Up-to-date travel advice: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic
September 12, 2015 12:31 PM   Subscribe

we're leaving next week for a US to Germany [Munich] to Austria to Czech Republic [Prague]. Our plan was to use train travel--how difficult is this with current events and great numbers of people seeking refuge across Europe? Are there English language websites that would provide us with reliable information? Any other advice for us? Hitch-hiking is not an option. thank you
posted by calgirl to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I use the trains to get around Germany all the time, including yesterday, and they're running exactly the same as always. I'm not as far south as Munich but I was on the main ICE line to Munich, and it wasn't even running late for a change.

bahn.de has travel advisories when necessary on their main German language website which disappears when you hit the button to change it to English. So I just run it through google translate to figure out the problem.
posted by shelleycat at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2015

Best answer: For European rail information, you really can't beat Seat61.com. It's exhaustive and constantly updated.

There is some congestion (very busy trains, issues at stations) in Hungary, on trains going to Austria and Germany. Hungary is the main entry point for refugees coming into Europe via the so-called 'Balkans route'. However, the issues are very localised. Unless you're on those routes specifically, which your itinerary suggests you're not, you likely won't have any problems. There's a whole country between Hungary and the Czech Republic (Slovakia) and the refugees aren't exactly touring around - they're making a beeline for countries which have indicated they will be (slightly) more receptive to their plight. And honestly, while the crisis is making for grim news, the numbers aren't more than a drop in the bucket next to the tens of millions of people who take trains in European countries every day. We're not talking post-WWII movement of people here, as much as that's the comparison the rolling news channels like to make.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:16 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The absolute best English language site for train travel in Europe is The Man in Seat 61. He has some news on the current situation, as well.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:17 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What exactly are you concerned about? Making your way through the various stations? Being unable to travel through a particular station? They aren't actually closed, they just stopped large groups of 'helpers/supporters' from hanging out in Munich main station as a temporary measure last weekend because of overcrowding. And there are at least two mainline stations in Munich so unless you are a bit more specific what you're trying to confirm it's quite difficult to be helpful. Personally I live in Zurich and would not have any concerns hopping on a train tomorrow to travel to Munich or Austria. There are not large groups of homeless refugees roaming the cities you're probably planning to visit.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:19 PM on September 12, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far...
to clarify....with no way to get a handle on the scope of events from the news sound bites, I was hoping and glad to hear from folks who are traveling those train routes. My main concern was the stations themselves [since it was widely reported that Munich station had come to a stand-still].
I am used to traveling in big cities so I don't have concerns there.
And I recognize that travel is always an adventure with much to learn and many people to meet.
posted by calgirl at 4:24 PM on September 12, 2015

Best answer: My understanding (writing this from Zürich) is that the city and station police in Munich have the station running relatively smoothly, separating newly-arrived refugees from main traffic as soon as the trains pull in. The refugees are quickly processed and moved to Olympiahalle or other locations. They have also had many days of this to get effective systems in place and provide additional trains and buses to mitigate the crowded stations and overpacked trains. So I don't think you will have any trouble in Munich, and you will be travelling away while everyone else is travelling towards it from Austria, or being diverted to the north without disembarking. There aren't many bottlenecks in the European rail system.

If you are planning to travel through Vienna, though, I'm not sure what you can expect there. There has been much in the news about Munich as the main reception point but little about Vienna. However my understanding is that it's a waypoint only and refugees are travelling straight through without disembarking. You may get some delays as they process extra trains, but I wouldn't expect anything significant.

The Eurail news page might be helpful, it's in English for holders of the Eurail travel pass. Right now things look pretty good for the places you plan to go.
posted by tracicle at 1:33 AM on September 13, 2015

Best answer: I left Munich on Saturday by train and no issues at all. On the way into Munich via train, it was neat to see the fantastic welcome arriving refugees received. The station and city do seem to have a good system in place.
posted by ugf at 1:44 AM on September 13, 2015

Best answer: The problem there is on the Austria to Germany route, in the opposite direction to the one you're traveling (assuming you do not plan to travel that route on the way back from Prague, that is, but that you're flying back from Prague to the US). So you shouldn't have any major issues (like delays, overcrowded stations, stopped trains etc.) in traveling out of Germany into Austria, and then to Prague, which unlike Budapest is not affected (and you could still travel to Budapest anyway).

If on the other hand you are traveling back from Prague to Germany via Austria by train, well, who knows what it will be like in a week, they were talking about organising buses to reduce the strain on rail networks and stations, but just today Germany has announced the reintroduction of border controls and temporarily stopped all trains from Austria. It's unlikely to last longer than one day though. Keep in mind LOTS of people routinely travel the Austria-Germany stretch by train, in both directions, not just for leisure but for business too.

On top of previous suggestions, do a quick search on Twitter for a combination of your keywords there - germany trains austria, münich trains vienna, vienna trains prague. Plenty of people reporting updated news and announcements on the situation in English.
Also on google news, same keywords, quite a few updated sources there too.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My family just got back from a trip to those three countries the other month! I don't have time to read through this thread, are there any questions or concerns you still have? We flew into Frankfurt and drove down to Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg, with side-trips to Würzburg, Hohenwerfen Castle, Eisreisenwelt (world's largest ice cave), and the Liechtensteinklamm (a waterfall). Feel free to MeMail me, sometimes I lose track of threads when I'm super busy (i.e. now).
posted by Devika at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2015

We had bought train tickets Vienna to Budapest for Sep 20 while in USA. For a couple of weeks before that the trains stopped at the border and put you out on your own. And those in the opposite direction coming from Budapest did the same thing. We read at least one horror story of ordinary tourists being badly treated by people on both sides of the border. So we booked bus travel for the same trip, got assurances that it was OK and the cost was 19 Euros each. Bus left at better time than train, way cheaper, and just pleasant all the way.
posted by fkeese at 5:11 PM on October 8, 2015

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