Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest.  It's easy to reach Budapest by train..!

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest

 

London to Hungary in 24 hours

The train ride from London to Budapest is safe, comfortable & affordable and takes less than 24 hours.  Take an afternoon Eurostar to Brussels, the excellent Nightjet sleeper train overnight to Vienna and an onward EuroCity train to the heart of Budapest.  Or take Eurostar to Paris and a high-speed TGV to Stuttgart, then a Hungarian sleeper train to Budapest.  Or travel by daytime trains with an overnight stop in Munich or Zurich.  Timetables, prices and how to buy tickets for all these options are explained below in a step-by-step guide.

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Which route to choose?

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London to Budapest by Eurostar to Brussels, sleeper to Vienna, train to Budapest

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London to Budapest by Eurostar to Paris, sleeper to Vienna, railjet to Budapest

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London to Budapest by Eurostar to Paris, TGV to Stuttgart, sleeper to Budapest

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London to Budapest by daytime trains with overnight stop in Munich

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London to Budapest by daytime trains with overnight stop in Zurich - the scenic route!

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London & Cambridge to Budapest via ferry from Harwich

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UK to Budapest via ferry from Newcastle or Hull

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Starting from other UK towns & cities

International trains to & from Budapest

small bullet point  Trains to Budapest from other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Budapest to other European cities

Useful train travel information

small bullet point  Budapest Keleti railway station facilities

small bullet point  Hotels in Budapest - suggested places to stay

small bullet point  Useful country information: currency, dial code...

small bullet point  Holidays & tours to Budapest by train

small bullet point  General European train travel information

small bullet point  Taking a bike    Taking a dog

small bullet point  Luggage   Left luggage at stations

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

Route map:  London to Budapest by train

Route map:  London to Budapest by train

Useful country information

Train operator

in Hungary:

MAV (Magyar Allamvasutak) www.mavcsoport.hu, www.elvira.hu for times & fares

All-Europe online train times    Eurostar times & fares.

 

Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses   Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:

GMT+1 (GMT+2 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+36

Currency:

£1 = 420 Forint,  €1 = 370 Forint, approx.    Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.hungarytourism.hu   Hotels in Budapest   Budapest metro map

Hotels:

Find a hotel in Budapest   Hotel reviews: www.tripadvisor.com     Backpacker hostels

Page last updated:

16 February 2024.  Train times valid 10 December 2023 to 14 December 2024.


London to Budapest

Which route to choose?

Which option is cheapest?  You have to go online and see, because each option involves several tickets and the price of each ticket varies like an air fare.  However, at short notice, the ferry options are usually cheaper than Eurostar.

Can you go out one way, back another?  Yes!  Almost all European train fares are priced as one-way, so you can book one-way out on one route and one-way back on another.  Eurostar is the exception where a return fare is cheaper than two one-ways, so book London-Paris or London-Brussels as a round trip if you can.

Can you stop off?  Of course!  Simply book trains either side of the stopover on whatever dates you want.  Each part of these journeys is ticketed separately in any case (for example, the Eurostar, the sleeper train and the onward train), so it's no problem to stop off on the way at any of the key interchange points.

What if you're not starting from London?  See this advice about starting your journey from elsewhere in the UK.


Option 1, London to Budapest using the Brussels-Vienna sleeper

This is the easiest, most comfortable & most time-effective way from the UK to Budapest.  Take Eurostar to Brussels, the excellent 3-times-a-week Nightjet sleeper from Brussels to Vienna, then a connecting train to Budapest.  The sleeper is expected to become daily from autumn 2024.  Incidentally, option 2 is almost identical in all respects, but via Paris rather than Brussels, so check that out too.

London ► Budapest

Budapest  ► London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Brussels by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £97 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child fares 

 

 2. Brussels to Vienna

 by Nightjet sleeper train

 one-way per person per bed

In a seat

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

1-berth

3-berth

+ shower

2-berth

+ shower

1-berth

+ shower

 Fares start at:

€29.90

€49.90

€59.90

€89.90

€109.90

€159.90

€99.90

€139.90

€189.90

 

 3. Vienna to Budapest

 From €19 each way in 2nd class, €29 each way in 1st class.

How to buy tickets

Another way to buy tickets

Or use an Interrail pass

Have your trip arranged as a package

How to buy tickets by phone

What's the journey like?

1. London to Brussels by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide.  Brussels Midi station guideIn Brussels, I recommend using the Pullman Hotel bar as your VIP waiting room.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Brussels to Vienna by Nightjet

This is an Austrian Railways (ÖBB) Nightjet train, with sleeping-car, couchettes & seats.  The sleeping-car has 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, plus three deluxe compartments with 1, 2 or 3 beds with private shower & toilet.  The sleeper berths come fully made up with sheets and duvets, all sleeper passengers get mineral water in the evening and a light breakfast served in their compartment next morning.  Towels & toiletries are provided, including shampoo and shower gel in the deluxe sleepers.  In the more economical couchettes, you can book a couchette in a cheaper 6-berth compartment or a less-crowded 4-berth compartment, each provided with sheet, blanket, pillow & small bottle of water, and couchette passengers get a tea or coffee in the morning.  When waiting for the northbound sleeper train in Vienna, if you have booked a sleeper you can use the ÖBB lounge with complimentary refreshments.  More pictures & information about Nightjet trainsVienna Hbf station guide.

The Nightjet sleeper from Brussels to Vienna at Brussels

On 20 January 2020, the inaugural Nightjet left Brussels for Vienna, the first scheduled sleeper train to leave Brussels in 16 years.  Above, that inaugural train is seen ready to leave Brussels Midi on 20 January - naturally, the Man in Seat 61 was on board!  More about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

Same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchettes on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car on the Brussels-Vienna Nightjet.

3. Vienna to Budapest by EuroCity or railjet train

Railjet trains have 1st & 2nd class plus a small Business Class area where seats cost €15 more than regular 1st class and a complimentary welcome drink of tea, coffee or wine is included.  All seats have power sockets.  There's a restaurant car although in 1st & Business classes an attendant will take food orders and serve you at your seat.  EuroCity trains use older but still comfortable air-conditioned Hungarian carriages, usually with a restaurant car.  More about Vienna to Budapest trains Budapest Keleti station guide.

A railjet train about to leave Vienna

A railjet about to leave Vienna.  More about railjets.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

14-seat restaurant & bar counter.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

A Railjet train at Budapest

The railjet has landed.  A railjet has arrived spot on time in Budapest's historic Keleti station, built 1881-1884

Back to top


Option 2, London to Budapest using the Paris-Vienna sleeper

Almost identical to option 1, but via Paris instead of Brussels.  Option 1 involves an easy same-station change in Brussels from Eurostar to Nightjet, this involves an easy 7 minute walk from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est, that's the only real difference.  The Paris-Vienna & Brussels-Vienna Nightjets run on the same 3 days of the week (both due to become daily from autumn 2024), in fact they run coupled together as a single train between Mannheim and Vienna.

London ► Budapest

Budapest ► London

  • Step 1, travel from Budapest to Vienna by railjet, leaving Budapest Keleti at 15:40 and arriving Vienna Hbf at 18:20.

    The railjet has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, see more about railjets.  By all means book an earlier train and spend an afternoon or evening in Vienna.

    Tip:  If you have a 1st class ticket, you can use the business lounge at Budapest Keleti near platform 9, open 06:00-21:30 daily open for anyone with a 1st class international ticket to, from or via Budapest. 

    Tip:  If you have a sleeper ticket, you can use the ÖBB lounge at Vienna Hbf before boarding the sleeper, with complimentary refreshments & free WiFi.

  • Step 2, travel from Vienna to Paris by Nightjet, leaving Vienna Hbf at 19:38 on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, arriving Paris Est at 10:24.

    This train is expected to run daily from autumn 2024.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet sleeper train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There's a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    There's no restaurant car, but in sleepers or couchettes you can order drinks, snacks and hot dishes from a room service menu, served in your compartment.  The sleeper & couchette fares include a light breakfast with tea or coffee.

    In Paris, it's an easy 7 minute 500m walk from the Gare de l'Est to the Gare du Nord, but I'd allow 2-3 hours between trains in case of delay.

  • Step 3, travel from Paris to London by Eurostar, leaving Paris Gare du Nord at 13:12 daily arriving London St Pancras at 14:30.

    Eurostar has two cafe-bars, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Standard Premier & Business Premier fares include lunch with wine.

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Paris by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £97 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child fares 

 

 2. Paris to Vienna by

 Nightjet sleeper train

 one-way per person per bed

In a seat

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

1-berth

3-berth

+ shower

2-berth

+ shower

1-berth

+ shower

 Fares start at:

€29.90

€49.90

€59.90

€89.90

€109.90

€159.90

€99.90

€139.90

€189.90

 

 3. Vienna to Budapest by railjet

 From €19.90 each way in 2nd class, €29.90 each way in 1st class.

Fares vary like air fares, book early for the cheapest prices.

On the sleeper train, berths are sold individually, so one ticket means one bed, the other beds in your compartment will be sold to other passengers.  For sole occupancy, simply book 1 ticket in a 1-berth sleeper or 2 tickets in a 2-berth sleeper or 4 tickets in a 4-berth couchette and so on.

Return fares are twice the one-way fare.

How to buy tickets

  • Step 2, now use www.thetrainline.com again to book the London-Paris Eurostar connection, add to basket.

    You print your own tickets or can show them on your phone.

    Tip:  After booking you can use the Manage booking facility at www.eurostar.com to choose an exact seat from a seating plan, see tips on choosing a seat on Eurostar.

  • Step 3, now use www.thetrainline.com again to book the Vienna-Budapest railjet connection, add to basket & check out.

    You print your own tickets or can show them on your phone.

  • Tip:  If you're travelling from a town or city north of London, see advice about buying domestic tickets to London to connect with Eurostar.

  • Alternatively, you can book the Nightjet sleeper train at the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at (a little more fiddly, in €, has been known to reject some international cards, but no booking fee) and then the Eurostar at www.eurostar.com.  This means more work on multiple websites, prices should be exactly the same, but no booking fee.

Or use an Interrail pass

  • Pass or point to point?

    Let's be clear, a pass will not save money over the cheapest point-to-point advance-purchase fares you might see if you book a few months ahead.  But when point-to-point fares are expensive (for example, at short notice) OR you want flexibility, for example the ability to change your mind, re-route or reschedule as necessary, a pass might be what you need.

    If flexibility is what you want, buy the pass.  If it's about saving money, you'll have to check point-to-point prices and do the maths.

    It's worth doing the maths if you are under 28, if you have kids (kids get a free pass when accompanying an adult but still need to pay reservation fees) or if you live a long way from London (as a pass covers you from your home station to London).  Passes are available in 1st & 2nd class, a 2nd class pass is all you need to book any type of sleeper on the Nightjet, even a deluxe.

Have your trip arranged as a package

  • Railbookers are a train tour & holiday specialist who can put a trip together as a package, with rail travel, hotels & transfers to your specifications.  As you're booking a package, they'll also take care of you if anything happens such as a strike or delay.  One of their most popular trips is Ultimate Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest with train travel from the UK - it can be customised to include train travel back to the UK as well, just ask them.  Also a top seller is their holiday to Berlin & Prague with travel to & from London by train.

    UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US call 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com

    Canadian flag  Canada call 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com

    Australian flag  Australia call 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand call 0800 000 554 or see website

  • Byway (Byway.travel) is a UK-based eco-holiday firm with a 5-star TrustPilot rating.  If you're nervous about booking train travel yourself, book a UK-Budapest train trip through Byway as a package, including hotels and starting from any British station you like.  Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption and re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away. 

    To see pre-configured packages from London to Budapest, use the journey planner on their website.

    Or they can build a trip to your requirements, either email them or use this contact form.  When you book, please quote 'Seat 61'.

  • Escorted tours:  If you'd like to travel with a convivial group of travellers escorted by a professional tour guide, the operators to check are Great Rail Journeys (www.greatrail.com, in the UK call 01904 527 120) and Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727.  Both have various escorted tours from the UK to Prague by train, with departures on a variety of dates.

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in just 2 hours 20 minutes, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Gare du Nord station guide.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at Paris Nord.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Vienna by Nightjet

This is an Austrian Railways (ÖBB) Nightjet train, with sleeping-car, couchettes & seats.  The two sleeping-cars each have nine 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3 bed deluxe compartments with private shower & toilet.  The sleeper berths come fully made up with sheets and duvets, all sleeper passengers get mineral water in the evening and a light breakfast served in their compartment next morning.  Towels & toiletries are provided, including shampoo and shower gel in the deluxe sleepers.  In the more economical couchettes, you can book a couchette in a cheaper 6-berth compartment or a less-crowded 4-berth compartment, each provided with sheet, blanket, pillow & small bottle of water, and couchette passengers get a tea or coffee in the morning.  When waiting for the northbound sleeper train in Vienna, if you have booked a sleeper you can use the ÖBB lounge with complimentary refreshments.  More about Nightjets Paris Gare de l'Est station guide Vienna Hbf station guide.

The Nightjet sleeper from Munich to Amsterdam

A comfortline sleeping-car on a Nightjet sleeper train.  More about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

Same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car on a Nightjet.

3. Vienna to Budapest by EuroCity or railjet train

Railjet trains have 1st & 2nd class plus a small Business Class area where seats cost €15 more than regular 1st class and a complimentary welcome drink of tea, coffee or wine is included.  All seats have power sockets.  There's a restaurant car although in 1st & Business classes an attendant will take food orders and serve you at your seat.  EuroCity trains use older but still comfortable air-conditioned Hungarian carriages, usually with a restaurant car.  More about Vienna to Budapest trains Budapest Keleti station guide.

A railjet train about to leave Vienna

A railjet about to leave Vienna.  More about railjets.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

14-seat restaurant & bar counter.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

A Railjet train at Budapest

The railjet has landed.  A railjet has arrived spot on time in Budapest's historic Keleti station, built 1881-1884

Back to top


Option 3, by Eurostar to Paris, TGV to Stuttgart, sleeper to Budapest

Another good way to reach Budapest, with daily departures, a convenient morning departure from London, cosy sleeper berth at night on a comfortable Hungarian sleeper train with a morning arrival in Budapest with a full day's sightseeing ahead of you.

London ► Budapest

  • Step 2, travel from Paris to Stuttgart by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 15:55 Monday-Friday & Sunday arriving Stuttgart Hbf 19:04.  On Saturdays, leave Paris Gare de l'Est at 13:51 arriving Stuttgart Hbf 17:04.

    The 320 km/h double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Times may vary, so check your date at int.bahn.de.

  • Step 3, travel from Stuttgart to Budapest by sleeper train Kalman Imre, leaving Stuttgart Hbf at 20:29 and arriving Budapest Keleti 09:19.

    The Kalman Imre has a modern air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, an air-conditioned Hungarian couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and ordinary seats.  A restaurant car is available from departure until after midnight.  More about this sleeper train.

Budapest ► London

How much does it cost?

Each train is ticketed separately, so add up the price for each leg of the journey.  On the sleeper train, berths are sold individually, so one ticket means one bed, the other beds in your compartment will be sold to other passengers.  For sole occupancy, simply book 1 ticket in a single-berth sleeper or 2 tickets in a 2-berth sleeper or 4 tickets in a 4-berth couchette & so on.

 1. London to Paris

     by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £97 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child fares 

 

 2. Paris to Stuttgart

     by TGV

 From €39.90 each way in 2nd class

 From €69.90 each way in 1st class.

 The price varies like air fares, so book ahead.

 If you book at int.bahn.de, accompanied children under 15 go free.

 

 3. Stuttgart to Budapest

 on the Kalman Imre

In a  

seat:

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

 One-way fares start at:

€29

€49

€59

€69

€79

€139

How to buy tickets

  • The best place to buy tickets is www.thetrainline.com as you can book all your tickets together in one place, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.  There's a small booking fee.  Who are Thetrainline.com?

    Booking opens up to 6 months ahead for Eurostar, the Paris-Stuttgart TGV & the Stuttgart-Budapest sleeper.  You can book hotels & accommodation before booking the trains risk-free using www.booking.com as they offer free cancellation.  More about when train booking opens.

  • Step 1, go to www.thetrainline.com and using the train times on this page as a guide, book the Eurostar from London to Paris & add to basket.

    If you're returning, book the Eurostar as a round trip because Eurostar return fares are significantly cheaper than two one-ways.  With the TGV & sleeper train it doesn't matter, a round trip is simply two one-ways and it can be easier to book one way at a time & add to basket.

    By all means book an earlier Eurostar out, or a later Eurostar coming back, if this has a cheaper fare available or if you'd like to stop off in Paris.  Remember that your return date from Paris is the day after you leave Budapest.

Another way to book tickets

  • Alternatively, you can buy tickets for each train direct from the relevant train operator with no booking fee, but this means using 3 different websites and the fares should be the same.  Do a dry run on all 3 sites to confirm train times, prices & availability before booking non-refundable tickets.  If you're new to European train travel, I'd stick with www.thetrainline.com.

  • Step 1, go to German Railways int.bahn.de and using the train times on this page as a guide, book the TGV from Paris to Stuttgart & back.  You print your own ticket.  Easy!  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in and check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

  • Step 2, now book the sleeper from Stuttgart to Budapest at the Austrian Railways site www.oebb.at.  Bookings usually open up to 90 days ahead and you print your own ticket.

  • Step 3, now add the connecting Eurostar from London to Paris at www.eurostar.com.  Remember that your return date will be the day after leaving Budapest.  Use the recommended Eurostar times above as a guide, but by all means book an earlier Eurostar outwards, or a later Eurostar on the way back, if this has cheaper seats available or if you'd like to stop off in Paris for a while.  You print your own ticket.

Or use an Interrail pass

  • Pass or point to point?

    Let's be clear, a pass will not save money over the cheapest point-to-point advance-purchase fares you might see if you book a few months ahead.  But when point-to-point fares are expensive (for example, at short notice) OR you want flexibility, for example the ability to change your mind, re-route or reschedule as necessary, a pass might be what you need.

    If flexibility is what you want, buy the pass.  If it's about saving money, you'll have to check point-to-point prices and do the maths.

    It's worth doing the maths if you are under 28, if you have kids (kids get a free pass when accompanying an adult but still need to pay reservation fees) or if you live a long way from London (as a pass covers you from your home station to London).  Passes are available in 1st & 2nd class.

Have your trip arranged as a package

  • Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can put together a trip as a package, including rail travel, hotels & transfers.  Their website has a range of suggested tours & holidays which can be customised to your requirements.  One of their most popular trips is their Ultimate Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest which starts by train from the UK.  It can be customised to include train travel back to the UK as well, just ask.

    UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com

    Canadian flag  Canada call 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com

    Australian flag  Australia call 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand call 0800 000 554 or see website

  • Byway (Byway.travel) is a UK-based eco-holiday firm with a 5-star TrustPilot rating.  If you're nervous about booking train travel yourself, book a one-way or return UK-Hungary trip through Byway as a package, including hotels & starting from any British station you like.  Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption & re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away.

    To see pre-configured packages from London to Budapest, use the journey planner on their website.

    Or they can build a trip to your requirements, either email them or use this contact form.  When you book, please quote 'Seat 61'.

  • Escorted tours:  If you'd like to travel with a convivial group of travellers escorted by a professional tour guide, contact Great Rail Journeys at www.greatrail.com, in the UK call 01904 527 120.  They have regular escorted tours from the UK to Prague, Budapest & Vienna by train.

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Gare du Nord station guide.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at Paris Nord.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Stuttgart by TGV Duplex   See the video

In Paris it's an easy 7 minute 500m walk from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est for the TGV to Germany.  Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  The train soon leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods & farmland at up to 320 km/h (199 mph), past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region.  An hour or two later, the train leaves the high-speed line and slowly meanders through pretty wooded hills, the countryside eventually flattening out towards Strasbourg.  On leaving Strasbourg, look out for Strasbourg cathedral on the left with its famously missing second tower.  Minutes afterwards you rumble across the river Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart.  Paris Gare de l'Est station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de l'Est

TGV Duplex at Paris Est. These impressive 320 km/h double-deck trains link Paris & Stuttgart, a relaxing journey with reading book & glass of wine.  Book an upstairs seat for the best views.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on the upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex to Munich at Paris Est.

1st class on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

3. Stuttgart to Budapest by sleeper train Kalman Imre   See the video

Cosy & inviting, the photo below shows the modern air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car of the Kalman Imre in Munich.  The sleeping-car has 11 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth room, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  The fare includes a light breakfast of coffee, juice & croissant More about the sleeper train Kalman Imre Budapest Keleti station guide.

The sleeper train Kalman Imre from Munich to  Budapest

Sleeper train Kalman Imre at Munich Hbf.  More about this sleeper train.

The sleeper train from Zurich to Budapest   4-berth couchettes on train to Budapest   6-berth couchettes on train to Budapest

2 bed sleeper, can also be set up as 1 or 3 bed.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes.

Good morning Budapest!

City of Budapest & the Danube

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Option 4, London to Budapest with overnight stop in Munich

If you prefer to travel on daytime trains rather than sleepers, you can travel very affordably from London to Budapest with an overnight hotel stop in Munich.

London ► Budapest

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Munich by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 15:55 Mondays-Fridays & Sundays arriving Munich Hbf 21:36.

    On Saturdays it leaves Paris Gare de l'Est at 17:52 arriving Munich Hbf 23:26.

    The 320 km/h double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Times may vary, so check your date at int.bahn.de.

    On Saturdays you can also leave London at 09:31 to connect with a TGV leaving Paris at 13:51 for Stuttgart, change there for Munich arriving 19:12.

    Alternatively, you can travel from London to Munich by Eurostar & ICE train via Brussels & Cologne, see the London to Germany page.

Budapest ► London

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Munich by TGV starts at €39 each way in 2nd class or €69 in 1st class.

  • Munich to Budapest starts at €37.90 each way in 2nd class or €56.90 in 1st class.

How to buy tickets

  • Booking opens up to 6 months ahead for all these trains.  More about when booking opens.

  • Buy your Eurostar ticket at www.eurostar.com.  You print your own ticket or can load it into the Eurostar app to show on your phone.

  • Buy your Paris-Munich ticket at int.bahn.de.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your phone.  I recommend registering when prompted, so you can log in at any time and check or re-print tickets.

  • Buy your Munich-Budapest ticket as a second transaction at int.bahn.de.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your phone.

Variation via Brussels instead of Paris

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Gare du Nord station guide.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Munich by TGV Duplex   See video guide

In Paris it's an easy 7 minute 500m walk from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est for the TGV to Germany.  Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  The train soon leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods & farmland at up to 320 km/h (199 mph), past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region.  An hour or two later, the train leaves the high-speed line and slowly meanders through pretty wooded hills, the countryside eventually flattening out towards Strasbourg.  On leaving Strasbourg, look out for Strasbourg cathedral on the left with its famously missing second tower.  Minutes afterwards you rumble across the river Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart & Munich.  Paris Gare de l'Est station guideMunich Hbf station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de l'Est

TGV Duplex at Paris Est. These impressive 320 km/h double-deck trains link Paris with Nice, Marseille, Munich, Barcelona & Switzerland.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on the upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

3. Munich to Budapest by railjet

Railjet trains have 1st & 2nd class plus a small Business Class area where seats cost €15 more than regular 1st class and a complimentary welcome drink of tea, coffee or wine is included.  All seats have power sockets.  There's a bistro-restaurant car and a cafe-bar, an attendant will take food orders at your seat in 1st & Business classes.  More about railjets Budapest Keleti station guide.

A railjet train about to leave Munich Hbf

A railjet to Budapest about to leave Munich Hbf.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

14-seat restaurant & bar counter.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

Bavarian scenery between Munich & Salzburg.

View of Salzburg as the train crosses the River Salzach

View of Salzburg's Fortress Hohensalzburg on the right hand side as the railjet crosses the River Salzach & approaches Salzburg Hbf.

Pleasant farmland scenery in Austria, between Salzburg & Vienna.

Between Vienna & Budapest it's largely flat, with more wind turbines than you can shake a stick at - allegedly over 200.  This photo sums up this part of the route!

A Railjet train at Budapest

The railjet has landed.  A railjet has arrived spot on time in Budapest's historic Keleti station, built 1881-1884

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Option 5, London to Budapest with overnight stop in Zurich. The scenic route!

This option not only keeps you on daytime trains with an overnight hotel in Zurich, rather than using a sleeper, it's the scenic option as it takes you through the Alps via the fabulous Arlberg Pass between Switzerland and Austria, hugging the valley wall with the mountaintops high above and the valley floor way below.  You then travel on right across the Austrian Tirol.  This option uses a direct railjet train between Zurich & Budapest - although the way cheap tickets work you're better off having a lunch stop in Austria!

London ► Budapest

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Switzerland by TGV-Lyria, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 18:22 arriving Zurich HB at 22:26.

    This double-deck high-speed train travels at up to 320 km/h (199 mph), with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Book an upper deck seat for the best views, and seat number >60 is upper deck.

    There are earlier departures from London to Zurich if you'd like more of an evening in Zurich, see the London to Zurich timetable here.

  • Stay overnight in Zurich.  For something special, the 5-star Hotel Schweizerhof is one of my favourite hotels anywhere, just across the road from the station.  They'll even send a uniformed commissionaire to meet you & carry your bags from the train.  For something cheaper, also next to the station with great reviews, try the Ruby Mimi Hotel or the excellent 3-star Hotel St. Josef, 7 minutes walk from the station, see walking map.  If you're on a budget, book a private rooms in a 1-star hotel or backpacker hostel near the station at www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 2, travel from Zurich to Budapest by smart modern railjet train, leaving Zurich HB at 10:40 and arriving Budapest Keleti 21:19.

    The railjet has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Treat yourself to lunch - in first & business class, a steward takes food & drink orders and serves you at your seat.  More pictures & information about railjet trainsMap of Budapest showing Keleti station.

    This is a lovely scenic ride, passing the Zürichsee & Walensee lakes, then snaking at low speed through the mountains of the Arlberg Pass in the Alps and along the River Inn across the Austrian Tirol, watch this video.  You get great views of the citadel at Salzburg as the train crosses the river Salzach, then it travels through Vienna and on to Budapest.  For the best views, find a seat on the left hand side of the train leaving Zurich, that way you'll be on the lake side of the train out of Zurich, the train reverses at Buchs, they you'll be on the right-hand (valley) side of the train through most of the Arlberg Pass, and on the side for views of Salzburg.

Budapest ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Budapest to Zurich by air-conditioned railjet train, leaving Budapest Keleti at 06:40 and arriving Zurich HB at 17:20.

    The railjet has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Treat yourself to lunch - in first & business class, a steward takes food & drink orders and serves you at your seat.  More pictures & information about railjet trains.

    The train travels over the flatlands to Vienna, then crosses the river Salzach past Salzburg's impressive citadel, through the Austrian Tirol, it snakes through the scenic Arlberg Pass in the Alps (watch the video!), then along the Walensee and Zürichsee lakes to Zurich.  For views of Salzburg castle, the Zürichsee lake and most of the Arlberg valley, find a seat on the left-hand side of the train leaving Budapest (this advice allows for the train changing direction at Buchs).

    Tip:  If you have a first class ticket, you can use the business lounge in Budapest near platform 9, open 06:00-21:30 daily with complimentary tea, coffee & soft drinks.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria starts at €29 each way in 2nd class or from €79 in 1st class.  See the Switzerland page for full details.

  • Zurich to Budapest starts at €49.80 each way in 2nd class, €79.80 in 1st class - that's a combination of Zurich-Innsbruck from €19.90 & Innsbruck-Budapest from €29.90.

How to buy tickets

  • Booking at www.raileurope.com allows you to buy all your tickets together in one place, easily in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem. There's a small booking fee.

    Booking for Eurostar opens up to 6 months ahead, booking for TGV-Lyria opens up to 4 months ahead, booking for the Zurich-Austria-Budapest train up to 6 months ahead.  I recommend waiting until all trains are open for sale, so you can confirm times before buying a non-refundable Eurostar ticket.  More about when bookings open.

    I suggest booking in stages like this, first doing a dry run to check times & prices.  Read the detailed booking tips here.

  • Step 1, go to www.raileurope.com and book from London to Paris and add to your basket.

    If returning, you should book London to Paris as a round trip, because Eurostar return fares are significantly cheaper than two one-ways.  All the other trains are one-way ticketed where a round trip is simply two one ways, so it doesn't matter, and it can be easier to book one way at a time.  On Eurostar, a reserved seat is automatically included.

    Always allow at least 60 minutes between trains outbound, 90 minutes inbound (as inbound you have to allow for the 30 minute Eurostar check-in).

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com, book from Paris to Zurich and add to basket.  On TGV-Lyria, a reserved seat is automatically included.

  • Step 3, still on www.raileurope.com, book from Zurich to Budapest for the following day, add to basket & check out.  Seat reservation on the railjet is optional, I recommend adding a seat reservation when prompted, for an extra €3 or so.

    Tip:  If you like, you can break up the journey by taking the 08:40 departure from Zurich and spending 2 hours having lunch in Innsbruck.  Just book Zurich-Innsbruck and Innsbruck-Budapest as two tickets.

  • You print your own tickets or can show them on your phone.

Another way to buy tickets

  • Alternatively, you can book direct with each train operator.  This is more work with separate bookings on different websites.  The prices should be exactly the same, but there's no booking fee.  First buy the London-Paris Eurostar ticket at www.eurostar.com.  Then buy the Paris-Zurich ticket at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com.  Then buy your Zurich-Budapest ticket at the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at.  You print your own tickets or can show them on your phone.

Or use an Interrail pass

  • Pass or point to point?

    Let's be clear, a pass will not save money over the cheapest point-to-point advance-purchase fares you might see if you book a few months ahead.  But when point-to-point fares are expensive (for example, at short notice) OR you want flexibility, for example the ability to change your mind, re-route or reschedule as necessary, a pass might be what you need.

    If flexibility is what you want, buy the pass.  If it's about saving money, you'll have to check point-to-point prices and do the maths.

    It's worth doing the maths if you are under 28, if you have kids (kids get a free pass when accompanying an adult but still need to pay reservation fees) or if you live a long way from London (as a pass covers you from your home station to London). Passes are available in 1st & 2nd class.

Have your trip arranged as a package

  • Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can put together a tour or short break for you as a package, including rail travel, hotels & transfers.  On their website you'll find a range of suggested tours & holidays by rail which can be customised to your own requirements.  And as you're booking a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens to one part of the itinerary such as a strike or delay.

    UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website

    Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, see website

    Australian flag  Australia call 1300 971 526, see website

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand call 0800 000 554 or see website

  • Byway (Byway.travel) is a UK-based eco-holiday firm with a 5-star TrustPilot rating.  If you're nervous about booking train travel, book a one-way or return UK-Hungary trip through Byway as a package, including hotels and starting from any British station you like.  Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption and re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away.

    To see pre-configured packages from London to Budapest, use the journey planner on their website.

    Or they can build a trip to your requirements, either email them or use this contact form.  When you book, please quote 'Seat 61'.

  • Escorted tours:  If you'd like to travel with a convivial group of travellers escorted by a professional tour guide, contact Great Rail Journeys at www.greatrail.com, in the UK call 01904 527 120.  They have regular escorted tours from the UK to Prague, Budapest & Vienna by train.

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guideParis Nord station guide.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at Paris Nord.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria

All TGV-Lyria trains are now 320km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex like the one shown below.  TGV-Lyria trains have 3 classes:  Standard class (2nd), standard premiere (1st class) and business premiere (1st class with hot meal & drinks included in the fare).  There's a cafe-bar car selling drinks & snacks.  There are power points for mobiles & laptops at all seats in all classes.  Lyria is a consortium of the French and Swiss national railways.  More about TGV-LyriaParis Gare de Lyon station guideZurich HB station guide.

TGV-Lyria train from Paris to Switzerland, at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV-Lyria TGV Duplex train at Paris Gare de Lyon. More about TGV-Lyria

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex 2nd class seats, upper deck

The cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats, this is upper deck seating.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

TGV Lyria first class, upper deck   A TGV-Lyria train from Paris to Switzerland

1st class on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right. Larger photo.

 

A TGV-Lyria for Geneva, boarding at Paris Gare de Lyon.  You enter on the lower deck, with 9 stairs up to top deck.

3. Zurich to Budapest by Railjet  More about railjet trains

A railjet train about to leave Zurich Hbf for Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna

A railjet about to leave Zurich HB.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

Restaurant car.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

Scenery on the Arlberg route

The lakes between Zurich and the Austrian border

Swiss lakes:  Soon after leaving Zurich, the railjet runs alongside the shore of the Zürichsee and then the Walensee.

Train into Austria: Mountain scenery   Schaan-Vaduz station

Sargans castle:  Watch out for hilltop castles, this is the one at Sargans.

 

Liechtenstein:  The train cuts across Liechtenstein, passing non-stop through Schaan-Vaduz station.

Scenery in the Arlberg Pass

Arlberg Pass:  Above, we're now in Austria, with brooding skies over the Arlberg pass.  The pass itself is long, narrow and curvaceous with the train snaking along the valley sides, often high above the valley floor.

Arlberg Tunnel:  Between Bludenz and St Anton am Arlberg the train passes through the Arlberg Tunnel, 6.2 km (6.3 miles) long and opened in 1884.  See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlberg_Railway_Tunnel.

Scenery in the Arlberg Pass

River Inn:  Running alongside the river Inn in the Tirol, somewhere between Landeck & Ötzal.

Scenery in the Arlberg Pass

Mountains near Innsbruck.  The train calls at Innsbruck Hbf for several minutes.

Kufstein station and castle   Lunch is served at your seat in first & business classes

Kufstein:  The train stops at Kufstein, where the castle towers above the station.

Above right, lunch is served.  In first & business class on a railjet, the steward takes your order & serves lunch at your seat.

Scenery as the train cuts across Germany

Cutting across Germany:  East of Kufstein, the train takes a short cut through Germany without stopping, see the route map here.  All fast Innsbruck-Salzburg-Vienna trains do this, they're still considered Austrian domestic trains even though they spend an hour on German territory!  Such a train is called a Korridorzug.  The train crosses back into Austria near Freilassing, just before Salzburg.

View of Salzburg as the train crosses the River Salzach

Salzburg:  View of the Fortress Hohensalzburg on the right hand side as the railjet crosses the River Salzach into Salzburg Hbf heading east.

A Railjet train at Budapest

The railjet has landed.  A railjet has arrived spot on time in Budapest's historic Keleti station, built 1881-1884

Watch the Video: Through the Arlberg

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Option 6, via the Harwich - Hoek van Holland ferry

This is the ferry alternative, a great option if you live in East Anglia.  It's the route to use if Eurostar fares are expensive or if you want to avoid the Channel Tunnel, for example if you suffer from claustrophobia.  I don't recommend the Dover-Calais route because of poor train/ferry connections, the Stena Line rail & sail service via Harwich & Hoek van Holland is the one to use as it has co-ordinated timetables and integrated ticketing, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page & watch the video.

London, Cambridge & Harwich ► Budapest

  • Day 1, travel from London to Amsterdam overnight by Stena Line Rail & Sail.

    You leave London Liverpool Street at 18:45 Mondays-Fridays, 19:36 Saturdays or 20:00 Sundays by direct train to Harwich International.

    You leave Cambridge at 19:47 Mondays-Saturdays or 19:45 on Sundays by direct train to Harwich International.

    At Harwich, the station is right next to the ferry terminal and you walk off the train into the terminal, check in at the Stena Line desk and walk onto Stena Line's luxurious overnight superferry Stena Hollandica to Hoek van Holland.  All passengers travel in cosy private cabins with en suite toilet & shower & satellite TV.  Deluxe Comfort class & Captains class cabins are also available, and there's free WiFi in the lounges, restaurants & bars on 9 deck.  You can get on board the ferry around 9pm, have a late dinner in the restaurant and settle into your cabin.

    The ferry sails at 23:00 and arrives at Hoek van Holland at 08:00 Dutch time next morning.

    This is an integrated train & ferry service, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details, photos & travel tips.  The special fare from London to Hoek van Holland is valid from any Abellio Greater Anglia station, for example Norwich, Cambridge, Romford, Ilford, Ipswich.

    Next morning, take the frequent metro train from Hoek van Holland Haven to Schiedam Centrum and a Dutch Intercity train from Schiedam Centrum to Amsterdam Centraal arriving 10:25.  See the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details.

    At Amsterdam Centraal, have a coffee at the delightfully retro Cafe 1e Klas.

  • Day 2, travel from Amsterdam to Stuttgart on ICE trains with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    You leave Amsterdam Centraal at 12:38, change at Frankfurt (Main) Hbf & arrive Stuttgart Hbf at 18:38.

    Have dinner in Stuttgart.

  • Day 2, travel from Stuttgart to Budapest by EuroNight sleeper Kalman Imre, leaving Stuttgart Hbf at 20:29 & arriving Budapest Keleti at 09:19.

    The Kalman Imre has a comfortable air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, a modern Hungarian couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments and ordinary seats.  More about this sleeper train.

Budapest  ► Harwich, Cambridge & London

  • Day 1, travel from Budapest to Stuttgart by EuroNight sleeper Kalman Imre, leaving Budapest Keleti at 20:40 & arriving Stuttgart Hbf 08:38.

    The Kalman Imre has a comfortable air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, a modern Hungarian couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments and ordinary seats.  More about this sleeper train.

    If you have a first class ticket, you can use the business lounge in Budapest on platform 9, open 06:00-21:30 daily with complimentary tea, coffee & soft drinks.

  • Day 2, travel from Stuttgart to Amsterdam on ICE trains leaving Stuttgart Hbf at 09:23, changing at Cologne Hbf, arriving Amsterdam Centraal 15:29.  The ICE trains have a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Day 2, travel from Amsterdam to London overnight by Stena Line Rail & Sail.

    You leave Amsterdam Centraal at 18:35 by Dutch intercity train to Schiedam Centrum and change onto the frequent metro to Hoek van Holland Haven.  At Hoek, the metro station is next to the ferry terminal.  Check in at the Stena Line desk at least 45 minutes before sailing time, then walk up the gangway onto the luxurious Stena Line superferry Stena Britannica and sail overnight to Harwich in a cosy private cabin with shower, toilet & satellite TV.

    The ferry sails from Hoek van Holland at 22:00 and arrives at Harwich International at 06:30 next morning (day 3), UK time.  Day 3, Take a train from Harwich to London Liverpool Street arriving around 08:56, or from Harwich to Cambridge arriving 09:41 (10:39 on Sundays).  See the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details.

How much does it cost?

  • London or any Greater Anglia station to Hoek van Holland starts at £62 per person each way, plus cabin.

    Cabins start at £34 for a single berth cabin or £45 per cabin for a 2-berth, and are compulsory on the night sailing.  For full details of fares and cabin types and costs, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page.

    Hoek to Schiedam by metro costs around €4.  Schiedam to Amsterdam by train costs €17.20.

  • Amsterdam to Stuttgart starts at €37.90 each way in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Stuttgart to Budapest by sleeper train starts at €49.90 with a couchette in 6-berth, €59.90 with a couchette in 4-berth, €69.90 with a bed in a 3-bed sleeper, €89.90 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or €129.90 with a bed in a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Amsterdam by train & ferry

A train takes you from London's Liverpool Street station directly to the ferry terminal at Harwich.  You walk off the train, into the terminal, get your boarding card & cabin key at the Stena Line check-in desk and walk straight onto the overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland.  The superferry Stena Britannica is the largest ferry of its kind in the world.  All passengers travel in private cabins with shower, toilet & satellite TV.  There's free WiFi in the public areas on 9 deck.  The journey from London to Holland is explained in detail on the Stena Line Rail & Sail pageSee the video

Captain's class cabin on ferry   Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland

Captain's Class cabin on the Harwich-Hoek ferry with double bed, complimentary minibar with sparkling wine, tea & coffee making facilities, hairdryer.  Larger photo.

 

Boarding the Stena Britannica at Harwich.  She's a floating hotel to Hoek van Holland, with easy rail connections on either side of the Channel.  Restaurants, bars, shop, kennels, cinema.

Metropolitan restaurant on Stena Line ferry   Standard outside cabin on ferry

Dinner before bed?

 

Standard outside cabin.  Larger photo.  360º photo.

2. Amsterdam to Stuttgart by ICE

ICEs are German Railways' premier trains, with 1st & 2nd class, a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

ICE3 at Amsterdam Centraal

An ICE3M to Frankfurt at Amsterdam.  More about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

3. Stuttgart to Budapest by sleeper train Kalman Imre  More information

Cosy & inviting, the photo below shows the modern air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car of the Kalman Imre at Munich Hbf.  The sleeping-car has 11 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth room, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  The fare includes a light breakfast of coffee, juice & croissant.  More about the sleeper train Kalman Imre.

The sleeper train Kalman Imre from Munich to  Budapest

Sleeper train Kalman Imre, boarding on platform 12 at MunichMore about this sleeper train.

The sleeper train from Zurich to Budapest   4-berth couchettes on train to Budapest   6-berth couchettes on train to Budapest

2 bed sleeper, can also be set up as 1 or 3 bed.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes.

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Option 7, Scotland & North to Budapest   

If you live in the North of England or Scotland, one option is to take a train up to London, then travel to Hungary as described above.  You can buy special connecting train tickets from most UK stations to London International, see advice on buying connecting train tickets to London.  But DFDS Seaways (www.dfds.com) run an excellent daily cruise ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam overnight, and P&O Ferries (www.poferries.com) sail overnight from Hull to Rotterdam.  So why not by-pass London, with lunch in Amsterdam into the bargain?

Scotland & the North ► Budapest

Budapest ► Scotland & the North

How much does it cost?

  • To check train fares to Hull or Newcastle, see any train operator website such as www.lner.co.uk.

  • To check ferry fares, go to www.dfds.com (Newcastle-Amsterdam), www.poferries.com (Hull-Rotterdam).  There's more info on the Hull-Rotterdam page & Newcastle-Amsterdam page.

  • Amsterdam to Vienna by Nightjet sleeper train starts at €59.90 with a couchette in 6-berth, €69.90 with a couchette in 4-berth, €109.90 with a bed in a cosy 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 with a bed in a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.

  • Vienna to Budapest starts at €19 each way in 2nd class or €29 each way in 1st class.

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

Step 1, take the overnight cruise ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS or Hull to Rotterdam with P&O, with private en suite cabins, restaurants, bars, cinema.  If travelling with DFDS from Newcastle, a transfer bus takes you from IJmuiden ferry terminal to Amsterdam Centraal station next morning.  If travelling with P&O from Hull, a transfer bus takes you from Rotterdam Europoort ferry terminal to Rotterdam Centraal, from where frequent Dutch trains run to Utrecht.

Princess of Norway (now Princess Seaways) at Newcastle   A standard cabin on DFDS Seaways Newcastle-Amsterdam ferry.

DFDS Seaways Princess of Norway (now Princess Seaways) about to sail overnight from Newcastle to Amsterdam.  The ferry also has deluxe Commodore class cabins with minibar, satellite TV, shower & toilet.  See the video

 

A standard Seaways class cabin with shower & toilet on DFDS Princess of Norway from Newcastle to Amsterdam.

P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam   Cabin on P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam

P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam at Rotterdam Europoort.  The ferry also has deluxe class cabins with minibar, satellite TV, shower & toilet.

 

A standard outside cabin with shower & toilet on P&O's Pride of Rotterdam from Hull to Rotterdam.

Step 2, take the daily Nightjet sleeper train from Amsterdam to Linz, Vienna or Innsbruck.

Nightjet sleeper train at Amsterdam Centraal

The Nightjet sleeper train to Vienna, boarding at Amsterdam Centraal.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photo Video of deluxe room

 

Same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Amsterdam-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car.

Step 3, take a EuroCity train from Vienna to Budapest  See the Vienna to Budapest page for details

EuroCity train from Vienna to Budapest, at Budapest Keleti

A EuroCity train from Vienna to Budapest in MAV's latest colour scheme arrived at Budapest Keleti.

1st class seats on a Hungarian EuroCity train   2nd class seats on a Hungarian EuroCity train

1st class is usually in 6-seat compartments.  Larger photo.

 

Some 2nd class is in open-plan cars like this. Larger photo.

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Holidays & tours by train

If you want a holiday to Hungary by train not plane, but want someone else to organise all the train tickets & hotels for you, two specialist companies can do just that.  Railbookers offer tailor-made individual holidays with departure on any date you like, whereas Great Rail Journeys offer escorted tours with specific departure dates.

Railbookers logoRailbookers, railbookers.co.uk

Railbookers can custom-make a flight-free holiday to Budapest for you, with train travel & hotels, for however long you like, leaving on any date you like.  Why not combine a visit to Budapest with Prague and Vienna, 6 nights from around £689 per person.  Indeed, they can arrange any tour of Eastern Europe you like to your own specification, with trains reserved, hotels booked and transfers arranged.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website

Canadian flag  Canada call 1-855-882-2910, see website

Australian flag  Australia call 1300 971 526, see website

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call 0800 000 554 or see website

Great Rail Journeys logoGreat Rail Journeys, greatrail.com

GRJ offers a 13-day escorted tour to Vienna, Budapest & Prague from £1,750, with 1st class train travel and 5* or 4* hotels.  Great Rail Journeys also offer holidays by train to other European countries.  Check the tour details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Amazon.co.ukLonely Planet to Hungary - buy online at Amazon.co.ukPaying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For independent travel, the best guide is either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both are excellent.  The Lonely Planet range offers an in-depth guide for Hungary or a guide covering all the countries in Eastern Europe.  You won't regret buying one! 

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.

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Hotels in Budapest

  • For something affordable near Budapest Keleti station with decent reviews try the inexpensive Baross City Hotel just across the road or the Elit Hotel two minutes walk down the road.  Also consider the Hotel Bristol, an inexpensive 4-star hotel 550m 8-minute walk from the station with great reviews.  But perhaps the best hotel near Keleti station is the Intercity Hotel, just across the square, this would be my choice here.

  • For something affordable near Budapest Nyugati station, try the ever-popular & funky 3-star T62 Hotel just across the road or the even cheaper 3-star Star Inn Budapest Centrum a few minutes walk away, both with good reviews.  The 4-star Radisson Blu Béke Hotel is just one block along the road from the station.

  • For something different, but relatively inexpensive the floating hotel MS Maribelle gets great reviews, it's a river cruise boat permanently moored on the Pest side of the Danube close to the fortress with views across the river of the Hungarian Parliament.

  • For something special & historic, the luxurious 5-star Corinthia Hotel is the Grande Dame of Budapest hotels.  Opened in 1896 as the Grand Hotel Royal, it was almost certainly the inspiration for the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel, made 2 years after film-maker Wes Anderson stayed here.  It's a superb hotel with a great spa and an excellent breakfast - with choice of dry or sweet champagne included.  It's 20 minutes walk from Keleti station or 9 minutes by taxi.  It's a !5 minute walk or a few minutes by taxi or number 4 or 6 tram from Nyugati station.

    Also historic and top notch, the New York Palace Hotel opened in 1894 and houses the famous New York Cafe on its ground floor.  It's 15 minutes walk from Keleti station and gets fabulous reviews.

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Budapest and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

 


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