Central Europe advice

Discussion in 'Destination Guide' started by Isochronous, May 24, 2014.

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  1. Isochronous

    Isochronous Established Member

    Dec 18, 2009
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    I've booked a QF oneworld 280k award, entering Europe in Warsaw and leaving from Helsinki. Current plan is:

    Warsaw 4 days
    Krakow 2 days
    Prague 4 days
    Budapest 6 days
    Bratislava 2 days
    Vienna 5 days
    Zurich 4 days
    Copenhagen 4 days
    Helsinki 6 days

    Is that enough time in each city?

    Would also appreciate advice on whether I'm better buying individual train fares Warsaw-Krakow-Prague-Budapest-Bratislava-Vienna-Zurich or some kind of eurail pass. I'm intending to fly from Zurich up to Copenhagen on UA miles, and have CPH-HEL as part of the award.
     

  2. RooFlyer

    RooFlyer Enthusiast

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    #2 RooFlyer, May 24, 2014
    Last edited: May 24, 2014
    6 days in Helsinki sounds a bit generous to me, even if you mean greater Helsinki (ie including the likes of Parvoo)

    We had 3 days there and that was enough, including cruises on the harbor, & walking just about everywhere. (Hotel tip: Hotel Fabian - boutique-y, great location, absolutely fabulous staff, rooms, ambiance etc etc)

    In 6 days I would include 3 days to catch the 2hr ferry to Tallinn, a day there, then a LuxCoach to Riga (4 hrs from memory), a day there (fabulous Art Nouveau buildings; Riga was a real 'discovery') and 1/2 a day to get back. These visits would be a little rushed, but I think time better spent than doing Helsinki to death.

    Edit: trip report for Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga

    As for others, depends of course on what you are after, but the proportions look about right On second thoughts, personally I'd trim a day or 2 from both Copenhagen and Zurich, but on the other hand I guess day trips out of those cities could be time very well spent.

    For the trains this is great site, if you haven't already found it: SBB: Online timetable.. I prefer individual ticketing rather than a Eurail Pass, but only because that way has suited me best in the past (price).

    ps I have a somewhat similar itinerary coming up in a month's time (but tending more easterly) - but am flying between the centers (Star Alliance Air Pass). We should compare inter-city travel experiences in the TRs:)
     
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  3. scaredeycat

    scaredeycat Member

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    Agree that 6 days in Helsinki would be over doing it, and that Tallinn is a must. One of the loveliest old city centres in Europe.
     
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  4. Isochronous

    Isochronous Established Member

    Dec 18, 2009
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    From Copenhagen I was thinking of doing day trips to places like Malmo. Zurich I am only scheduling 4 days there because I can stay with a friend so save on accommodation; and I figure from there I can day trip to Interlaken, Liechtenstein, and perhaps meet a friend from Geneva. A good friend of mine in fact told me to avoid Zurich, so like I say I'm going to see a friend more than the city itself.

    My current itinerary has 5 full days in Helsinki (ignoring the day I arrive and day I depart), but might cut that by 1 day to ensure 3 full days for Copenhagen.

    I do keep hearing great things about Talinn so will definitely visit there, perhaps even overnight.

    Definitely looking forward to the TR comparison, and thanks for the advice. Does oneworld offer an equivalent of the *A air pass you mention? None of the alliances seem to suit my itinerary anyway.
     
  5. RB

    RB Established Member

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    I would also cast a vote for Tallin. Also liked Riga and Vilnius when we did our trip. I also believe 6 in Helsinki is too many. We stayed in the Omena Hotel in Helsinki-not sure of your budget but it worked very well for us. Link to the hotel chain that has now expanded is below
    Finland
     
  6. deka2

    deka2 Active Member

    Oct 22, 2009
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    I agree that you should go to Tallinn.
    Overnight would be good. A very walkable city. It has one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.
     
  7. RooFlyer

    RooFlyer Enthusiast

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    Yes, they have a Visit Europe pass. I had a quick look at the routes available and equally quickly decided on the *A product. Except for airBerlin, 1W's European airlines are in the periphery - Finland, UK, Spain, so touring within central, and especially eastern Europe is difficult. With Austrian, Lot, Lufty, SAS and Swiss, to not name them all, *A was the obvious choice for me. (This isn't an advert :) )
     
  8. vetrade

    vetrade Established Member

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  9. Paddy55

    Paddy55 Established Member

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    Looking at a similar trip next June for Mrs Paddy and myself.

    I'm planning on 4 days in Krakow and 4 in Budapest but otherwise the same so interested in perspectives of others
     
  10. prozac

    prozac Established Member

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    What is the Star Alliance Air Pass? Paid or redemption?
     
  11. dajop

    dajop Senior Member

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    Paid. My question is what are the fuel surcharges like on sectors that make up the star alliance pass? I know on miles and more redemptions on the Lufthansa family, fuel surcharges are horrendous, so we've always used either LCC's, BA redemptions or A-B-C tickets (if you can get them to price like a return).
     
  12. lovetravellingoz

    lovetravellingoz Senior Member

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    #12 lovetravellingoz, May 25, 2014
    Last edited: May 25, 2014
    Zurich. I flew in recently and opted for 3 nights in Lucerne instead. Wit flight landing times being unpredictable we just bought a fare to Lucerne on landing from the ticket machine ...one right next to baggage carousels and so bought tickets while waiting for bags to emerge. Trip to Lucern was easy..just had to change trains in Zurich (same station just different platform).

    Lucern is a pretty city and 3 days was handy to ensure a sunny and clear day to ascend the nearby mountains (you have a choice of several). Views are great, but not on a cloudy day!!!!!!!!
    It was our arrival city anda good place to get used to the time zone.


    Vienna... with all the hype in advance I found it a most dissapointing city. I spent 2 nights there which was more than ample and it is not a patch on say Barcelona, Londan, Paris....

    I am a great fan of European train travel. However Eurail passes these days are not the way to go.

    Just buy direct online (make sure it is from the train company and not an agent) and if in advance you can get very cheap fares (large discount). The city centre to city centre travel is often much easier than trip to airport, clear security and check in, fly, land, get back and travel to city.

    To learn about European Train Travel...The Man in Seat Sixty-One - the train travel guide... is a great reference.

    There is not normally much real difference between 1 st and 2nd and so if cost is significantly different just go sencond class. having said that 1st can sometimes have huge discounts and can be little more than 2nd on occasion.

    We travelled by train from Lucerne to Passau (via Zurich and Munich) to begin our 9 day cycle from Passau in Germany to Vienna along the Danube River.
    The ride and the villages we visited in Austria were stunning...but Vienna a let down at the end.
     
  13. burmans

    burmans Senior Member

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    Totally agree, we did a trip last year similar to this plus Bosnia/Croatia/Montenegro/Slovenia. Vienna was our one "West" european city and was probably the disappointment. Dont get me wrong, a nice enough city but I fel the Eastern cities offered so much money (and 4 times the value).

    Yes and yes, train travel is particularly cheap if you buy from Eastern European countries and the Man in Seat Sixty-One is a great resource, e.g. we bought tickets Bratislava to Prague for 15 Euro when they were (for the cheapest seats) 65 from Vienna to Prague, you can also get seats for 13 Euro Bupapest to Vienna. It does require a bit of patience and good instructions (see the Man in Seat Sixty-One)
     
  14. RooFlyer

    RooFlyer Enthusiast

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    I was afraid to ask the TA about the YQ on the Airpass :(. There's lots of the LH group. But will find out and let you know.
     
  15. Mattg

    Mattg Senior Member

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    Sounds like a great trip! Just some random thoughts:

    I would probably devote an extra day to Krakow, even if it was at the expense of a day in Warsaw. I would also suggest less time perhaps in Zurich, although if you can stay with a friend and plan to make a couple of day trips then perhaps 4 days is okay.

    I would definitely recommend a day trip to Liechtenstein from Zurich. There's not that much to do as such, but it's just beautiful and everyone is so friendly. Perhaps consider staying overnight there at the Hotel Kulm in Triesenberg - I loved that place, the views were breathtaking and it wasn't too expensive. You can get there by taking a train to Buchs, Sargans or Feldkirch and getting a bus the rest of the way.

    Personally I would buy individual tickets rather than a Eurail Pass. I'd book the longer distance trains online in advance (directly from the operator - ÖBB, Deutsche Bahn etc. NOT rail europe) and the shorter ones (e.g. Bratislava to Vienna) you can just buy on the day.

    I've done the train from Vienna to Zurich before. It was on a overnight train and I was able to sleep quite well in a 4-sleeper "couchette" and gained a day by not wasting one travelling (the trip is around 8-9 hours). However, the scenery between Innsbruck and Zurich is stunning, so it may be worth doing that leg during the day.
     
  16. prozac

    prozac Established Member

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    Great advice thank you. Also others who have contributed.
     
  17. RB

    RB Established Member

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    As I indicated earlier I agree with rail being a great option. Also we have found that bus is particulary useful in many of the Eastern European areas. Of the cities mentioned by the OP we used bus into/out of Krakow & Prague. Bus in Czech Republic was fantastic-great stations, wifi on bus & they stick to the timetable
     
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  18. A330

    A330 Member

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    I agree 5 days in Vienna is a bit too long, especially if you plan to visit Bratislava separately. I spent 3 days last June and found it plenty (one day was spent in Bratislava). The train trip is simple to purchase tickets for - just buy one at the station on the day. There's no reserved seating, it's just like an intercity train from Sydney to Blue Mountains.
    The train trip was interesting to see some of the villages on the way. The train would stop near an old station building but no platform! Pax could just climb up from the adjacent tracks onto the train.
     
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  19. grapefruitmoon

    grapefruitmoon Junior Member

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    I personally like Vienna quite a lot. sights, streets, corners, coffee shops... I spent 4 days in Vienna 3 years ago and gonna visit again this summer.
    Zurich is a must.
    I would recommend Stockholm in between copenhagen and helsinki. It's better than the other 2 cities.
     
  20. casanovawa

    casanovawa Established Member

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    Haven't been to Warsaw, but have been to all the rest... Krakow i spent 3 days in, that allowed one day visit to Auschwitz, another day to go and see the Levishka (sp) salt mines and the third was to be a day looking more around the city but it was rainy and damp that day and at the end of a 5 week or so trip so i just quit, but 3 days would sound about right for KRK...

    Bratislava i did in one day, arrived in the morning walked around the fortress, walked through the streets of the little old town and think i did a free/tips tour, saw the river etc, lunched in a pub while a Euro 12 game was on, then departed on the train the next day...

    Have you been to any of these cities before, Prague is ceratinly very pretty, so 4 days could be about right... Budapest when I visited in 08 was actually a bit of a disappointment for me or underwhelming but it was the start of winter and cold and grey, an interesting place but museums i visited seemed to all be in Hungarian etc as the english language hadn't quite penetrated deeply down that way while i was there, but anyway things might have changed and lots of good things get said about it speciallyy in the warm months....

    Vienna as people have said could be a bit long, i didn't mind it as a city but there are other opportunities to see other places close by... Zurich was a bit cold and grey while i was there for a couple of days, not sure you would need anymore than 3 days... Helsinki yes doesn't need 6 days so either pare back or extend to go see some of the baltic states...

    As for travel, i usually work out if the train is going to be more than 4-5 hours or so, planes win out, if less than 4 hours its what can be cheapest and most convenient... I had a couple of rides last month in 2nd class around Italy and with my bag and 5 other people crammed into the compartment it was pretty squeezy, so maybe a vote for going in 1st class??? These were all just booked ride by ride and yes when booked 2 months before some good discounts were to be had, my other flights around were just on EasyJet which was fine for 1-2 hour flights (in my opinion anyway)... In 08 I did a Eurail pass for most of the parts around Europe, back when the A$ was getting like 48 US cents which was nice and expensive, but the Eurail passes still look expensive these days...

    And yes there can be some beautiful, spectacular scenery between Switzerland, Austria and Hungary as you climb through some of those mountains so day time trips can be the way to go....
     
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