Train to Budapest for a Danube river cruise
Viking Lif docked at the foot of Budapest’s Chain Bridge.

Travel to Budapest without flying.

Your river cruise begins or ends in Budapest, Hungary.  A relaxing train ride sounds much better than the stress of flying.  You want to be in Europe, not above Europe.

There are two or three train options from the north to get you to Budapest.  Let’s start with the easiest. Whether you’re a solo woman or with a group of friends traveling by train to Budapest for the first time, a daylight arrival is recommended.

It doesn’t matter if you are leaving from Paris, Prague or Porto, the easiest route to Budapest is through Munich.  Once you are in Munich, there are two choices:

1. Reserve a compartment on the sleeper train from Munich departing at 11:34pm and arriving Budapest at 9:24am the next morning;

2. Take one of two morning trains from Munich and arrive into Budapest Keleti station at either 2:19pm or 4:19pm.

There’s also the scenic Railjet from Zurich to Budapest through Austria’s mountainous Arlberg Pass.  The ride takes about 10 ½ hours, arriving into Budapest shortly after 9pm.

Railjet scenery in Austria on a train to Budapest
Scenery along the route from Munich is mostly rolling hills, farmland and the occasional mountain in the distance.

Let’s focus on the most central location, easiest connections and best timing:  Munich, where the two daytime trains originate for Budapest.

It’s a good idea to spend the night in a hotel in Munich, before your Budapest-bound morning train.  After all, if your objective is stress-free travel, dawn departure times should not be an option.

Staying overnight in Munich

You’ve arrived into Munich by high-speed train from Paris, Amsterdam, Verona…you name it, you can get there.  Since Munich is only a weigh station for you, the most convenient overnight is to stay is as close to the train station as possible.  There are two options and two price ranges for hotels right at the station.  The less-expensive InterCity Hotel Munich and the pricier Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.

Both hotels are super convenient to the exit from the Hauptbahnhof.  InterCity is a speck closer being almost adjacent to the exit and the Sofitel is just across a parking lot, about 300 feet from the station exit and at least double the cost of InterCity.

Train schedule

Since train travel is supposed to be less stressful, take time to enjoy the hotel’s buffet breakfast.  Reserve the Railjet for the 9:33am departure rather than the 7:31am.  You’ll arrive into the historic Budapest Keleti station at 4:19pm, making the daylight journey across three countries in six hours and 46 minutes.

Boarding the Railjet train to Budapest.
Getting ready to board my train to Budapest at Munich Hauptbahnhof.

With a first class ticket, you’ll find yourself in the company of mostly Americans and other English-speaking travelers.  Seats (real leather) are arranged with two on one side and solo seating on the other.  A train attendant will take your meal and beverage order and you’ll be served at your seat.

Lunch aboard the Railjet to Budapest
Lunchtime aboard the Railjet and of course I ordered Hungarian Goulash…what else! First class passengers are served at their seat.
Aboard Austria's OBB Railjet with leather seats.
Real leather seats in the First Class section.

To do your train research, head over to the German railway site: Bahn.com.  While this is a German-based site, Bahn.com has the most comprehensive railway schedule for all of Europe.  You can do your research here and then purchase your ticket through RailEurope.com or a travel agent.

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Aboard Austria's OBB Railjet
A peek inside the train car.

Arrival into Budapest

Arrival into Budapest Keleti station
Arriving into Budapest Keleti station and my pre-arranged ride was waiting for me.
Train to Budapest Keleti train station
The stunning Grand Hall of Budapest Keleti Train Station, opened in 1884.

When you arrive into Budapest, there is a taxi rank just outside the main doors.  For convenience and to not have to deal with a long queue, you can reserve a meet and greet taxi service. TaxiBudapest.eu is one option.  http://www.taxibudapest.eu/ or try http://www.CityTaxi.hu.

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Taxi rank at Budapest Keleti train station.
You can either queue for a taxi or arrange for a meet and greet,

If you are staying in a hotel, ask the hotel for the name of their service provider.  You can also ask your river cruise line for the name and email address for the company that they use for meet and greet.

Finding your river ship

Depending upon traffic, it’s a good 10-15 minute drive from Keleti to the river.  BE SURE to know where in Budapest your specific ship is docked.

Boarding the Viking Lif on the Danube
4:30pm arrival and it was still daylight in late October when I boarded the Viking Lif in Budapest.

While Viking River usually docks right at the Chain Bridge on the Pest side (Budapest is a “divided” city, one side of the river is Buda, the other Pest) different river cruise lines have their own docking locations. The exact location of where you ship will dock is included in your documents.  If going by taxi, present the written dock information to the driver.

Perfect view of Parliament Building from Fishermans Bastion on my places to visit in Budapest.One more word of advice.  Even though your river cruise will include a day in Budapest and a city tour, you will thank yourself later if you allow at least two additional days to explore this beautiful and colorful city.

If your Danube river cruise ENDS in Budapest and you’re spending more time in Europe after your river cruise, simply reverse the process and book your trains to Munich and continue on to Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam…anywhere!

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Budapest Keleti train station


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