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Old Mar 18, 11, 8:24 pm   #1
 
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Advice needed on Budapest-Vienna Route

Hi there. I've been told that rail travel travel pricing is really complex in Europe and that fares vary wildly depending on when and where you buy.

We're going from Budapest to Vienna possibly with a day or two available to stop somewhere along the way. Not sure where - Bratislava seems an option, or perhaps one of the mountain resorts in southeastern Austria (although this apparently would require some bus travel as well?)

My first crack at this and this is what I found (travel time is late May):
Budapest-Bratislava day 1 + Bratislava-Vienna Day 3 for 2 persons:
$146 Second Class restricted
$212 First Class restricted

Budapest-Vienna direct for two persons:
$134 Second Class restricted
$196 First Class restricted

I found this at RailEurope.com
1. Can I do better? If so where, how?
2. Any recommendations on a stop for a day or two along the way?
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Old Mar 19, 11, 5:00 am   #2
 
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You certainly can do much better than that.

Budapest - Vienna:

Option 1: you can buy a second-class ticket, valid for up to 4 days, for €25 each (or €31 each including 2 days' public transport in Vienna). This ticket is valid on any train, no advance booking required. It's actually a round-trip ticket, but is cheaper than the walk-up, one-way ticket.

Option 2: buy a one-way, advance ticket (at least 3 days before departure) for a specific train for €13 each second class (including reservation). These tickets are quota controlled, but there are several trains a day and usually plenty of availability except in the busiest times.

You can in theory buy these tickets on-line on the MAV website, but it is currently only in Hungarian and you have to pick-up the tickets in Budapest anyway. Best to get them at the station before you travel (although option 2 needs advance purchase so may not work, depending on the time you have in Budapest).

Budapest - Bratislava: 2nd class walk-up fare is €16 each round-trip (cheaper than a one way ticket).

Bratislava - Vienna: I'm not sure, but it won't be more than the €14 each round-trip fare from Vienna - Bratislava.

So taking the most expensive options (2nd class):

Budapest-Bratislava, Bratislava-Vienna for 2 persons: €90 max (about $130)

Budapest-Vienna direct for 2 persons: €62 max (about $90), but advance tickets would be only €26 (about $40).

Second class is perfectly OK on these trains. The best trains are the new Railjets between Budapest and Vienna. Bratislava - Vienna trains are only local trains because of the short distance.
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Old Mar 20, 11, 11:25 am   #3
 
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Hi GrizShel, really do not spend that much on tickets, a taxi would cost less. Seriously.

Although it doesn't appear geographically logical, Bratislava is not on your way if you're taking the train. Its an interesting city, especially if you are interested in a mix of baroque times and extreme communist brutalism. Other stop off points that would be directly on the way include Györ (a similar town to Bratislava in Hungary, but a bit smaller), Mosonmagyaróvár (the best of dental tourism--but moreover a spa town) or any other number of Hungarian thermal spa towns.

Its important to understand that the Budapest-Vienna connection is very good. There are trains about every two hours, and they take about 2.5 hours. The new RailJet trains are often in use on this route. There are fewer trains to Bratislava from Budapest and they are not very fast. From Vienna there are trains every 30 minutes to Bratislava. It might make sense just to do it as a day trip from Vienna.

There is good information including the two Budapest-Vienna tickets mentioned @ wikitravel.org. Although you are supposed to buy the SparSchiene Ticket (option 2, €13) at least three days in advance, they often sell them same-day. I'd suggest taking care of the ticket as one of the first things you do when you get to Budapest. Your accomidation will also normally be able to do for a very nominal fee. Be nice to the ticket agents (many are still living in the days of communism and don't feel like speaking english--respect that and do your best to communicate). It'll be no problem if there are any tickets of that type left, otherwise they will sell you the 'option 1' ticket. There is a city ticket-office and an international ticket office on the side of the (Kelti) train station (take a number and wait for your number to come up). Visa & MC cards accepted.

If you are willing to spend €90, there is a hydrofoil which travels the route Budapest-Bratislava-Vienna on the Danube.
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Old Mar 20, 11, 11:40 am   #4
 
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While Bratislava is not a stop train wise, it is a place you could easily stop if you drove.

It is a very interesting city and worth a day or two of your time. See
What's Doing in Bratislava for some ideas.
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Old Mar 20, 11, 3:59 pm   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ofto View Post
Other stop off points that would be directly on the way include Györ (a similar town to Bratislava in Hungary, but a bit smaller), Mosonmagyaróvár (the best of dental tourism--but moreover a spa town) or any other number of Hungarian thermal spa towns.
Personally, I wouldn't recommend either Győr or Mosonmagyaróvár - there's hardly anything of interest there, especially in the latter which is little more than a large village. If you deviate from your route somewhat, Sopron is a pleasant provincial town to stop off at; it's on the border with Austria.

Quote:
From Vienna there are trains every 30 minutes to Bratislava. It might make sense just to do it as a day trip from Vienna.
Probably the best option if you really want to visit Bratislava.

Quote:
Although you are supposed to buy the SparSchiene Ticket (option 2, €13) at least three days in advance, they often sell them same-day.
I certainly wouldn't rely on this.
Quote:
There is a city ticket-office and an international ticket office on the side of the (Kelti) (sic) train station (take a number and wait for your number to come up). Visa & MC cards accepted.
The city office is the best place to buy tickets because there's hardly ever anyone in there. If you must buy at Keleti, forget the international ticket office and buy from the Wasteels agency on platform 9 - usually shorter queues and reasonable customer service in passable English.
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Old Mar 24, 11, 12:01 am   #6
 
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Thanks for a wealth of tips! We'll be staying in Budapest 3 or 4 nights, so may be able to make the 3-day rule.

The hydrofoil sounds intriguing, but paying out 180 Euros is a lot (especially after seeing how cheaply one can get the train tickets). Has anyone done it before?

We'll do some more research on Bratislava and determine whether we want to stay there. A positive for there is we have some free nights that can be used at the Crowne Plaza there which seems pretty nice.
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Old May 15, 11, 5:19 pm   #7
 
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That's amazing that a Budapest - Bratislava RT ticket is cheaper than a one-way?

With the Bud.-Vie. and Vie.-Brats. connnections apparently so good leaning now towards just extending my stay in Vienna and doing a couple of day trips from there.
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Old May 15, 11, 6:59 pm   #8
 
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Originally Posted by GrizShel View Post

With the Bud.-Vie. and Vie.-Brats. connnections apparently so good leaning now towards just extending my stay in Vienna and doing a couple of day trips from there.
If you do stay in Vienna, a really nice day trip is a drive to the Wachau region in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). My favorite place to visit is Dürnstein but the entire region is replete with vineyards and places to visit. In Dürnstein, you can hike to the ruins of the castle where Richard Löwernherz was held captive during the Crusades, something I first did when I was very very young.

A short narrative of one of my visits - with a lot of photos - is here.
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