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Urban Environments & Culture in Eastern Europe

Traveling throughout countries in Eastern European and learning about their complicated and sometimes dark recent history, one might be surprised at how brightly and colorfully they have emerged in the modern era. Your journey will be one of stark contrasts: between capitalism and communism, between tradition and progress, and between profound sadness and hopeful exuberance. 





Let’s get the paperwork out of the way so we can focus on the fun stuff. Your passport must:

·       be valid for at least six months after your return.

·       match your name and birthday on file with EF.

·       have three blank pages available.

Non-US citizens may require a visa—visit to see if you need one.

Traveler tip: Make two photocopies of your passport - one to bring with you and one to leave at home.

Not to sound cliché, but we can’t say this enough: pack light! Check with your airline to see what size bags they allow to avoid paying any fees.

Most travelers find it easiest to go without checking bag. Here are some tips for getting as much as possible into that carry-on suitcase:

  • Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack the lighter ones. Same thing goes for jackets and heavier clothing.

  • Packing cubes or vacuum seal bags can save space and help you stay organized.

  • Make the most of your personal item by using a tote bag or backpack that you can reuse throughout the trip.

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Pack the bigger items first and use smaller items like socks and underwear to fill in the gaps.

To see a full packing list, check out our Pocket Guide to Expert Travel. Just make sure you don’t forget these: 

  • Passport—bring a photo copy and leave one at home too

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • ATM card and credit card

  • Entertainment for the plane and travel days

  • Purse or small day bag with a zipper 

  • Converter/adapter for any electronics

  • Toiletries

  • Washcloth—optional, but they aren’t always available

  • Medications and a copy of any prescriptions*

  • Comfortable, casual clothingcheck the weather before you pack!

  • Dressier outfit

  • Raincoat and umbrella

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Comfortable walking shoes—for example, one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals

  • Warm layers

  • A scarf or shawl—required when entering religious sites

  • EF's emergency numbers

    • ​Calling from within the US: 1-800-873-2250

    • Calling from abroad: 001-617-619-2913

*All medications should be in their original containers. Put medications in your carry-on bag only, in case a checked bag gets lost or delayed.

The best things in the world are free (like capturing the perfect panoramic photo from Prague's Charles Bridge). Still, a little spending money can go a long way while you're abroad:

  • Mo' money, less problems: Budget $40 to $60 per day for pocket money. This will cover lunch each day, five dinners, souvenirs, and additional activities. If you’re an especially avid souvenir hunter, you’ll want to give yourself more wiggle room—financially and in your suitcase.

  • Currency: You can exchange money before you leave, but we recommend just withdrawing some cash from an ATM when you arrive in each city.

    • Hungary: Hungarian Forints

    • Slovakia (your group might stop here en route from Budapest to Krakow, time permitting) Euro

    • Poland: Polish Zloty

    • Czech Republic: Czech Crown

  • Tips for tipping: We suggest $6-$8 per day for your Field Director. Your Group Leader will likely collect this money before you depart so that you can budget accordingly.

P.S. Be sure to let your bank know you’ll be traveling so they can put an alert on your account and inform you of any international fees.

Imagine it: you’ve finally arrived. It’s been a few hours since you left home, but your feet are firmly planted on the ground again. Today’s challenge? Fight off jetlag and make the most of the day.

Unless you arrive at night, be prepared to hit the ground running. Staying awake on arrival day is the best way to fight jet lag and adjust to any time difference. If there are other groups on your program, you may wait at the airport for them to arrive. To make things a bit easier:

  • Pack toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on for when you land.

  • Stay hydrated—it helps reduce jetlag.

  • Travel in comfort, not necessarily in style, and get as much sleep as you can on the flight before.

Your dedicated Field Director—a physical and cultural guide—will be with you throughout your program. Our Field Directors work tirelessly behind the scenes to coordinate logistics like managing reservations and making sure everything flows seamlessly, so that you can enjoy your time without sweating the details. They are there to acquaint you with each new city and make sure everyone is safe, confident, and making the most of every moment.

You’ll spend very little time at your hotel (mostly catching some sleep), but you should still be aware of where you’re staying and who you’re staying there with.

  • Hotel du jour: Country-hopping means hotel-hopping, but don’t worry; each hotel is safe, clean, comfortable, and equipped with private bathrooms. Hotels are typically 30–45 minutes from the city center via public transit or bus, which comes in handy if you want to check out different areas and blend in with the locals.

  • What to expect: Hotels abroad may feature smaller rooms than you’re used to and may not have air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, television, or elevators. All the more reason to get out and explore.

  • Roomies: Unless you have opted to upgrade your room, standard accommodations mean you’ll be rooming with two or three other people of the same gender, each with your own bed.  You may even take part in an exchange program—that is, rooming with a traveler(s) from another school in your group.

Traveler tip: Electrical outlets in different countries may be different from the ones we're used to. Make sure you research what type of converter and/or adapter is needed for your travels! 

You should expect food and portion size to be different than what you're accustomed to at home. Kick off each day with an included continental breakfast. Three dinners will be included, too. We work with local restaurants to provide a pre-set menu that includes 2-3 course plated meals inspired by the region, giving you the opportunity to experience authentic dishes. Other dinners and lunches are your opportunity to explore the cuisine as you see fit.

You will experience the culinary traditions of three different countries. All three are known for rich, satisfying foods, sure to keep you full and energized throughout your adventures.

  • Hungarians love their paprika. Try a homemade Goulash or Chick Paprikash for a warm and delicious dinner.

  • Poland is the birthplace of bagels and pierogis. Be sure to try both while in Krakow.

  • In Prague, try a Trdelnik, a sweet pastry filled with ice cream - they're easy to find in the city center.

Traveler tip: When dining out in Prague, stray a few blocks away from the city center to avoid being overcharged for things that might typically be complementary like condiments and table water.

Since teleportation hasn’t been
 invented yet, you’ll need these to get from point A to point B (and C and D and E).

  • Flights: Overnight to Budapest and home from Prague.

  • Bus: Main mode of transportation on the ground.

  • Public transportation: Public transportation passes are included in Budapest and Prague for some included activities and exploration time.

  • Walking: Hands down the best way to explore a new city. Be ready to walk a ton (we're talking 5-7 miles per day) to see as much as possible. 

You will explore three cities in ten days, so this program will feel fast! In order to maximize your time each day, you will leave the hotel bright and early and return some time in the evening (or later if you’re feeling adventurous). Most days will be a combination of planned activities and exploration time with some days being busier than others. You'll have a mix of time on the bus, public transportation, and walking to get around. Be prepared to walk between 5-7 miles per day.

You'll spend 2-3 nights in each hotel before moving on to the next, meaning there’s no time to waste! Transfer days can mean long bus rides where you can rest and recharge. Just be ready to hit the ground running in each new place.

Traveler tip: Arrival day will feel like the longest day on your program, we recommend sleeping on the plane as much as possible to be ready to hit the ground running.

Exploration time can vary depending on a few factors: the number of planned activities, whether or not your group has decided to add any optional excursions, and general travel variables like traffic. How you spend your exploration time is entirely up to you. You could sit in a café and people-watch, grab a few friends and discover a new part of the city, or do some souvenir shopping. On busier days, you might just have enough exploration time for a quick lunch.

Here is a rough breakdown of exploration time on your itinerary:

  • Budapest: Half day

  • Krakow: Half day (2)

  • Prague: Full day, half day

There is so much to see and do, so do some research and plan ahead. If you need inspiration, here are our exploration time suggestions:

  • Relax in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest

  • Visit Schindler’s Factory museum in Krakow

  • Stroll the Charles Bridge and browse the artist stalls and street performers* in Prague

*You will be expected to tip a small fee when observing or taking photos of street performers.

Traveler tip: If you choose to partake in the nightlife/drinking culture, be sure to check out the ruin bars of Budapest (buildings partially destroyed by war that have been converted into bars and nightclubs) and the pilsner breweries of Prague (Pilsner originated in the Czech Republic!).

When in Hungary, carry coins! It's common that small shops don't take credit or debit card, so you'll need to have cash and coins handy.

Hungarians generally keep over an arm’s length of personal space. The distance may be greater when speaking with strangers. It is best to observe each person’s preference for personal space and adjust accordingly.

Food is very important to many Hungarians as they take great pride in their delicacies and cuisine. It may be considered  impolite to leave food on the plate. This can be interpreted as an indication that you are dissatisfied with the food that was served.

Hungarians view eye contact as a sign of sincerity and believe that people who cannot look them in the eye while speaking have something to hide.

Poland is a country with thousand-year history and has maintained strong bonds to traditions, despite the effects of World War II. Be mindful of bringing up history and politics as people may be sensitive to these topics.

The Polish can speak quite matter-of-factly and are generally comfortable with directness.

Lateness can be a sign of bad manners or carelessness. People are expected to be punctual in professional and social situations. Be mindful of being on time for scheduled activities, meals and meet-up times communicated by your Field Director.

Czech people value direct communication, friendliness and modesty.

It is common for people to say hello and goodbye to strangers in various situations; such as entering/exiting a shop or in an elevator. 

Please note that this guide is for the ten-day version of this program. Ask your Group Leader for details regarding the two-day extension to Vienna.

We’re here to help

Our team has heard it all so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Call us at 877-485-4184 between Monday and Friday, 9:00am-5:30pm EST.