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.
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).
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).
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.
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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