This guide to taking trains within and to/from Hungary will tell you the less obvious things that are worth knowing about the tickets, the trains and the stations.
MAV is the national railway operator and it operates virtually all trains in Hungary (a notable exception are the trains in the area around Sopron).
Hungarian trains and stations may not be comparatively modern, but train travel in the country is relatively uncomplicated.
The five most pertinent things to be aware of when travelling long-distance by train in Hungary are:
(1) On the departure boards the type of train, including the IC trains, are listed in the 'Vonat' column.
The departure time = 'Ido' and the platform/track number is in the 'Vágány' column.
(2) The fastest domestic trains are IC express trains and they share some routes with international EC and Railjet trains.
That’s because the international EC and Railjet trains to/from Budapest inevitably call at other Hungarian towns and cities, as they travel between the capital and the border.
(3) For journeys between these Hungarian towns/cities by EC and Railjet trains, MAV applies the same rules (terms and conditions) including mandatory reservations, as it does to domestic IC trains.
(4) However, different rules apply to international train journeys to/from Hungary, and it's particularly useful to be aware of this difference if you will be using Eurail or InterRail passes.
Seats don't have to be reserved when travelling between Hungary and Austria, The Czech Republic and Germany, but ARE compulsory on journeys to Croatia, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia and on ALL overnight trains.
(5) However, all discounted international tickets, which can be booked online, ARE seat specific, so when making an online booking for journeys by any type of international service, you will be informed that reservations are compulsory.
The only trains in Hungary that have any on board catering facilities are some of the EC trains (but not all) and the Railjets on the Budapest – Gyor – Wien/Vienna route.
Therefore you need to buy food and drink prior to boarding an IC train in Hungary and take it on to the train with you.
Don’t rely on buying food/drink at the stations, you can generally save money and find better quality items if you use shops nearby.
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Five things which are good to know about booking Hungarian train tickets:
(1) You can usually save only the equivalent of around €2 by booking tickets online for journeys by IC trains, and for journeys within Hungary by EC or Railjet trains,
(2) But it doesn't matter how far ahead you book, the online prices are fixed, so you won't save money by booking months or weeks in advance.
(3) If you want to book at stations, the best option can be using the ticket machines, as ticket counter staff may not speak English.
The large ‘yellow’ ticket machines at stations have good English translations and step-by-step instructions in English.
(4) MAV’s online ticket booking service is in near permanent 'beta mode', but multiple clients have successfully used it to book tickets.
(5) A higher price (a supplement) is charged for journeys by IC train – and for domestic journeys within Hungary by EC and Railjet trains.
These ‘supplements’, which are in effect reservation fees, are included in the ticket price when booking online or at stations.
As a result all tickets for these domestic express train journeys are seat specific.
A feature of travelling by train in Hungary is the plethora of discounts that are available for certain groups such as youths, families and senior citizens.
They are a legacy of when the state rail system was operated under the communist system.
International visitors to Hungary also qualify for these discounts, so have proof of age with you when booking at stations.
These discounts are also available when booking online, but if you have qualified for a discount, don’t forget to have your proof of age (passport) with you when making a journey.
Children aged 3 and under travel for free (they need to sit on an adult's lap).
Children aged 3 -5 travel for free if they sit in an adult's lap, but 50% of the adult rate if they occupy a seat.
Children aged 6 -14 travel at 50% of the adult rate.
Dive into the info to see how to travel to and from Hungary by train
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