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!!