Trains to Hungary
National rail operator
Facts about Hungary
- Currency: Forint (HUF)
- Timezone: 1+ UTC
- Language: Hungarian (plus Serbian, Slovak, Romanian or Croatian in some isolated communities)
Don’t even think of referring to Hungary as a Balkan country. Nothing irritates Hungarians more. Modern Hungary overflows with Habsburg tradition and sees itself as quintessentially central European. Some older Hungarians hanker after a lost imperial era, but a new dynamic generation of younger Hungarians are straight-talking, entrepreneurial and keen that their country should be centrally involved in European affairs. The European rail network is on their side, for few other countries are as well connected with the rest of Europe. The downside, for some visitors at least, is the prevailing political climate, particularly since elections in spring 2018. Expect soft Euroscepticism, antipathy towards migrants and populist undercurrents. It's thus a country where, sadly, not all travellers are welcome.
The national rail operator is Magyar Államvasutak or MÁV for short. It operates most, but by no means all, passenger trains in Hungary. Slip down to Keleti station in Budapest and you might see a sleek red Austrian Railjet leaving for Zurich or passengers climbing aboard Slovak couchettes for an overnight journey to Berlin or Warsaw. There are direct trains from Budapest to a dozen capital cities across Europe.
Hungary is a natural transit country for so many European journeys. 2019 sees improved services across the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, with extra capacity on the very useful through service from Budapest to Kiev. There are excellent connections south into Serbia and east into Romania. Comfortable EuroCity or Intercity services link Budapest with Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. For passengers travelling to Hungary from western Europe, the preferred routes are usually via Zurich or Munich. Both cities offer a good choice of either daytime or overnight services to Budapest.
The national rail network has one major hub in Budapest. Fares for journeys within Hungary are very cheap, but travel times may be slow and some trains may be overcrowded. It's worth mentioning that senior citizens (aged 65+) of all EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland) can travel for free on all local trains in Hungary. For travel on premium services, a modest fee is payable. Note that a 'free' ticket must be obtained from the ticket office before boarding the train.