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Getting from Budapest to Zagreb

We are flying into Budapest on May 2nd, landing at 11:20am. We are trying to get to Dubrovnik by that night. My original plan was to take a bus from Budapest to Zagreb and then fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik (flight at 10:05pm), however the bus I originally found on FlixBus (leaving about 1:30pm and getting to Zagreb about 6:30pm) appears to no longer be on their schedule, and the only buses that show on their schedule now for Wednesdays do not work for us time-wise (there is a bus that arrives in Zagreb at 9pm but I am afraid that is too close for a 10pm flight). I can't find any other bus providers. The train times on www.mavcsoport.hu also do not work for us. A rental car would cost over $500. Does anyone have any recommendations for how we can do this? If we can't get to Dubrovnik that night, it will throw off our whole trip plan.

Posted by
16745 posts

It sounds like the plan was very tight to start, subject to upset if there was any flight delay, for instance, but now it's a bus cancellation causing the upset. Looking at few sources for bus, train, and flight options, I don't see a reliable way for you to catch that flight out of Zagreb.

A direct train departs Budapest at 15:35 to arrive Zagreb at 21:04, but between city centers, not airports. It would allow you to transfer to a night train departing Zagreb at 23:00 and arriving to Split at 6:45 a.m. Then you could rent a cheaper car or take a local bus to Dubrovnik, about 4 hours.

Posted by
4684 posts

You're planning to fly into Budapest, get on a bus to Zagreb, and then fly to Dubrovnik same day? Wow.

Looks like you can't book FlixBus tickets for May 2 yet - so wait a few weeks, buses will probably reappear.

If you must get there same day, you could fly Budapest to Venice Treviso 4:25pm-5:50pm and then Venice Marco Polo 8:10pm-9:25pm. Could be tight switching airports in Venice, though, maybe not practical - haven't considered carefully.

Or Budapest to Paris CDG 3:20pm-5:40pm + Paris to Dubrovnik 6:50pm-9:05pm. That might be a too-tight connection too, depending on where the two flights arrive/depart from. You have to go through passport control upon departure to DBV because Croatia isn't a Schengen country.

Posted by
80 posts

Thanks for your response Laura. The original plan was not super tight - We would have had several hours between our flight landing and the bus leaving Budapest, and another several hours between the bus arriving in Zagreb and the flight leaving Zagreb. Unfortunately the bus schedule appears to have changed since I originally looked this up which is what has thrown this into question. A night train is not something we are looking to do - We'll have flown on a red-eye from the US and then gotten on a bus and then to spend another night traveling on a train and a bus and not get to Dubrovnik until the following morning would be too much (and I am used to doing a lot). I was hoping someone knew of another bus or train company that I did not know about, or knew of a company that does transfers Budapest > Zagreb that isn't outrageously expensive (all the ones I am seeing are at least 300 euros). Too bad there are no reasonable flights from Budapest > Zagreb or Dubrovnik...

Posted by
4637 posts

If you have to be in Dubrovnik the same day as you land in Budapest and it seems practically impossible why don't you fly from Washington to Dubrovnik via what ever airport in Europe (I don't think there is direct connection) instead of via Budapest to make it to Dubrovnik on time.

Posted by
80 posts

Thank you for the flight suggestions Andrew. I did look at flight options but they either have absurdly long layovers and/or cost $400 per person (usually both). I saw that the FlixBus schedule only goes out to the end of April right now so I can't see the bus options for May 2nd yet, but I looked on their schedules page and it told me that on Wednesdays, there are only 2 buses from Budapest to Zagreb: at 8:00am - 1:10pm (too early) or 4:00pm - 9:10 pm (I think this is too late for us to catch a 10:05pm flight).

Posted by
80 posts

Ilja, we looked into that, however flights from Washington to Dubrovnik were literally twice as expensive as the flights to Budapest.

Posted by
16745 posts

Looking at the Flixbus site, now, I see a few issues.
* They're currently booking travel through April 25, so we can't see your real travel date. I didn't find a separate schedule in a PDF format, for instance, just the live booking engine.
* Not every Wednesday in April has the 1:30 departure option, so you probably do have to wait to confirm.
* It also helps to search just from "Budapest," not specifying the airport. If they did depart from the airport previously, it looks like they're not now.
* You'd need to get straight out of the airport to grab a taxi (or local bus, but probably slower) to Népliget or Kelenfold train station areas. If your flight arrival is scheduled to arrive at 11:20, per your original post, that's 2 hours to get through the airport and into the city.

Posted by
80 posts

Thanks for giving me a second set of eyes on that, Laura. I was looking at the schedules on this page: https://www.flixbus.com/bus-schedule-bus-stop/budapest and then I scrolled down to where it says 'Find schedule between' and entered Budapest and Zagreb there and then unchecked all the days except Wednesday. That is where it was only showing me the 2 times I mentioned above.

Posted by
4684 posts

Could also take a Flixbus to Vienna then fly VIE-DBV at 7:45p via Zagreb on the same flight you were already looking at - for $154 per person plus about 20 Euros for the bus. Not sure if you booked ZAG-DBV already or not; if so, you'd save money canceling the ticket for no refund and rebooking via Vienna for $154, because for some reason, VIE-ZAG itself is more expensive than taking the connection all the way to DBV.

If you book the train, you can connect directly to an airport train at Wien HBF; with Flixbus you'll have to find another bus, taxi, or train to the airport. The train leaving Budapest-Keleti at 13:40 would get you to Vienna airport about 5p and that should be plenty of time to make a 7:45p flight. Might have to hustle to get from Budapest airport at 11:20a to the Keleti station by 13:40 but you should be able to make it if the plane in is on time.

Posted by
80 posts

Andrew! That is not the worst idea ( ;) ), thank you! We haven't booked anything yet except the flights from Washington to Budapest, so I am looking into your option now. I didn't realize that Vienna is actually a bit closer to Budapest than Zagreb (and a more major city so more transportation options). I see that there is a FlixBus from Budapest at 3:00 that goes right to Vienna Airport at 5:40 which should be ok for a 7:45pm flight (or at least that's what the schedule for Wednesdays from Budapest to Vienna tells me). I also see a train on Hungarian Railways that leaves Budapest at 1:40pm and gets to Vienna's main train station at 4:18 which should give us plenty of time to get to the airport (we have been to Vienna before so we have a little familiarity with the transit there which is the best). Are there any other bus/train options that I am not thinking of besides FlixBus and Hungarian Rail?

Posted by
4684 posts

Well, I checked the German train site Bahn.com and it shows most European train schedules; it shows that same train you saw but also a connection right to the airport via another train.

I'm guessing that the train tickets can be purchased in advance for some discount but not sure. This may help:

https://www.seat61.com/websites/mav-start.htm

I'd prefer the train myself given the choice, especially with such an incredibly long day of changing modes of transportation! I suppose a direct bus to the Vienna airport is simplest. The FlixBus will have WiFi, too, and probably comfortable enough. Note that they can be delayed - my FlixBus from Ljubljana to Trieste was 45 minutes late last May, then we had a 20 minute passport check stop at the border. On the upside: FlixBus has a good phone app, and at least they let me know (twice) that they were going to be late! And you can show your bus ticket right on the phone - nothing to print. Trains can be delayed too of course, but they seem less likely to get stuck in rush hour traffic or something.

The one thing to keep in mind about Vienna is that there are several big train stations. It's important to choose the correct station if trying to connect!

Posted by
10703 posts

The only time I have gone from Budapest to Dubrovnik I flew Wizzair to Podgorica and drove up the coast. By bus from Budapest sounds like a bus trip I wouldn't enjoy.

Posted by
60 posts

This is why car rental is preferable for me. I enjoy the flexibility and freedom of coming and going on my own terms.

Posted by
1893 posts

Why don't you fly from Budapest to Dubrovnik? There are flights. This seems like a problem which could have been solved a bunch of better ways.

Posted by
10703 posts

We left Dubrovnik, drive down the coast along Kotor Bay, spent a couple of nights in Perast, then to Podgorica, and flew to Budapest from Podgorica. Beautiful country.

Posted by
80 posts

Hi Paul, thanks for suggesting flying, that was one of the first options I looked into but it does not work. There are no direct flights from Budapest to anywhere in Croatia, and most of the flights that leave Budapest to Croatia after we land in Budapest have multiple stops or very long layovers and wouldn't get us to Croatia until the next day.

Posted by
10703 posts

IF you wanted to fly to Dubrovnik there is sort of a way as there are direct flghts to Belgrade and Titograd. We ran into the same issue some years ago and ended up flying in by way of Belgrade where we spent a night and had a wonderful time. Two flights, Dubrovnik to Belgrade and Belgrade to Budapest. Both were about $60 and it was the perfect excuse to see a place we would have otherwise missed. Turns out we loved it.

Then out by way of Podgorica. Now Podgrica (Titograd) its self isn't any great gem but the drive along Kotor Bay and the couple of nights we spent in Perast were priceless. We were so impressed by Montenegro we returned and are returning again. A direct transfer might cost you $200 if you hire a Montenegrin; more if you hire a Croatian. Time is under 3 hours; but you would be nuts not to spend a night half way and enjoy this place...

Posted by
80 posts

Thank you for the recommendation James - I just looked up flights but unfortunately it looks like they only run the nonstops from Budapest > Belgrade every other day, and Wednesday does not happen to be one of the days when they run it! :( And there are no direct flights from Budapest to anywhere in Croatia. We travel extensively and I plan all of our trips myself and I have never had such a hard time planning a trip as I'm having with this one, haha.

Glad to hear you loved Montenegro though - We are planning to take a side trip to Kotor from Dubrovnik :)

Posted by
10703 posts

If you take that side trip to Kotor you will be half way to the airport in Podgroica.

Posted by
80 posts

Yeah, Dubrovnik is just our first stop though, we will then be going north up through Croatia for the rest of our trip, so from Dubrovnik we're just heading on to Split, not going back to Budapest yet.

Posted by
10703 posts

My bucket list is very, very long. So long that i don't have to force a route. I pick a place i want to see and then i see what links easily with it. The only challenge i have is that all trips must end in Budapest. So when the day comes that i choose Croatia i would probably start by flying into Zagreb from the US and then going south through Croatia to Montenegro or Kosovo or Sarajevo where i can get direct flights to Budapest.

Posted by
546 posts

In my experience (more than 45 years of traveling this globe) When I come upon a problem like this I sit back and rethink my initial plan and reasons for having to be in one place or another on a certain day. In every case I have found it better to relax the self imposed "necessity" of my itinerary and make changes. It has always worked to my advantage and I have never regretted the changes I've made.

In any case good luck and have fun.

Posted by
1893 posts

aarthurperry: I was thinking of writing exactly that post. The imposed limitations in this itinerary seem artificial. Of course, OP might have a wedding in Dubrovnik or something, but if it's a simple hotel reservation or something, that could be changed. The strict limit of one day to make 3 connections is quite odd. We never put ourselves in that position when we go to Europe.

Posted by
80 posts

Thanks for all your help, fortunately the schedules posted for May and the bus I needed was on the schedule once again, so my problem has been solved.

Posted by
7 posts

Have you considered hiring a driver to drive you from Budapest to Zagreb? I too am wanting to travel this route and it seems to be the most direct especially with a time crunch.