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Overnight train travel in eastern europe

My wife and I would like to take the overnight train from Praha to Krakow and the overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. Please, any suggestions if anyone has taken this route? How was the experience and how much was the cost for a sleeper? We will be traveling in late November. Thanks. Jim

Posted by
3208 posts

Hi Jim- things have changed so much over the past 11 years, politically and economically, that this information may be of no benefit to you now, but for what it's worth, back in 2004 we took an overnight train from Ruse, Bulgaria to Bucharest, Romania. Again, this was over a decade ago and not even in the countries or route you're considering, but it was a pretty sleepless night. Repeated knocks on our couchette compartment throughout the night, to check passports, were the first interruption. We were suspicious at first, having been awakened by repeated knocking, and voices on the other side of the door, and were initially hesitant to open the compartment door, in case this was some kind of robbery in the middle of the night. Insistent knocking caused us to finally open the door a crack, to several uniformed men. We turned over our passports, which were returned later, and were visited at least twice more to hand over passports a second and third (and maybe more?) time. At one point, probably at the Bulgarian/Romanian border, the train ground to a halt, and we sat, immoble, for some time. Much lurching and clanking later, we were off again. I suspect a Bulgarian engine had been uncoupled and a Romanian engine had been hooked up to continue the journey.

After previous overnight sleeper beds on trains through the USA, Russia, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, this was the most interrupted, least restful night of the bunch. As one gets older, overnight trains don't exactly get easier, so perhaps that was a factor, as well. An overnight train might be a way of getting from Point A to Point B, but, especially if any border crossing might have an impact, it won't necessarily ensure a good night's sleep. Hopefully your experience this fall would be different, and it probably will, but have a great trip!

Posted by
4073 posts

This link will be helpful for Prague to Krakow:

http://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Prague.htm#Prague-Krakow

This link will be helpful for Krakow to Budapest:

http://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Krakow.htm#Krakow_to_Budapest

Personally, I think one overnight train in Europe is one too many. I got that out of my system when I was 21. Also be careful referring to these countries as Eastern Europe. Many locals will take offense to this terminology.

Posted by
2081 posts

Jim,

I can only comment on my trip last year from Budapest to Krakow. It cost me approximately 31000 HUF for a single bed but was charged for a double sleeper. At that time approximately 136 USD. Departed Buda @ 2000 and arrived Krakow @ 0630.

I did this overnight train trip at the end of my travels just to see how overnight train travel works out.

My impressions for this particular train trip was:

  • there were many stops/stops, uncoupling/coupling of train cars. Some Engineers were better than others at their job. If you ever slept on a boat at sea, its similar, but more jerky than a rolling motion.

  • The room that i had was near the front of the car near the engine. The train horn is loud from behind too.

  • The train tracks in the various countries can vary in quality and wear. Some had expansion joints, some didnt. Some were baby butt smooth, some werent.

  • There isnt alot of room in the car and as mentioned, checkout seat61.com for pics since thats exactly how they were. There is a sink/table in the corner. The sink is under the table. They give you some goodies, water, juice and a towel. Maybe 2 for 2 travelers. There was a "closet" on the opposite side of the bed that was approximately 12 inches deep and maybe 36 inches wide.

  • most of the stops you could hear people talking. This was sort of cool. From what i understand, i traveled through more countries on that train than i did on my trip.

  • the head (toilet) was at the end of the car.

  • i didnt get much sleep that night and is one of the reasons i choose that overnight train at the end of my trip and not the beginning.

  • would i do that particular run again. No. Would i do another overnight trip, yes, but i will do more homework into the quantity of stops. I was looking to do Lisbon to Madrid, but was able to see a map of the stops and decided against it. Also, the puddle jumper cost was less expensive and less time, so that made the decision for me.

If you can work it into the end of your trip, i would say, take it and think of it as a learning experience and see how you do. Some people sleep like the dead, i dont. I wanted to take an overnight trip and that was available and fun. I learned alot.

happy trails.

Posted by
16768 posts

Euraide has pretty useful details online for sleeper prices, albeit a couple of years old, for Prague-Krakow and Krakow-Budapest. These prices don't tend to change much and I did not hear about any service changes. They are regular, not especially fancy overnight trains. Since your countries of travel are now all part of the Schengen visa agreement, there should be no need for in-person passport checks at the border, but the conductor probably will hold onto your passport. See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/night-trains.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Jim/Laura,

When i did my Budapest > Krakow overnight train, he didnt ask for my passport. He did take my ticket and in the AM, gave me a receipt.

happy trails.

Posted by
204 posts

Great replies from everyone. Thanks. I've go to do some thinking.

Posted by
1620 posts

A few years ago we travelled from Kraków to Prague by train. We did many overnights on our first trip in 1972. All miserable, but we were 21. My last overnight train ride was 1975 and a repeat after some 30 years was not in the stars. As an alternative, you might consider a stop in Olomoucs, CZ. The ride to Olomoucs was a couple of hours, changed trains, maybe, in Katowice (don't remember really). Easy tram from Olomoucs station to town square, chose a nice hotel nearby, and spent that afternoon, evening, and half the next day before tram back to station and train to Prague. Olomoucs was lovely, walkable, not crowded and offered much in the way of beautiful architecture and history. It was a nice break in the journey. And yes, times change! On our overnight in 1975 when we crossed into Romania, we were awakened by pounding on the door and shouts of "Achtung!" Two soldiers with rifles and mounted bayonets entered the sleeper, demanded passports and documents, then searched every square inch, including under the seats, which they probed with their bayonets. Sleep was the last thing on our minds after that. Even without the bayonets I would consider a short stay in lovely Olomoucs if you have the time or inclination.

Posted by
4637 posts

Jim, I did not do any of your planned rides by overnight train (did it by day train) but if I did I am sure my experience would be the same as Ray's. I did only three overnight train rides in my life and that was more than enough. Seattle - San Jose, CA, Istanbul - Ankara, Prague - Bucharest. Slept very little. Unless you are a very good sleeper I would not recommend it. Rather divide long train ride and stay somewhere overnight. Prague to Krakow: good stop would be Olomouc. Krakow to Budapest, stop in Bratislava. Prague to Krakow: 9 stops in between, long stop in Bohumin for coupling and uncouplings of night trains Vienna Warsaw, Prague Warsaw. From Krakow to Budapest: 15 stops in between, long stops in Bohumin and Breclav for the same. But at least I have one good news for you: no passport control, no waking up by officers with bayonets. I guess you have now more than enough information so you can assess your strength as a sleeper and decide.

Posted by
4637 posts

Actually I did 4 overnight train rides (not three). How could I forget the most memorable one. It was from Baku to Tbilisi in 1983 still under Soviet Union under the iron fist of Andropov. Maybe I should not count this one because I didn't even attempt to sleep. There were three other guys in my compartment and they were pulling one bottle of vodka after another from their luggage like some magicians. Of course they wanted me to help them with that which I agreed. Before we finished it it was morning and we were in Tbilisi. I don't remember if they were Azerbaijani or Georgians or Russians. They all spoke Russian without accent and they were all very curious. I was their first foreigner. The guy in charge of the train didn't want us to talk to each other but after enough vodka we did not listen to him. I did not realize (until later) how lucky I was I was not arrested.

Posted by
204 posts

What is Olomouc like. It sounds like a nice place to visit to break up the train trip from Praha to Krakow. Thanks again for all of the wonderful information.

Posted by
4637 posts

Olomouc is like a little Prague without tourists. Read more in the Rick Steves book: Prague & the Czech Republic.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Since the ride is direct by night train from Krakow Glowny to Budapest, I would do it. You arrive by 0800 in BP Keleti, which the only train station I'm familiar with in BP, likewise with Krakow Glowny. I've taken numerous night trains, the first at 21, but none in this part of Europe, ie East Central Europe or Eastern Europe, don't have direct experience to relate to your question on doing it by night.