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Train Travel in Hungary

We will be traveling from Lviv, Ukraine to Zagreb, Croatia with a brief stop in Budapest along the way. Because of the timing of the international Kyiv - Lviv - Budapest train, we intend to take a domestic train in Ukraine to Chop, then a very short international train across the border into Zahony, and then domestic Hungarian train to Budapest. After a brief time in Budapest, we'd take the direct international train between Budapest and Zagreb. We haven't traveled through Ukraine or Hungary before, so we naturally have some questions about the process.

  • About how long does it take to go through passport control when you arrive in Zahony? Is it done before you disembark the train?

  • It appears the Hungarian web site offers print-at-home tickets for domestic routes. Does this take the place of a boarding document, or would we have to exchange it for a real ticket once we get to Zahony? Does it need to be validated in any way before getting on the train to Budapest?

  • I've read online that while you can buy an international ticket online, you can't print it out and you have to pick it up from one of the little blue boxes in the Budapest train stations. Is that info still accurate?

Thanks in Advance!

Posted by
1834 posts

Although we have traveled in western Ukraine, sometimes by train, I can't give any definitive answers. One reason is because everything is different, train station protocol, border inspections, etc. You just have to go along with what's going on. Passport control at the borders can be fast or slow. We experienced any where between five minutes to an hour.

We bought all our tickets as we went along. How long you stay in Budapest would determine whether that would work for you there. Here's something to research: several years ago we were contemplating train travel from Poland to Lviv and the information we found said that there was a several hour stop at the border so the train cars could be removed from european width tracks and set on carriages accomodating russian width tracks.

I would suggest finding a Lonely Planet guide for where you want to go. Also, there is a WEB site for the Ukranian railroad. My wife thinks that if you are going to spend several days in Budapest it be better to buy point to point tickets there. We traveled there from Bucuresti and had to stop and buy tickets for our travel westward.

Now a note on travel in Ukraine. Be sure you have the Lonely Planet Ukraine guide. The place names are bilingual. It would really help if you knew the Ukranian alphabet. There are a large number of middle age and older people who do not know English and if you do not know Ukranian you will find yourself at a communications stand-still. One thing we did was take a pad of sticky notes and my wife would print out our next destination in Ukranian and show the not to whom ever as at the ticket window. That worked well but you will still have to find your way to gates and such and will need to be able to read signs.

I know this hasn't been much help. Let me know if you think we can offer any more information.

Posted by
334 posts

Thank you both for the information. Regarding Ukraine, we're actually more comfortable with traveling there because one of our relatives has been living in Ukraine for the last several years. We will have the best personal tour guide someone could wish for! The only part of our journey in Ukraine that we will need to do on our own is from Lviv to Chop and we should be fine getting there on a direct route.

As far as language goes, we usually muddle our way through, but the first word I learn in any language is "thank you." Even if I only have a few words under my belt, any traveler should always know how to express gratitude without needing to look it up. Everything else is written down, as you mention. Can you give me an example of all the information that we would need to write down for Hungary? Some countries will know what you want with simple set of information such as the train numbers and times while others take you at your literal word (e.g. needing to specifically ask for a seat reservation even if the train has compulsory reservations).

Posted by
334 posts

That's so interesting that you biked the Mission Trail. My wife and some friends of ours just biked the trail this morning.

Posted by
334 posts

Quick question if someone out there has run into this. I attempted to set up everything on the MAV website to buy two tickets online: one domestic, one international. At the end of the process, it sends me to an "optbank" site for internet payment. This site has a field for "Name of the Bank on the card." I am trying to use an American Express, so left this field empty as it was not issued directly through a bank. However, the web site won't let me proceed without entering something. Is it possible to use an Amex that was not issued directly from a bank?

Posted by
13546 posts

Mike, I ran into the same thing one time. I think it was theater tickets thought. I got the impression that putting anything in the blank works. Put in American Express and give it a go.