Trains Budapest-Vienna, Vienna-Prague

Ok, I actually have two questions but if you know the answer to the first, you'll know the second! 1. I've seen a lot of threads on buying train tickets online before you leave. On all of our Europe travels, we have always just gone to the station and purchased them a day or so before or sometimes even same day if its on an afternoon train. I have not been to these cities before so maybe there is something different about them and train tickets (maybe they fill up???). Just want to make sure we get the times we want, make sure I'm not missing something. We also will purchase first class tickets which typically there is more room so not sure if that makes an availability difference or if it makes a huge price difference buying them at the stations vs. online. (I know the classes are virtually the same but my husband is very tall and needs the leg room and I like that first is typically more quiet). Also, we are travelling in October so not during a peak travel season. 2. I haven't traveled with luggage on a train before just used them for day trips. If we cable lock our two bags together, should that be adequate to keep them safe or should we each bring a cable lock to lock them to the luggage rack?
Thank you for any advice. You guys are all great and very insightful.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
320 posts

People buy tickets in advance because it is cheaper. If you buy tickets on the day of travel, you will pay at least double. Train tickets bought online and in advance are for a specific train; tickets bought at the station can be used on any train, so you are paying a premium for full flexibilty. It is not possible for trains to sell out either - no one is counting who gets on. If you don't get a seat, you just stand. You will have no problem getting a seat, however. There is also really no need for 1st class. Really. Finally, it should be noted that Vienna has numerous train stations (the poster above refers to "the Vienna train station" but there is no such thing). You will likely use Wien Meidling and Wien Westbahnhof for your trips, but there are other possibilities. For tickets from Prague to Vienna: https://www.cd.cz/eshop/default.aspx For Vienna to Budapest:
www.oebb.at Whatever you do, DO NOT use RailEurope, eurail, etc. Bad info and way overpriced tickets.

Posted by David
Bellevue, WA, USA
740 posts

you can get tickets 1 or 2 days in advance the trains are not very crowded. the Vienna train station is not too bad, budapest train station is probably better organized you can buy international tickets downstairs and upstairs there is a tourist office can help you look up schedule. you should be able to put your bag over your head on the rack so cable or no cable is ok, as far as you guys take turn to nap or go to the restroom, but it's best to keep valuables on a backpack always stay with you.

Posted by Linda
Austin, TX, USA
59 posts

Thank you. I think I'll wait till we are a few weeks or month out just to finalize a few more plans. Good information to know. I had no idea it was cheaper to book online ahead of time. I guess if we make a change they are not fully refundable but we can use them as a credit to apply for the corrected trip?
Also, yes, much cheaper - as in double or more, I based my train travel budget off of RailEurope so looks like I have more $$ for the shopping budget.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
650 posts

The advice Emily has given you is spot on . To reiterate , don't use Rail Europe . There are gentler ways to put this ,but they are on line ripoff artists . To wit ; a ticket ( lowest price ) from Budapest to Vienna Westbahnhof starts at $67 USD . By purchasing on MAV ( Magyar Allumi Vasutok ,Hungarian State Railways ) the same ticket is $17 USD . I wonder what Raileurope is providing that makes purchasing from them worth the additional $ 50 USD per ticket ? Generally most travelers on these boards will advise purchasing via each country's national rail site . I just bought tickets from Prague to Budapest and Budapest to Vienna for my upcoming trip in September in precisely this manner . , Best Wishes !

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
320 posts

Don't wait too long because there are only a limited number of tickets at the reduced fares. Once those sell out, the price goes up - usually the next bracket is 10 Euro higher. Please note that these tickets are non-refundable meaning that you cannot apply credit towards another purchase. Once you buy them you are locked in.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

A quick way to see whether you want to do advance purchase on a route: go to the website for the country where the train originates (so Hungarian Rail for Budapest to Vienna and Austrian Rail for Vienna to Prague). Compare prices for tomorrow vs. for your dates of travel (or, about two months out, if you don't know your dates or they are too far ahead to have prices listed). If you can live with the last minute prices, no need to buy ahead. If you see substantial savings for advance purchase, and can live with the restrictions on exchanges and refunds, buy in advance.

Posted by Linda
Austin, TX, USA
59 posts

Thank you! I purchased the tickets for Vienna to Prague this morning (after having to call American Express Fraud Dept to let them know it was really me trying to make the charge!). The tickets from Mav-Start gave me this message: No offer available for the journey with these conditions. So I think it may be to early to purchase the tickets from this site. We are about 70 days out from travel.
Thank you again for the advice, it cut my fare in half from what I had budgeted, always good to have positives a budget!!!

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
320 posts

If I remember correctly, you cannot purchase first class seats online with MAV. Maybe that's the issue. As stated above, 2nd class is totally, totally fine (especially on a Railjet train).

Posted by Linda
Austin, TX, USA
59 posts

Ok that's the problem. Can I call them to purchase?

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
650 posts

Two further additions ; Again , as Emily says , second class is fine . Go to the Man in Seat 61 website for photos of Railjet interiors in all classes . I think you can purchase first class on line ,just check it off when you put in your date of travel and birthdates , it's right there . I came up with first class Sparscheine fares of 29 EU each for first class as opposed to 13 EU each for second class . Also , tickets on MAV go on sale 60 days in advance . You will also have to register on the site to complete the transaction . At the end you will receive a ten digit confirmation number that enables you to retrieve your tickets from a blue machine in the station

Posted by Cliff
Texas
120 posts

I did these trains several months and have a funny note to add. 1st trip budapest to vienna, "baggage handlers was very courteous/aggressive in loading our party of 4, then was pretty forceful in how much our "tip" was! Ok, live and learn not a big deal. 2nd trip from vienna to prague, pay attention if you need to switch trains, we missed the station only to be told we were on a train heading to Russia! Ticket personnel took maybe 10 minutes and printed out our new route. All said very easy/fun experiences for people not used to train travel.

Posted by Linda
Austin, TX, USA
59 posts

Thanks to everyone! We've purchased tickets for both legs. I had budgeted $450 and by your advice purchasing early spent $190, yay! Thanks guys!
Cliff, my fellow Texan, I've read about the "official" porters! I won't let anyone touch my luggage! Thanks guys!!!!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Congrats on your savings! Yes, these days, buying advance rail tickets really is one of the most important money-saving tricks. The price difference between advance and last minutes tickets seems to keep growing, and with the Internet, more and more routes are, in effect, putting in this "penalty" for buying tickets at the station.