Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Visegrád Group trip – Prologue

Swiss Airline is having promotion to Europe again and as usual, I scout for the next destination I want to visit. I always wanted to visit Czech and Hungary and have forfeited the tickets twice in the past. Well, there's a chance now so it's better late than never. Fare is slightly more expensive than the Benelux trip but it's still cheap compared to other airlines. My sis and I decided on a 15 days trip to Central Europe. We bought open jaw ticket for $857 as the fare does not varies much from round trip ticket.

Cities to visit Visegrád Group trip

We choose to fly into Prague first, enroute Bratislava and depart from Budapest. There are several cities and towns which we want to visit in Czech. As a result, we drop Austria as Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Hallstatt requires at least a week which we are unable to squeeze into our itinerary. I shall save Austria for future trip. We have split the planning and I will concentrate on Czech and Slovakia while my sis will plan for Hungary.

I was finding the term similar to Benelux to encompass Czech, Hungary and Slovakia and read that Visegrád Group, Visegrád Four, or V4 is a cultural and political alliance of four Central European states: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. 

I always start the planning with pinning the attractions on google map before deciding on the the accommodation so that I will have a rough idea on where the attractions are concentrated. While planning the trip, I realised that Prague and Budapest accommodation are not as cheap as I thought, even hostels with ensuite room exceed S$100 a night. Hence we will be staying in Airbnb in Prague, Brno and Budapest. Furthermore, there is S$45 off for new Airbnb sign up. However we will be staying at pension in Český Krumlov and Telč, which is actually small family run guesthouse. All the accommodation which I have booked are below S$100 per night for 2 pax.

Initially I booked Aparthotel City 5 in Prague, which is within walking distance from Anděl metro and tram stops. There is even a direct bus from Prague airport to Anděl. The accommodation is also near Prague Na Knížecí bus station where we will depart for Český Krumlov. However after I found an Airbnb nearby and is cheaper by $80 for 4 nights, I decided to book the Airbnb instead since Aparthotel City 5 charges extra for breakfast.

In Budapest, we choose to stay in the airbnb which is within walking distance from Deák Ferenc tér as there is direct bus from here to Budapest airport. Deák Ferenc tér is also the transfer station of 3 metro major lines in Budapest.

As for Český Krumlov, Telč and Brno, the pensions and airbnb which we will be staying are all located within walking distance to the bus terminal, train station and attractions.

The only con of staying in Airbnb is that there is no luggage storage available before check in and after check out. However luggage storage facilities can be easily found at major train station, bus terminal or tourist information centre in these 3 countries. A large luggage cost around S$6 for 24 hours storage.

Transport planning around Czech is easy from IDOS website, English version is available by clicking the menu box. In Prague, ticket for bus, tram and metro are available for 30min, 90min, 24hrs and 72hrs. I will be buying combination of 24hrs and 30min tickets. It's much cheaper and faster to travel by bus from cities to cities in Czech, only exception is by train to Kutná Hora. I choose Regiojet over Flixbus for long distance bus as their reviews are better except for those cities not serviced by Regiojet or the bus timing does not suit our itinerary. From Brno to Bratislava and from Bratislava to Budapest, I choose to travel by bus as I can save about S$15. In addition, the train ticket from Bratislava to Budapest cannot be purchase online. For those cities not served by Regiojet, I'll be taking local buses. I'm concerned if luggage can be bring onboard and my worry was eased when a tripadvisor forummer replied that the luggage can be put in the hold of the bus. 

In Bratislava, the bus and tram tickets range from 15min to 180min. As I will only be visiting the city center so 15min ticket is sufficient. There is a transport planner online and imhd app can be downloaded into mobile device.

In Budapest, we will be purchasing 5/30 BKK travelcard which is a booklet of five 24 hours travel pass. The travel card is valid for 30 days from an optional starting day and each card is valid 24 hours from the date indicated.

We decided to purchase a sim card each as we requires data for more accurate map to navigate around. In the past, we have downloaded google map offline but the map is unable to calculate the walking distance accurately. I purchased 7.5GB* 4G/3G data+Unlimited data sim card from qoo10 which cost S$20.90 and I utilised the S$3 voucher from qoo10 UOB coupon pack which is available every Tuesday from 10am. There is SCB coupon pack which is available every Thursday from 10am. Hence I only pay $17.90 for the sim card and this is the cheapest which I can find online.

These 3 countries use different currencies: Czech use Koruna, Slovakia use EUR and Hungary use Forint. Koruna and Forint are not easily available in Singapore hence we will be bringing EUR and change at the local money changer.

Itinerary for this trip:

Day 1: Reach Prague at 9.45am (GMT+2)
Attractions: Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna), Main post office, Cubist Lamp Post (only Cubist lamp post in the world), Wenceslas Square, Statue of King Wenceslas Riding an Upside-Down Dead Horse, Otočná hlava Franze Kafky (Frank Kafka’s Head), Náměstí Václava Havla (Love Square), Socha zavěšeného Sigmunda Freuda (Seven Foot Sigmund Freud), Bedřich Smetana Statue Terrace (Charles Bridge and Prague Castle View), Prague City Hall Paternoster Lift, Old Town Bridge Tower
Accommodation: Airbnb at Prague District 5 Anděl (S$319 for 5 nights)
Transport & Pass: Prague 24hr ticket (CZK 110)

Day 2: Kutná Hora
Attractions: Sedlec Ossuary, Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist, Kutná Hora Tyl Municipal Theatre, Church of Our Lady (the Virgin Mary), Kino Blue Cross (Modrý kříž Cinema), Tyl House, Sankturin House, Ursuline Convent, Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, The Stone House, Czech Museum of Silver, Plague Column, Kostel sv. Jana Nepomuckého (Church of St. John of Nepomuk), Kamenná kašna (Gothic Stone Fountain), Dačický house (Dačického house), Jesuit College, St Barbara's Church, Ruthardská (Ruthard Lane), Church of St. James, Italian Court
Accommodation: Airbnb at Prague District 5 Anděl
Transport & Pass: Train from Praha hl.n. -> Kutná Hora město hl.n. and return, 30min ticket (CZK 24)

Day 3: Prague
Attractions: Charles Bridge, Dancing house, Naplavka Farmer's Market, Vyšehrad, Náměstí Míru, Piss Sculpture, Nejužší pražská ulička (The narrowest street of Prague), Lennon Wall, Nový Svět, Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad) and compound, Wallenstein Palace, St. Nicholas Church (Kostel sv. Mikulase)
Accommodation: Airbnb at Prague District 5 Anděl
Transport & Pass: Prague 24hr ticket (CZK 110)

Day 4: Karlovy Vary
Attractions: Grandhotel Ambassador National House, City Market (Budova Městské tržnice), Ferrous Spring Colonnade, Alois Klein's Arbour, Emperor Spa (Kaiserbad Spa), Grandhotel Pupp, The Diana Lookout Tower, Stará Louka, Karlovy Vary Theatre, Funicular Imperial to Hotel Imperial,  Municipal Savings Bank (Sparkasse), Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Hot Spring Colonnade (Vřídelní kolonáda), House at the Three Moors,Anglican Church of Saint Lucas, Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul, Jan Becher Museum, Elizabeth Baths, Army Spa Institution, Park/ Vridelni Colonnade (Sadová kolonáda), Lázně III (Spa III), Freedom Spring Arbour (Pramen Svoboda), Mill Colonnade, Peter House, Felix Zawojski House, Market Colonnade, Castle Colonnade, Castle Tower, 
Accommodation: Airbnb at Prague District 5 Anděl
Transport & PassRegiojet bus from Praha ÚAN Florenc -> Karlovy Vary and return, 30min ticket (CZK 24)

Day 5: Prague
Attractions: Clementinum Library, Book Tunnel at Musical Library of Prague, St Nicholas Church, Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Jan Hus monument, Goltz Kinsky Palace, Church of Our Lady before Týn, Memorial Kafka, Grand Café Orient, The Powder Tower, Municipal House, Kotva Department Store, Čeští muzikanti (Dancing Fountain Czech Musicians)
Accommodation: Cesky Krumlov Pension Pod Skalkou (CZK1,625 per night)
Transport & Pass: 30min ticket (CZK 24), Regiojet bus from Prague, Na Knížecí -> Český Krumlov AN

Day 6: Český Krumlov
Attractions: Cesky Krumlov castle, The Minorite Monastery, Latran Street & Latran Houses, Cesky Krumlov Town Square, St Vitus Church, Seminární Zahrada, The Cloak Bridge, Muzeum Obchodu
Accommodation: Český Krumlov Pension Pod Skalkou

Day 7: Český Budějovice, Trebon
Attractions: Český Budějovice old town, Schwarzenberg family tomb, Chateau Třeboň, Trebon Radnicni Vez tower, Trebon v Marcipanu, Theater of J.K. Tyl, Church of Our Lady and St. Gilles 
Accommodation: Telč Penzion Danuše (€50/ night)
Transport: Regiojet bus from Český Krumlov AN -> České Budějovice AN, GW BUS a.s. 320010 21 from České Budějovice AN -> Trebon AN, Flixbus from Trebon AN -> Telc AN

Day 8: Telč, Třebíč
Attractions: The Church and Tower of the Holy Spirit, Telčský dům (Telčský house), Telč Chateau (Zámek Telč), St. James Church (Kostel sv. Jakuba) & The Tower of Holy Jacob, House of the Holy Angels, Kostel Jména Ježíš (The Church of the Name of Jesus), Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square), Malovaný dům (The Painted House), Městská věž (Town Tower), St Procopius' Basilica, Chateau Trebic (Zámek), Vysočina Museum Třebíč, Castle Complex, Jewish Quarter, Rear Synagogue, Front Synagogue, 
Accommodation: Airbnb at Brno Centre (S$101 for 2 nights)
Transport: TRADO-BUS from Telč AN -> Třebíč AN, Train from Třebíč -> Brno hl.n.

Day 9: Brno
Attractions: Mahen Theatre, Janáček Theatre, Moravian square, Jan Amos Komensky Church, Dat horse, Solniční 2 (Smoking sign), Morawiecka Gallery, Church of St. James, Freedom Square (Namesti Svobody), Komerční bank, House of Four Giants (Dům U Čtyř mamlasů), The House of the Lords of Lipá (Dům pánů from Lipé), Klein Palace (Kleinův Palác), Haupt’s Art Nouveau house (7 Masarykova Street), Apartment building (19–21 Masarykova Street), Měnín Gate (Měnínská brána), Old Town Hall (Stará radnice), Parnas Fountain, Townhouse Blue Star (Modra Hvezda), Holy Trinity Column (Sousoší Nejsvětější Trojice), Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul (Petrov Cathedral), Denis gardens (Denisovy Sady), Nuclear shelter 10-Z, Špilberk Castle
Accommodation: Airbnb at Brno Centre
Transport: Walk

Day 10: Bratislava
Attractions: Slovak Radio building, Grassalkovich Palace (Presidential Palace), Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Michael’s Gate, Primate’s Palace, Old Town Hall, Napoleonic soldier (Napoleónec), Maximilian’s Fountain (Roland's Fountain), Schone Naci Statue, Rubberneck (Čumil), Slovak National Theater, Blue Church of St. Elizabeth
Accommodation: Airbnb at Budapest District V Deák Ferenc tér (S$275 for 5 nights)
Transport & Pass: RegioJet bus from Brno Benešova tř.hotel GRAND -> Bratislava AS, Bratislava 15min ticket €0.70,  Flixbus from Bratislava AS -> Budapest Népliget

Day 11: Szentendre, Budapest
Attractions: Szamos Marcipán Múzeum, Saint Peter and Paul Church, 18 FŐ TÉR Korona Restaurant, Pestis kereszt, Blagovestenska Church, Saint John the Baptist's Parish Church, Belgrád Szerb ortodox székesegyház, Annunciation Church, Bobics House, Vajdahunyad Castle, Hosok Tere (Heroes Square), Millennium Monument, Kunsthalle/ Hall of Art, Citadella
Accommodation: Airbnb at Budapest District V Deák Ferenc tér
Transport & Pass: 5/30 BKK travelcard, Suburban railway extension ticket to Szentendre

Day 12: Budapest
Attractions: Dohány street synagogue, Hungarian Jewish Museum, the temporary exhibitions in the Cellar, the Heroes’ Temple, the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, the Lapidarium, Synagogue’s graveyard, Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok), Liberty Bridge, Gellért Hill Cave, Rock Chapel, Irgalmasok Veli Bej Bath
Accommodation: Airbnb at Budapest District V Deák Ferenc tér
Transport & Pass: 5/30 BKK travelcard

Day 13: Visegrád, Esztergom
Attractions: Zsitvay Lookout tower, Visegrad Bobsled, Visegrad Castle, Kalvaria Kapolna church, Esztergom Szent István Square, Sötétkapu Dark Gate, Esztergom Basilica, Esztergom Castle Museum of the Hungarian National Museum, Szent István coronation, Mária Valéria Bridge
Accommodation: Airbnb at Budapest District V Deák Ferenc tér
Transport & Pass: 5/30 BKK travelcard, Bus 883 from Budapest to Visegrád, Bus 880 from Visegrád to Esztergom, Bus 880 from Esztergom to Budapest

Day 14: Budapest
Attractions: Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church, Mansfeld Peter Memorial, Koller Gallery, Hospital in the Rock - Bunker, Zero Kilometre Stone, Budapest Castle Hill Funicular, Buda Castle, Sándor-palota (Sandor Palace), Castle Garden Bazaar, Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Accommodation: Airbnb at Budapest District V Deák Ferenc tér
Transport & Pass: 5/30 BKK travelcard

Day 15: Depart Budapest at 6pm (GMT +2)
Attractions: Parliament building, Shoes on the Danube, House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, Liberty Square, Hungarian State Opera, St. Stephen's Basilica, Michael Jackson Memorial Tree
Transport & Pass: 5/30 BKK travelcard, Bus 100E to airport

Budget for this trip is S$2,000:
- S$450 for accommodation
- S$200 for transport
- S$250 for admission
- S$850 for meals
- S$50 for baggage storage & data sim card
- S$200 for miscellaneous

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