Train Travel in Eastern Europe – Discover the Adventure of a Lifetime with this Unforgettable Eastern Europe Itinerary!

train travel around eastern europe

An insider’s guide to train travel in Eastern Europe! A must-read for anyone who dreams of exploring the beautiful landscapes of Europe by train. Prepare to be inspired and start planning your next adventure!

Living in Germany opened up a whole new world of exploration for us. We had the opportunity to discover Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet countries that gained their independence in the early 1990s. And what better way to explore these enchanting destinations than by train? Taking the trains allowed us to experience multiple countries at once, meet locals, and witness breathtaking landscapes through the train windows.

In this comprehensive guide to train travel in Eastern Europe, we will share our planning strategies, suggest exciting routes, and introduce useful planning tools. Additionally, we will address common questions about train travel in Eastern Europe and share some personal stories from our own journey.

Common Questions About Train Travel in Eastern Europe

Before embarking on a train journey through Eastern Europe, it’s natural to have some concerns and questions. Let’s address a few common ones:

Is Train Travel in Eastern Europe Safe?

Traveling by train between cities in Eastern Europe is generally safe. Unlike public transportation within cities, there are designated seats for each passenger, reducing the risk of pickpocketing or theft. However, it’s always a good idea to keep your valuable possessions, like passports and money, close to you, especially on overnight trains when you might fall asleep and become vulnerable to theft. As long as you stay aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings, train travel in Eastern Europe can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

Do They Check Passports on Trains in Eastern Europe?

At border crossings, customs agents regularly board the train to check passengers’ passports. In the Schengen zone, agents calculate the remaining days on your visa. It’s important to ensure you have a valid visa if required and to comply with the entry requirements of each country you plan to visit. Overall, the border crossings and passport checks are usually efficient and not intimidating.

Building Our Eastern Europe Itinerary

When planning our train journey through Eastern Europe, we initially had a vague idea of exploring the capital cities of these captivating countries. However, the task of creating a specific route seemed overwhelming, and we kept procrastinating. Eventually, we devised a strategy that allowed for spontaneity while still ensuring a well-rounded experience.

Our final Eastern Europe itinerary looked like this:

  • Weiden, Germany – Krakow, Poland – Levoca, Slovakia – Budapest, Hungary – Sibiu, Romania – Bucharest, Romania – Sofia, Bulgaria – Thessaloniki, Greece – Skopje, Macedonia – Belgrade, Serbia – Ljubljana, Slovenia – Graz, Austria – Murzzuschlag, Austria – Weiden, Germany

This itinerary allowed us to visit a variety of destinations, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites and lesser-known gems. We had the flexibility to change routes along the way based on recommendations or online research, and it all seamlessly fell into place.

The view out of our train window as we rode through Slovakia, gazing at the Tatra Mountains.

Train Travel in Eastern Europe – Our Train Trip Begins

Embarking on our train journey from Weiden, Germany, we were filled with excitement and uncertainty. We had experienced long-distance train travel before, but the trains of Eastern Europe were a mystery to us. Would they be clean and comfortable like Western European trains, or more chaotic and crowded?

Our first train ride to Regensburg was surprisingly sleek and comfortable. We marveled at the contrast between the cool interior of the train and the scorching heat outside. Our eagerness and joy were apparent, as the ticket agent couldn’t help but notice and offered to take our photo.

As we traveled east and south, our train compartments became more populated, and we began to feel a sense of community with fellow passengers. However, as we journeyed back west and north, the train became less crowded, and we felt more isolated. This ebb and flow of camaraderie added a unique dynamic to our train travel experience.

One unforgettable train ride occurred between Romania and Bulgaria. The train connecting Bucharest to Sofia was primarily filled with backpackers and other rail pass travelers. The atmosphere onboard was lively, and conversations flowed as we exchanged stories and recommendations. At the border, the delay sparked a spontaneous gathering outside the train, where everyone shared food and drinks while waiting. It was a moment of true camaraderie and adventure, encapsulating the essence of train travel.

An Epic Eurail Eastern Europe Itinerary – Train Travel in Eastern Europe

To truly experience the wonders of Eastern Europe by train, we recommend starting in Munich, Germany. This city serves as an excellent entry point, with affordable flights and a variety of attractions. From Munich, you can embark on an unforgettable journey through several captivating destinations.

Here is a suggested itinerary:

Munich, Germany

Spend a couple of days exploring Munich, a vibrant city known for its historical landmarks, beer gardens, and lively atmosphere. Don’t miss the famous Hofbrauhaus, the Oktoberfest (if your visit coincides with the event), and indulge in traditional German dishes.

Prague, Czech Republic

Discover the fairytale-like city of Prague, renowned for its Gothic architecture and rich history. Visit the Charles Bridge, Astronomical Clock, and the charming Old Town Square. Be sure to savor Czech beer and local delicacies like trdelnik and roast pork with bread dumplings.

Krakow, Poland

Immerse yourself in the enchanting ambiance of Krakow, a city steeped in history and culture. Explore the somber WWII sites of Auschwitz, marvel at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and wander through the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Indulge in delicious Polish cuisine, including pierogi and traditional Polish sausage.

Levoca, Slovakia

Experience the walled town of Levoca, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its Renaissance architecture. Spend a night in one of the charming inns and explore the town the next morning. Don’t miss the Gothic church, the “cage of shame,” and the old town hall.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Discover the charming capital of Slovakia with its beautifully restored Old Town. Marvel at the Blue Church, explore the quirky sculptures scattered around the city, and visit the iconic Bratislava Castle. Take the time to indulge in traditional Slovakian cuisine and experience the vibrant atmosphere.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is a true gem of Eastern Europe. Experience the city’s thermal baths, ride the Children’s Railway for stunning views, and immerse yourself in the rich history and architecture. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy traditional Hungarian dishes like chicken paprikash and goulash.

Romania

Explore Romania’s picturesque countryside, ancient castles, and fortified churches. Experience the unique charm of Sibiu, venture into Transylvania to visit landmarks like Sighisoara, and drive along the breathtaking Transfagarasan Highway. Visit Bucharest, the vibrant capital city of Romania, and immerse yourself in its historical and cultural treasures.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Discover the vibrant city of Sofia, where ancient ruins blend with modern architecture. Explore the stunning Saint Aleksander Nevsky cathedral, wander through the ruins of ancient Serdica, and stroll down the lively Vitosha Boulevard. If time allows, venture into the surrounding countryside to visit Rila Monastery or explore the wine region around Melnik.

Thessaloniki, Greece

Enjoy the perfect blend of history, culture, and coastal beauty in Thessaloniki. Explore the city’s fascinating historical sites, relax on the beach, and indulge in delicious Greek cuisine. Use Thessaloniki as a base for day trips to the clifftop monasteries of Meteora or a visit to the Oracle at Delphi.

Balkans

While exploring the Balkans may require more time, overnight stops in Skopje (North Macedonia), Belgrade (Serbia), and Ljubljana (Slovenia) can provide a taste of these captivating regions. Each city offers its own unique charm and attractions, allowing you to experience the authenticity of the Balkans.

Make your way back to Munich, savoring the last moments of your Eurail pass before catching your flight back home.

Tools for Planning a European Train Trip and Using Trains in Eastern Europe

When it comes to planning a train journey through Europe, having the right tools can make a significant difference. Here are a few essential resources:

Maps

Although we live in a digital age, there is something special about unfolding a paper map and envisioning your route. While many road maps might not adequately display train networks, you can obtain planning maps from Eurail or rely on online resources.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an invaluable tool for route planning and navigation. You can download maps offline, search for destinations, read reviews, and access vital information, such as train schedules and station locations.

Pocket Earth

Pocket Earth is an excellent offline map app available specifically for iPhone users. It allows you to download maps for specific countries or cities and provides directions and GPS location services, even without an internet connection.

DB Navigator and Eurail/InterRail Rail Planner

These mobile apps are incredibly useful for finding train routes, timetables, and booking tickets. The DB Navigator app, developed by Deutsche Bahn, offers comprehensive route planning and station information. The Rail Planner app, designed specifically for Eurail and InterRail pass holders, provides information on train connections and allows you to plan your journey seamlessly.

What Are Train Stations Like When You Do Train Travel in Eastern Europe?

Train stations in Eastern Europe vary in terms of facilities and services. Some stations may require a visit to a ticketing office to make specific seat reservations, while others allow you to simply board the train and show your pass to the conductor. In busy stations, like Budapest’s Keleti station, ticketing counters can be crowded, causing potential delays.

A handy tip is to look for business lounges in major European train stations. If you have a first-class Eurail pass, you may gain access to these lounges, offering a comfortable and hassle-free experience. Utilize these lounges to relax, grab refreshments, and book reservations without the long queues.

Do You Need Hotel Reservations When Planning an Eastern Europe Itinerary?

The need for hotel reservations largely depends on your travel style. If you prefer a more spontaneous approach, it’s possible to find accommodations on the spot, especially in larger cities. However, it’s wise to book ahead, especially if you have specific preferences or if you’re traveling during peak seasons. Websites like Booking.com offer a wide range of options, ensuring a smooth and stress-free experience.

More Useful Resources for Train Travel in Eastern Europe

If you’re eager to plan your own Eurail adventure through Eastern Europe, here are some additional resources to consider:

Seat61

Seat61 is an incredible website that provides comprehensive information on rail travel worldwide. It offers tips, route planning advice, station details, and various other resources to ensure an enjoyable train journey.

Rome2rio

Rome2rio is a useful website that allows you to search for domestic and international transportation options, including trains, buses, and flights. It provides estimated prices, travel times, and alternative modes of transportation, making it a handy tool for itinerary planning.

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