Our traveller Vitrag Shah along with his wife went on a romantic expedition to Central Europe – Vienna, Salzburg and Prague for an exhilarating 8 nights and 9 days. He shares their wonderful experience which will help you plan your trip without any hiccups. The article is complete with information on hotels, transport, restaurant and
must-visit places & must-do tours. So, here goes his tale:
We booked our vacation through a travel company named Pickyourtrail based in Chennai. Their service is simply amazing, they provide 24*7 support while on tour even from India and they work really hard to guide you through your entire journey. The rates that they provided were also reasonable.
If I had booked the same tour myself, it would have cost almost the same or 10-15K more or less, but this way there’s no headache. They took care of everything – flight tickets, hotel bookings (all 4-star), visa assistance, travel insurance, sightseeing tours and airport transfer.
With all these included, the price came to around 2,03,000/- for two people for 8 nights and 9 days. Agni, Jaideep and Sunil assisted us throughout. These guys worked really harder, hats off to their dedication!!
Stay at: Hotel Hilton Garden Inn
Recommended duration: At least 2-3 days
Delicious read: Flavours of Vienna – 8 best restaurants in Vienna revealed!
Mode of transport: Public transport is great if you are aware of the directions, pickup & drop points and bus/tram/metro routes.
Choose between the 48-hour ‘hop on hop off’ experience complete with an audio tour or go on a guided tour on the first day and use the public transport for the day after.
Our tour operator booked a ‘hop on hop off’ tour in Vienna. The experience came with an audio guide and free WiFi on the bus. It had four lines (Red, Green, Yellow, Blue), so you need to do proper research on where to go and where to the change bus.
Also, try out the guided walking tour and check the timings for the same.
Places visited in Vienna:
– Red line: Opera house, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Heldenplatz
– Blue line: Giant Ferris Wheel, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Danube Tower. Combined ticket of Giant Ferris wheel & Madame Tussaud’s came to around €26
– Yellow line: Schönbrunn Palace
– Green line: We didn’t get enough time to explore this
There are plenty of vegetarian and Indian restaurants near the Opera house and the city centre. You can simply Google it or check on Tripadvisor.
Interesting read: Explore Vienna like never before – Offbeat things to do in Vienna
Stay at: Wyndham Grand Salzburg Conference Centre
Recommended duration: A minimum of 2 days. Ideally, 3-4 days.
Interesting read: 10 things to do in Salzburg for a sassy holiday
We booked a hop on hop off city tour, followed by a tour of Bavarian mountains and salt mines the next day.
We didn’t quite like the hop on hop off city tour. We felt exploring Salzburg on public transport was way better. Would personally suggest the sound of music tour as well, over the hop on hop off tour. The experience is wonderful.
Places visited in Salzburg:
– Hohensalzburg Castle: A must visit attraction in the city. It costs €15.20 per person for a standard ticket and needs at least 5 hours of your time. The castle is so big that you can spend a whole day exploring it.
– Old Town: On the way to the Hohensalzburg Castle, we stopped by the Old Town. Adorned with Baroque architecture, the place is a neoclassical perfection and there’s so much history to soak in here.
– Mirabell Palace and Gardens: This is where the ‘Sound of music’ was filmed. The lovely palace grounds with fountain, flowers, and incredible views is a great place to click photos.
– Mozart Bridge: The pedestrian bridge in the centre of the city is a great place to go for a romantic stroll. We enjoyed our time together at the Mozart Bridge.
– Bavarian mountain and Salt mine tour: This is must do in Salzburg. The tour of the Bavarian mountain & the salt mine is complete with fascinating views and unparalleled history.
There is also a free guided walking tour which you can try here. Check the availability of the tour and the timings to plan your tour accordingly.
Spicy spices: Indian/Pure vegetarian restaurant
Organic pizza: Serves Vegan Pizza
There is a food truck called the Lucky set in close proximity to the Mirabell Palace. Further, you can find Indian restaurants on Tripadvisor.
Stay at: Hotel NH Prague city
Recommended duration: A minimum of 3 days
We really enjoyed the sightseeing tour of Prague which included Prague Castle tour (90 mins), Jewish Quarter tour (1 hr) and Vltava River cruise (1 hr). A great way to experience the most of the city is to book a guided tour for a day and then use the public transport for the rest. As far as the cruise goes, try out the one in Vienna or Prague and not both.
Places visited in Salzburg:
– Old Town Square
– Prague Castle: Highly recommend you do a guided tour. Needs a solid 2-3 hours.
– Charles Bridge: The historic arch bridge is worth all the hype and a stroll across the bridge took us back in time.
– Český Krumlov tour: 180 Kms from Prague, the 9-10 hr guided tour of the timeless town by the Prague Bus Tours Agency is one of the best. The tour included free pickup/drop from the hotel and lunch.
Taj Mahal Express: You get delicious Indian food here. The special being their Aloo Paratha. The restaurant is very close by to Hotel NH Prague city.
Few of the other Indian/Vegetarian restaurant that you can find on Zomato & Tripadvisor include Indian Jewel, Loving Hut, and Dhaba Beans.
Seat selection in flight:
Select the seats by yourself in flights. Most of the rows have three seats on either side of the cabin and four seats in middle. But, there are ones with 2 seats in a row as well. If you are a couple, I suggest you take that.
Also, check the premium economy fare. If it is not that high, go with the premium economy over the economy class. This works wonders especially if you are travelling on a long-haul flight where the journey time is over 8 hours.
Buy a travel card either from your bank (ICICI/Axis/HDFC) or the one currency card from Thomas cook. If you are travelling to a single country, multicurrency card by your bank would be good.
On the other hand, if you are travelling to multiple countries, single currency (USD) card from Thomas cook would be the best bet. This is because it would not have any cross currency charge in any country.
The benefit of getting a card from the bank over Thomas cook or any other retailers for that matter is you can recharge your travel card even online. I got a travel card from ICICI bank loaded with EURO, which was very convenient and worked everywhere.
If you buy a matrix or any sim card from the airport, it would cost somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500. I instead bought a B.free sim card for €10 from a store in Vienna and activated the B.free large pack. This gave me 1000 mins, 1000 SMS’s, and 7-8 GB data for 30 days.
Most importantly, it will work in any European country without extra roaming charges.
For an airport to Hotel transfer, you can either prebook taxi in advance or if you have already got an international sim card with data, can book with good rates from uber on arrival. Our tour operator booked a cab with suntransffer.com, for pickup, we got luxurious Mercedes car, it was awesome. For the drop, regular sedan.
There are three ways through which you can explore a place,
1. Guided tour
2. Hop on hop off
3. Public transport
Personally, we recommend that you go either with public transport or explore the destination at your own pace. Unless you have figured everything out, hop on hop off isn’t the best. The ideal way to explore is by public transport. Some of the attractions which require guided tour for sure are Salt Mine, Prague Castle, and Ceske Krumlov.
Now coming to the hotels. In general, I have a feeling that spending money in any of the European hotels (especially in Vienna, Salzburg, Prague) is not worth it. This is irrespective of the brand and the star rating. They fail to offer the same level of hospitality and the service in comparison to the other international hotels.
On top of that, they charge for everything – water, adapter, and security deposit.
There is no room service. If you need anything, you have to go to the reception all by yourself. For vegetarians, the option of finding vegetarian food for breakfast, except for bread, butter, and fruits is a huge difficulty.
If you are travelling alone, then I’d recommend you to look into Airbnb or any hostels that come with a fully equipped kitchen.
This way you can cook your own food. Still looking for a hotel? Book any cheap hotel with a good review and a superior room category, rather than just sticking to star hotels.
– Distance from the city centre: Hotels in close proximity to the city centre provides great opportunity to explore the place better with all the attractions in reachable distance. Unless your hotel is incredibly good and provides free shuttle services, do not book the one which is far from the city centre.
– Food options: If you are a vegetarian, inquire if the hotel offers vegetarian breakfast or if there’s a vegetarian restaurant nearby. Always opt for the hotel which is popular amongst the Indians. They will for sure provide Indian food.
– Room: If you are a couple, ask for a double room. Or else, you will end up in a room with two single beds. Be very particular about the type of room you want – garden facing, lake facing or city facing. Also, do check the reviews and look for hotel tips on Tripadvisor.
– Security deposit: Confirm the security deposit charge of the hotel before booking. Some hotels charge on daily basis, approximately €50 a day. Pay in cash and do not give your debit card. I have personally faced issues and would definitely not recommend handing over your card.
Things to keep in mind while travelling in Europe:
1. They charge for water. While tap water is free everywhere, you don’t get water for free in most of the restaurants. So keep a water bottle with you all the time. In Prague, the price of the water bottles ranges from 5Kč to 200Kč.
2. There are paid toilets almost everywhere in Europe. The toilets are free to use inside the hotels and restaurants but paid in almost all the public places and mostly at train stations as well. So keep coins with you all the time while going out. 50 cents in Austria & 10-12 Kč in Prague.
3. If you are a vegetarian, make sure you either ask for vegan food or vegetarian food without eggs and fish.
4. Always keep sufficient coins with you. Very helpful in getting bus and tram tickets.
5. Do not exchange your currency at the airport or the train station unless if there’s an emergency.
6. Book cabs directly from Google map. They are normally cheaper.
7. If you are travelling to Europe in winter, be sure to carry gloves, layers, and jackets. It will be freezing.
8. Get your hands on 24 or 48 hr passes if you are planning to travel extensively. They give unlimited access to public transportation and the price is very reasonable.
9. Do your research on the places to visit and mode of transport, if you haven’t booked a guided tour. This will help you travel in a clear mind without confusion.
About the Author:
Vitrag is a physician, intensivist, tech geek, and foodie. He loves to explore new destinations and very much shares his travel experiences on his blog.
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