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Lviv to Budapest

I asked on here a while back if anyone had traveled via train from Ukraine to Hungary and what the border process was like. Well, now I have firsthand knowledge of the process. There was one person who was curious about my trip, and perhaps there are others who will be visiting western Ukraine as a part of an eastern Europe itinerary and might find this useful.

Currently there is a daily international train connecting Kyiv/Lviv to Budapest. The schedule of that train did not work for us, so we opted to take a domestic Ukrainian train to the border, and then a domestic Hungarian on to Budapest. There are about 5 daily domestic trains that leave Lviv for the border. These trains will usually stop at all three border crossings (Slovakia, Hungary, Romania). While I will describe the process at Chop for crossing into Hungary, I imagine the process is similar at the other locations.

Because of our schedule we opted for the very inconvenient night train. It was the only way that we could be in Budapest the next morning. This train arrives in Chop at 03:24AM -- not a very convenient time to be awake and trying to navigate an unfamiliar place! After exiting the train, walk down the length of the building. Near the end, on the right will be an entrance into the main part of the Chop station. Here, you can buy a ticket to cross the border to Záhony. The window wasn't open at the time we arrived. At 4:00AM someone showed up and sold us the tickets. Near the ticket windows is a door for customs. Hang out here and read a book for a while. At 5:00AM, customs officials showed up and we were given the standard interview of where we had been, how long, etc. We were asked what we had in our backpacks. My wife barely opened up her backpack, and they never asked me to open mine. Apparently we looked the part of American travelers, so they didn't investigate us as much as they did some others. After this, we waited in another room until everyone on our little train was screened. They then let us board a tiny, one-car train at about 5:30AM that took us into Hungary.

Once at the Záhony station, two Hungarian officials boarded the train and started checking passport information. Once they had gone through this, they started working from the front of the train going through customs checks. Insider tip: sit at the front of this train if you want to get off quickly! We were near the back and it took us a long time to get off because another person ahead of us had an issue with her passport and had it confiscated. Around 6:10AM Ukraine time (5:10AM Hungary time) a Hungarian official, who spoke impeccable English, asked us the standard customs questions and let us in. We did have to open our backpacks for him, but he was satisfied with the pile of clothes. We hopped onto our next train and were in Budapest by 9:45AM and had a wonderful day of exploration in the city.

Our time at the border may have taken a little bit longer because a group of women were acting very strangely. I'm not sure what they were doing, but it appeared that they were trying to smuggle something across the border. At one point, three of them disappeared to the back together and perhaps threw something off of the train once we were in Hungary. They then had some animated conversations with each other and were trying hard to act casual once the customs officials boarded the train. The customs guys spent a good bit of time talking with them -- how I wish I could have understood their conversation!!

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

On your trip report: very interesting. On arriving at 0324 on the night train...bravo! It's hard to arrive at a big station at that time even when it's familiar. That route from Lviv, used to be the old Lemberg, to Budapest is one I am interested in taking. A good friend of mine in 2006 made it out to Lviv to see any remnants of the old Lemberg by taking the train from Kiev.

When the suspicious women were being questioned by the customs people, what was the language used, Hungarian?

Posted by
334 posts

It sounded Hungarian. It was definitely not Ukrainian. On the train across, I happened to be sitting in one of the seats facing backward, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something fly off the train. A little bit later they all bustled back into the main part of the car. After a minute or two, they disappeared again, and now I was watching. And there went a box, about shoebox sized, flying off into some bushes. It was a strange morning, indeed.

Posted by
12091 posts

Mike, what you witnessed from your window seat was their efforts at ditching the evidence, sounds like it., otherwise they would have been caught "red handed." You wonder in this sort of situation whether the police " bought " their answers.

Posted by
4 posts

Helpful information. I'm trying to go the opposite direction, Budapest to Lviv. I want to take the new direct service train but the railway website doesn't show Lviv as a destination. Want to have my reservations made before I leave but I can't even get a price so I can plug it into my budget. This is the last obsticle before my trip is booked.

Posted by
334 posts

Which web site are you using? Lviv may be listed as "Lvov" or "Lwow" instead. For example, on the Hungarian MAV website, it is listed as Lvov. The place carries several names due to its history as being part of several other countries over the years. I bought international tickets through MAV to go from Budapest to Zagreb. If you need any help navigating that web site, let me know. It took a while for me to figure out the ins and outs of it, and really made me appreciate the railways web sites for other countries.

--EDIT--
I just double-checked the elvira.mav-start.hu site and there are timetables from Budapest-Nyugati to Lvov.

Posted by
10892 posts

I'm going that way in the spring as part of a fishing trip. The train will be great experience; especially at the border. But I'm spoiled. I will fly from the US to Lviv. There are some pretty decent connections at about the same cost as a flight to Budapest from my starting point. Then after Lviv and after my fishing expedition we will fly from Ivan Franko (closer to the fishing than Lviv) to Kiev. After what has gone on in Kiev the past few years I have a real need to go and spend as much money there as I possibly can. After a night in Kiev I found a great connection on to Budapest. The flights in Ukraine are about an hour each and combined are about $250. Not spending a day on a train and the flexibility to reach out to Kiev make it worth it for me.

But yes, if you have the time and are adventurous take the train. 20 years ago I would have.

Posted by
334 posts

The train will be great experience; especially at the border.

You mean that fabulous couple of hours waiting at Chop while the train gets jacked up and the wheels get switched out for Russian gauge?