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A MAV IC train in Budapest-Keleti station

Hungary

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.

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The Danube viewed from a train near Vac The Danube viewed from a train near Vac
Boarding a train at Budapest-Keleti station Boarding a train at Budapest-Keleti station
The departure board at Budapest-Nyugati station The departure board at Budapest-Nyugati station
Gorgeous Budapest-Keleti station Gorgeous Budapest-Keleti station

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.

Temporary Covid-19 Changes:

MAV is the national rail operator in Hungary and it has no Corona travel advice page on its website, so presumably there are no special restrictions applied to travelling by train in Hungary.

Some international train services are still being impacted as per the information available here.
The key on-going amendments are:

  • The daytime EC train service between Budapest and Cluj-Napoca in Romania remains suspended
  • Only two train per day are available in each direction on the Budaoest <> Kosice route.
  • Sleeping cabins aren't available on the 'EuroNight trains to Munchen/Munich and Zurich.
  • Couchettes aren't available on the overnight trains between Budapest and Berlin, Praha and Warsaw.

Good to know:

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.

On train catering:

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.

Notes on the ticketing:

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) If you do use MAV’s online ticket booking service you’ll be sent a reference number by email.
You will need to enter this reference number into a ticket machine at the station when you arrive in Hungary.

You will also need to insert the card you used when making an online booking, so make sure you have it with you.
You won’t be charged by the machine, the payment will be taken shortly after making the online booking.

(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.

Discounts for travellers:

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.

Child tickets:

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.

International rail routes from Hungary:

Trains from Hungary
Aside from the Railjet trains to and from Austria, most of the international trains from and to Hungary have a retro-aura.
But don't let that put you off, these trains can be comparatively spacious and comfortable.

As a result travelling by train to and from Hungary can be a more memorable experience, than being sealed inside a high speed train and being whizzed across a border.

to Austria (and Germany & Switzerland

Most of the trains from Hungary to Austria take one of three routes.

(1) via Hegyeshalom

This is the only border crossing on which the long-distanced express trains travel from Hungary to Austria.
The FOUR train services which come this way are:

(1) Railjets which take this route; Budapest – Gyor – Wien/Vienna – St Polten – Linz – Salzburg* – Munchen/Munich
Connect in Munich for ICE trains to multiple destinations including Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg, Koln/Cologne, Nurnberg and Stuttgart.
*One Railjet per day follows this route as far as Salzburg and then from there takes this route; Innsbruck > Feldkirch > Buchs > Zurich providing an option for travelling by day by train from Hungary to Switzerland.

(2) During the day in the hours when no Railjet to Wien/Vienna is scheduled, Hungarian IC/EC trains (which are in effect Hungarian InterCity trains) also take the Budapest – Wien/Vienna route.
The morning departure is the overnight train from Buccuresti, which conveys seats for daytime use.
One of these trains to Wien/Vienna has commenced its journey at Cluj Napoca in Romania and makes calls at cities in eastern Hungary including Püspökladány and Szolnok. (This service is currently suspended)
Another of these trains makes an early morning departure from Debrecen and also calls in Szolnok.

(3) A couple of regional REX trains per day travel from Gyor to Wien/Vienna.

(4) The overnight trains from Budapest to Munchen/Munich and Zurich.
However, these trains travel through Austria in the middle of the night, though the train to Zurich does make a morning call in Feldkirch.
(For the time being the overnight train from Budapest to Munich/Munchen is operating with no sleeping cars.

(2) via Sopron

On Monday – Friday* hourly regional trains depart Sopron for Wiener-Neustadt, the journey between the two cities only takes around 40mins

Sopron is served by frequent trains from Szombathely; and Wiener Neustadt has frequent trains to Wien/Vienna, as well as trains heading south to Bruck an der Mur, Graz and Klagenfurt.
*Less frequent trains take this route at weekends.

(3) via Szentgotthard

A new daily IC train departs Budapest-Keleti at 16:15 and takes a Budapest - Gyor - Szombathely - Szentgotthard - Graz route.

Also up to seven local trains per day from the Hungarian border town, Szentgotthard travel to Graz.
Szentgotthard is served by trains from Szombathely.

to Croatia

One daily EC/IC train takes this route; Budapest Deli station – Slofok* – Fonyod* – Gyekenyes – Zagreb.
*These are resort towns on Lake Balaton.

In the summer months there is also a Budapest – Split overnight train which calls at Zagreb.

to Romania

The long-distance trains from Hungary to Romania take two routes.

(1) via Biharkeresztes

The daily train services which make this border crossing from Hungary into Transylvania are:

(1) A morning IC train AND an overnight train which take a Budapest-Keleti – Oradea – Cluj Napoca – Brasov route
(2) An afternoon train which only travels as far as Cluj Nappoca, this train commences its journey in Wien/Vienna (departs 10:42)
(This afternoon train is currently suspended)

(2) via Curtici

The four train services which make this border crossing are:

(1) Two IC trains per day which take a Budapest-Keleti – Bekescsaba – Curtici – Arad – Timisoara route.

(2) A daily IC train which takes a Budapest-Keleti – Bekescsaba – Curtici – Arad – Brasov route.

(3) A daily IC train from Budapest to Bucuresti/Bucharest, which is named the 'Traianus)
This train isn't scheduled to arrive in the Romanian capital until after 23:30, so an overnight stay in the city is required for onward connections.
The summer only (June 5th - October 5th) 'Bosphorus Express' train from Bucuresti/Bucharest to Istanbul (and Thessaloniki on Fridays only) will now be scheduled to depart from the Romanian capital at 11:00.
So a train journey from Budapest to Istanbul will require an overnight stop in Bucresti/Bucharest.

(4) There are two overnight trains from Budapest to Brasov and on to Bucuresti/Bucharest.
The 19:05/19:10 departure is scheduled to arrive in the Romanian capital at 12:30, in time for connections on to eastern Romania, this train is named the 'Ister'/
The 23:10 departure, which commences its journey in Wien at 19:42, is scheduled to arrive in Bucuresti/Bucharest at 16:35, this train is named the 'Dacia'.

To Serbia

Two EC trains* per day and an overnight train USUALLY travel on a Budapest-Keleti – Subotica – Novi Sad – Beograd/Belgrade route.

Due to construction works on the railway line in Serbia, a daily train which departs from Budapest-Keleti station at 11:57 is terminating at the Serbian town of Novi Sad, where it is due to arrive at 18:44.
No rail replacement bus services from Novi Sad on to Beograd/Belgrade have been organised, but there are fairly frequent bus services from Novi Sad bus station, which is adjacent to the train station.

According to the European Train Timetable, a bus is scheduled to depart from Novi Sad bus station at 19:10, with an arrival at the main bus station in Beograd at 20:42 - with an alternative bus departing at 20:00 and arriving at 21:32.
The overnight train service from Budapest to Beograd has also been temporarily withdrawn until a yet to be confirmed date.

*One of these EC trains USUALLY commences its journey in Wien/Vienna and also calls at Gyor, but this service has also been suspended.

to Slovakia (and Czechia & Germany & Poland & Belarus & Russia)

Trains from Hungary to Slovakia and beyond primarily take one of two routes.

(1) via Szob (to Bratislava)

Only daytime and overnight express trains travel on this route over the border from Hungary to Slovakia, there aren't any local trains that come this way.
Most of these trains then travel cross Slovakia and head on to Czechia, Germany and Poland.

The daytime trains are:

  • Two trains operated by Regiojet which depart from Deli station in Budapest for Praha/Pragu via Bratislaca~
  • The daily EC trains, which now depart from Nyugati station station in Budapest and take two routes:

(1) Budapest – Vac – Szob – Bratislava – Bréclav – Brno – Pardubice – Praha/Prague (6 x trains per day)

(2) Budapest – Vac – Szob – Bratislava – Bréclav - Ostrava – Katowice – Warsazawa.
And this daily EC train has had its journey extended, so that it now travels beyond Warszawa/Warsaw to Terespol on the border with a Berlarus.
It conveys sleeping coaches which travel on to Minsk from Terespol.

The overnight trains on this route are:
(1) A Nightjet service from Budapest to Berlin via Wroclaw, which now departs from Nyugati station in Budapest This is now the only direct train from Hungary to Germany
(2) *The Euronight train from Budapest to Warszawa.
(3) *The Euronight train from Budapest to Praha/Prague.

*These trains depart from Keleti station in Budapest, which is a different station to that which the daytime trains leave from.

(2) via Hidasnemeti (to Kosice)

Two IC trains per day take a Budapest – Fuzesabony – Miskolc – Kosice route.
They depart from Budapest Keleti station at 06:30 and at 18:30 and the journey time is 3hr 29min.

to Slovenia

via Hodod

One EC/IC train per day departs Deli station in Budapest for Ljubljana - in the summer months it continues beyond Ljubljana to Koper.
In Croatia this train also calls at Ormoz and Zidani-Most.

In the summer months there is an overnight train from Budapest to Koper and Rijeka which calls at Ljubljana.

to Ukraine

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