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Question HELP:Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, etc. etc.???
Old 12-24-2012, 06:01 PM   #1
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Question HELP:Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, etc. etc.???

Just got back from Thailand and Cambodia (loved it!), and now wanting to plan a 3 weeks (hope that's enough) tour of some of the European countries more east like:
Hungary; Croatia; Poland; Czech Republic; Romania; Slovakia; Bulgaria; Slovenia; Ukraine; etc. etc. etc.

I think it might be cheaper for me to purchase individual train tickets instead of a Eurail pass as checking on 1st class by rail from Budapest to Prague was a 6 hr. 39 min. ride for a whopping $48.
However, I understand rail in some countries is either very sloooow or nonexistent almost (like Croatia). Anyone here have real world knowledge of that?

Since I want to go see only the most interesting countries, which ones should I do? And are many of these countries so similar that I could go see one and avoid many others? I am trying not to duplicate experiences.

My only language is English, so is there a country that does NOT teach basic English at all in this region and maybe I should just avoid

Any advice is helpful. I asked questions about 3 basic topics here, and hope someone either has lived over there or visited recently and can help.
(And, no, I do not want to take a tour on this trip.)
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:28 PM   #2
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Hi, Orchidflower.

I am surprised that nobody has stepped up to provide some personal experiences. I would, but am not qualified. We went to Prague a few years ago, and having only a few days, managed to tour the city and take public transportation to Kutna Hora for sight seeing. All the info I needed came from a Rick Steves' book. My wife had been to Budapest on a previous trip by herself, but she went with a tour.

I found a blog by a Canadian couple who spent a couple of months in 2012 summer in Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. They flew to Prague, then traveled by train to Budapest where they flew out. Their story has a lot I can learn from, and I will read it in details when we want the same experience.

You can find their blog by searching for "Travel with Kevin and Ruth". The date of their travel was July to Sep 2012, to help you find their itinerary. Best wishes.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:45 PM   #3
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We'll be going through a handful of those countries this summer, but not staying for any length of time. Though we do plan to spend a day in Lidice and Prague in the Czech Republic, and will be driving the Transfaragasan in Romania followed by camping in Vama Veche Romania on the Black Sea.

Sounds like a good trip, though, and I'm sure you'll make do with some hand signals and smiles on the "no English" thing.
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Old 01-19-2013, 05:00 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post
Just got back from Thailand and Cambodia (loved it!), and now wanting to plan a 3 weeks (hope that's enough) tour of some of the European countries more east like:
Hungary; Croatia; Poland; Czech Republic; Romania; Slovakia; Bulgaria; Slovenia; Ukraine; etc. etc. etc.

I think it might be cheaper for me to purchase individual train tickets instead of a Eurail pass as checking on 1st class by rail from Budapest to Prague was a 6 hr. 39 min. ride for a whopping $48.
However, I understand rail in some countries is either very sloooow or nonexistent almost (like Croatia). Anyone here have real world knowledge of that?

Since I want to go see only the most interesting countries, which ones should I do? And are many of these countries so similar that I could go see one and avoid many others? I am trying not to duplicate experiences.

My only language is English, so is there a country that does NOT teach basic English at all in this region and maybe I should just avoid

Any advice is helpful. I asked questions about 3 basic topics here, and hope someone either has lived over there or visited recently and can help.
(And, no, I do not want to take a tour on this trip.)
Its about 4 years since I went to Poland / Hungary / Croatia and a one night Slovakia stop.
You will have no problem just speaking English although there may be some places where people speak very little they will not be upset you are not speaking their language.
We loved Krakow (Old town / Castle / Jewish area / Shindlers factory / Auschwitz / Salt Mines) We drove through (car hire price OK there were 4 then 5 of us) Slovakia to Budapest. Thats great to visit too. We went to Plitvice Lakes then Pula to pick up oldest son from Scout Camp / and Zagreb.
We then stayed 5 days at Lake Balaton (Hungary). Then 1 night in Zilina (lovely town, surprise medieval festival was on). Last night was Krakow.
Can't really recommend where to go or not. Our least favourite place was Pula but only went there out of necessity. We werent restricted by trains and it may be best for you to work out an itinerary according to where is easy to get to?
We went to Thailand / Cambodia and Vietnam last year it was fabulous.
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Old 01-19-2013, 10:28 AM   #5
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I can't help with traveling around Europe, but since you said 'Any advice is helpful.'...

I spent a couple weeks in Budapest a few years back, travelling with a buddy (DW does not like to fly). It was during their Spring Music Festival, so we saw a concert or two almost every day. Cheap, and a big variety - classical, traditional Hungarian folk music, jazz, church music, plus some good rock, blues and jazz clubs were easy to find.

Since my buddy travels a lot, he had already been to most of the other nearby cities I was interested in, so we just hung out in Budapest, checking out little corners of the city. It was fun, I was surprised that outside of hotels and larger shops and restaurants, English may not be spoken - but it was never really a problem. We just had to memorize/recognize key phrases - I can usually figure out some Latin based or German words in context, but Hungarian just looks like a random mess of xychz's to me.

Entertainment/food/drink was cheap (and excellent). Hungary is not on the Euro, so you will need to convert to/from Forints while there. Of course do the standard things, tour Parliament, the Basilica, the museums and such. The Art Museum pales compared to the Art Institute in Chicago though. Subway system is good once you figure out a few things (no English signs at all). You can walk from a subway stop to just about anywhere.

One funny thing, there seems to be no equivalent to a 'laundromat'. They have dry cleaners that will charge an arm and a leg (who needs to have their underwear/socks dry-cleaned?). We finally asked the young guy at the front desk, and he said "We have wash machines in our houses, you don't have them in US?". It's just not done. We ended up having a few things dry-cleaned, but then had to buy some detergent and wash/dry stuff in the tub. That makes you appreciate a Maytag!

-ERD50
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Old 01-19-2013, 12:13 PM   #6
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I think it might be cheaper for me to purchase individual train tickets instead of a Eurail pass as checking on 1st class by rail from Budapest to Prague was a 6 hr. 39 min. ride for a whopping $48.
However, I understand rail in some countries is either very sloooow or nonexistent almost (like Croatia). Anyone here have real world knowledge of that?
We took the train from Prague to Kutna hora on a day trip and the power went out. Not sure if this is a regular occurence. We had to take the bus back -- fortunately there was a tourist information center that helped us figure out what was going on.

We went from prague to berlin/koln/paris. Definitely seemed like buying individual tickets was the way to go. Could be different traveling among the countries in eastern europe.
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Old 01-19-2013, 12:28 PM   #7
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We went from Prague to Kutna Hora on a day trip by bus. Went back by train. At 4PM, when the Bone Church closed up, it was raining and pitch black. This was in December. We were wandering the empty wet streets, looking for the train station, which turned out to be not that far from the church. Then, wandering the dark streets to get from Prague station back to the hotel. Could we have gotten mugged? Perhaps we were lucky, but it was a memorable trip.

Here's a nice photo I took on the famous Charles Bridge.

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Old 01-26-2013, 11:32 PM   #8
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We were in parts of Croatia two years ago as an add on to an Italy trip. We took the hydrofoil from Ancona, Italy, to Split, Croatia.

From Split, we travelled down the coast on the Jadrolinja ferry system. We spent time on Korcula and then went to Dubrovnik. We stayed in small B&Bs.
We rented a car twice while we were in Dubrovnik and drove to Mostar, Bosnia one day, and then south to Kotot another day. We enjoyed Croatia very much and want to go back. Poland Hungary etc are still on our list of places to go!
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Old 01-28-2013, 06:01 PM   #9
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This November when I was in Thailand/Cambodia I met a Ph.D. from Serbia, so I also wrote him. His suggestion was to hit Prague, Budapest and Croatia.

I really am interested in seeing Krakow, Poland, also, and a day trip from there to Auschwitz (even knowing I will leave there uber-depressed since I've read everthing I could get my hands on during one period of my life on the WWII extermination).

Haven't mapped it out yet, but I am thinking of all the times I will be looking for banks and money changers to change out my USD to local money...what a pain!
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Old 01-28-2013, 06:04 PM   #10
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We withdrew money in Krona from an ATM at the airport, then exchanged what we did not spend back to $US when leaving. I guess I lost a bit in the exchange, but it was acceptable.
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:17 PM   #11
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We did Czech Republic and Poland in 2001 (I know... ancient history). If you are in the Krakow area, take a visit to Auschwitz.

in general, use your debit card and take local currency in country. Be sure your ATM pin is only 4 digits long. And be sure to call your bank to inform them of your travel plans. C/Card too. I know some (Capital One) has an online form you can fill out for travel - domestic and abroad.

As we wound down our cash in a country prior to leaving by rail, we would spend the rest on snacks for the train. Worked well for us.

Alan's theory of world travel - you only really need to know three things to travel abroad: 1) two beers please [be efficient - 2 at a time - and always be polite] 2) Where is the bathroom 3) How much does it cost [serves you well in any store - provided you have a pencil and paper so the answer can be written down for you.] Bonus phrases - 4) thank you and I'm sorry.

I have no idea why, when I took Spanish in grade school, that they taught me "Yo tango un lapiz amarillo." I have a yellow pencil. I have never needed that phrase. Now, I do carry a yellow pencil just in case it seems appropriate. Hasn't yet.
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:40 PM   #12
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To me Prague is a must do. I loved my several trips there. It is one of the places relatively untouched by WWII and many old architectures are still intact. It is a beautiful city. I used to stay in hotels, and used the official tourism agency for booking. When I visited during the low season, you could just go to their booth in the airport and get the last minute specials of any unbooked rooms, which were even cheaper. Airbnb may be a good alternative as hotels become more and more expensive as tourism activities increased.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:03 AM   #13
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When you visit Czech Republic, why not spend some days at one of the spa towns like Marianske Lazne or Karlovy Vary or Frantiskovy Lazne. They are truly unique.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:55 PM   #14
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Well, I just booked the trip to Krakow then taking overnight train to Prague and return via Vienna (British Airways wanted my 60K miles plus another $845 to leave from Prague...uh, I figured they must have been kidding?). Been to Vienna before but might just go from Prague to Salzburg and just train it in with enough time to catch the check-in for the flight back to Phoenix.

Your tips are really helpful. Have any more? I've been burning out tripadvisor.com but your tips are more helpful.
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:34 PM   #15
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Orchidflower - when in Krakow, see the salt mine in Wieliczka.
Also what time of year are you going there? That might determine what to do/see.
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Old 02-17-2013, 04:37 PM   #16
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Going in August. I thought the weather was best then.
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Old 02-17-2013, 04:51 PM   #17
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Ditto on Prague being a beautiful city; you'll have a wonderful time. My first trip was in 1990, just after the Velvet Revolution; last trip was a couple years ago. It's more crowded now but, still beautiful. I second the recommendation on a spa town visit; Karlovy Vary is charming.
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Old 02-17-2013, 09:20 PM   #18
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Sorry - didn't see this before - Poland - Krakow is beautiful - take a walking tour - amazing history - the house where the royalty used to live has some amazing tapestries that were woven in Flanders and then were wedding gifts to the bride of one of the princes. The cathedral in Krakow has amazing crypts of the famous people of Krakow. The Jewish sector of Krakow is where parts of Schindler's List was filmed. You can also take a tour of the salt mines south of town and see a whole room carved out of salt as well as a chandelier.

Prague is another amazing city - from the Charles bridge up to the hill where the castle is. Amazing jewels in the museum of the church on the hill (don't remember the names but can see them). Prague also has one of the most amazing astrological clocks in one of their squares - Prague is also a center of the Art Deco/Nouveau movement - there is a museum dedicated to the famous "Bohemian" artist Mucha. Another interesting thing you can get is Bohemian crystal for a good price and they also make painted eggs (actually, you will see these all over eastern Europe - Poland does is and there is also fairly inexpensive Polish crystal as well as hand blow Christmas ornaments).

Karlovy Vary is a border town and where many parts of Casino Royale were filmed - lots of Russians there...rumors of Russian mafia, etc.

One key thing when traveling - you will usually find an Irish pub anywhere in the world - they speak English there and can give you tips on what to see and where to go...no kidding, I went to an Irish pub in Tirana, Albania....

I love Croatia - lots of history as an amazing price - many different regions - capitol is Zagreb and has the capitol feel. Dubrovnik is a port, walled town that has a beautiful center city with marble streets - can also walk the wall - great seafood and history (they Serbs were in the 90s lobbing bombs into the city from the hill overlooking the city. Split is another great city - has the Diocletian Palace (roman ruin) and lots of cool shopping and walking - can also take a tour on the Adriatic to one of the islands and swim in the amazingly clear Adriatic. Korcula is a famous island that many Europeans go to in the summer for vacation (August - be aware, August can be very busy in the southern areas of Europe due to the Europeans going on vacation for the month of Aug) - great food, shopping and swimming. Croatia has some amazing local wines - enjoy. My husband and I seriously thought of retiring to Split....

Salzburg - another great city - walk through the center of town and go see the church where they filmed the scene in The Sound of Music - there is a famous restaurant near that cemetery which serves awesome Tirolean food.....you can also get some very pretty Trachten wear - the traditional Tirolean Garb....while Salzburg is not Vienna they may still serve in a coffee bar some Sacher Torte - an amazing dark chocolate cake with an apricot filling - to die for!

If you have any other questions, please PM me.
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Old 02-18-2013, 01:15 PM   #19
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Ditto on Prague being a beautiful city; you'll have a wonderful time. My first trip was in 1990, just after the Velvet Revolution; last trip was a couple years ago. It's more crowded now but, still beautiful. I second the recommendation on a spa town visit; Karlovy Vary is charming.
We have friends who are in Prague now. They recently retired from a school district here in town, and he's currently teaching English there. They absolutely love it there.
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Old 02-18-2013, 01:42 PM   #20
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deserat, I had to laugh when I saw that about the Irish pub! In applying for our Kazakhstan visas last week, we were required to get a hotel reservation. We noted that one hotel in Atyrau boasts uf an Irish pub in the lobby! In Kazakhstan! So, although we are using Marriott points to stay down the street, we'll definitely have to check out the pub, just to say we've been!
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