How to visit three European cities in one holiday – on a budget!

We asked seasoned European traveller Lana Nikolajeva to show us how to follow in her footsteps for an exciting trip she’s got planned.

On a budget? In desperate need of a city break and unsure where to go? Not a problem, go to a flight comparison website like SkyScanner, put in the dates you wish to travel, pick “anywhere” as your destination and away you go. [Editor’s note: did you realise you can ask Skyscanner to take you “anywhere”? What an exciting feature!]

This is what I did, and came up with a £45 return trip to Vienna. The only slight issue is that 5 days and 4 nights in Vienna seems to be just a tad too long for me. After a bit more research I discovered that Bratislava is only an hour and a half away from Vienna, and Budapest is only three hours away, heading south-east in both cases. This opened up some possibilities.

Transport
Coaches and trains depart from Vienna city centre and arrive in the city centre of your chosen destination. The departure time is as early as 05:40 in the morning and as late as 11:40 at night. My return coach trip to Bratislava will set me back a grand total of £8.88 per person. As Budapest is a further distance away, the costs of a round trip will be £15.98 per person.

Bratislava
Before booking this trip I didn’t know that much about Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) if I’m honest. But after some intense Google research, I can say that I am really looking forward to visiting the city. It seems to be a perfect combination of urban jungle, historic landmarks and green spaces.

Budapest
Budapest is better known to me, as it has been on my radar for a while. It’s a beautiful historic city filled with spectacular architecture divided by the River Danube. I’ve been told that it’s best to stay there until it’s dark, because when the lights come on and the whole town is illuminated it’s supposed to be quite a sight!

I will also do my best to visit the thermal baths. The Széchenyi Baths are one of the largest left in Europe. The city is split in two by the river, and you can find the baths on the Pest side of the city (east of the river). I know it sounds like a rather intense day, but based on my calculations I should be able to make it! The other option is to stay in Budapest for the night and return to Vienna the next day.

Vienna
Just because I’m not staying in Vienna for the duration of my trip doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see there. All you have to do is type the name of the city into Google and you will be bombarded with absolutely stunning images of palaces, museums, quirky streets and the world famous Vienna State Opera house. My plan is to remain in Vienna on days 1, 3 and 5 of my trip, and the other two days will be spent exploring Budapest and Bratislava.

What to check for
I have to admit that I’ve never done three countries in the same trip before: two was the maximum. But I’m not worried. I checked the timing of the transport, I have a list of my “must-see places”, and the hotel in Vienna is close to the coach station, so I’m not reliant on public transport once I arrive back late.

I don’t tend to plan out every minute of my trip, and I do like to take my time and stroll around the cities soaking up the local atmosphere. I occasionally look at the map to check if any of the places I want to see are nearby, and course-correct as required.

What I do triple check, religiously, is how to get from the airport to the hotel. The rest can be improvised if the occasion calls for it. Sometimes, not having a rigid plan turns a good holiday into a great one!