My wife and I just had a very frustrating experience trying to buy tickets to Pecs. We had all our information written out but went to three different ticket booths where we were basically dismissed by sullen ticket agents that made no attempt to assist us. Finally went to the information booth were the agent smiled and directed us to the ticket machines. This is our fourth trip to Europe in five years and I have never experienced this kind of rude sullen behaviour in any other country. Very disappointing!
That's not good. Please let them know. It's the only way things get better:
I have found their customer service department to be helpful, but a bit slow, in the past
I have bought tickets at the Keleti station and had only excellent customer service there, used the Nyugati station only to pick up my Pecs ticket from a machine as I had an early departure from Kelenfold the next day. I made this trip in May and I'm curious to know if you encounter the same thing I did: I arrived at the station, checked the board for the platform and there was nothing noted that made sense to me, then a nice young man told me "you take bus". This was alarming as it's a 3 hour trip by train, yet I wandered out and saw a motor coach and another nice young man confirmed I should get on this bus for Pecs. We drove about 45 minutes to a town called something like Haszalambatton and there, in the middle of an otherwise deserted train station, was our train. We arrived exactly on time in Pecs, and the return trip went exactly the same.
I hope you enjoy Pecs, I found it quite fascinating and especially enjoyed the Zsolnay museum.
christa, you were there when they were repairing the tracks; that's why the bus. I think the work is done now, but i could be wrong.
In almost 20 years of travel to Budapest I haven't yet encountered service any worse than typical European service; generally much better. But people are people and from time to time you will get less than you deserve.
We had to use the bus around the track maintenance activity between Kelenfold and Szazhalombatta last week. And it's true, it's not immediately apparent that you have to use a bus for that portion of the trip.
I bought the Kelenfold - Pecs tickets online the night before and there was no notation or special advisory on the MAV site We too learned about needing to use the bus from asking a local at the station. We actually missed boarding the bus due to the confusion and lack of clarity, and had to buy the Kelenfold - Szazhalombatta segment a second time and catch the next bus a couple hours later.
I'm sure we'll laugh about it later.
Peter--I kept reminding myself "You're having an adventure!" and "You're on vacation, no worries!" Definitely seems like the MAV website could have had an advisory about the track repair and bus segment, I was okay only because I arrived early enough to get a snack at the station.
@ rickkyle, as to your your point on the service you received, I've been reflecting on our experience over the past 5 weeks in Romania and Hungary (...we are back home now). We too occasionally received "the sullen look" from some of the folks we encountered, and I have to say, oddly, most of them were at rail ticket offices. I'm not bothered by that behaviour though. I'm sure this will raise some eyebrows, but in my precise scientific assessment, when we encounter this behaviour I'm racking it up 50% to the no frills Central/Eastern Europe personality, 30% to certain service jobs just plain sucking, and 20% to just being fed up with clueless and dazed English speaking tourists.
Even being as polite as you possibly can, I know that dealing with unhelpful people can be frustrating at the time, because you're at a critical point where you need information that can help you sort out the tickets you need to buy, or the direction you need to go to get somewhere, or the train and track number you need to get to. But don't take it personally, don't hold onto it, and look past it to the next most enjoyable thing you have to do that day. You're on vacation and you've paid a ton of money to get there, so it's gotta go on the back burner.
I would agree with that assessment...ca 50% on the way it's done in east-central Europe. I don't expect the "service with a smile" reaction.
A good percentage of the very, very rare less-than-helpful people I've run across in Europe have been sitting behind windows at bus and train stations. On the other hand, a lot of those folks have really gone out of their way to help me, spending extra time to find cheap connections when I was buying train tickets at the last minute.
When you get into the former Iron Curtain countries and away from the real hotbeds of tourism (this doesn't include Budapest's Nyugati Station, obviously), you may run into people who haven't dealt with many tourists who don't speak the local language or a similar one. Such folks are going to be nervous trying to help someone they really can't communicate with. They do not have experience with the appropriate charades, and they haven't yet had reason to learn a useful dozen or so words in English, German, French, etc. Some have probably dealt with a few unkind tourists who blamed them for not knowing every language under the sun. Out of insecurity and/or frustration, such service personnel will sometimes not make a visible effort to assist. They just want you gone, because they don't think they can help you. Fortunately, there's often an English-speaking bystander who steps in to facilitate the transaction.
No matter how well I think I can communicate in the local language, I always (except in the UK, but sometimes even there) block print my destination and the desired train's/bus's departure and arrival times along with the date of travel. I show that information to the ticket seller, and they seem to relax. Occasionally they'll motion for me to pass them the paper and write something down for me. It works well once you get to the right window, which I agree was a challenge in Hungary. I often end up asking people around me in line if I'm in the right place for tickets to my chosen destination.
Acraven--definitely, always printing out exactly what you want is really helpful. I am making slow progress in my learning of Hungarian and a couple of trips ago I managed to ask for a ticket to Godollo in my feeble Hungarian, to be answered by a bemused ticket agent in perfect English, "You want to go to Godollo, yes?"
Ive been spending time in Hungary every year for about a dozen years now. I can spit out about 6 words in way that is understandable. But at least they get a good laugh.
My favorite story about language in Hungary goes like this. My wife and i decided to take a trip to Buda the morning before my dental appointment. The dentist was pretty far up in Buda so the plan was when it close to time I would call City Taxi to pick us up where ever we were. The time came, i pulled out my cell phone and made the call. The City Taxi dispatchers speak perfect English so this would be easy. Easy until they asked where we were ... I looked at the street signs and we were at the corner of %^JNG&**( and &^H%^JJI. No way! I tried to pronounce the names two or three times. I tried spelling the street names but to no avail. The gentleman with City Taxi just didnt understand a thing I said. Finally, I said, i would find someone who spoke Hungarian and call him back. WAIT! He wasnt going to give up if I wouldn't. So now we concentrated on landmarks nearby. In a few minutes he knew where we were and the taxi was on its way. Unfortunately we were standing on a one way street that had no exit till it crossed the river back to Pest. The poor frustrated taxi driver tried to smile. We did get to the dentist on time. I still do the same thing with taxis, but from a cafe. I hand the phone to the waiter and ask him to tell the dispatcher where we were. It generally gets an understanding laugh. To date no one has ever been rude to us in Hungary. But i dont go looking for it, so maybe i havent seen it.
Fred, you're definitely onto something there. Not saying this was the case with rickkyle, but if one is not familiar with the differences in social customs between North America and certain parts of Europe and starts an interaction with a great big smile, then the game is lost before it starts. I try not to, but sometimes forget. Case in point, I went out very early from our hotel room in Vienna one morning recently to pick up a couple coffees to bring back to the room. I proudly and successfully managed to order in German and was in a good mood. Upon returning to the hotel I raised my two take away cups to the lady cleaning the Lobby and flashed a smile. She looked at me oddly as I passed her, but didn't return in kind. I realized what happened and felt like an idiot. I forgot to be restrained.