Rail from Budapest to Salzburg

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Nov 14th, 2013, 10:23 AM
  #1
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Rail from Budapest to Salzburg

My parents are doing a Viking Cruise next year, and we would like to meet them in Salzburg afterwards. They have never been to Europe and never traveled rail. They will be starting from Budapest. Airfare is not the most reasonable, so I started looking at rail. Is traveling by rail safe and simple for people over 65? Are their luggage restrictions? Is there a big difference between first and second class fare amenities? I see there is a direct rail line between the two cities which is very fortunate! Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Nov 14th, 2013, 11:09 AM
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Yes on those direct trains - called Rail Jet ("RJ") they should be very comfortable and as always on trains anywhere in Europe IME totally safe - those are some of the most comfortable and modern trains in Europe, operated by the fantastic Austrian rail system (OBB) - trains leave Budapest every two hours and :10 after (9:10; 11:10, etc) - full fare is 80.6 euros and can IME always be bought right up to the train - that is for 2nd class

There is always a difference between first and second class and that's why about 1/4 of most trains are first-class carriages - seats are bigger - 3 seats in the space of 4 and IME there are likely to be more empty seats in first class so you can put your bags on an adjoining seat, etc. This may or may not always be true in 2nd class - but there are no real restrictions for what the average tourist is hauling around - whatever you can carry on the train and manage - you may have to put it in overhead luggage racks -

You can score discounted tickets perhaps weeks in advance at www.oebb - the Austrian rail site but those may be train-specific and non-changeable - fine if they know exactly when they can take the train - full fare tickets offer complete flexibility to take any RJ train and again should always be available but if you want to pre-order full-fare tickets fine but only for your parents' convenience of having everything in hand and only having to board the train. Seat reservations I believe are optional and may cost an extra few euros - in first class IME rarely needed but in 2nd class I would have them reserve a seat so they do not have to stand a while.

For lots on these trains and the difference between say first and second class I always spotlight these fine sources - www.budgeteuropetravel.com (contact Byron there if you find you can't book online at www.oeb or the Hungarian rail site and desperately want a ticket - his agency works thru Rail Europe which typically charges more - sometimes quite a bit more than www.oebb.com would - try that site first and only as a last resort go thru RailEurope - but again if that is the ony avenue to get a ticket and seat reservations and you think that is needed... - other great rail sites - www.seat61.com (good info on discounted tickets) and www.ricksteves.com.

Be sure you note which station in Budapest these trains leave from - there are two main stations there.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 12:33 PM
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"...They have never been to Europe and never traveled rail...."

Rest assured that rail travel is the normal mode of travel for everybody and anybody. Neat, safe, quick (on major routes). Announcements happen in several languages incl. English, signage is usually excellent, trains are modern and comfortable, and the safety record is astounding.

Your parents will have a choice of taking a train that goes all the way from Budapest-Keleti station to Salzburg Hbf (Hbf means Hauptbahnhof, main principal station), taking 5:42 hours, or interrupting the journey in Vienna.

The only troublesome aspect I can see is luggage - it is true that you can take on as much as you can reasonably handle, but knowing how cruise passengers tend to bring along too much and rely on porters etc., I suggest that you impress on your parents that they'll be more comfortable with less than with more. Porters are pretty much non-existent these days, and there are stairs and long platforms to navigate in and around those large train stations.

Other than that - go for it!
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Nov 15th, 2013, 08:14 AM
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michelhuebell - Is there some kind of luggage sending ahead service? I know on most European trains now there is none but FedEx, UPS, DHL, all ship to hotel addresses - if they really have too much luggage to manage.
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Nov 15th, 2013, 09:50 AM
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While the OP has looked at the luggage from the third party restriction point of view, as other posters mentioned, the problem is likely to be traveler induced. The OP has mentioned four factors likely to make it an issue.

1. First time in Europe. Likely that the travelers have not have to deal with cobble stone streets, steps even inside hotels, small rooms, etc. favoring smaller luggage.
2. Never traveled by rail. No experience struggling with large luggage to get on/off trains, storing them in trains, and getting to/from the platform level. There are elevator/escalator stations. But they can be out of work, hard to find, queue of families with strollers waiting to take the same elevator, etc.
3. Cruise. Cruise travelers seem to take many large luggage.
4. Over 65. Might it difficult to suddenly change the packing strategy at this point to be train trip friendly.

Whether taking a train would be simple or not depends on how readily they can grasp the essence of riding a train for the first time. I have been using trains by myself before I was 10 years old, so it would be a stretch to say that since it was easy for me, it would be easy for everyone else.

There are similarities to flying on airplane as well as major differences.

For trains, there is no check-in of passengers or luggage (on this route.) They proceed straight to a car in train with their luggage if they already have the ticket and know where they arrive.

The trains arrive on tracks. There are "usually" two tracks per platform, one on each side of the platform. Some long platforms have more than two tracks. The track assignments at large modern stations are displayed on digital board at main entrances, abbreviated versions on passageways, and on digital displays on each platform/track. This will be the current info they should rely on. It supersede any info on printed media.

These international trains can be extremely long. Even after finding the train, it could take 10 minutes of more to get to the correct car matching the class (1st or 2nd class) of travel or if the train seats are reserved, they also need to match the train, car, and the seats. This is not hectic if they hop on the train at the beginning of the run as trains sit there long time for them to find the correct car. If they have to hop on the train in the middle of the run, they need to position themselves at the correct section of the track. How do they do this? On the platform, there is a usually train composition chart: on paper or on digital display. Look at the ticket for the train number, departure time, and the class. Find which mark/Sektor, etc the target car will stop. The marks are usually labeled A,B,C, etc. If the seat assignment is on car #10, and they have to hop on car #2, for example, they would need to just hop on if the train is leaving imminently and maneuver themselves inside the train to the right car. This is a major hassle with large luggage. Unlike airplanes, there are many many doors to get on the train.

An then, they can be a last minutes track reassignment. Because of this most people don't bother getting to the track until they can see the train on track (if at the beginning of the run) or 15 min or so before the arrival of the train to not having to change the track. They need to recheck the digital display to make sure they are still waiting at the right track. If there is a announcement followed by people around them grumbling and moving to somewhere else in mass, there could be a last minutes track announcement not yet shown on the digital display. They need to quickly find someone who might know what is going on. I usually have success with business type of people who are used to this routine and speak English well.
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Nov 15th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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In answer to the earlier question - I don't know about a send-ahead service from Budapest to Salzburg. The Swiss railways have that for trips to the airports - it's possible that the Hungarian railways have something like that, it would be worth exploring, starting at www.mav.hu/english/‎

But even then - typical cruise pax overload themselves, and once in Salzburg or anywhere else, too much stuff wrecks the fun, so it's something OP's parents need to be aware of.

They could ship stuff to their home town, but the expense would be serious. Might just as well donate stuff when coming off the cruise...
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Nov 16th, 2013, 11:30 AM
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Budapest to Salzburg starts at €39.

You can book online at Hungarian Railways site www.mav-start.hu, but not at oebb.at as it's towards Austria, not from it.
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Nov 27th, 2013, 06:12 AM
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Weird that Austrian railways can't issue a ticket on a train coming to Austria - I know that is the way many country train systems work but seems so Neanderthal to me.
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Nov 27th, 2013, 07:22 AM
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"...Weird that Austrian railways can't issue a ticket on a train coming to Austria..."

Just one aspect - the currency (in Hungary it's Forints, in Austria Euros) could have something to do with it - neither wanting to do the other's conversion?

But then again, the Swiss will sell you a ticket, in Swiss Francs, for a trip to, say, Bern from, say, Frankfurt/M, or Milan, just as the Germans and the Italians will sell you the same tickets, in Euros. But then the Swiss are known to be good with money, anybody's money...
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Nov 27th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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yes the European Union still has a few holes - many holes.
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Dec 1st, 2013, 10:17 PM
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Bookmarking thanks.
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