Tour Reviews

Bicycle Tour from Budapest to Krakow

Here is our review - Thanks again to TravelSlovakia for offering a really good tour through your beautiful country. We really enjoyed it and you may hear from us again for a future trip!

Who we are: A couple from western Canada (ages 48 & 59), regular cyclists (on road, including some touring and off road – mountain), somewhat above average fitness level, competent with bike maintenance and repair.

What we booked:

Ten-day self-guided cycling trip from Budapest to Krakow including nine nights in local pensions en route, with dinner and breakfast (known as “half board”) plus bicycle rental. TravelSlovakia also provided an android GPS with thorough details of the journey accessible off line.

What was included:

Pre-trip: Screen captures of all the maps from the GPS, names of all pensions. Lots of timely answers to our many pre-trip questions! (Thank you Lenka!)
During the trip: Delivery of bicycles and necessary accessories (locks, spare tubes, tools, spare brake pads (!), 1reflective vests and ankle straps), hard-copy of confirmation coupon for all Pensions (confirming half board and secure bike storage), and print-outs of all maps in plastic sleeves organized by each day - to the place we were staying in Budapest. (Thank you Lucia and Jakob!). TravelSlovakia also provided contact information so we could text or phone en route if needed (and we did – for a luggage transfer, detail later in the review).
After the trip: Pick-up of bicycles from the place we were staying in Wieliczka, time to debrief and discuss the journey. We were encouraged to follow up with additional questions and to provide a review. (Thank you Martin!)
What was also included - but we chose to decline: Daily transfers of our luggage from one pension to the next, plus two transfers for us and the bikes – on Day 7 (Banska Bystrica to Liptovska Osada) and on Day 10 from Zakopane into Krakow.

What Worked:

The bicycles were equipped with lockable front suspension and seat-post shocks. Both were appreciated, as the journey covered exceptionally varied terrain (ranging from hard sand, to gravel, to rocky goat-paths, to pavement, which was very smooth in some sections and very rough in others).
We brought our own clipless pedals and shoes that helped a lot on the longer, harder accents. We also brought our own helmets (recommended by TravekSlovakia), small backpacks with hydration systems and blinking red LED tail lights which we always used on the busier roads. TravelSlovakia offered basic bike tools, but we had our own.
The GPS App (“Locus Maps Pro” ) was excellent. It kept us on track and we seldom had to backtrack from any wrong turns - highly recommended. The daily routes were all pre-programmed and the App was quite user-friendly. We are grateful to TravelSlovakia for insisting we take the android GPS. Staying on course for some of the more interesting twists and turns would have been very challenging (if not impossible) with paper maps (thank you Lenka!).
Daily distances were well paced, leaving us with (almost all days) a bit of energy at the end of the ride to do a little exploring in the area. The trip started with a couple of relatively short, level days along the Danube (Duna), increasing on Day 3 to more hilly terrain followed by more mountainous ascents, but correspondingly shorter distances.
The exception was Day 7 and this was due to our having declined the half-day vehicle transfer for us and our bikes. When we realized the challenge of the terrain (1900 m elevation gain) and the distance (~75 km), we called TravelSlovakia the day before to ask if they could take our luggage (panniers) to the end-of-day destination (for a fee). This short-notice request was accommodated promptly and executed efficiently (thank you Lenka!).
Accommodations were (all but one) excellent. Staff were helpful and friendly. The exception was perfectly acceptable, just not as exceptional as the rest. Some beds were more comfortable than others, but this is to be expected. Without exception, all accommodations were very clean and well appointed.
Food was also (with one exception) excellent. Dinners ranged from coupons of a fixed value at participating local restaurants to in-house meals from the entire menu, to “half-board” menus from which we could choose. Breakfasts were buffet style, always more than adequate. One of us is vegetarian, and had no trouble meeting protein requirements with the breakfast buffets provided.
Vegetarian dinners were often provided also, as TravelSlovakia had called ahead to request this (a much appreciated extra on short notice - as we forgot to mention this during the booking process!)

What could have been better:

The bicycles themselves were sturdy, but heavy- more suited for flat holiday biking rather than climbing in the Tatras with loaded panniers. The bike brakes were rim-type rubber pad brakes, not well suited for the steep descents when loaded – they wore out quite quickly and had to be changed en route. (TravelSlovakia provided two pairs of spare brake pads at the start of our trip). Disc brakes would be better.
One bicycle had not been cleaned or serviced prior to delivery. They were in adequate condition for town rides, but not ready for a 500 km trip. (We spent several hours prior to departure tightening loose screws, adjusting derailleur’s and pannier racks, cleaning and lubricating chains...) Both bikes were equipped with mud-guards that were much appreciated in the final two days of rainy weather.
The inner tubes provided had the wrong type of valve for one of the bicycles (the one that got multiple flats). Discovering this was very annoying – as it was difficult (impossible) to patch a tire in the pouring rain!
One saddle was very hard and more suited for smooth roads/racing style. After suffering for four days, we broke down and purchased a saddle at our own expense - which we left on the bike for the comfort of its next rider!. The one exception to the great overnight stops was at the end of Day 3 in Dudince, where the pension seemed to cater more to bus-loads and less to individual travellers. We arrived at about 5:30 pm and were told that dinner would only be available until 6 pm (leaving us in a rush for showering and unwinding for a few minutes before a meal). They were helpful with all requests, but they were not as hospitable or flexible as all the other pensions.
Probably due to lack of alternatives, some of the daily GPS routes guided us onto larger, faster and somewhat more hazardous roads (narrow, winding, no shoulder, lots of trucks and buses). These sections were doable, but definitely not suitable for the meek rider and/or children.

Suggestions/recommendations for TravelSlovakia:

Supply travellers with blinking clip-on LED red lights, or advise them to bring.
Give the bikes a thorough servicing prior to renting them out.
Make sure the valve stems on the spare inner tubes are compatible with the rims on the bikes.

Janne and Chip from Canada

- rating 4

Self-guided Bicycle Tour from Budapest to Krakow

Hi Lenka,

Thank you very much for the excellent holiday we really enjoyed the bike tour and the weather was very good. We were glad that it was not too hot for the cycling but was very nice when we had time to relax and to visit some of the beautiful towns in your country. You have a beautiful country and I hope that you will have an increase in the number of tourists that are visiting.
It was always spotlessly clean and everyone was very welcoming and helpful. The transport of the luggage worked well and all the gps information made it easy to find the route and to find the accommodation.
The following more detailed feedback is given as suggestions that you may wish to consider that we would ask for if we were to do the trip again. Some of the suggestions are therefore individual to us and we understand that other people may have different views. I hope you will find them helpful but please remember that overall we had a great time and were very happy with your service.

Day 1 Budapest - Szentendre
No problems getting out of Budapest route worked well and was mainly on cycle paths. Advise it is best to stick to GPS route – we took the trail through the forest (waymarked) and found it to be muddy, unpleasant and we got bitten by flies.
Hotel Mathias Rex
Found hotel without too much problem nice comfortable room, good amenities, welcoming. Gave us a voucher to go to a restaurant for half board meal – it was OK but could have been better. Breakfast was in hotel and was very good.

Day 2 Szentendre - Esztergom
Route was mainly on main road – we had cycled in this area before and choose to take a different route. We did about 72 km.
We took a bridge just after Tahitotfalu then cycled along a quite road to Vác (short ferry trip 1600 huf for 2 people). Vác is very pretty and we had a lunch stop there in the lovely square and visited a market selling local produce.
We then cycled along the north side of the Danube – excellent cycle path all the way to Nagymaros. We took the ferry to Visegrad (short ferry trip 1600 huf for 2). We visited the castle at Visegrad and then cycled on the main route to Esztergom.
Accommodation was easy to find and half board was very nice.

Day 3 Esztergom-Dudince
The road was quite busy and not very pretty – perhaps you could look to see if there is an alternative route for this day. We did find a nice café (Honey restaurant and shop where we took refuge from the rain).
Park Hotel – we had a nice room but felt it was quite isolated and we had a cycle up to Dudince and thought that it would be much better to be in one of the hotels in the centre where there were more activities and more to see. Food was basic and fixed times.

Day 4 and Day 5 Dudince-Banska Stiavnica
Much better cycle route this day – it was great to be on quieter roads with less traffic. Hotel Grand Matej – this was a lovely hotel with a lovely restaurant and we enjoyed staying for 2 nights. We did the cycle route for the day 5 and enjoyed it very much. Got back to hotel by 2pm so had plenty of time to enjoy the local town and visit the castle and market square.

Day 6 Banska Stiavnica-Banska Bystrica
Easy cycle this day and roads were nice and quite (perhaps because it was Sunday?). We missed the castle in Kremnica but found the wooden church in Hronsek. The route through Banska Bystrica to the accommodation was not so nice and when we explored the old town on foot we thought that it would have been quite easy to find a cycle route through the old town to the accommodation. Accommodation was nice and food was very good on half board.

Day 7 Banska Bystrica-Liptovsky Mikulas
The main road when it was dual carriage way was not too bad but it was busy when it became a single carriage way – I don’t think there is an alternative route for this day so it is just necessary to cope with the busy road. Through the second mountain pass the roads were somewhat quieter. Just after the first mountain pass there was a ski resort where there were cafes and restaurants that were very good for a stop. Pension Fontana this was a nice place to stay and the food was also good here.

Day 8 Liptovsky Mikulas-Habovka
Route was fine this day and pension Milka the lady was very kind and the room was nice and the lady made a lot of effort to give us a nice meal in the evening – There was nothing to do in the evening. When we cycled the next day through Oravice we thought it would have been much better to stay there on Day 8 as there was more to do and see.

Day 9 Habovka-Zakopane
The route was fine this day – it was very busy in Zakopane and it was difficult to find the hotel as the GPS took us to a different hotel. hotel Skalny was lovely and had great spa facilities. We had a lovely room and the food was very good.

Day 10 Zakopane-Krakow
We choose to cycle to Krakow and you very kindly gave us the route on the GPS. It was a busy road and we did feel a bit vulnerable at times on the road. We had to cycle on the motorway for about 4 kms towards Myslenice we don’t think this was legal. We also found a quieter road through Wiatrowice where the roads were much nicer and quieter to cycle. Coming into Krakow we did manage to find some cycle paths but it was difficult and the roads were busy. Perhaps there would be a better alternative route with more cycle paths. We were glad we had cycled all the way to Krakow but I am not sure we would want to do it again.

Sheena from UK

- rating 4