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Looking for advise on using the train to sightsee between Budapest and Prague:

I have been researching 15 day August trip to Budapest and Prague. I am flying into Budapest and out of Prague. At the moment, I have only the arrival and departure dates booked. I have determined that renting a car will be way too expensive with the drop charges, so I am looking at the train. At this point, I am trying to decide if I should stay 4 days each in Budapest and Prague and seven days train in between. Example: train-Budapest to Bratislava, stay a day & then somewhere else on the way to Prague. If so, could anyone recommend a suggested itinerary. I have read Rick's books on Budapest and Prague and know there is much to see in those areas. Would this be very difficult, as I do not speak the language. OR Should I stay seven days in each city and take day trips using the train to some of the recommended spots? Any help would be greatly appreciated as I have very little experience using trains. Much thanks in advance. Bob

Posted by
5706 posts

I'm going to Budapest (4 nights), Bratislava (2 nights), Vienna (4 nights) and Prague (4 nights) the end of March and first of April, 2014. I've been to Vienna a couple of times, and it's another great European city that's not to be missed.

This is a heavily traveled tourist route, and the train is the way to go from place to place. By roads: Budapest to Bratislava is 120 miles. Bratislava to Vienna is 39 miles. Vienna to Budapest is 185 miles.

Don't be concerned about speaking the language, as English is understood in most places. If you look up these cities in Wikipedia, you'll realize how incredible of cities they each are in different ways.

Posted by
8565 posts

Bob, if this is your first visit to the region then the main hubs should be Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Everyone has different interests and this will just be mine. I would do something like this:

1 Depart the US
2 Arrive Budapest
3 Budapest (Buda & Pest)
4 Budapest (the Bend or some specialized tour….what are your interests?). If you do the bend take the commuter train to Szentendre and ride the boat back into Budapest (half day) or hire a guide to take you on the full Bend tour (all day)
5 Budapest (Pest)
6 Budapest to Gyor. See the Archabbey at Pannonhalma and spend the night at the Klastrom Hotel (renovated 18th century cloister in a wonderful baroque district). Gyor is on the same track that goes on to Vienna so this doesn’t take you out of your way.
7 Late train on into Vienna
8 Vienna
9 Day trip to Bratislava (if you must) or day trip to Melk
10 Vienna
11 Vienna to Cesky Krumlov by van. Get the suite with the balcony at the Hotel Dvorak
12 Cesky Kurmlov to Prague by shuttle bus
Each leg of the shuttle bus will cost about 40 euro a ticket. An entire private car will cost something less than 200 euro. There are a number of reputable companies to choose from.
13 Prague
14 Prague
15 Prague to the US

Even this in my opinion puts you one day short in Budapest but gives you a pretty good cross section of the region. Everyone is unique. For me 2 days in Vienna is plenty and 2.5 days in Prague is plenty, especially in August. You might be in Budapest for the Sziget Festival or the Jewish Summer Festival. Both fun.

Advice for the trains: You don’t really need to purchase tickets on line before you leave. When you arrive in Budapest on maybe the second day take a trip to Keleti station and buy your tickets for Vienna. Consider it a dry run to the station before you have to make the real trip. Tell me where you are staying and I can give you turn by turn, metro by tram directions. It’s an interesting station and getting there is easy and entertaining. You will see four tracks in the station. The remainder of the tracks you can find if you walk to the rear of the station and look right and left. http://www.mav-start.hu/res/keleti_terkep.jpg Trains are clean and comfortable. No great advantage to first class over 2nd class. Careful in selecting a train as some go straight through and some make a lot of stops and take considerably longer.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Bob,

I plan on hitting those to places next year in addition to other places.

I know your time is more limited than mine is, but i dont know if i would just spend a day in a place. I try to spend at least 2 days in a town/city just so im not moving around so much. I will spend a day if its stop over or something but i dont mind spending an extra chill day especially in someplace nice or quite.

Since you have Ricks book on those areas, didnt anything in between appeal to you?

if you have any interests you may want to state them so others can provide better input as to what you should do or see.

also, half the fun is to try and butcher their langage and see if they can still understand you. So for no one has tried to hang me for attempting to use their local language. most are happy or surprised when you say at least "thank you" in their native tongue. I always ask the locals how to pronounce words since im there why not use them?

happy trails.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks to all who responded, your information is invaluable. Have any of you, used the train to travel from small place to place? Like, from Budapest to the bend, then on to Bratislava, & on Gyor or somewhere going towards Prague. I have been to Vienna and its wonderful. Lets say I wanted to go from Bratislava to Brno or somewhere else. Is this possible by train? I am glad English will be sufficient. I would like to take a few days traveling between Budapest and Prague by train if this is not too difficult. Has anybody done something like this? If this could work, I will research an itinerary if I know I can get the trains. Again, much thanks in advance for your helpful input.

Posted by
4437 posts

Travel by train is very easy. Simply come to the station and buy your ticket. Every train from Budapest to Prague goes via Bratislava and Brno. You can find schedule on Deutsche Bahn and also on czech website (it's in English, too): http://www.idos.cz . Between Bratislava and Prague you can stop in UNESCO heritage area Lednice and Valtice, then Brno and Kutna Hora. You can read about Lednice and Valtice and also Kutna Hora in Rick Steves book: Prague and the Czech Republic. To get to Valtice get off train in Breclav (between Bratislava and Brno) and then about 10 minutes by local train. To get to Kutna Hora: there are few trains from Brno to Prague which go via Kutna Hora or you can change trains in Kolin. Brno is not in R.S. book but you can search for it at the top of this page. Type Brno and then click on go. You can do that with Lednice, Valtice and Kutna Hora, too. I know Brno well, so if you have any concrete questions feel free to ask.

Posted by
1 posts

I used trains and buses to travel between Budapest and Prague last Oct. I don't speak Czech and had no problem. I spent 14 days including 4 days in Prague but you could reduce the stops based on your timeline and travel desires.

My itinerary in the Czech Rep was:
Mikulov - 2 nights (Valtice/Lednice possible as a day trip)
Brno - 4 nights (day trips to Olomouc and Pernstejn Castle)
Telc - 2 nights (day trip to Slavonice)
Cesky Krumlov - 2 nights
Prague - 4 nights (day trip to Lidice)

Buy a Spar Day train ticket on the MAV Hungarian Rail Site (Budapest to Brno). You will receive an email with 10 digit number which you will enter into the blue kiosk at the Budapest train station to retrieve your ticket. If you want to go to Mikulov, then get off in Breclav and buy a ticket for the local train to Mikulov. There is an ATM in the Breclav train station. It is cheaper than trying to purchase a ticket Budapest to Mikulov. You can also skip Mikulov and just go direct Budapest to Brno.