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Oct 4wk to E. Europe / Ital Rivieria
BC1
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Experienced traveler, but inexperienced SOLO 40 yr old female traveler planning on spending approximately 4 weeks in October traveling to Budapest, Prague, Croatia and the Italian Riviera / Piedmont region. Thinking of using Rail pass (global) and hostels (first timer). Looking for any/all advice and lessons learned as I quickly pull together this trip. Best (cheapest) place to fly into – from Washington DC? Is a global rail pass the best way to go versus individual rail tickets and flights? Do hostels need advance reservation or can I wing it? Interested in food, wine, architecture, and meeting locals to get a real feel for the culture. Estimated time allocation is:

Budapest (2 days)
Prague (2-3 days)
Croatia (5 days)
Cinque Terre & Ital Riviera (4 days)
Piedmont (2-3 days)

Does this allocation seem proportionate for the areas? I will probably rent a car for the Piedmont portion, but is the rest of the trip doable via rail?

Thanks in advance for your advice/opinions!

oldlady
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Prague to Croatia by rail isn’t reasonable: 12 hours Prague to Zagreb plus another 6 or 7 to get to the coast. While I like Zagreb, what you really want to see/do in Croatia is on the coast. Look for a cheap flight — including checking www.europebyair.com since some Air Croatia flights honor their $99 flight pass. Croatia to Italy by overnight ferry (Split or Dubrovnik to Bari or Ancona) will not be covered by a railpass. It’s a reasonable trip, although in October you may find only every other day service from Dubrovnik but perhaps daily service from Split.

I very much doubt that a global rail pass will be a good deal for this trip. Point to point rail tickets will probably be cheaper than any railpass. Put your trip in the trip planner here or click on “rail saver tool” under the bookings tab for a rail saver recommendation on which, if any railpass. Point to Point tickets will probably be cheaper than a railpass in Czech Rep, Hungary and Croatia. It’s probably a toss up in Italy, but I find it’s easier not to use a railpass in Italy. Many Italian trains require reservations. While it’s fast and easy to buy a ticket (with reservation if needed) from the automated kiosk, it’s a hassle to buy “just a reservation” to use with your railpass as you have to wait in line at a ticket window. This assumes that the kiosks still accept US-issued credit cards. The Trenitalia website no longer does.

You realize that it’s unlikely to be “beach weather” in these places in October?

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Airfares will depend on the range of dates that might work for you and if you can fly any day of the week or only want to leave on a weekend, etc. A quick search from D.C. area airports shows a roundtrip to Prague being cheapest, but for about $40 more you could fly into Prague and home from Milan and not have to backtrack. Give me a little more info about dates and if you’re considering other cities besides those listed and I’ll poke around more.

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Thanks for the feedback. Based on my new knowledge, I have altered my trip a bit…

Barcelona (and potentially surrounding area) – 5 days
Night train to Paris
Paris (for a concert) – 2 days
Flight to Prague
Prague – 2 or 3 days
Train to Vienna
Vienna – 1 day
Train to Budapest
Budapest – 2 or 3 days

With the trains I will be taking, am I better off purchasing individual point-to-point tickets? Which European airlines that fly between Paris and Prague are well-known for their reliability, timeliness and good pricing? Will hostels in these cities need advance reservation in October or can I wing it? With realistically 5.5 days (after travel time is removed), how would you allocate your time between Prague/Vienna/Budapest?

Thanks in advance for your advice/opinions!

oldlady
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Allocating 5 1/2 days among Prague, Vienna, Budapest for me would be 3 days Prague, 2 1/2 days Budapest. If I had an extra day to stop enroute, I’d pick nearby Bratislava instead of Vienna, although Vienna is a major transportation hub, so has better train connections. That may make a 1 day stop more feasible for Vienna than Bratislava.

I would guess that point to point tickets will be the best option, but put your trip in the trip planner for a recommendation from railsaver. The tickets in France and countries like Germany and Austria that you might cross may be pricy enough to make a rail pass feasible.

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For Paris to Prague your non-stop options look to be Smartwings and Easyjet. Both fly out of Charles de Gaulle in Paris and are fine as budget airlines go. Their fares are pretty similar, but it looks like Smartwings lets you check a bag for free.

For exploring the area around Barcelona, on your last day you could catch the train to either Girona or Figueres in the morning and then catch the overnight train to Paris from there. The train from Barcelona stops in both on the way to Paris.

You can buy your Barcelona (or wherever in Spain) to Paris ticket on the national rail website at a discount if you book early and seats are available at the special fares:
http://www.renfe.com

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Thanks again for all your help to date. I’m currently researching night trains between Barcelona and Paris. I’ve been a bit confused regarding the info on several sites and I am hoping that someone familiar with their terminology may be able to help me…

First, can I book only one bed in a first class private double cabin? I don’t mind having one other person in my cabin but would prefer not to have to share a Tourist cabin with 3 other people.

On the eurorailways site, http://www.eurorailw…, it lists Special Promotional Fare in yellow highlight, and this price is lower than the passholder fare. Does this special promotional fare only apply to those who have Eurailpass, Eurail Select, Flexipass, etc. passes already? I would be purchasing this ticket as a point-to-point ticket only, and will not be a passholder.

On the renfe.com site (http://www.renfe.com…, under Query & Buy) my options for the night train are Bucata, Club, Cama G, or Cama Preferen. Which of these refers to the Tourist 4 person cabin and which refers to the First Class private double cabin? My online spanish-to-english translator isn’t helping me figure this out.

Again, much thanks for all your assistance!

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You can book one and two person (individual or doble) cabins in both Preferente or Gran class (“cama” before the class means a bed in that class of service) with Gran class having a shower in the compartment and including dinner if I remember correctly. The Butaca is a reclining seat and club refers to the 4 person torist class cabin.

I can’t figure out that promotional fare, but I’d call or email to see if you can take advantage of it if you want to go in gran or preferente. It says 50% off, so at that price I don’t think it’s a passholder fare.

Before paying that much I’d consider flying; there are still some cheap fares from BCN to PAR in October, including morning flights that will have you in Paris early enough to where you won’t really lose much time on your first day there.