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Is train travel safe right now in Budapest/Austria/Germany/Amsterdam

I wondered if the trains are safe as the plan was to travel mainly by train after our river cruise ends in Budapest. I was told by a friend here in the US that it was not safe anymore and we may want to rent a car. I would love some current advise from recent travelers. Thank you!

Itinerary: Sept 29th Budapest-Vienna
Vienna to Salzburg
Salzburg to Hallstatt
Hallstatt to Fussen
Fussen to Cologne
Cologne to Amsterdam


Posted by
4637 posts

I cannot imagine why it would not be safe. Just two months ago I traveled from Czech Republic to Vienna and then to Munich. Train goes via Salzburg. I did not notice anything unsafe. Only on the German border (but still in Austria) two families - apparently immigrants were taken off the train by border guards. They were not checking documents of anybody else. So if it happened here in the US the families could claim racial profiling. I noticed them before but nobody considered them dangerous.

Posted by
9363 posts

I can't imagine why it wouldn't be safe, either. Where is this friend getting their information? Have they been to Europe?

Posted by
6793 posts

Does your friend travel often in Europe? By that I mean yearly or more?

If not, then they really have no high value input. I was in Europe three times last year for a total of 5 weeks, in Spain, London, Germany, and Czech republic, never felt any threat. Going to Netherlands and Belgium in a couple weeks, no concern. Will be back in Madrid in February, no concern. I am not trying to brag about my travels, just saying that those that travel often, including many on this board, have no reservations about doing the same itinerary that you are proposing.

Can events happen? Sure, but the likelihood is remote and probably less than problems you might encounter in any US city. Use common sense, be aware,

Realistically, back to your original question, driving would offer no more security, just much more expensive.

Posted by
7786 posts

The train will be safe--but don't expect one of the sparkling clean, fast trains on some of your route. We took the train Budapest to Brataslava and then took a bus into Vienna (39 miles.)
You could take a train over to Hallstadt with 1 transfer. And on to Salzburg and Fuessen (thru Munich.). You can also take a train thru Cologne to Amsterdam.
Taking a rental car all the way to Amsterdam will cost you dearly in drop off fees.

Posted by
22857 posts

I suppose it would help if you describe what safe means to you or what are your concerns. Are you asking about accidents, pickpockets, muggings, terrorists, bombing, etc., etc.? You are going to be far safer on a train from an accident view point than renting a car. What is your friend's knowledge or background related to train travel in Europe? It does little good to tell you train travel is safe if we don't what you are actually worried about. My last travel choice is renting a vehicle.

Posted by
5827 posts

European trains are generally safe.

When analysing the relation between passenger transport performance
and rail safety using the number of passengers killed per
passenger-kilometre, two countries record ratios of ten times higher
than the EU-28 average (0.06 passengers killed per billion
). These Member States are Bulgaria (1.29) and
Czech Republic (0.74).

And that said, it is safer to be in the train than to be outside the train (as in a car crossing the track):

Only a minority (12 %) of rail accident victims in the EU-28 were
actually passengers travelling on trains or railway employees. The
majority, the remaining 88 %, was constituted of ‘other persons’
(e.g.: level-crossing users or unauthorised persons on railway

And in terms of you renting a car, you will have to assess your skill level at driving a rental car in a foreign environment with strange signs while you and your passenger(s) attempt to route find your way while enjoying the passing scenery.

PS If you rent and drive, keep your luggage out of sight while parking and leaving your car unattended.

Posted by
15987 posts

Sept 29th Budapest-Vienna

If your friend was talking about crime in general, Austria and Hungary have radically low crime rates. I don't ever worry about safety and don't worry about my kids when they are out late. Think of a really good American upper middle class subdivision and then extend it to a city. Granted, a few homeless .... My two favorite and the ones that read books. They are usually along the 47/49 tram line. Locals buy them books and they have built up quite a library.

As for cars being broken into. I hear a lot about that in Europe. But i have a lot of friends and acquaintances and read the local news and i have yet to hear of a case in Budapest. That doesn't mean it doesn't happy, just possibly that its not as rampant as it is in other places.

Or your friend may have been referring to beliefs about the results of the migrant situation. First hand, if there are migrants at Budapest Keleti Station you wouldn't know it. I am there a few times a year and in the last few trips didn't see any. The Hungarian and for that matter, all the Visegrad 4 borders have been closed for a very long time; and migrants are a rare sight. As for Vienna, Vienna has been in the news lately for sending troops to the Italian border to stop migrants from crossing so the situation of 2015 I doubt exists to any degree today.

As for train quality. Second class is about 90% as good as first class and a bit cheaper. RailJet trains are newer than the EC trains, but not always faster. Both are clean and well maintained. The trip takes about 1.5 hours.

For this leg if you still don't want to ride the train, a private transfer would be my choice ( I think its about $350.

I was in Cologne about a year ago, and a lot may have changed since then, but I didn't find the situation personally comforting.

Posted by
14012 posts

On this last trip May to July, and last summer's trip, I rode the trains covering the places and routes you list, Vienna to Linz (not as far as Salzburg), Munich to Vienna, Düsseldorf to Munich, (the opposite direction of Cologne to Amsterdam) problems at all. This includes the 2 night train routes I took, Hamburg Hbf to Wien Hbf, and St Pölten to Hannover Hbf. Aside from the trains being late, ie one hour or more, the rides were pleasant, enjoyable, just normal.

What would do if you deemed the trains not safe? What then? Your information on "not safe anymore" is completely inaccurate, I would not even consider it, never saw anything out of the ordinary (day or night train ) on the platforms (or in the stations themselves) if you know what to look for.

Posted by
18466 posts

I think your friend has been watching too much fake news. They obviously have not been to Europe in the last 70 years. You are much more likely to die in a car accident than on a train, even though the drunk driving laws in Europe seem to have kept most of the impaired drivers off the roads there. A lot fewer than in the USA.

Posted by
631 posts

I know the feeling, in the UK everyone "knows" how dangerous the USA is with gang drive by shootings, and mugging murders on in every city, and how you must lock all your doors before driving a rental car away from an airport...................

The trains from Budapest to Vienna are very nice, almost new and Austrian. And just like all the other legs except transfer from Austria into Fussen should be booked now to get a decent price.

Hallstatt is a local bus ride from Salzburg and not worth changing hotels for. Which would make getting to Fussen a lot easier

Posted by
7209 posts

Ahh - to have those special "friends" who keep the rumor mill fueled to the max! My mother had a special "friend" who told her that European thieves would cut off her fingers to steal her rings...

I've been traveling multiple times per year to Europe for the last 15 years, and my wife and me still have all 10 of our original fingers!

Posted by
15987 posts

Now I understand. Apparently it is in the news. Found it here and in German and English news sites.

Fascinating. Your friend didnt do a bad thing to heighten your awareness so you could ask questions, make yourself informed, and come to a decision that fits your comfort level. Personally, (but who am I?), I wouldn't give it a second thought. Too large a continent, too many trains and too few terrorists to have any real impact.

But the only absolute in life is that there are no absolutes, so, if it does make you uneasy, don't give up on Europe completely. Do more research and maybe there will be places where you can find your comfort level.

Posted by
2779 posts

To be perfectly honest with you train travel in Europe is absolutely safe. Just consider the numbers: French rail sell about 4 billion tickets a year, German rail about 2.5 billion. Every day so many millions of people use European trains and arrive safely and more or less on time ;-).

Now about potential terrorist attacks. Very few dozens of people have become victims of attacks on European trains - compared of the billions that use the service. If there were attacks they were in the two weeks before a major national election. As you know the biggest and most important upcoming election is in Germany and on September 24th chances of anything happening right AFTER this date are close to zero. You are more likely to being involved in an airplane or car crash.

Personally I have to attend a conference in Cologne September 18 and 19, so just the week before the election. While I'd always take the train from Frankfurt to Cologne (you get there in half the time as opposed to driving on the freeway, even though there is no speed limit on most parts of A3) in that particular week and just because I'm needed as a family father I'll take the car (and probably get hurt in a car accident).

Posted by
7036 posts

Friends give really bad advice sometimes. Renting a car will cost you a fortune with the drop-off fees, parking, and gas.

Posted by
10075 posts

I can't imagine where your friend got his/her ideas! Ridiculous. I just returned from Europe , used trains almost daily.

Posted by
3788 posts

If people would bother to read through other people's responses you might get an idea of where this question has come from and respond in a more understanding way. James E has uncovered a mid August 2017, Newsweek article that gives pause to thinking about European and US train safety. Perhaps we all should read through each other's responses and offer constructive ideas to help a person get around their fears rather than to attack their thoughts and friends.

I must admit though that this one article (or many if they could be produced) would not cause me to change my travel plans. Some people who haven't traveled to Europe as much may need some alternatives if they are too uncomfortable with this one piece of information. Suggesting car rental or basing in one region of a country may be a good fit for a person who wants to travel within their own comfort level.

Posted by
22857 posts

I think we have sufficiently beat this subject to death. I doubt seriously if this will encourage the OP to return with any comment.

Posted by
14012 posts

If you are concerned about safety riding the trains in Austria, Germany, how would the locals feel about or deal with this concern? Americans are certainly NOT the only tourists riding the trains. Look at the others in the same coach as you, all the more so when it's one going to heavily tourist frequented places, ie Hallstatt and Salzburg, likewise with Budapest.

Posted by
8889 posts

When I see a post like this, after resisting the initial temptation to roll my eyes and think "not another 'is it safe' post" (no criticism of the original poster intended), I then see someone who is totally unfamiliar with the scale of train travel in Europe (and in many other parts of the world).

Train travel is huge. A poster above was talking about billions of tickets sold. "Last year the average Swiss took the train 59 times, over a total distance of 2,288 Km" (click for source)

Passengers journeys by rail per year: Germany 2,007 million, Italy 622 million etc. This is humongous. Millions of trips per day. Would the poster have asked "is road travel safe"? Would they have considered not travelling by road if a friend had said it is not safe anymore? Accidents and criminal activity are a lot more common on roads.
The fact (s)he hasn't shows a misconception of the scale.

One of the things we have to get over is that rail travel is not a few tourist trains, it is the base transport system, in the same league as road for short and medium distances, and much more used than air.

Posted by
2393 posts

We have been traveling by train for the past 2 weeks with no issues. The only thing I would note is on the train from Amsterdam to the border with Germany it was announced several times to not leave your luggage as there were more pick-pockets on the trains these days. On the train to Amsterdam from Cologne we left our bags at our seats and went to the bistro car with no problems. It was an open saloon and we did befriend our seat mates.

Posted by
2 posts

I just want to thank each one of you for all of your help with this. I was very excited as I planned my trip around the train experience especially through Austria and was looking forward to it. And you are right there always is a friend that will rain on your parade and has a negative comment that apparently is wrong. We are going on all the trains and we will have a blast!

Posted by
11613 posts

Good for you!

I think sometimes our friends are trying to be helpful but the only thing they have to contribute is some negative thing they've heard, so that's what they say. It's just misinformation, which is easy enough to correct by asking the question of a wider audience.

Posted by
2314 posts

In all this abstract euphemistic discussion of safety and relative dangers there has been no one with the courage to speak plainly, so I guess it's up to me:
you are under considerable risk when traveling on those routes of encountering dark, heavy, unsavory
types of bread products and pastries in general,
not to mention meats and cheeses served at unusual temperatures and unusual times of day. (So far as American standards go)
Forewarned is forearmed.
[ /S is a sarcasm marker]
You are also very likely to be placed in situations where you have to interact with various subtypes of Saxons and Slavs. There is no reason for excessive anxiety about this -- they can generally be treated as though they were normal people. I will wager that many of our travel forum regulars have best friends who are of slavic or germanic descent. I'd even let my daughter marry one. Maybe. If he had money and comported himself well.

Posted by
14012 posts

If you listen to your friends on European travel, that presupposes that they know more than you. I don't. That also presupposes that their conclusions are valid and yours are not.

Posted by
3972 posts

One of my favorite things about Europe is the convenience of the public transportation systems. Less concerned about that then the possibility of being carjacked at the local Target or Walmart :)

Posted by
2909 posts

We rode the trains in May-June in France, Germany, Austria, and Croatia. Aside from getting questions from other train passengers about our situation (friendly questions), we had no problems. We did have one situation in which we had to change trains due to a mechanical issue. Everyone was very helpful, there was no problem, we did fine. All of these locations you mention are 1st world locations. While Germany does have a lot of foreign illegal persons now, we did actually not see many on our trip. I strongly doubt you will have problems, but stuff does happen. Keep your ear to the ground, go to the DB Reiseburo for help, and you should not have difficulty. And as to travel by car: We did that on the trip as well. That too was fine. There is one thing Americans do not understand about Europe (you may be different): There are a lot of speeding radar traps, which check your speed. We got 2 tickets in France, for a total of 50 E. No points, but this is a hidden cost of driving. If you don't know the "usual cushion" of speed that will be tolerated (in the US, you seldom get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by 10 MPH), then you may get a ticket which increases your travel cost for the car. Also with the trains, they can go really really fast, much faster than a car, so you get places faster with much less stress and concern.

Posted by
631 posts

"Germany does have a lot of foreign illegal persons" - no it doesn't, most are legal even if the Hungarians etc didn't want them.

Posted by
4637 posts

Nobody knows how many illegal foreign people are in Germany. But by Geneva and Dublin protocol refugee has to apply for political asylum in the first free country otherwise is illegal migrant. Most migrants before they got to Germany traveled through many free countries. That means majority of migrants are illegal. I know little bit about it because once I was a political refugee myself and certainly it did not even cross our minds that we could walk freely across the borders between free countries. By doing it we would lose our right for political asylum.

Posted by
15987 posts

even if the Hungarians etc didn't want them

The "etc" group that is most often critizised is called the Visegrad Four or the Visegrad Group or the V4. Like a mini G20 the V4 is a formal inter governmental orgaization that includes Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. The V4 has an interesting discussion on the issue here:

Here are where the walls are (so far).

Posted by
14012 posts

There are certainly ways to recognise the newcomers (legal or illegal) in Germany when you ride the trains based on my summer trip this year and that of last year. Anyone who can't spot that out does not know Germany. It depends on which type of train it is, sometimes where the train is going, ie the area, etc, or when the train is. I've seen stowaways (women and kids) taken off the train escorted by the Bavarian Polizei. That was in Rosenheim in 2016.

These two latest trips I took a total of 4 night trains...never saw any migrant types on the platforms waiting for the EN night day, or coming off the train at the train's terminus. On the ICE and IC trains, I never saw any migrant types or heard them on board (easy to discern) or waiting for the ICE or IC on the platforms.

On the RB trains is where you would see them, be it in Schleswig-Holstein, en route to Kiel or Neumünster, the Hamburg to Bremen route, the lower Rhine area near Düsseldorf, such as Wesel, Mönchengladbach, en route to Venlo (Holland), in Westfalen and the . Hannover, you ride the Regional Bahn to get out to the towns next an urban center, you'll surely run into them taking that RB train. . Numerous routes were only standing room because the train was so crowded. In eastern Germany fewer chances of encountering them, not the places I went to...Jena, Neustrelitz. At Halle Hbf they were there just milling around.

This summer's trip I saw no one escorted off the train, contrary to last year when on one occasion when crossing the border back into Germany from Austria, I heard the DB controller announce that everyone had to get their tickets, passports, and visas out to be checked. at which time I got my rail Pass out along with passport.

Posted by
8889 posts

That map James E linked to is rubbish ( ). Those red lines DO NOT correspond to physical barriers.
AFIK only Hungary has built a fence, and in that case it is only a short distance either side of the border posts to stop people sneaking around the post.
There has definitely been nothing built along France or Germany borders, not one single fence post. It is still legal to cross the border anywhere you want (Schengen rules). The fence at Calais is a few hundred metres along the side of the road heading for the docks, to keep people off the road.

What Fred described is what is actually happening:

This summer's trip I saw no one escorted off the train, contrary to last year when on one occasion when crossing the border back into Germany from Austria, I heard the DB controller announce that everyone had to get their tickets, passports, and visas out to be checked.

That is, targeted ID checks on some trains and some roads.
These are not full border checks in that you are not being processed in or out of the country, instead they are police ID checks the same as my happen in the street, trying to spot people without ID. They are getting less frequent, but they still happen.
The check I saw was a few weeks ago, similar to what Fred described, French "Douane" (customs) walked down the carriage and asked to see everybody's ID. This was so unusual and unexpected that many people had to go to their cases to get their ID.
I have also seen German "Bundespolizei" (federal police) looking into the windows of a tram I was on that had just crossed the border, but they didn't get on.

Posted by
631 posts

But by Geneva and Dublin protocol refugee has to apply for political asylum in the first free country otherwise is illegal migrant. - except the german government basically issued an open invitation to the genuine refugees - which means they are legal and the protocols are irrelevant. Where it all went wrong was that certain countries to the south and east didn't bother to do their basic checks on who was a refugee - as long as the lines kept moving towards germany they didn't care. And when the germans realised they had to do checks that should have been done days earlier it created a backlog and then the other countries started playing the victim.

Posted by
14012 posts

"That was so unusual and unexpected..." Very true, I would have to look at my notes to give the exact date on which this happened to me on this last trip in June in Germany. I took the train to Salzburg from Munich since it was already covered on a rail Pass day. After the couple of hours, I got on at Salzburg Hbf for the ride back to Munich. My coach was 90 % empty. Two guys with "Polizei" on their backs approached my seat from behind, asked for a passport not in English, which surprised me, since they could tell I was a tourist, but in German, "Haben Sie einen Reisepass dabei?" Admittedly, I was caught off guard, even thought it might be a scam, answered, Ja. As I was trying to get it out of my zippered inside jacket pocket, I even asked them why, "Warum denn?"

The passport checks I had seen in Germany in 2016 the question was asked in English to those looking like a tourist. So, I handed over my passport, one of them asked where I had arrived, which I took to mean, landing in Europe...wrong, since I said, " London." Flipping through the passport, the guy said "Paris?" ie, when you entered the Schengen zone. He asked one more question, "Sie reisen nach Deutschland?" (You're going to Germany?) I thought, isn't it obvious, the train is heading to Munich. I asked them if they were the Grenzkontrolle, which in the past wore a different color uniform. Later on I was told that the Bavarian Polizei were checking passports. Certainly, the Austrians were not checking.