Has anyone traveled between cities in Hungary? We are wondering about the speed of train travel having heard that the trains are slow and not on time. Are we better off hiring a driver than taking the train? One day trip we want to take is between Budapest and Pecs which looks to be a three hour train trip, one way. Any advice? Thanks.
I can only attest to the train service from Budapest up to Bratislava in April, 2014.
The train was slow leaving town, but ran maybe 55 mph after they left the city. My biggest gripe was with the air conditioning in second class. If it was the Summer, and a/c worked better in first class, it'd be worth the difference in fares.
It's nothing like Italy's fast trains. But hiring a driver to take you would be too costly--given the time savings.
The InterCity is a medium-speed train, making only a few stops on that route. It's not high-speed, but it's a pretty standard quality of service. I would choose train over a private driver but I would also stay overnight in Pecs, instead of traveling roundtrip in one day. If the train happened to be 10 or 20 minutes late, do you have any particular deadline you need to meet? Buses take even longer.
"...traveled between cities in Hungary?" Twice in May 2010 and this May from Györ to Budapest Keleti pu even though I got on in Vienna (Wien Westbahnhof). The RJ train leaves from Westbahnhof, goes to the border where your ticket is checked, this last time no routine passport check, then it proceeds to Györ, after that to Budapest Keleti pu. Very pleasant, satisfactory for both legs to and fro. I didn't notice any A/C. I don't know about the connection to Pecs from Budapest, except that it is a tourist destination too. It was known as Fünfkirchen.
I took the train from Budapest to Pecs, and back. Yes, it's 3 hours each way (my trains ran on time). I did feel it was too far for a day trip, so I did it as an overnight. Pecs wasn't even in Rick's books back then - I read about it in Lonely Planet and Frommers - and an overnight is very worthwhile. I liked it better than Eger, my other overnight away from Budapest, which was disappointing (partly because it was so built up by Rick). For Eger, I took the train there and the bus back (the bus arrived at an outlying Budapest station, but it was right next to a Metro stop).
An added bonus of seeing either Pecs or Eger as an overnight instead of as a day trip from Budapest: hotels in both these cities are much cheaper than those in Budapest.
The trains were older models, but not decrepit or scary - just not glitzy or glamorous like the new ones can be. The ride was fine, and as long as you're not on a train for 6 hours in one day, it's easy enough to pass the time (music, reading, iPod, etc). If you can't do an overnight and want to go to Pecs as a day trip, see if a car is faster, and if your budget can accommodate that (train tickets are cheap).
Thank you for the information and advice.