworks all the way from the border onwards so no time saving) and the final day from Eger to Budapest. I don't we could have ever handled finding our B&B in Budapest and returning the car without the GPS. Admittedly we had to drive right across Budapest to get to our final destination.

Overall, we are glad we did it by car. As usual felt that we had crammed too much in and should have taken the pace a bit slower, but we don't know if we will ever get back to these countries again so wanted to make the most of it. If like us, you prefer the countryside to simply visiting the main cities, it is the way to go.

I won't get into any more detail here, but will leave it to my trip report which, as I said, I will start in the next couple of days. If you have any more specific questions in the meantime, I would be happy to try and answer them.
shandy is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Hey Tom, I have driven about half of that and would vote for you to drive--but not in Prague.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 01:23 PM
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steed - pardon my ignorance. does L1 mean my native language? Since there will be four of us, we're getting a mid-size.

tomboy - I appreciate all the insight. It is pretty well guaranteed I'll screw up driving somewhere. As long as no one gets killed, it will be fun. BTW, with your writing style, you should write trip reports. Very entertaining.

bob - We are renting in Prague and taking a day trip to Kutna Hora and another to one of the castles. By your response, I see the Prague citizenry might be in trouble when I head into and out of town. Thanks.

maitaitom is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 03:21 PM
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Yo,T: re driving in Prague. Try not to, or as little as possible. We drove from Cesky Krumlov to Prague on a main road (not X-way), which seemed to get more and more crowded, and industrial, as we got further into Prague. Had no idea where I was til we passed Wenceslas Square. Tried to escape by going down a PesiZona alley, which turned out to be a "pedestrian zona", at the end of which was a cop. He knew the words for "1000 koruna", which struck fear in my mind til I mentally computed that was only $9.50 at the time. Took public transportation thereafter.
tomboy is offline  

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