My friend and I will be traveling from Budapest to Vienna via Bratislava on a Sunday in May. We have booked a half day tour in Bratislava before traveling on to Vienna so we'll be in Bratislava for around 5 hours. Can we purchase one train ticket with a layover in Bratislava, or will we need a separate ticket for Bratislava to Vienna?
In theory you could purchase such a ticket(in practice, not sure), but even if you can it would be much more expensive than getting separate tickets for the Budapest - Bratislava and Bratislava - Wien legs.
Easier to buy two separate tickets. A direct train Budapest to Vienna would not go via Bratislava, so even if you had a ticket valid on any train you still couldn't stop in Bratislava.
And it is different railway companies.
For info on these routes and buying tickets, see here:
Budapest to Bratislava: https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/prague-to-budapest-by-train.htm
Bratislava to Vienna: https://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Bratislava.htm#Bratislava_to_Vienna
As an alternative, you can take a boat from Bratislava to Vienna with Twin City Liner. We did it from Vienna to Bratislava, spent two nights, and then trained to Budapest. The boat was a pleasant way to go on the Danube. The docks in each city were very convenient. We just walked to our hotels. The dock in Bratislava is close to the old town.
I would just take the train from Budapest to Vienna, then go from Vienna to Bratislava as a day trip. That way you could spent more time there if you wanted. Yes it would be a round trip ticket from Vienna to Bratislava but the cost isn't that much, I think around $20 rt.
We also took a boat from Vienna to Bratislava. It was a lovely ride and we walked to/from our hotel in both cities. We went on LOD.sk the Slovakian company. They were one fifth the price of the Austrian company.
"would just take the train from Budapest to Vienna, then go from Vienna to Bratislava as a day trip. That way you could spent more time there if you wanted."
The train from Budapest to Bratislava takes 2 hours 30 minutes, the train from Vienna to Bratislava takes 1 hour so you could spend only 1 and half hour more in Bratislava if you start from Vienna, I don't think that's much difference.
If you are an early bird you can take the first train from Budapest to Bratislava and be there by 8am.
OK, if you start from Vienna, you could arrive even before 6am, but why would you go that early?
It makes much more sense to to travel to Vienna via Bratislava and do a stopover than doing a daytrip from Vienna.
If you arrive from Budapest at 10am you'll still have pretty much the whole day before moving on to Vienna. Bratislava is quite small, with a compact old town and limited sights, so 8-10 hours is more than enough for sightseeing.
Thank you everyone for your responses. Special thanks to you, Chris F, for the links to the Seat 61 site. After reading the posts by him, I believe I understand how to buy tickets now. We will travel from Budapest to Bratislava, spend several hours there, and then go on to meet friends in Vienna.
FYI: It's only 39 miles from Bratislava to Vienna, and the bus stops in front of the new Vienna train station. We took the bus from a plaza down by the river. That way, we didn't have to take a taxi back to the train station. Our incoming taxi driver took us all over town instead of the straight as an arrow route.