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Budapest to Istanbul

how to get from Budapest to Istanbul, train, car rental?

Posted by
1247 posts

There seems to be no easy Train Connection from Budapest to Istanbul...there was mention of the Night Train with 10 hr delays on route, and buses taking 26 hours. Check with the U.S. State Department before planning to drive the just over 800 miles by car between Budapest and Istanbul. The best thing to do is to fly which takes just over 3 hours.

Posted by
10 posts

yes, I read about the train, which is what we were hoping to do but it does seem too long and complicated! guess flying is the best way ... I was hoping someone had made the trip and had first-hand knowledge! :)

Posted by
13559 posts

1) I once drove from Sofia to Istanbul and that was a blast.
2) But there are direct and reasonably priced flights; my trip home always changes in Istanbul.
3) Speaking of that, if you haven't purchased plane tickets yet, my experience has been that the US to Budapest on Turkish Air through Istanbul costs no more if you lay over in Istanbul for a few days (either coming or going).

Posted by
10 posts

James E thanks for the reply ... I would love to drive but my traveling partner would balk at the suggestion! we are middle 70's so should probably stick to transportation that is more "organized" :) I try to never fly in Europe as the trains are - generally - so convenient and allow such great views but this trip may be the exception. how many days did you take driving? google says 823 miles, 14 hours Budapest to Istanbul ... we will already be in Budapest

Posted by
10 posts

BTW James E, why do you say it was a "blast"? adventure? scenery? navigating terrible highways? good blast or ....

Posted by
21083 posts

Just as a general rule, I found I covered about 30 mph in the eastern Balkans whether on train or bus. I don't remember bad road conditions (different story in Ukraine), but not much in the way of superhighways. In my experience, the more beautiful the scenery, the slower you travel, even aside from any stops you make.

I'd urge you either to fly or to plan multiple stops along the way. It would be a shame to roll straight through such an interesting area, even if you found a really comfortable travel option. ViaMichelin estimates the driving time at 12 hr. 45 min. for the 800 miles with no stops or other delays. I'd anticipate a very, very high drop charge for renting a car in Hungary and dropping it off in Turkey--assuming that was even permitted. But there are lots of interesting places along the way: Kecskemet and Szeged in Hungary; Subotica, Novi Sad and Beograd in Serbia; Sofia and Plovdiv in Bulgaria. Or you could take a more circuitous route and explore Romania.

Posted by
13559 posts

1) I always try and combine my trips with something else I enjoy: fly fishing, so I few into Sofia from Budapest and hired a guide with a car (about $200 a day if memory serves me correctly).
2) We drove from Sofia to Plovdiv (second visit there), along an amazingly dangerous mountain road to a underground river cave called Devil's Throat, to Kardzali to Haskovo; then across the border to Istanbul; took about a week but we were stopping at every river and every stream for the fishing.
3) The traffic on the highway into Istanbul was sheer chaos: the worst traffic jam and the widest highway I have ever seen.
4) So regular was this situation that vendors work the traffic selling water and food.
5) Great guide that I have used on previous trips to Bulgaria, love her, PM if you are interested.
6) I remember now that my niece and her boyfriend took a train from Istanbul to Budapest and upon arriving in Budapest commented that it was among the worst experiences of their lives.

Posted by
21083 posts

Back in the 1970s I took a bus from Istanbul to Zagreb. Before airline deregulation that was the least expensive, most practical option even though experience had taught me that overnight bus rides were miserable experiences. Before the bus got out of central Istanbul, it hit (and I think killed) a pedestrian. Big city. Lots of cars. Shockingly few traffic signals. I have no idea whether the latter part of the situation has changed.

Posted by
10 posts

Acraven I was in Istanbul in the late 90's and remember deep holes in the sidewalks with no safety measures ... armed guards in shopping areas, which was new in those days and shocking ... but also remember what a great city it was!

Posted by
930 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
We did our own Orient Express train trip Istanbul to Prague. We were not looking for speed as we spent time in Sofia and Belgrade before hitting Budapest. Counting Istanbul you get to see four great cities. I highly recommend a slow trip if you can arrange it.

Driving in anyone of these cities would be a challenge.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
10 posts

Wayner, thank you for your comments. I have never taken the Orient Express tho I have taken other luxury trains and it is a great way to travel! I have spent a lot of time in Prague and it is my 2nd favorite city in Europe after Florence but this trip I'm not going to either city. I've also been to Belgrade, tho not Sofia, and do not want to go back there ... so I just need transportation, other than driving, from Budapest to Istanbul. I think the only option is flying :(

Posted by
2269 posts

There's a train from Budapest to Bucharest. We did the night train from Brasov to Budapest, having done the train from Bucharest to Brasov. You can then train from Bucharest to Istanbul. The entire trip is about 35 hours. Compared to 4 hours on the plane, the plane seems better.

Posted by
13559 posts

Purchase a grey Fedora. Not black, not brown; GREY! So grey in fact that at twilight if you were to see it from 300 meters through binoculars or maybe even a scope, the person would be certain it was grey.

Tuesday, any Tuesday Go to the DM Store on Kiraly utca between 9am and 11am and ask for Évi. Tell Évi that Anikó Lévai sent you for the special lipstick. It will cost you 100,000 forints.

Then go directly to the airport for the Tuesday flight from Budapest to Chișinău (follow these directions to every detail or I can not be responsible for what happens)

In Chișinău when you land call itaxi Moldova, ask for Mihal and say that you have been sent by Natalia to meet Emine; and a car will arrive at the airport for you.

Make sure the taxi number is 1991; if any other taxi arrives looking for you, I suggest the flight back to Budapest that leaves about 45 minutes after yours arrived.

Assuming you are safely in 1991 sit back and enjoy the ride as you are being taken to a lovely traditional Moldovan restaurant (hopefully).

At the restaurant look for a blond waitress; there is only one. Ask the waitress if it is true that her mother once dated Victor Orban; she should reply “are you my brother?” You answer “of course” and she will give you dinner to go and a key to a room at the Zentrum ApartHotel in central Chișinău; then point to the back door.

Outside the restaurant will be two taxis, get in the Red taxi and tell the driver you are Ecaterina’s guest and he will know where to take you.

Once at the hotel, go to your room and have your dinner. Its been a long day. Be sure the lights are off by 11pm. But first, on a table in front of the windows is a small TV, tune to channel 35 and turn the TV so it faces the windows. Now get some sleep.

In the morning breakfast is served at 7am. Go and enjoy. Pretty good actually and the breakfast like the room was in the cost of the lipstick.

But at 8:30 you and your luggage must be outside under the two story mural on the side of the hotel. In the mural you will see one balcony with a woman in a dark blue dress and another balcony of a couple, he in white, she in light blue. If you stand under the couple you will go to Istanbul, if under the woman in dark blue you will end up in Odesa. Or … hmmm .. the other way? No, pretty sure the couple gets you to Istanbul.

Within 30 minutes you will be approached by a very beautiful woman in a red dress. She will say good morning. Pull out the lipstick you bought and compare it to what she is wearing. If it matches, great …. If not …. how do I say this … how about we just say it will match.

Hand her the lipstick and say, “I think you dropped this” and she will thank you and take you shopping. Don’t talk, just follow and buy the perfume she tells you to buy (yes you will have to do some sniffing on the next leg).

With your new purchase in hand you will be given the directions for the next leg of the trip to Constanța. After Constanța (hand cream if my memory serves me correctly) you will reach Istanbul.

Or, I have used Turkish Air from Budapest to Istanbul at least 20 times over the years; good service, generally on time.

Posted by
10 posts

Turkish Air is perhaps the better option! :) :) though perhaps not as exciting! thank you!

Posted by
13559 posts

bugslewis43, there is an express route to Istanbul but it involves 3 Bacon Cheese Burgers from the Zing Burger at Kálvin tér, a short visit to an Adult Entertainment establishment in upper District VIII and a left handed metric monkey wrench (not necessarily in that order ... obviously).