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As you guys seem particularly knowledgeable about this route, may I ask a couple of more questions?
Sure :)

Do you know how it works on the SK / Ukraine border (bearing in mind that I won't take the sleeper from Kosice, but will take the 'shuttle' train over the border)?
Keep in mind that you'll need to change trains in Cierna nad Tisou (Slovak border station), since there are no direct seating cars from Kosice (only passengers from sleeper cars don't need to switch cars in Cierna), otherwise everything is easy and smooth, that border crossing is not very popular, so on Cierna-Chop leg you might end up like the only passengers or only with a few fellow travelers.
From what I've read, Slovak formalities will be done on the train.
Yep, but it's not done at the Cierna station, the train departs as usual, but then in the middle of the field closer to the border there is a sort of improvised border checkpoint stop where Slovak officials would enter and check your passports (might take it for a check to their cabin outside) and maybe luggage by the customs official.
Then, once I am in Chop, I will go to some special border desk and get the entry stamp, which should take just a few minutes? 
Here your train will just stop at the platform next the station building, you get out and go inside (usually there are couple border guards showing you the way and making sure you enter the right door). Inside there is a huge room with a few border guards cubicles for passport check, you go there first and after there will be the customs officers next to the big tables, but they might not even stop you. You will walk from the door beneath the white timetable. The ticket desk (first international & next domestic) will be on your right, you can see it on the photo as well (beneath the Soviet mosaic or whatever that is)
Then, can I leave and collect my ticket
Hmm, I think for both trains (107 & 13) you can actually print your ticket yourself at home. The pdf after the purchase will say if you need to print it at the ticket desk only (usually it's for some irregular/seasonal trains and not a year round/regular ones).
wander around the station / go outside? It seems like I should have plenty of time to connect trains - do you agree? (I will be catching the 3 o'clock-ish train from Kosice).
The train station isn't very interesting (unless you are a fan of the late Soviet architecture), so you can take a walk (next door there is local trains station, it kind of even looks like it's bigger than the long-distance trains one) or just go to the store to buy some food (there was kind of a small supermarket on the left from the station square or some cafes/shops on the square next to the local trains station, which is on the right from the long-distance trains station square). Anyhow, you have plenty of time till 20:35/20:56, nothing to worry about.
I am still not sure which train I will connect to: either the 20:35 or 20:56. Any preferences? We (2 of us) did want to take a 2-berth sleeper, but that seems only bookable on the 20:56 train.    I suppose it would be best to arrive in Khmelnitskiy at 8 am rather than 6:30 am...
Maybe Maxy, as a local, can confirm it, but it seems like 13 indeed will be a better option in your case
And is it fine to collect my pre-bought Chop-Khmelnitskiy ticket at Chop station? I'm not gonna be penned in some customs waiting area am I?
No, no, UA officials usually are rather friendly (obviously unless you are Russian national), so would be surprised if you spend more than 10 minutes on all the checks on UA side. Regarding the ticket printing, as was already said earlier, you might not need to go to the ticket desk at all

Maxy already did a great job in explaining your options, but perhaps the only thing which makes sense to add here is that maybe you don't really need to travel all the way from Amsterdam to southern Italy by land, which is way too time consuming. Imho, in your situation it seems to make more sense to fly half way and then use an overnighter, in this case you can depart on the afternoon on May 13 and be in Naples already next morning. Most obvious choice would be to fly to Northern Italy (Turin or Milan or Genoa) and then take one of the direct Italian domestic overnight trains to Naples (most likely will look something like this). Or, if you want some adventure, you can fly to some place like Vienna and then take an overnight train from there. Or do a reverse, i.e. use an overnighter first and then fly to Naples.

Ok, so lets take a look at each leg and see what options you have:

Amsterdam to Heidelberg via Koblenz: very easy & relatively cheap (from 29,90 euro) if you would purchase your tickets in advance either via German Railways (DB) or Dutch Railways (NS) websites. The only inconvenience is that during your 5-6 hours long trip you'll have to make a few train changes, but in Europe it's an ordinary procedure, so nothing really to worry about

Heidelberg to Prague: again, easy and cheap (from 19,90 euro on German Railways bus or from 29,90 with a train section) with the so-called Sparpreis Europa offer. DB website is your helper here. In case you want to be adventurous/can't buy tickets in advance, then you can take a look a the offers like Happy Weekend Ticket (Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket) or Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (more info on our Germany page or DB website). Travel time about 7 hours, so you either will have to start in the dark or arrive after the sunset... December

Prague to Vienna: even easier & cheaper, since here you have a private rail company RegioJet, which competes with the Czech/Austrian State railway companies. Ticket for the direct trains (4 hour journey) start from only 15 euro. Might be helpful our page , it's the reverse route, but still

Vienna to Budapest: fast (<3 hours) and cheap, Austrian Railways sell discounted tickets for as low as 19 euro. Step by step guide on how to buy it - . Also might be of help

Budapest to Salzburg: with the direct train it's 5+ hours and either 29 euro (discounted ticket, in advance purchase required), or 45 euro ("Excursion (Tourist) Ticket" (in Hungarian it is called Kirándulójegy), can be purchased on the day of travel). Or, as a total alternative, travel with two separate tickets, i.e. Budapest-Vienna and Vienna-Salzburg

Salzburg to Lucerne via Munich or Innsbruck: in both cases you should start with the Austrian Railways (OeBB) website. If you plan to travel via Munich, then Salzburg-Munich is cheaper to do with the so-called Bavaria Ticket (again, see our Germany page). Then Munich-Luzern address already known to you German Railways (DB) website

Churn overnight??? You mean Chur?

Bernina Express and travel to Zermatt ?? Swiss Railways (SBB) since not very long ago offer this very cheap day pass offer - , so perhaps you can use it. In Switzerland it's not that important to ride those private scenic trains, you can easily enjoy traveling on the regular trains (run on the same lines & often even less crowded compared to the fancy tourists trains)

Verona via Lake Como: with in advance purchase on the same Swiss Railways (SBB) website you can get the so-called international Super Saver Tickets to Italy, it will be the cheapest option. Or, as an alternative (will depend a lot on your departure point) you can simply use regional trains

22nd ?? Well, Venice? Triest? Udine? Italian Railways (TrenItalia) website will give you a hint on prices & travel times, but in general the distances there are not very long, so you don't really need to bother with any in advance tickets purchase, just use regional trains & buy tickets before departure

Italy-Ljubjana: for Northern Italy-Slovenia options we recommend checking out our Slovenia page (see the last section) - , you can choose one of the options and simply do it in reverse order.

What sites would be best to book these tickets on please and how long before can they be booked?
Well, it should definitely be the official websites of the railway companies in each country (we already gave the links to all those above), since buying via agencies and other middle-man like resellers is a) more expensive & b) less reliable
Another question, would I be better to buy a pass?  If so which one would suit?
Doubt it, your itinerary doesn't really have any super expensive legs, especially if you ok buying discounted point-to-point tickets in advance.
I probably have a few more questions, but once I get the itinerary right, can ask then.
Sure, that's the usual way how we proceed. You check all the recommendations, websites, fares, etc. and then come back with the particular questions, which can clarify those point you aren't sure about ;)

Regarding the "itinerary right" ... as of now it looks a little bit zig-zag like, first east, i.e. Heidelberg-Prague-Vienna-Budapest, then back west Budapest-Vienna-Salzburg-Switzerland, then again east -Northern Italy-Slovenia. It can be done, but maybe simple geographic logic didctates to make it more straight, e.g. Netherlands-Germany-Switzerland-Northern Italy by train, then fly to Prague with one of the multiple lowcost airlines and finally make you way southeast to Slovenia via Vienna andBudapest. Or, if you want zigzags, then maybe at least don't do Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Vienna (all the trains from Budapest to Salzburg go via Vienna)-Salzburg, but instead Prague-Budapest-Vienna-Salzburg to avoid Vienna-Budapest part twice

In most cases, in most of Western Europe, is it accurate that short distance or slower trains do not require early purchase but long distance trains do?
It is always better to make such assumptions on the particular examples, however as a rule a) slower regional trains are cheaper when it comes even to the full tariff for the same distance when compared to high-speed trains; b) such trains don't travel for long distances, so you can't ride too much km to make your ticket price super expensive (unless you ride the whole day without stops, which doesn't seem to be your plan); c) often for regional short & medium distance trains there is either some sort of group pass or at least some offer/trick to make it not very expensive (and you don't necessarily need to purchase tickets far ahead).
Knowing that we have 3 weeks in July, do you have any thoughts on long distance train travel?
Well, in Western Europe in the middle of high season (i.e. July) using long distance train might not be the best idea financially, unless you are prepared to purchase discounted (mostly nonreturnable) tickets like couple months in advance or use long distance trains so often that Eurail pass will actually make sense (roughly you divide the price of your pass for number of days it's valid for and you get your "daily value", which is suppose to be less than your average daily point-to-point ticket price in the alternative scenario).
How naive is it to think we could see a lot if we continued to enjoy the train rides (stopping randomly)?
There is actually a legal trick on how you can achieve the flexibility of a rail pass, but pay much less. It works if you at least roughly know your route. You can read about it more here (last point). Basically you buy (e.g. in Germany or Switzerland) international SCIC-NRT ticket for French domestic route and later use it as a sort of rail pass for the predefined route of your choice by riding regional trains.
I don’t dislike night trains but they may defeat the purpose of what we would be doing.
Well, these days a) overnight trains in Western Europe aren't available that often; b) if they are available, then usually it's very expensive, since they are designed for making money from tourists and other types of passengers who doesn't really care about the price. So even using the overnight train as a hotel on wheels might not cover the difference between high price of the overnight train journey and discounted ticket for the day time trip on the same route. Sometimes you can purchase discounted tickets for the overnight trains as well, but it's usually more difficult to catch those comparing to the discounted for daytime trains. 

A possibility is to fly as far east as desired then “mosey” back on the train? Or train 2 different routes there and back.
Totally possible, e.g. fly to northern Finland and make your way down southwest via Baltic states-Poland-Czech Republic or Sweden-Norway-Germany. Or fly to Narvik/Bodo and then train your way via entire Norway, Western Sweden, Denmark and so on. In both case you can accomplish such trips predominantly by train

I'm unable to add up the costs of the individual train trips because I'm not able to get pricing because, apparently, I am an idiot that cannot figure out rail system booking.
Don't worry, sometimes it can be not so easy even for an experienced traveller, especially when certain websites actually force you to purchase tickets via agencies (=means extra commission) and not directly from the state railway companies. 
I think I need to see maps and routes to fully grasp it.  I am also looking for those, too.
We have links to the relevant rail networks maps on the top of the page of our country pages (i.e. France or Italy)   

Ok, so lets take a look:
1.  From Paris to Florence, I'd like to travel in a hop on/hop off sort of style and I know that doesn't exist.  Other than buying tickets from small town to small town, is there another way to do this?  Do people "make their way" to places or is that considered odd? (it won't change my mind, just wondering)
Hop on/hop off it's mostly a territory of rail passes or daily (group) passes. The former tend to be rather expensive (especially for non-Europeans) and basically your pass' daily value would most likely be higher than mid range point-to-point bought on the day of travel. The later aren't available in all the countries, so e.g. in Germany or in Austria you can enjoy super cheap (considering 4 passengers) group passes, but France or Italy aren't as "friendly" here. So, e.g. you can plan your Paris to Florence train journey via Germany & Austria and don't really bother with in advance ticket purchase at all
2.  When trying to create a "hop on, hop off" style of travel, and buying tickets for each leg is the only way, are these tickets that should be purchased ahead of time or will they be the same price on the day of departure?
Well, you can do it both ways, however rail companies (just like airlines) tend to lure passengers' money as early as possible by offering limited number of promo price tickets. These promo offers can be very cheap (like couple times cheaper than the standard tariff for the same ticket if you purchase it on the day of travel), however it is usually accompanied by certain limitation (e.g. you cannot return/exchange your ticket, make stopovers, etc.). So you, as potential passenger, have an option to buy your ticket early & pay less (while keeping in mind that change of travel plans would mean buying a new ticket) or buy before departure & pay, so to say, full price. 
  3.  Once we begin our journey in the motorhome,  we plan to use the heck out it.  Sleeping, eating, and driving in it.  We hope to say at free camping places.  Knowing we have a motorhome for 30 days, have to be in Madrid by the 10th of June, what are 2 or so routes that be most conducive to motorhome travel?  Criteria:  Western Europe.  It doesn't matter what we are interested in, our preferences will follow our route.  Then, on the last part of the trip, we will train or drive to whatever we missed.  I want to spend 10 or so days in Italy but understand that it's not a good place to take a motorhome.  We could drive through Southern France.  We could ferry to Croatia and drive North then to Madrid.  We could go Austria/Germany/Poland.  I want to know what works best with a motorhome. Once I have the route, I will make appointments to offer volunteer on site, print on demand photography to shelters, churches, etc.  We will do this for 30 days.  This is a service program I created and my kids help me.
It's a huge field for you :) For about 10 days in Italy I would probably consider driving from Florence to the seaside via Pisa. The best part about Ligurian coast is that it's full of little Italian towns (during the summer some are more crowded, some are less, but with a motorhome you have a good flexibility in terms where to spend the night or for how long to stay here or there. You can just drive by the seaside and if you like the town, then stop there for some time. In a couple of days (with must stops in La Spezia & Genova) you can actually change the scenery and go north to the mountains around Turin (very interesting city itself) & Cuneo. From there it's either go to the western Switzerland & Lyon (with the idea to get down south after Lyon) or directly by the coast via "French Riviera". Then it's obviously Languedoc-Roussillon and the good thing about it that you can rest from the coastal journey & focus on sightseeing with plenty of smaller and bigger cities/towns to see. Next you can do a detour to Andorra and then obviously Barcelona & coastal drive to Valencia.
4.  Once we drop the motorhome in Toddington, UK, we will need to find transportation to our next location.  Again, if this is a short route, do I need to purchase these tickets ahead?  We want to go to Scotland and Ireland.
Well, to give you a hint about prices & purchase in advance. E.g. London to Edinburgh ticket bought about one month in advance would cost you app. 30-40 british pound (adult), while ticket for the same route for tomorrow is 150. You can check this yourself using more or less good National Rail website -
5.  My kids want to ride the Caledonian Sleeper.  In all, I think it will be over 400 Euros.  They agreed to pay for their own ticket.
Again, same logic here - early purchase gets you better price + with tourist oriented trains during the high season it can actually make sense to buy ticket early, since trains might get sold out
6.  The rest of the trip, regardless if we stay in Scotland or continue to Ireland, will be by train.  We'd like to stop at Cornwall at the end of our time in the UK.  Volunteering job for 2 days.
Would probably recommend to take a ferry to Ireland, it can be quite an experience. While in Ireland for days when you plan to travel you can just go with the Family Ticket - . Ireland to UK is either a ferry & then a train or you can save time & money and simply fly. Ireland is like a heaven for low-cost airlines.
7. Then, we need transportation to La Baule, France where we will enjoy a week's complimentary stay from a friend.
If you would be in Cornwall, then the obvious choice is again a ferry, maybe even through Guernsey/Jersey, to Bretagne and a short train ride to La Baule via Rennes
8.  For the remaining time of our trip, we will either complete other volunteer work, location TBD, or choose a location to visit.  I'd like to get on a train and go, and go, and go.  And take photos, and play cards, and stop, and get back on, and so on.  But, we are waiting to hear if we are needed in a few locations.
You have a choice of plenty of destinations nearby (Nantes, La Rochelle and all the way to Bordeaux). With relatively short train rides you won't really need to buy tickets in advance, since it won't win you much money.
10.  Going back to time in the motorhome.  I think it's likely we could use the train during those 30 days as well.
Why not? Maybe on some scenic rail lines (e.g. in Switzerland or Liguria)

With numerous opportunities to use the train or drive, can you help me determine, with your knowledge and experience with rail transportation, how one or the other is recommended?  And if it is train travel, does it appear that I will be traveling enough to justify a pass?
To be honest, for now it doesn't seem like you will need a pass, at least not the expensive ones offered to non-EU citizens. Maybe on couple occasions it will make sense to buy your train ticket in advance, but rest of the time you can simply buy before departure or use some local/regional pass or family travel offer.

Anyhow, I think that's all for round one of discussion. So take a look, maybe you have some additional questions or want to make some changes, etc. Also you can always check our "Country" specific page - , it will give a rough picture on what kind of rail travel offers you can rely in each country.

I've done extensive research but find myself unable to "get it" when it comes to train travel in Europe.
That's why we are here to share our knowledge and experience ;)
I have specific questions but checking to see if this is the correct area to post and if members here are a bit more patient?
Yep, just post your questions and if we are able to answer, then we'll try to help

Also, I was not able to register for the forum....until I changed the verification date to 2017.  Might want to look at that.
Oops...forgot to change it, but I guess it served as anti-spam filter, since bots couldn't figure it out )))

Just to add my two cents :)

First, make sure you are using the official Ukrainian Railways (UZ) website -, since there is a number of agencies which try to mimic it and sell you the same thing with extra commission. It's a rather common scam for Eastern Europe & Russia. Second, from the experience of traveling in Ukraine, on relatively short leg journeys (like Lviv-Khmelnitsky or Khmelnitsky-Lviv) and especially when there is plenty of trains, it's not really a must to purchase your ticket in advance. Obviously nobody forbids you to do it, but most likely you won't have any trouble buying it already in UA. While the situation with Lviv-Odesa & back is contrary, since it will be a high season & train to/from the seaside, buying your ticket as soon as possible (see Maxy's post on how far in advance) is a must, because otherwise you can end up with bad seats or no ticket at all. Third, remember that buses from Odesa to Chisinau travel via different routes (some via Transnistria, others directly to Moldova via Palanca).

The same question applies for the Iasi to Timisoara sleeper - will I have to wait until the new timetable in June?
Again, your website is, ticket sale starts 30 days in advance
I assume I can buy Timisoara to Budapest from MAV website as well?
Might be not a good idea, exactly because you won't be able to print your ticket anywhere else besides major stations in Hungary. Romanian Railways (CFR) basically sell the same type of tickets (discounted with limited number of ticket per departure) for 15 EUR, so-called TRIP ticket (unlimited number of tickets) for return journey for 27 EUR or regular one-way, which should cost you about 26,4 EUR. Or, as an alternative, you can save a bit by buying international one-way ticket Timisoara-Lőkösháza (first HU stations after the border) and then domestic Hungarian Lőkösháza-Budapest or even something like Lőkösháza-Esztergom/Komarno/Rajka to save on the international ticket HU-SK)

And does buying Bratislava to Chop (special cross border fare) save any money compared to Bratislava to Cierna nad Tisou + buy ticket at station to Chop?
Maxy already explained the numbers with Slovak Railways (ZSSK) here, but you can also go for a bit wild (however rather cheap) option like catching LeoExpress from Zilina with their connecting bus to Uzghorod/Mukachevo

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« on: February 07, 2018, 03:37:59 am »
This way if said buses aren't running or don't have enough people, I still will have my hotel there and can just do other trips as I see when I'm there or whatever.  Seems a lot less stressful with these Albanian buses.
Reasonable ;) Imho, it will just make sense to "feel the local spirit" ))) And then decide on whether (and where) to go on a day trip
Then I can just go back to Corfu, stay a night or two and then either fly or take a bus to Thessaloniki via Green Buses or fly back to Athens.  Both options are in my price range and flights are only about 50€-65€ and the Green Buses is only around 40€.
Well, with the overland option it might be possible to fit Ioannina as well or make a small cruise => go back to Athens via Patras/Peloponnese region. Anyhow, it's already more like secondary question that can be solved based on the deal you get on the overseas flight

Just seems a lot less stress free and less chances of being stranded with hotel bookings if a bus doesn't run, etc, plus is more straight forward that I'm not dealing with many connections transiting and spending a night here or there just to take another bus the next day for a connection.
Maybe it's a bit easier when travelling out of EU, but usually in such cases I just go with the option of reserving without paying. It might be slightly more expensive compared to the deals where guest needs to pay the full booking right away, but at the same time it gives certain flexibility (cancel/change without losing money). If it's not a high season, it's usually possible to book a decent room even a day or two in advance, so "sold out" isn't an issue either.

So I think I'll take your suggestion and just stick to Greece and Albania then this time.  You're a great help as usual (7 years in a row, minus the one year I went to Korea and China and wasn't on here)...
Thanks :) Maybe not always reply right away, but always try to suggest something to consider & think about )))

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« on: January 31, 2018, 03:14:03 am »
The other issue is that the buses from Skopje to Prizen (all 2 of them) both get there in the afternoon or evening, so that really doesn't make it possible for a day trip and I would end up having to spend the night.  Prizen to Tirana looks like they have direct buses though, but that would mean skipping Ohrid for Prizen. The only other option would be to just take a day trip to Pristina as they have many buses throughout the day or do the thing I hate the most and take an organized tour which does both cities from Skopje.
What about option Skopje-Pristina-Prizren with the early morning bus from Skopje? Making change in Pristina isn't super convenient, but it will still give you a decent half a day in Prizren. Another approach here is to get off the same Skopje-Pristina bus in Kacanik or Ferizaj (Uroshevac) and change there, meaning don't do the unnecessary deroute to Pristina at all. However here it makes sense to research local Kacanik/Ferizaj connections to Prizren.
Would be nice to get flights out near Sarande, but looking like Skopje & Tirana are the only cheap options that I'm seeing.
Hmm... did you consider option of simply flying out directly from Corfu with some low-cost airline? With something like Ryanair you should be able to catch Corfu-major mainland airport flight for the price of the ferry & domestic Albanian bus to Tirana. Meaning you just get your flight back with the start in Budapest, Rome, Frankfurt, etc. instead of Skopje or Tirana.

I just looked this all over again and found maybe this trip might be a little jammed with trying to do Kosovo as well.  Flights into Pristina are good and maybe it might be better to just do my 2 weeks in Kosovo (Pristina, Prizen), Macedonia (Skopje so I can do some hiking and any other day trips, Ohrid, Bitol maybe or somewhere else in the country) and then flying out of Thessaloniki, Greece instead (found a great airfare)?
Well, to me Albania seem to be more worthy than Macedonia, so I would probably do it like Kosovo-Albania-maybe quick trip to Ohrid from Albania and then finish with Corfu and mainland Greece

Any other suggestions in Macedonia for towns/cities I should stay or see if I do that?
To be honest, didn't travel much in Macedonia (only Skopje, Ohrid, Kicevo and the whole route along the Vardar river to Greece), never went to Bitola, Prilep or western part of the country. Just decided to spend more time in Albania & Greece instead, maybe it was a mistake, but at least then search for places to visit in Macedonia wasn't very impressive.

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« on: January 29, 2018, 08:18:07 pm »
Sorry for delay with the reply, it's not always easy to do so on the road :)

Fly into Skopje - for a few days
Macedonia is a nice country, however Skopje aren't it's most interesting place, thus my advice - don't plan more than 2 days for it. It's convenient as transport hub, but one day should be totally enough to see everything around, imho.
Day trip to Prizen via SAS (
SAS is just an abbreviation of Skopje bus station, while the actual carriers are various bus companies (e.g. Galeb as one of the biggest players on the market)
(using SAS again I hope, or Galeb if they are operating there in May)
Skopje-Ohrid is one of the popular domestic routes, so you wouldn't have to wait for more than an hour for the next bus, Galeb buses will definitely be there, but you can just take the nearest one and don't wait for this specific company ;) Also pay attention to the fact that in Macedonia r/t bus tickets are considerably cheaper than two one-way tickets. With Skopje-Ohrid it won't matter, since you will be going one-way only, but for Skoje-Prizren-Skopje it can save you a bit
I would consider actually staying over night in Prizen and then taking a bus to Ohrid as well if it's possible
Hmm... Kosovo is a bit black forest in terms of transport info, Tetovo & Gostivar areas are very Albanian populated, so one would expect some international connection there from Prizren, but haven't found any direct one to Ohrid. Maybe it can be Prizren-Tetovo and then Tetovo-Ohrid, though not necessarily it will be cheaper/faster then going via Skopje

Getting a taxi from the hotel to Struga (since it's easier to get the hotel to order a taxi so I don't get ripped off)
Good idea, but still check rough prices beforehand, since there is no guarantees that hotel desk don't have their own "pocket" overpriced taxis
Saranda - 4 or more nights
 - Ferry to Corfu for the day
 - Bus or Furgon to Ksamil for the day
 - Maybe Gjirokaster for the day
Good choice, plus flexibility of "4 or more nights" gives you an opportunity to change the plans a bit in case you get bored (adding some nearby destination) or not feeling like going anywhere
Back to Tirana
 - Probably using the Ioannina to Tirana bus (or the same one I came on)
You want to visit the mainland Greece (Ioannina) as well?

So does that look like a doable trip then with transit.
Yep, looks very reasonable and totally doable ;) 
That's my biggest thing is getting the right buses as Galeb contacted me saying they didn't operate any buses to a lot of places until the summer.  Just wanted to avoid using furgons for the longer trips.
Weird, maybe there was some misunderstanding. Just checking the bus station website for tomorrow and it clearly shows plenty of buses almost every hour -

For the FYR context Ohrid is a pretty big place, so shortage of bus connection with the capital is very unlikely. Maybe Galeb ment summer time international routes, but not year round domestic? Been there twice during the off-season and never had any trouble catching nearest bus

I would probably be going from Belgrade to Ulcinj  then to Budva and flying out of Podgorcia (skipping Bar).
Bar is for sure not the most interesting place out there (unless you want to see major port and some military ships). Budva is for the beach, right? Then would suggest to spare half a day for a side trip to Kotor (it's only 20 km away) + there is always mentioned earlier Sveti Stefan, which is even closer. So in case you get bored at the beach, just hop on the bus and make a couple hour trip.
So with what you stated about really nothing big in between, I'd probably just opt for the day train if possible.
Well, it's not really nothing, but perhaps more suitable for second-third visit to the region.
How safe is it to leave your bag while you go to the toilet?  I've never gone on a train more than a few hours so I've never had to carry luggage that long of a distance before.
In case of backpack or some small bag with the most valuable belongings (passport, wallet, cellphone, etc.) you definitely need to carry it with you, while with the suitcases and other big luggage you can just put it on the baggage shelf above the seats and most likely there will be somebody else (e.g. other tourists) in your compartment, so it will kind of ensure that nobody from outside will mess with your luggage.
What about eating/drinking cars, what does one do with their luggage so that it's safe on the train? 
It's kind of the same story as with the toilet, at least never seen anybody take the big luggage with them when going to eat. Imho, just see what kind of neighbors you have and then decide on whether to ask them to watch your things while you're gone or better not to risk it. Plus, I wouldn't be 100% sure that there will be a dining car on the train. It suppose to be present, but it's Serbia, thus you can't be totally certain, so anyway it's better to have some snack & water with you (just in case).

I think I've just heard the usual horror stories and wasn't quite sure how this would be for a long train trip?
Yep, but nowadays one should be careful pretty much anywhere, even in presumably safe Western Europe, so general precautions are the best choice here.

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« on: January 07, 2018, 08:49:56 pm »
As you can probably guess by looking at the rail network map of the region, rail option is almost entirely unavailable in this case. Trains in Albania are very slow and with foreigners it's mainly for hardcore rail fans ))) However buses & minibuses (so-called "furgons") entirely make up for absence of the proper rail transport. On the major routes buses/furgons are frequent and relatively cheap, the later will depart without strict timetable, but during the day (morning/afternoon) you won't wait for long, especially since you will be traveling rather touristic routes

Tirana-Ohrid: personally done this trip using Tirana-Pogradec-Tushemisht-Sveti Naum-Ohrid route (from Pogradec to the border in Tushemisht it was taxi, while on the Macedonia side bus). Probably you can take a taxi all the way from Pogradec to Ohrid, but it will cost at least 30 euro vs. 5 with taxi+bus option). Heard that there is also a ferry line during the season, but it will make sense to check whether it's actually running closer to the start of the season. Totally alternative option is to use travel agency & shuttle bus (directly from Tirana)
Ohrid-Sarandë: probably the trickiest journey. Option a) would be to come back to Elbasan/Tirana and travel the usual way with bus/furgon, while option b) would be to go Pogradec-Korçë-Sarandë (it seems there are some buses available)
Sarandë-Corfu: not as cheap as transport elsewhere in Albania, however very easy & simple, e.g. see
Sarandë-Shkallnur: again, super easy journey using bus/furgon going to Durres (it would be 5 or so hours trip), but if you have time you can also take a train from Vlore

Another option if flight prices allow it would maybe having Corfu - Sarandë - Ohrid - Shkallnur - Tirana or something if I can fly out of there with a good deal.
Imho, not a much of a difference, so you can easily just book cheaper flight option and then simply reverse your journeys     

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Venice to Zermatt by Train
« on: October 26, 2017, 02:48:58 pm »
... and are going with the risky move of making the 8:23am train from Milano Centrale, arriving at 10:16am in Brig.
Just for informational purposes make sure you take a look at Milan Central station plan - . This way you will save some transfer time when in Milan, since you'll already have some idea which direction to go. Also, in case you didn't purchase the Milan-Brig ticket yet, there is a legal trick to make it roughly 1/3 cheaper. TrenItalia's 32 euro Smart2 offer for the needed train on the 24th is more or less ok price for this part of Europe, however why not to save when you have a chance to use the same train for less money?

We also need to go from Zermatt to Geneva on December 26th, but once again, I think I need to wait until it's 30 days or less to book that trip, and we are (thankfully!) not on a time crunch with that one.
Probably your best option here is SBB (Swiss Railways) offer called SuperSaver ticket - (=basically a limited number of discounted tickets sold for the specific connection, unlike the standard price ticket valid for the route, meaning not tied to the particular departure). It's quite easy to catch SuperSaver tickets on the SBB website, especially if don't need to travel on the exact connection, but can move your departure +/-

I just need to wait to book the 10:27am train to Zermatt (as it's not open for booking on the SBB site yet), and then done!
Btw, SuperSaver tickets are also available on Brig-Zermatt connection, however here it's a bit trickier to catch, but if you have time for the "hunt" 30 days before the journey, then why not to save money here as well? Swiss railways are expensive, so saving those 50% is a good deal

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Venice to Zermatt by Train
« on: October 25, 2017, 08:55:35 am »
However, underneath the timetables it says "runs not every day, 25. Oct until 9. Dec 2017" so I'm not sure if it's going to be running on the day we need.
That's a usual note regarding trains in the time period around schedule change. Actually you can already see & book for Dec.24 your first leg, i.e. Venice-Milan, since it's a high-speed train (unlike local/regional trains, e.g. one to Domodossola, for which timetable usually appears later, especially in countries like Italy) --->

That's the official website of the Italian railways (TrenItalia) and as you can see yourself, there still a chance to book relatively cheap discounted tickets starting from 19,9 euro

It also looks like there's an 11:27am train from Brig to Zermatt, putting us in Zermatt at 12:51pm. Perfect! One final question, though - is 10 minutes enough time to get from the platform we're dropped off at in Brig to the other train to Zermatt? I'm not sure how large the station is, so I don't know if that's a feasible turnaround time, even if we run.
Totally enough, the station in Brig isn't very big + Switzerland is one of those countries, where most of trains are "connected", meaning that if one is a bit late, then the other is waiting, so that transit passengers can safely make their change.

As an additional note, it seems like when starting from Venice with 5:40am train you have a chance to be in Brig already 10:16 (which means in Zermatt at 11:51am). It can be done if you don't wait in Milan for regional 2144 to Domodossola (departs 8:29), but catch faster Eurocity #32 Milan-Geneva (via Brig) departing 8:23. It's a bit risky time wise, since Milan central station is rather big one, however winning a entire hour is also a lucrative option.

Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Venice to Zermatt by Train
« on: October 18, 2017, 08:04:58 pm »
Is there an overnight option from Venice to Zermatt?
Not really and can't even remember whether there was one over the last 10-15 years. Venice rather traditionally has an overnight connection to Austria, Munich & France, thus basically avoiding Switzerland from west & east. However with your preference it's not really necessary to spend the night on the train, see below why.
I've read tons of information about the Venice > Milan > Brig > Zermatt route, as well as the Venice > Bologna > Visp > Zermatt route, but when I actually search for the trains, I can't seem to find what I'm looking for.
Do you search for Dec.23/24? The story here is that in most of the European countries occurs train timetable change around mid December, thus as of now not all the rail companies yet have the full schedule, which means that ticket sale might not have started yet (epecially in case your journey includes slower regional non high-speed trains). However at the moment you can simply choose a closer date and just roughly see what will be available after the new timetable, it will give a general idea what to expect. Rather user friendly website to see the train schedules in Europe is German Railways website - (it will show you what you need)

We don't mind spending the night on the train at all, but I would like to arrive in Zermatt no later than 2 or 3pm on Christmas Eve, and even earlier if at all possible.
Well, you can start from Venice around 6am and be in Zermatt around 1pm (or start at 8am and be there at 3 pm). It will be the obvious route via Milan & Brig. Or, in case you don't want to overpay for extra night in Venice (with it's rather pricey accommodation), you can for instance leave Venice in the evening, then spend a cheaper night somewhere in between and then on early morning continue your journey (most obvious choice for an overnight stopover here would be Milan, this way you can e.g leave Venice around 8pm and be in Zermatt already around 11am while spending good 7 hours in a hotel bed, but if you want you can make the stopover elsewhere in the region as well)

N.B. after you make a decision regarding the travel option you'd prefer we can also recommend what will be the most affordable combination of tickets to cover your journey 

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