Quick Facts

Buses

For travel in the mountains or between villages.

Trains

Go almost everywhere; the fastest connections are in the west.

Driving

Car hire readily available at airports throughout Central Europe; roads are good.

Ferries

Travel by sea between Poland or Germany and Scandinavia, or from Slovenia to Italy.

Bicycles

Beware of mountainous terrain and bring bike locks for the cities; the west has more dedicated cycle paths than the east.

PLanes

Budget airlines connect with many destinations in Western Europe and the UK.

When to Go

High Season (Jul–Aug)

  • Expect crowds at major attractions; book hotels ahead.
  • Temperatures soar, especially in Hungary and Slovenia.
  • Higher-elevation hiking trails become accessible.

Shoulder (Apr–Jun & Sep–Oct)

  • Prices remain peak, but crowds ease off.
  • Moderate weather.
  • Village museums and castles remain open.
  • Bad timing for Alpine hiking or skiing.

Low Season (Nov–Mar)

  • Outside the holidays prices drop 30% to 50%.
  • Christmas markets light up cities in late November and December.
  • Ski season kicks in.
  • Some attractions close.

Websites

  • Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de) Best online train timetable for the region
  • Like a Local (www.likealocalguide.com) Online guides to eastern capitals
  • In Your Pocket (www.inyourpocket.com) Events listings for major cities
  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) Destination coverage, hotel booking and travellers' forum
  • Michelin (www.viamichelin.com) Calculates the best route from A to B by car

Money

  • Crown (Koruna česká; Kč) Czech Republic
  • Euro (€) Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia
  • Forint (HUF; Ft) Hungary
  • Swiss Franc (Sfr) Liechtenstein, Switzerland
  • Złoty (PLN; zł) Poland

Arriving in Destination

  • Berlin Tegel Airport

Bus – 30 minutes to centre; frequent service.

  • Frankfurt Airport

Train – 15 minutes to centre; frequent service.

  • Vienna International Airport

Train – 15 to 20 minutes to centre; every 30 minutes.

  • Zürich Airport

Train – 10 to 15 minutes to main train station; frequent service.

Visas

  • Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the US can travel visa-free in Central Europe for 90 days.
  • All countries in Central Europe are part of the Schengen Agreement and are considered one 'country' in terms of your 90-day stay.
  • As part of the Schengen Agreement, EU citizens generally do not need visas and may be able to work across the region.

What to Take

  • Earplugs Helpful for sleeping at hostels and in busy cities, plus you can tune out chatterboxes on planes, trains and buses.
  • Ecofriendly shopping bag To use at all the fruit and vegetable markets.
  • Extra ziplock bags Keep products from leaking and wet clothes separate from dry.
  • Hiking boots For conquering the Alps or the Tatras.
  • Lonely Planet's Central Europe Phrasebook
  • Pocket knife with bottle-opener For picnics on trains (but check it with your luggage on planes).
  • Sandals or thongs (flip-flops) Useful at Baltic beaches and Hungarian spas.
  • Plug adaptors If you're coming from the UK, North America or down under.
  • Unlocked mobile phone Get a local SIM card and make cheap local calls.