I have seen on TVnews that there is an influx in immigrants (from Syria and elsewhere) in Budapest and that a lot of them are literally camping out at the train station for days prior to being allowed to travel elsewhere in Europe. As we will be traveling via train to/from Budapest, does this situation create any problems for travelers? Any problems elsewhere in Budapest?
I spoke with some friends and business associates in Budapest and it doesn’t appear to be causing any great hardship for the tourists. The inconvenience, if any, appears to be if you are going from Budapest to Vienna as most of the refugees are trying to move north and west out of Hungary.
The problem isn’t unique to Hungary but Hungary is getting the press right now. A few weeks ago it was France that was getting the press; prior to that Italy. I was also pleased to hear that the citizens of Budapest were bringing food and supplies to help them.
Fortunately for the immigrants Budapest just modernized and enlarged the Keleti train station sublevel opening up more space so it’s not like you have to crawl over people. West of the station about a half km is a major square called Blaha Lujza tér where I understand a number have set up camp. This isn’t a very pretty square to begin with, isn’t on the tourist circuit and shouldn’t impact anything if you are visiting. The nearest point of interest is the NY Palace Coffee house about 200 m down the road.
I will be there in about two weeks and am interested to see the impact and how the Hungarian people are receiving the refugees.
We planned six months ago to travel from Budapest to Vienna by train in late September. The news indicates the train and highway routes are overwhelmed by refugees. Does anyone have direct experience buying train tickets at Budapest Keleti station? Will we be unable to get seats on a train? Will we be stranded in Budapest? Should we change our plans to go there?
LH - you won't even notice the refugees. Highways are not jammed with them, nor are the train routes. Refugees are everywhere, not just in Hungary. Calm down, turn off the news and make seat reservations if that makes you feel better.
Everyone, calm down. The news is such that you cant even get through the tunnel between France and England. But its all exhagerated I think. You can only talk about Trump for so long before you have to publish something else.
The truth is as I understand it through my communications with friends and associates in Budapest is that there are no issues impacting tourist as a whole. I know, I have read something to the contrary on another forum, but I think that guy would have had a bad day no matter what the situation.
If I were you, this is what I would do. I would not purchase a ticket on an internet site other than the MAV site. I wouldn't worry about a reserve seat, but I would by first class if that train had a first class. You don't really need to, but it might put you at further ease and its only a few euro more. Then, I would go to a MAV service center when you get into town and have them tell you all is well. I think they moved the center that was in town, so let me make a phone call tonight and I will add to this post the address. Further, if you are still concerned I would pick up the phone and give them a call. I have called a couple of times and they have been kind and helpful. Might cost you $10.00 in long distance charges.
Or if you are still worried you might want to hire a driver to take you. I think the going rate is under 250 euro for a car. http://transferbudapesthungary.com/vienna-bratislava-prague-budapest-airport-transfer-taxi.html or there is another called SilverWings.
Remember we are talking about THOUSANDS of immigrants but not TENS of THOUSANDS. Budapest has I don't know how many million tourists every year so except for their sleeping accommodations I wouldn't expect that they will have any great impact.
I will be there myself in a couple of weeks and I don't have any concerns; but I do understand yours. Make you a deal. Send me a PM and if we are both in town at the same time I will try to help if something comes up. Otherwise .... relax and enjoy.
Besides, there is a good chance by the time you get there the refugees will have been safely moved by the Hungarian authorities across the border into Vienna. :-)
James - I think you meant someone else, not me.
Emily, you are correct. I fixed it.
As for the train station.
Good News: Keleti has a brand new expanded and renovated sublevel. Beautiful place, I saw it in June.
Bad news, beautiful sublevel has what looks like a hundred people sleeping in it.
Good news is it could easily handle 4 times that many before you would have trouble walking through it.
Bad news, you have to walk that way if you are going to take the metro into town.
Good news, taking the metro into town while carrying luggage isn't that easy anyway. Besides a taxi will only cost about $10 to most hotels in the center.
Better news, the taxi stand is not in the sublevel.
Welllllllll........................ they closed the Keleti train station this morning; all traffic in and out. I will check and see if the trains are still going to and from the Kelenföld station about 15 minutes from the center of town. This is the last stop before Keleti. If so then its business as usual as the new M4 metro line reaches out that far.
The problem isn't so much with the number of refugees as they remain in the Hundreds as opposed to Thousands, it is with the Austrians who will not let the trains with refugees cross the border.
Unless you were traveling today I wouldn't get to anxious, I suspect this is a one or two day event to make a point. Heck the rail service in this or that part of Europe goes on strike at least this often.
There are alternatives including private transport and the bus. I had a guest a few weeks back that discovered that there is a direct bus from the airport in Vienna to Budapest. Once in Budapest all is pretty calm and operating as usual. I have some very special guests coming in from Vienna in about a week and I am not going to suggest they change their plans.
We are traveling from Budapest Keleti train station on Sept. 11 to Prague and we have reservations . While we normally don't react to world events, our trip schedule is locked in. We are wondering if we should make airline reservations to Prague on this date or wait since its still two weeks. What do you think? Eileen C.
Eileen C., it is hard to say. As James said Keleti station was closed because they could not manage the tsunami of migrants. They simply overwhelmed trains toward Germany (some of them go via Prague). They certainly were not bothered by reserved seats. I saw the mobs in Keleti on news. Let's hope that situation will be solved by the date you travel. I am sure James will keep us informed.
I didn't say that the mobbing the trains was the primary problem.
The problem isn't so much with the number of refugees as they remain
in the Hundreds as opposed to Thousands, it is with the Austrians who
will not let the trains with refugees cross the border.
EDIT: I was incorrect. The problem is now estimated to be 2000 camped out at Keleti Station That is the equivalent of about 2 high school auditoriums.
I doubt too many got on without tickets. In the videos I see them waving their tickets. The Austrians were apparently not accepting the trains, so no sense in sending them. And trains have to run both ways or they run out of parking space really fast so hence not accepting trains from Vienna. Hence; close the station. Were they over full? Yes, but I bet you will find that on some of the short haul work hour trains as well. We have a guest that is going to Vienna this coming Thursday and the MAV folks re-routed her out of the Kobanya-Kispest station which is on the M3 line about 20 minutes ride from Deák Ferenc tér (pretty much the center of Budapest) or maybe a $15 taxi ride from the heart of town.
I would take money on the idea that Keleti is open and functioning as normal by the end of this week.
If you are going from Budapest to Vienna and you do get stuck for a day (although I cant see how that would become necessary with all the other options for getting to Vienna), but again, if you do get stuck for a day; you couldn't imagine a better city to be stuck in. Seriously, have your hotel concierge help you or contact a travel agency in Vienna of Budapest.
James, thank you for keeping us abreast of the situation. we are continuing with our plans and they include taking the train from budapest to vienna. we are experienced travelers and do not panic easily. we will be leaving the states on sept 7 and going to vienna sept 13. i am looking forward to your next posts as i will be trying to adjust my trip if I have to. I haven't purchased train tickets yet as I felt I had plenty of time in budapest. Now I am questioning that. also questioning which train station to leave from. thank you in advance.
You have to know that the rules were not established by the Hungarians. They are subject to the EU rules that say refugees have to be registered and held in the first EU country they enter. That means Hungary cant let them go through to Vienna without breaking the rules. They did break the rules every chance they got until Austria closed the border to them. As much as i love Hungary you have to remember Hungary is a "developing" country and they just cant afford the migrants.
Keleti is open now if you are in Hungary legally and have the passport to prove it
ONLY PASSENGERS WITH PROPER DOCUMENTATION CAN TRAVEL ON TRAINS
Hungarian railway company MÁV said on Tuesday that only passengers with proper travel documentation—and visas where appropriate—will be allowed on trains in the direction of western Europe. The company on Monday said that valid tickets were needed to board trains but examinations of passports and other travel documents was up to the police. Hundreds of migrants, many from Syria, boarded trains to Germany. In a statement today, MÁV noted that the authorities had sealed off the station in the morning but trains services have since resumed. Police are directing passengers at Keleti railway station through secured entrances and to international ticket offices, the statement said. MÁV, in cooperation with police, is only allowing travellers with proper identity documentation to buy train tickets for westbound services, it added.
I have a tour guide in Budapest that is telling me to take the bus instead of the train from Budapest to Vienna. From what I have read the road to Vienna is backed up at the checkpoints to get into Austria . I'm not opposed to the bus but don't want to trade one problem for another? I am patiently waiting to hear from my fellow travelers to see what they are encountering in Budapest .
Wow. I really hope this gets better rather than worse this month. I need to purchase 2 tickets from Budapest to Zagreb on October 2nd. After the recent news, I went onto the MAV website to pre-purchase tickets and kept getting an error (A kiválasztott vonatra a helyfoglalás jelenleg sajnos nem lehetséges. Kérjük ismételje meg a keresést. 007602720150902), basically saying online ticket purchases were not available.
In addition, there's a post on their site stating that they are separating EU and non-EU members at ticket counters. MAV website
James - What are your thoughts on my travel plans? Should I immediately try and find bus accommodations or wait a few days for this to resolve itself and try again with MAV? Currently I can't pre-purchase tickets and I want to avoid waiting in all day lines at the rail station. I'm headed towards Croatia, not Austria, but am encountering problems. Thank you.
(Note: U.S. citizens)
David, nobody can say how the situation will develop in one month. Right now it seems that Angela Merkel statements are encouraging more immigrants to come. But they are not interested to go to Zagreb. I would wait and buy my ticket once I arrive in Budapest.
Smart advice. Good to hear there are other locations to purchase tickets. We're flexible travelers and 100% of the time don't pre-purchase tickets and simply buy them locally. But as the original poster stated, Budapest has been in the national news here in the States. It's so great to have this resource available for fact checking with people in-the-know. Thank you very much.
Thanks to everyone for your comments and would appreciate any continued updates you might have, especially from those of you who will actually be traveling over there in the next month or who have contacts there that can provide the true story vice what we might hear on TV..
David, I'm sure the refugees also hope this gets better as their lives (not an expensive Euro vacation) depend on it.
First: THE TRAIN STATION IS OPEN or at least it was yesterday afternoon. I don't think they closed it for more than half a day. If I had plans to leave on a train out of Budapest, then I would leave on a train out of Budapest. Last I heard you will only have trouble if you are in Hungry without proper documents.
This is a tourism HELP FORUM and I am going to think twice before editorializing. Its hard. I know, I can be guilty of it & I have been guilty of it. But deep down inside I know better than to assume that full trains are trains that have been mobbed by immigrants; and people with passports I don't assume have any identifying appearance; and the photos I saw of the lower level and courtyard at Keleti didn't appear as though it is overwhelmed by immigrants. Not that there weren't a lot.......
Despite my personal political views on the situation I am trying to be even handed and stick to the Forum Purpose; and right now if a tourist wants to get in or out of Budapest on the train it appears that he will be able to do so with only some inconvenience.
Posted this reply to Roy's similar question also:
James E., the updates and your take on the situation are very much appreciated. You obviously know Budapest well and are generous with your advice. Thank you.
Actually Worldinbetween is 10x more knowledgeable. We are lucky to have her back. Now if we can get her to stay.
We also appreciate any updated information. We are just beginning our trip with a river cruise and when we reach Budapest in a week, we will be using trains for the rest of our trip. We do have reservations but will have to pick up the tickets at Keleti train station. We will continue to read this site to make sure we sure we shouldn't find some other type of transportation. We wish this situation wasn't so difficult from refugees that are coming from a horible situation. Eileen & Joe C.
As of 3 hours ago the Keleti train station remained open as it has been for all but a few hours on Tuesday. Reports of how many refugees are camped in the courtyard and outside the station range from "hundreds" to two thousand. I am a skeptic about the news media and tend to believe closer to hundreds than thousands, but who really knows. People with the proper documents are getting served as usual.
Reports are that things are not much different at some stations in Austria and the Czech Republic. This is one of the better and more informative articles i have read if you want to know more of the "hows" and "whys":
I will be there myself in about 2 weeks. I have a little side trip planned by train. I'm not worried. I figure the worst is some degree of inconvenience with lines
"This is...a nationalistic country...." Historically, due to its location you can see why and how the Maygars imbued with their sense of particular nationalism, take this view, some of which is understandable from their perspective prior to Trianon.
Fred, you know I think you are brilliant but based on the attitudes and reactions I read in another popular travel forum I think this sort of discussion might go really sour. That's why I have avoided commentary.
Hi, we are in Budapest right now, heading to Vienna by train on Monday. We have reserved first-class seats, leaving from Kelenfoe, U.S. passports. The consensus from guides, hotel concierge, etc. who have been keeping abreast of the situation is that we should be fine. I did drive by Keleti this morning and it has a very large crowd camped in front - tents, laundry lines, etc in one area and the plaza in front jammed with crowds. I did not go inside. Nobody seems to have any idea how or when the situation will resolve.
International trains from Budapest have been suspended indefinitely, according to news reports after this morning's happenings. It is a fast moving event though.
We had a guest arrive from Vienna yesterday without any significant problem. We have another guest arriving from Vienna tomorrow that I will check on.
Today's scheduled departures were designed to get the immigrants to camps until the EU decides what to do with them. To achieve that the trains were rerouted. I suspect that international trains will resume tomorrow if they have not already resumed. I will check on this as well.
The international trains are currently turning round at suitable stations just into Hungary. People connecting from internal trains are allowed to board after their paperwork is checked.
We know of a couple traveling by train from Vienna to Budapest today. They said that after crossing the border into Hungary they were transferred to another train and would be arriving in Budapest about an hour late.
I just got an email from my sister who arrived in Budapest from Vienna by train today. Two train changes at the border and at Gyor, where they had to stand all the way to Keleti. Keleti had refugees all over, but scene was calm. Lots of police and tons of paparazzi type photographers about hoping to cash in. Metro station was packed and no trains running, so had to take a bus to an outlying Metro station to get to her hotel. She's flying out in a few days. Only other comment was that Hungarian beer was just as good as in Czech, and just as reasonably priced.
The couple I was tracking also ended up changing once and then being delayed at Bicske where the migrant train that has been in the news is sitting. Net result 3 hours late on arrival. But made it.
Will be traveling to Budapest for a day on 9/12, planning to take train to Vienna early in the morning on 9/13. Planning to look for a place to stay near one of the train stations, either Keleti P or Kelenfold. Not knowing anything about the area, which area should I stay at, especially given the recent situation? With that info, I am hoping to reserve my ticket.
We fly to Budapest arriving Sept 10 and have first class train reservations from Budapest to Prague on Sept. 14 leaving from Keleti Station. I have read that as of Sept 4 or 5 there are still 1000 refugees inside and outside the station and many others have been bused to Austria. Does anyone know if train service to Prague is now operating? I understand that the situation is changing rapidly. Suggestions?
Trisha, you cannot do anything. I guess train would go either from Budapest or you would get information where from. If I were you I would not cancel anything, just wait and see.
Vince, i am with Worldinbetween. But if you have one night then i suggest you get room at the Marriott on the river with the beautiful views across to Buda and the restaurants on the embankment as the weather is generally very pleasant this time of year to walk, eat drink and enjoy and wish you had planned to spend more time in Budapest. https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=C9F4C533EB93D92E!21404&authkey=!AFaA6zu5RKGVu6Y&ithint=folder%2c Then about 2 hours prior to train departure time i would call a Taxi. My favorite is City Taxi http://www.citytaxi.hu/ but many are good. If the train i was taking stopped in Kelenföld then i would probably choose to pick it up there. You can go to the MAV site to see the stops and the times of the stops for your particular train. If you have to leave out of Keleti, i wouldn't sweat the migrants. The place easily holds 1,000. BUT, I don't have a lot of trust that the trains will be running straight through by next weekend. There has been a lot more to all of this than has been reported and I cant figure it out. I have some guests that are coming from Vienna late next week and i finally broke and threw in the towel and hired them a private driver.
If we are planning day trip out of Budapest can we take the train to vac? Or is this also a problem? Thank you so much for keeping us abreast of problem.
In mid October we will be traveling by train (Eurailpass) from Melk to Budapest and then to Vienna a few days later. We plan to go in and out of the Budapest Deli train station to avoid Keleti. Does anyone know if you can buy blocks of 10 single public transportation tickets at that station? What about exchanging US dollars or Euros to Hungarian forints?
You won't find any trains to Vienna from Budapest-Deli.
Yes you can indeed purchase tickets from Deli to Vienna but the first stop is Kelenfold (sp) and I would be inclined to board the train at that point. Kelenfold is on the M4 metro and so it is convenient to reach. I do not know for a certainty but I would hazard to guess that both stations have metro ticket windows and/or dispensing machines. The guards will sell you a ticket too if need be. As for exchange windows, less likely. As for an ATM, pretty likely.
Thanks. We will probably continue to Deli and take the M2 to Deak Ferenc. The M4 from Kelenfold is a possibility with a transfer to the M3. I really meant using an ATM instead of an exchange place (not what I wrote, I know). Appreciate all of your posts - was wondering if we should stay away from Budapest and now I feel good that we can still travel to and spend time in Budapest - our first visit.
At Deli there is an OTP bank around the corner that will have an ATM. I would suppose there are more in the immediate area, OTP is just the only one I googled. I would be surprised if you didn’t find one in the station or the station lower level. But here is your fall back if you need it.
In the case of either station, if you don't have too much luggage to contend with, don't spend the trip underground. From the M2 you could get off at Kossuth Lajos tér and take the #2 Tram along the river. From the M4 you could get off at the Fővám tér stop and then take the #47/49 Tram. Never too soon to start your sightseeing.
Update on trains from Budapest Keleti
On Sept 14, 2015 I took train from Budapest Keleti to Prague. A couple on same train was re-directed to travel to Prague and then backtrack to Vienna as no direct trains were running to Vienna from Budapest that day. Keleti station is on several levels. The upstairs level with the tracks was not filled with migrants, and appeared to be operating as usual with a large number of police; but the intermediate level near the subway had hundreds of migrants with tents, children and a huge line of mostly young men lined up at an information window. A non-Hungarian was yelling at them in Syrian (?) with a loudspeaker. Police were very polite and helpful. Our taxi driver told us that more than 4,000 additional migrants had arrived at the station on Sept. 13. Our train was not crowded but due to crisis we bought first class tickets with reserved seats.
Warning: The couple going to Vienna sat two rows behind us. The woman placed her purse between the two seats on a shelf near the floor. She heard her purse rattling (chain strap) and noticed that a thief was trying to steal her purse but she confronted and stopped him. Later when she opened her purse, her wallet was missing. Fortunately the thief had dropped it and it was under her seat. She and her husband paid the conductor an additional 30 Euros for the deviation from their original direct train Budapest to Vienna. Be very careful when boarding a train and securing your belongings as a thief can board the train, make off with valuables and get back off the train before it even leaves the station. Lesson learned; no harm done but our Canadian sister traveler earned a great big thank you from us.
You really shouldn't let your purse out of your hands when traveling. And keep that wallet out of your back pocket. Had a friend have it ripped out of his pocket on a tram in Vienna earlier this year.
I am in Belgrade today. I have enjoyed Belgrade more than any of my trips to Vienna. Best of all, Air Serbia to Budapest is under 100 euro. A great option if you are visiting Budapest. The bay of Kotor in Montenegro is only another 45 minute flight from Belgrade and also about 100 euro. Also a spectacular destination. So there are all sorts of options if you don't want to mess with Austria ' s borders.
Hi James! I just went through the entire post and it has realy been helpful. I will be travelling with my family in October from Prague to Budapest by train. I have heard that they are stopping trains at borders. With so much information online, I am lost and after reading this forum it seems like people are posting the real picture.
So do you think travelling TO budapest FROM prague , I would encounter any unpleasant surprises?
Probably not. But what I keep saying is that there is absolutely no way to know with any degree of certainty. Personally, if it were me, I would try and fly Czech Airlines. Heck, for the price I would fly even if there were no immigrant issues.
I am in Budapest now and tourism does not appear to have been affected, the weather is beautiful as is the city .... as always.
I really appreciate all the comments/information that has been posted WRT my original question. It has been a great help and I hope that responses continue until this immigration issue is resolved which hopefully will be soon.
Does anyone have recent experience driving on the highways between Budapest and Bratislava, or Budapest and Vienna? I can't find any information on whether there will be long delays at the borders. We had planned to spend a week in Hungary after a week in Austria, but are trying to decide whether heading to Prague instead would help us avoid unnecessary hassles.
I have arranged a transfer from Vienna to Budapest early last week and it went well with no delays. Also aware of a few tourists who have arrived from Vienna on the train in recent days with no issues. You ask about the highway, you aren't planning on renting a car are you? Just parking it here for 4 days will cost you more than the rental rate unless you plan on renting in Vienna and the dropping it here? Never done it, but I hear it's pretty expensive. Take the train......
We are renting a car at the Vienna airport after spending a few days in Vienna, then driving to several other destinations in Austria and Hungary before Budapest. I know parking in Budapest will be expensive, but we want the freedom to explore small towns along the way. We will return the car at the Vienna airport before flying home- dropping the car off in Budapest is far more expensive.
In that case you might consider a drive through the Slovakian Tatra's, then heading south through the two Banska towns to Budapest.
In that case you might consider a drive through the Slovakian Tatra's, then heading south through the two Banska towns to Budapest.
In that case you might consider a drive through the Slovakian Tatra's, then heading south through the two Banska towns to Budapest.
Thanks, James- that area looks beautiful, but we don't have time to go that far north on this trip. We will be driving from Bratislava to Eger- do you recommend stopping on Gyor for part of the day or are there any other stops en route that you recommend instead?
Does anyone have the most recent experience (last couple of days) on train travel to/from Budapest, Vienna, Bucharest and Prague? These are the 4 cities we are looking at exploring by train but are concerned about the immigrant situation and also having to change trains at the border when we have luggage to load/offload.
Donna, the Archabbey and winery outside of Gyor at Pannonhalma is worth the stop.
Richard, I am involved in a venture that relies to some extent on the trains between Vienna and Budapest and at this time all is normal. I would however stay away from Serbia and Croatia crossings for the time being.
Oh, and the train to Bucharest is reportedly a long and miserable experience ..... fly.
In the early 1970s on the first two trips in Central Europe, ie, Cz, (West) Germany, and Austria, I had those long train experiences, also if you include the two 20 plus hour train ride in Sweden. "Miserable"...that's relative, never thought about it, yes, it was in the summer in a heat wave, no AC on any trains I rode back then, one dehydrated You got used to it, or maybe I was less discriminating then. Had there been discount air carriers back then, would I have flown? No. I only flew from Hannover to Berlin Tempelhof/Tegel in that corridor was to avoid the hassle from the East German Vopos at border and passport check.
Now, I bring water on the train.
About 5 years ago I met a gentleman that took a train from Istanbul to Budapest. It was an experience of a life time and very nearly the last experience of his lifetime. But he was young and foolish and got rolled in some station in Romania. He arrived looking like battered poop.
10 hrs on a 100 euro night train with very little sleep and 36 hours between showers vs 1 hour on a 100 euro plane + 60 euro hotel room with a shower: I guess I am just spoiled. Budapest to Prague on Czech Air is an excellent example of that.
Speaking of trains (25 minutes); Worldinbetween we went to Vac Thursday. I understand why you love it. Found a lake for fishing on the way back.
And we stopped and fed the bears too. Excellent day.