Sunday, October 11, 2015

Europe 2015 - From Prague To Vienna To Budapest

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Europe 2015 : From Prague To Vienna To Budapest
Charlie's Angels at the Old Town Square, Prague.
It's been a while since I went to Europe for a holiday. My last one was more than ten years ago on a trip to Italy and Southern France, and that was following a tour package. This time round eight of us will be going on a free-and-easy trip to the Czech RepublicAustria & Hungary. Since it was an own-planned trip, Lynn and a couple of her friends spent a few month on researching places to visit, eat and stay.
It's our first time going there and we are of course very excited and yet at the same time anxious. Excited because we have heard of how beautiful these countries are. Anxious as we will be doing these on our own, i.e. a free and easy tour and hoped that all will turn up well and we won't get lost. We were concerned too about the then prevailing refugees problems that Europe was facing, hoping that it will not mar our travel plans.

1. We mulled over whether to get pre-paid mobile cards. In the end as we were unsure whether the same SIM cards will be supported by all three countries with just thrashed that idea and instead relied on the wide availability of wifi in these countries.
2. Wifi is provided by most hotels, restaurants, home-stays. In the Emirates planes that we took, wifi was provided on board for the larger planes. In the inter-city trains and hop-on/hop-off buses, wifi is usually available.
3. It is worthwhile to purchase all-transport passes (i.e. covering local buses and trains) in Prague, Salzburg & Vienna.
4. Research may show places interesting but individual tastes differs. One way to be sure is to use the Hop-On/Hop-Off city tour buses. Buy passes for these and do the full loop if time permits and just have a quick look at some of the stops that are interesting. Should a place really interest one more, then go again. Hop-off and spend more time there before hopping on to the next bus. Just be sure about the bus time-table. This is usually displayed at the bus stops. Note that entry fees may be charged to some of the places of interest.
5. Changing Currencies:
    - The currency used in the Czech Republic is Korunas (Crowns), that in Austria is Euro, and that in Hungary is Forints.
    - Check the internet for best places to change currency. Usually money-changers at airports or railway stations don't give the best rates. Change at those in the cities.
    - Although Euros are accepted by most vendors in the Czech Republic and Hungary, use the local currency for purchases as when using the Euros, the purchase price could be 5-10% higher.
    - We were using Korunas first, then Euros and then Forints; and made the mistake of changing our balance Korunas to Euros and the later changing Euros to Forints. It's would be better to change direct from Korunas to Forints to avoid double exchange charges.
    - Vendors are also reluctant to accept Euro coins stating that banks don't accept them.
6. Of the cities we visited, we found Prague to be the most beautiful and interesting. The heritage cities of Cesky Krumlov and Hallstatt should not be missed too.





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