How To

How to… Visit Central Europe (Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria)

Many apologies for the delay in getting this series of posts out. Our trip to Central Europe happened at the beginning of November 2016 but the holidays have made catching up a bit challenging! Below you’ll find some pre-trip suggestions should any of these three countries be on your radar, as well as one article on Budapest and one on Prague and Vienna. I’d read the suggestions on this post, then read Budapest, and finish off with  Prague/Vienna to get a chronological feel for how our trip went.

If I were to redo this trip, I would actually start with an affordable place like Prague, then go to an expensive place like Vienna, before ending in a cheap place like Budapest. You’ll avoid feeling that cross-border guilt of spending western-style prices in Austria. You’ll also save a half day by not having to take an extra train ride.

Pre-Trip Suggestions

  • Pack lightly. Even if you go in November like we did, two light sweaters, a down jacket and one heavier coat should be enough. I also packed a thick hoodie and a thicker sweater in addition to the four items I mentioned above and my bag was bulging and hard to close.
  • Either bring a phone with a foreign data plan (T-Mobile is great for this) or a mobile wifi device (I use Skyroam, but there are many of these devices out there). If this is not an option, download CityMaps2Go and download the cities and countries BEFORE you depart. This is a free version, but I use the Pro edition ($9.99) and it is a lifesaver!
  • If you book a RailEurope Central Europe Triangle pass, YOU MUST READ THIS BULLET POINT. Before you get onto the first train you plan to take, go to the international ticket desk and make sure the agent stamps your pass.
    • This is a reservation: It only shows which train you’re supposed to be on and what seats you have reserved. It is NOT a ticket.2017-01-08-17-03-43
    • This is your pass. 2017-01-08-17-03-09 The green box highlights the stamp that you need to get at any rail office. Without a stamp, it is effectively useless and you will have to pay for EACH COUNTRY you pass through. (Read in the Budapest article below – Day 5 for our experience that cost us $140 to learn).
  • If you’re willing to trust me as your guide, my advice is don’t book your train ticket in advance. Pay on the train and it will be way cheaper. You need to bring cash and also pay in different currencies in each place, so come with euros in addition to each country’s respective currency.
  • If you’re going to bring one guidebook with you, make it Rick Steves’ “Eastern Europe.” It’s a thick book, but Steves’ writing has a great style to it that emulates his easy to watch TV series. It also provides a wonderful cultural history and context in addition to the sights to visit.

Days 0-5: Budapest

Click here to read about the capital of Hungary: a walkable, delightful city and probably one of my favorite places in the world!

Days 6-12: Prague, Vienna, and Return to Budapest

Click here to read about the capitals of the Czech Republic and Austria: classy and elegant cities with vibrant cultures and some of the best beer and coffeehouses you’ll find anywhere.

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