Q: I am planning a tour of Eastern Europe in June and am interested in visiting Croatia, Budapest and Prague. I can’t decide how many days to spend in each place. In Croatia, I would like to visit Dubrovnik, Split, some islands and Zagreb. I’d like to travel between countries by train and fly back to Delhi from Prague. Can you tell me what sights I should include in these cities and the number of days I need for each country? Finally, does the Schengen visa cover Croatia as well?
Marco Says: You didn’t tell me how long you intend your whole holiday to be. Still, I’d say that about eight days in Croatia and three days each in Budapest and Prague should give you a rather nice holiday. If you intend to fly back from Prague, then you’d better start at Dubrovnik. Two nights here will allow you to explore the Old Town, Gundulic Square Market and Banje Beach, and go up Srdj Hill for vantage views of the city. It should also allow you a day trip to the nearby Elafiti Islands. Your next stop could be Korcula for one night, which is accessible by ferry. You could rent a scooter or bicycle and explore the scenery and vineyards. Another short ferry ride will take you to Hvar for a two-night halt. Explore the town, its 16th-century Fortress Spanjola, and make an excursion of it to the nearby Pakleni Islands. You should then take the ferry to Split for a night’s halt, where you can visit Diocletian’s Palace and the buzzing Pazar Market. You have a choice between taking a bus or train to Zagreb. The bus option (as long as you take the direct one) has a few advantages: better frequency of departures, a shorter trip (roughly five hours to the seven by train) and a scenic drive. The train could be more comfortable, however, and there is even an overnight one, if you’re willing to sacrifice the scenery.
After Zagreb, take an intercity train to Budapest. The city has beautiful architecture, and every view is improved by the stunning Danube and the bridges across it. You must take a river cruise, and visit the Hungarian Parliament building, Matthias Church and Buda Castle. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a walking tour of Budapest’s fascinating cave systems.
Trains from Budapest to Prague leave at regular intervals, and you should be able to find one that suits you. Medieval buildings, quirky art and beer are what draw travellers to Prague. You should start with a tour of the Old Town and Josevov, the old Jewish quarter. Saunter across Charles Bridge, and visit Prague Castle, which also houses the St Vitus Cathedral.
Croatia is not part of the Schengen Agreement but allows holders entry as a courtesy, so you won’t need a separate visa.