Two weeks ago, I blogged about my High Speed ICE experience. Today’s Trip Report is a little of a contrast. A much more slower trip from Budapest, the capital of Hungary to Baja, a small city south of Budapest.
Booking: 3 out of 10
MAV Start has the most complex train booking system I have ever experienced. The site also froze a few times. It does provide all of the fare and train options on the one screen so you can see which train has the cheapest seats and make up your mind easily about tickets. Eventually, I successfully wrestled a booking reservation. I opted for a first class seat on the first sector of the trip. I paid $14.34 for First Class instead of $11 for second class.
On arrival at Budapest Deli station, I looked for the ticket dispensing machine. The MAV Start website had promised that “this will speed up your time in long queues”. I stood in line to ask a human about how to collect my tickets. The guy who served, me could not print the tickets as they were prepaid. He left his post, however, to ask a security guard to take me out of the ticketing hall to the station concourse where an unassuming unlabelled machine stood. The ticket issuing process is only in Hungarian.
Boarding 8 out of 10
Budapest has three main railway stations. All of them have a corresponding metro station with the same name.
- Budapest-Déli Pályaudvar (Budapest-Southern Railway Terminal) which I refer to as Delipu has trains to Lake Balaton and Transdnubia. This was where I commenced my journey. It is the most modern and ugliest of Hungary’s railway terminals.
- Budapest Keleti Pályaudvar (Budapest Eastern Railway terminal) which I have nicknamed Kelipu. This is one of the most stunning stations in Europe. Most international trains start from here as well as services to the north-east of Hungary
- Nyugati Pályaudvar (Budapest-Western Railway Terminal) serves the Danube Bend, the Great Plain and Budapest airport. It is a stunning building built by the Eiffel Company in 1877 which is rather run down. If you get there, go into the amazingly restored section that houses McDonalds (picture below).
Finding my vágány (Platform) at Delipu was easy. Departures are listed on a yellow timetable poster labelled indul. Arrivals are listed on similar white timetable poster labelled érkezik. Some trains require a compulsory seat reservation. These are indicated on the timetable with an R in a circle or in a box.kebab shop etc)
My First Class carriage was at the end of the train nearest the main concourse.
Mid journey, I had to change trains at Sárbogárd. This important railway junction allows transfer from the main electrified lines to the non-electrified branch routes. The conductor on the first train calmly reminded me of the change. Another English speaking tourist was so terrified of the change, he harassed the poor conductor three times, demanding reassurance that the process would be easy. Easy it was. The Budapest express swept into Sárbogárd where our Baja bound train was waiting. Before I realised it, the main line train had vanished and we were on board the branch line train, ready to go.
On Board: 7 out of 10
My first train was an electric locomotive hauled train of older carriages. First Class had a 2/2 seat layout with middle aisle. Seats were roomy. Lavatory was acceptable but not brilliant.
The journey from Budapest to Sárbogárd. was very fast and smooth. The second segment was much slower. I can see why it took me 3 hours 11 minutes to cover 140 kilometres. The poorly maintained track limited speed and the train got slower and slower. At one point, I felt I could have hopped out and run faster than the railcar. We were also lurching so much that I thought we were on the verge of becoming air borne.
The conductor on the Baja line kept me amused. Dressed in an ill fitting unwashed uniform, he wore an expression of extreme resignation. I wondered how many times he had ridden between Baja and Sárbogárd.
Entertainment: 0 out of 10
There was none. No magazines, no audio, no video and no wifi. There was no power available. The view from the windows was very pleasant. I appreciated that both trains had tables I could use for my laptop computer.
There was nothing available to eat on the trains. To keep me going for three hours, I had stocked up on snacks from the shops located under Delipu station. There was a bakery, fruit and grocery shop, kebab shop and more located there.
My rating: Overall 53%
Positives: View, Price
Negatives: Slow trip, ticketing, no wifi
Would I do it again? Yes