Eastern and Central Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

(Ben Green) #1



The rail network in Eastern
and Central Europe features
every kind of train, at every
speed. Among the fastest and
most comfort able are the
InterCity (IC) services, which
link major centres and make
few stops. Faster still are the
Euro City (EC) international
trains which connect big cities
and may run through several
countries en route. Most IC
and EC routes are equipped
with modern, air-conditioned
carriages offering both first-
and second-class seating.
Slightly slower are the
regional express trains, which
operate under differ ent names
in various coun tries. Slower
still, regional pass enger trains
serve the local commu nity
and stop at all stations en
route. These passenger trains
only offer second-class seat-
ing and the carriages are
frequently old and basic.
Tickets should be bought at
the ticket counter in the
station before boarding the
train. Some sta tions have
separate counters for domes-
tic and international trains; it
is best to confirm before
queuing up. Many IC and EC
trains offer seat reser vations
for a small extra cost. It is also
advisable to check whether
regional and inter national
express services have buffet
cars; many do not.


The best IC and EC services
are in Central Europe, where
all major capitals and regional
cities are served by fast,
punctual trains. Using the rail
network to tour Austria, the
Czech Republic, Slovakia,

Poland, Hungary, Slovenia
and northern Croatia is very
convenient and problem-free.
However, in South Eastern
Europe, services between
the main cities in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Serbia,
Romania and Bulgaria are
relatively slow, and visitors
might consi der travelling by
bus instead. In North Eastern
Europe, the capital cities of
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia
are only connected by bus.
Several railway journeys are
worth making for the fantastic
scenery along the route.
The express train from
Belgrade, in Serbia, to Bar, in
Montenegro, passes through
dramatic mountain terrain.
Much slower, but equally
delightful, is the Bulgarian
narrow-gauge line from
Bansko to Septemvri, which
goes through a bewitching
high land land scape. The rail
routes connecting central
Romanian towns such as
Braşov, Sibiu and Sighişoara
pass through some of
Europe’s loveliest rural coun-
tryside, while travelling from
Vienna in Austria to the
Slovenian capital Ljubljana or
the Croatian capital Zagreb
features some gorgeous
subalpine terrain.


Most of the national rail
companies in the region have
websites with relevant time-
table details. However,
information is not always
available in English, and
international rail routes across
the whole continent are not
consistently covered. The
best source of inform ation
on international services is

German Railways (Deutsche
Bahn), whose website pro-
vides a timetable for most
des tinations in Eastern and
Central Europe. Excellent
advice on trans-European
travel can also be found on
The Man in Seat 61, a website
run by dedicated rail enthu-
siasts. In addition, Thomas
Cook publishes a European
Railway Timetable which
covers all the main routes
in Europe. This can be
bought from branches of
Thomas Cook in the UK,
or purchased online.


For non-Europeans, the
cheapest way to explore the
region by rail is to buy one
of the many passes available
from Eurail. For those trav-
elling from North America
or Australasia, it is cheaper
to buy one before travelling.
The official repre sentative for
Eurail in North America is
Railpass. Eurail passes cover
Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech
Republic, Croatia, Hungary,
Romania and Slovenia, but
do not extend to Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Montenegro, Serbia,
Poland, Slovakia or Russia.
Several kinds of Eurail
passes are available. Eurail
Select covers unlimited first-
class travel in a cluster of
three to five countries of the
visitor’s choice, with passes
valid for periods ranging from
five days to two months.
The Eurail Global pass covers
first-class travel in the seven
countries in Eastern and
Central Europe mentioned
above as well as in 14
countries in Western Europe,
for periods ranging from 15
days to three months. The
Eurail Youthpass is a cheaper,
second-class version of the
Global pass, available to
those aged under 26.


For Europeans, the best
option is the Inter-Rail pass,
which can be purchased from
Rail Europe or from the main
train operators in individual

Eastern and Central Europe is covered by an extensive

and comprehensive rail network, but services vary
in speed and comfort from one part of the region to
another. Buses are a popular means of transport through-
out, covering towns and villages that are not served by
trains. Good-quality modern motorways connect the
major cities but, away from the main routes, road
surfaces can be poor. Boat trips are a great way to view
the region’s beautiful scenery, but can be expensive.

Eastern and Central Europe

by Train, Road and Ferry

Free download pdf