Romania to Budapest on a 1st Class Train

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Lily Leung - Romania 1st class train to Budapest

1st class overnight train to Budapest from Sighisoara, Romania. Train photos by Holger Mette.

After almost 3 weeks in Europe, our lovely Eurail Global Passes saw their first use for a 1st class overnight train from Sighisoara, Romania to Budapest, Hungary.

Following an “authentic” 3-hour train ride in Romania on a class “P” train last week with many stops along the countryside and shared with fun locals like farmers carrying pitch forks, scrap metal and other tools, we were delighted to be in a comfortable train for our 10 hour trip to Budapest.

Sighisoara to Budapest route

The route was roughly from the middle of Romania to the middle of Hungary, a distance of 600km over 10 hours, starting in Sighisoara, Romania.

Rail station in Sighisoara, Romania

Rail / train station in Sighisoara, Romania

Impressions of the train

The car was spacious, well-lit with nice big windows. Seats were red, velvety and clean. There were overhead shelves for luggage.

  • Spacious cabins. We had plenty of space to stretch and walk down the car without hitting chairs or other people with our luggage. With only 4 other passengers in the car (no tourists), there were many available seats and we strayed from our reserved seats so that we each had two seats, with a table in front of us for our laptops.
  • Comfortable and clean. The large (and clean!) windows gave us great views of the countryside and even saw the sunrise as we approached Budapest. Much more comfortable than the 2nd class trains we took in Romania.
  • Power outlets. There were ample power outlets, which meant we didn’t have to take turns charging our MacBooks during the journey (no wifi though).
Romania 1st class train - Lily Leung

1st class train Sighisoara to Budapest - Lily Leung

Eating at the diner car

The diner car connected to our car was nice: well-lit, television, placemats, glasses and napkins. Food was not included, but the pork dinner we shared was delicious (photo below).

Diner car, Romania 1st class train to Budapest

Diner car, 1st class train to Budapest from Romania

Pork, vegetables and fries, Romania 1st class train to Budapest

Pork, vegetables, salad and fries. Romania to Budapest

Some notes on the dining car:

  • “No smoking” was not enforced. Luckily there was only one person smoking!
  • Confirm the price of what you’re ordering. Holger ordered a pork dish, which came with vegetables, salad, fries and bread. The attendant ended up charging us extra for all the sides that came with the dish and insisted it was normal to serve it all together. The iPod calculator was pulled out and even adding the cost of the sides we were still 10 lei short in change (which he eventually gave us).

    We probably had a misunderstanding, but next time on a diner car I’d confirm the price of the entire meal beforehand so there aren’t any surprises.

Overnight seat vs sleeper (couchette)

The options for the overnight journey was either a seat or a sleeper, but factoring in the difference in reservation fees (about $19) and having to get our passports stamped in the middle of the night (which meant not getting good sleep anyway) we opted for seats.

However, using our Eurail Global Pass was a good value because the price for a 1st class seat was about $70.

Sighisoara, Romania to Budapest Cost without Eurail pass Cost with Eurail pass
1st class seat 210.90 lei ($70) 0
1st class seat reservation 12.72 lei ($4.25) 12.72 lei ($4.25)
1st class sleeper reservation 70 lei ($24) 70 lei ($24)

For future overnight train rides within the Schengen Area, where border-crossing stamps are not required (see “Border crossing” below), I’d consider reserving a sleeper (couchette) for a good night’s sleep.

Border crossing

The border crossing between Romania and Hungary was smooth. The border officials came by on the train, requested our passports, flipped through them and gave us their stamps with no questions asked.

Hungary is in the Schengen zone (Romania is not, at the moment), hence the need for country exit and entry stamps even though both countries are in the European Union (EU). See Wikipedia for a list of Schengen countries.

Marking the overnight train the Eurail pass

  • “7 p.m. rule.” You only use one “travel day” on your Eurail train pass if you board a train departing after 7pm and arriving after 4 am. Since our train was at 8pm and scheduled to arrive at 5am, that evening wasn’t didn’t count as a travel day and we wrote the next day’s date on our passes’ travel calendar. See what a Eurail pass looks like (Facebook photo).
  • Don’t be shy to politely correct the train attendant. He tried to change our rail passes’ travel date to June 19 (instead of the 20th). With help from another passenger who spoke some English, the attendant eventually re-corrected the date to the 20th.
  • Having this “extra” day of travel is valuable if you’re taking other trains after the overnight train arrives, so that you’re not using another travel day on your rail pass.
  • See Eurail’s official “7pm rule” and what is considered a “travel day”.

Other tips for this train ride

  • Bring your own toilet paper just in case, there wasn’t any in the WC on the train.
  • Bring an eye cover to help you sleep, the train lights were not dimmed during the night.
  • For reservations on future rides, I’d try to request seats with tables in front of them and to be near a power outlet.

Joy of comfortable long-distance train rides

Using our Eurail passes to travel 1st class on the overnight train was a great idea. It was comfortable, clean and we got some work done on our computers.

I do enjoy taking local transportation, including the “P-class” Romanian train that I mentioned above with farmers carrying pitch forks (Facebook photo).

However, on long distance journeys with lots of downtime that can be used for processing photographs, writing articles or other productive activities, being on a comfortable train with room, power plugs is a huge benefit.

>> Do you prefer taking a train or bus for long-distance journeys? Have you ever taken a train in Romania, Hungary or Eastern Europe? Leave your comments below!

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  • Mishti

    Hi Lily, just a quick question. We plan to travel through Prague, Salzburg and Vienna by train, do you think it’s better to get tickets online before we go or just to get them at the date of travel? What would be cheaper?

    TIA. And btw, the pork does look scrumptious.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Mishti, I was using a Eurail Global Pass which would have been cheaper than buying individual tickets. If you’re only travelling through two countries and were thinking of a pass, you can check out the regional pass. If you’re buying point-to-point tickets for that region, you can try the bahn.com site to check ticket prices. There might be deals for booking early.

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  • http://www.mappamundi.co.uk Rich

    That looks like a very modern train! I’ve been on very old sleeper trains before, even 1st class wasn’t comfortable.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Rich,

      It was a relatively modern train, more modern than I expected actually! Since this ride, I’ve had the pleasure of being on other European (hi-speed) trains, such as the Austria’s RailJet, which are even more modern and sleek. I especially like Germany’s ICE trains. On the outside they look like they were designed by Steve Jobs, slightly reminds me of the white MacBooks – there’s a photo near the middle of this post, if you’re interested: http://exploreforayear.com/travel/hamburg-copenhagen-baltic-sea-train-ferry

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

      • http://www.mappamundi.co.uk Rich

        Hi Lily,

        I’ve also been on ICE, all the way from Brussels Midi to Berlin Hbf and first class is also nice there (around a 7 hour journey!) One of the strangest sleeper trains I went on was the Ukrainian Berlin  - Kiev Pass train. Our passports were stamped in the morning around 11am when the wheels were being changed at the Ukrainian border to narrow gauge, so no problems with being woken up, but it was rattly and bouncy to say the least! 

        That was by far one of the most unforgettable journeys of my life, and I would suggest it just for the experience. Thanks for the great blog!

        Rich

      • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

        Hi Rich,

        That sounds like a train ride worth experiencing! I’m going to tentatively add this train trip to my “experiences to think about for next time in Europe” ;) I actually really enjoy the bumpy train rides, they seem to leave more of a lasting memory. 

        When I was in India at the start of this RTW trip, I had at least four or more 12 hour rides, including 2 sleeper trains. It wasn’t the most comfortable and all night I could hear the sound of the tracks. But when I left India and found myself unable to sleep, I realized I missed the sound of the trains. I found a white noise app with train track sounds for my iPhone, and it’d instantly put me to sleep :)

        - Lily

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  • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

    We have to find time to talk on skeype or some sorta of Mac video chat thing later on. I really want to hear more about how did you plan the trip and take the train etc . I want to travel by train too. hahah

  • http://globetrooper.com Todd

    Love the pictures Lily; that dinner looks straight from a magazine. Loving all the detail and the map too. We should have totally done the same for our Indian train journey.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      The photos are nice aren’t they?! They were taken on Holger’s fancy DSLR so I’ll have to give him credit for the photos :) 

      I miss the Indian overnight trains from time-to-time. They don’t compare comfort-wise to western trains, but they have character and more adventure to them… like the time I got locked in the toilet in the middle of the night! A few times after I left India when I couldn’t sleep, I played train track sounds on my WhiteNoise iPhone app and it soothed me right to sleep!

      - Lily

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Woychyshyn/100002487221273 Tyler Woychyshyn

    Looks like 1st class is where it’s at. How are the conditions in coach? Can you still work and is it still enjoyable?

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Tyler, conditions in coach were comfortable too but there were less tables. Each row in first class had 3 chairs (2 seats, aisle, seat) and coach had 4 chairs (2 seats, aisle, 2 seats), so there is still plenty of room to move around. Another difference is that coach usually has more travellers, which is fun as well for socializing. I think for long distances I’d prefer 1st class for the space, and coach for shorter trips and opportunity to meet other travellers. 

      Do you do a lot of work while you travel or on train rides?

      - Lily

  • http://freshroads.com Tijmen

    After trying both a train for 3 days and a bus, its definitely the train for me.  Not being able to really move and walk around in buses is such an annoying thing when its a long ride. And like your train, if they have power outlets then thats big plus as well.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Tijmen,

      I completely agree that power outlets are big plus! Especially on longer rides when you have downtime and can use your computer, or take the opportunity to recharge your phone/iPod. I took a lot of buses when I was in Southeast Asia, which I don’t mind, but like you said trains have far more space to walk around in, plus the washrooms on trains are generally cleaner as well!

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/eileenludwig eileenludwig

    Train is the way to go in Europe. I had a Eurail pass the first time for like three weeks. Did one overnight to Rome and paid separate for that, I believe. Did the sleeper. Meet some gals from Sweden and spent my last two days of travel in Rome before flying home. One of the gals camera broke, I gave her mine to use and mail to me later. She did.

  • http://blog.beentheredunnthat.com Dave Dunn

    Great entry! I’m really looking forward to following your blog for the summer while you travel Europe on the Eurail pass. I plan on doing that with my fiance (wife) after we’re married next year.

    Safe travels!

    Dave
    http://blog.beentheredunnthat.com

  • http://www.onmywayrtw.com Megan

    I definitely prefer the train for long distance journeys and will sometimes even choose the train over a flight. 

    My record so far is 60 hours straight (SFO-CHI), followed by two 36 hour stints (China to Mongolia and Xi’an to Lhasa). Buses just aren’t as comfortable and there’s something about the railway that just seems like so much more of a journey than bus or plane travel. Looks like the trains in Eastern Europe are similar to those in Western – I love European trains!  

  • http://twitter.com/Technosyncratic Christy & Kali

    I love train rides, and this one sounds superb!  Unfortunately most of the ones I’ve taken internationally have been a disaster, but I still hold out hope.  :)

  • http://twitter.com/grachececilio Graciel Cecilio

    Hey Lily great tips! I think what worries me the most is the border crossing. Also since I have not been on the Eurail does the staff speak English? 

  • Anonymous

    I took an overnight train from Prague to Krakow and crossing the border kind of sucked.  They knocked on our door three times to check our passports.  I understand two times, but a third?  Is there an independent country in between the two countries I am unaware of?  It was frustrating, but those are the hassles of travel sometimes.

  • http://www.europeantravelista.com Debbie Beardsley

    Love traveling by train while in Europe!  You gave some great tips to remember while using rail passes. 

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

    I love the trains in Europe!  I would love to do one like this.  Absolutely love Budapest and it’s such a comfortable and relaxing way to travel.  Wish we had this in the US (high speed trains, not Amtrak) as an alternative to flying!

  • http://www.thetravelchica.com The Travel Chica

    I’ve never done a long train ride, but I hear it’s definitely the way to travel in many parts of the world.  Good tips!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Thanks! I generally prefer taking the train over the bus for long distances, although in Southeast Asia I’ve definitely endured my share of low-cost overnight buses and border crossings where we were packed like sardines with no air-conditioning. Ah the joy of a comfortable train ride :)

      - Lily

  • http://www.loco2.co.uk Anila

    Happy one year anniversary (of quitting your job!) in Budapest!

  • http://alotofwind.com Robin

    That’s a nice picture of you up top there!

    I’m craving a first class classy rail trip now…

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Oh yes, I support your 1st class train ride craving… after this 1st class trip, not sure if I can go back to 2nd class or a P class train (half-joking). Thanks for the photo complement, what can I say, I was lucky to have a professional as a travel companion :)

      - Lily 

  • http://www.aswetravel.com Sofia – As We Travel

    The first class seats look really nice!

    We just arrived in Budapest on an overnight train from Sighisoara. It was the best sleeper cabin we’ve had on the trip so far and the train both left and arrived on time – first time that has happened in weeks!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Sofia,

      That sleeper cabin sounds luxurious! If you show the sleeper in one of your episodes/photos, it’d be interesting to see how that compares with the seats we had.

      I’d ask if you have time for coffee in Budapest, but I know you guys are probably busy filming… hope we can meet up at some point though! :)

      - Lily

  • http://thatshamori.com Eva Hamori

    Hope you enjoy Budapest as much as we do! Our family lives there part of the year and Canada part of the year. It has gotten to the point where I prefer Europe and we are moving there in 40 days! Rich culture, fun events at every turn, walking distance entertainment, and fabulous food.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Eva,

      Wow, Budapest must be a wonderful place to live. I’ve only been here 3 days and loving the vibe here. So open and relaxed. I just saw your blog about moving to France, congratulations! I bet your Canadian friends are jealous :) … and when/if I travel through France on this trip, I might be emailing you for inside tips ;)

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/adventureswben Ben Reed

    Ooooh, a first class train ride sounds nice!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Ben, the first class train was nice and I’ve been told that the trains will only get sleeker as I travel towards western Europe… sounds good to me!

      - Lily

  • http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/ Jimshu

    Nice and good info. Part of Europe we’d like to get back to. We found bus and train travel so easy to get around. And cheap enough.