From Prague to Budapest: 5 Best Ways to Get There
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Right on the banks of the Danube river, Budapest is naturally beautiful and brimming with stunning neo-Gothic architecture. Although Prague and Budapest are too far from each other for a quick day trip, Hungary's capital can be a great weekend escape. Luckily for travelers, there are several ways of getting from one city to the other.
More laid-back than Prague but still buzzing with cafés, a thriving cultural scene and plenty of things to see and do, Budapest has much to offer visitors, regardless of the season. Whether you're visiting to see the Roman ruins, the thermal baths, or the massive Baroque Buda Castle, here's our list of the best ways to get from Prague to Budapest:
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1. From Prague to Budapest by Train
The most picturesque way to travel from Prague to Budapest is definitely on the train. Along the way, you'll see beautiful rolling hills, views of the Visegrád castle, and peeks of the Danube river and the North Hungarian Mountains in the background, as the train rolls alongside them.
There's also a certain magic to traveling on a train between two ancient cities–especially as the train journey between Prague and Budapest is both comfortable and affordable. You'll have plenty of options for travel on this route too, including time of day, sleeper cabins or daytime trains, and first- or second-class seats–and all these options affect price.
Trains depart from Praha hlavní nádraží station and take under seven hours to get to the Budapest Keleti railway station. Once you get to Budapest, you can hop on the metro to get to the city center in just a few minutes–or walk alongside the Danube river and reach the heart of Budapest in about 40 minutes.
The cheapest train option is a daytime 2nd class seat, which offers comfortable traveling in open carriages or small cabins. First-class seats in daytime trains are more spacious but not necessarily any more luxurious.
For more comfort and a touch of luxury, consider a sleeper train. A 2nd class ticket allows you to share a cabin with fellow passengers or get a couchette in an open carriage, or you can buy a first-class ticket and get your own private single-sleeper (and private toilet). The prices are much higher if you buy a ticket on the day you're traveling, so get your ticket in advance through the Czech Railway website if possible.
Both daytime and sleeper trains are modern, air-conditioned, and have Wi-Fi and a restaurant car offering inexpensive snacks and meals. If you're traveling in first class, you also get complimentary bottled water, power sockets in every seat, more legroom, and even the option of solo seats.
2. From Prague to Budapest by Bus
Buses are the best option if cost is a concern, and you want ample choice of departure times. While the trip is long at around seven hours, the buses are comfortable and come equipped with free onboard Wi-Fi, free drinks, snacks for sale, AC, and onboard entertainment.
Because the journey takes so long, overnight buses are often the most convenient option–you can sleep along the way and arrive in Budapest in the early morning ready to explore. For example, if you take an 11pm bus, you'll get to Budapest at around 6:15am the next day, just on time for breakfast and an early start exploring the city.
Another good option is the early morning bus, which leaves Prague before 6am and gets to Budapest around noon.
3. From Prague to Budapest by Plane
Low-cost airline Ryanair covers this route, and you can get tickets from them for extremely low rates one way on the cheapest months (July and August are particularly cheap), as long as you buy well in advance. Keep in mind that budget airlines only allow one small carry-on bag for free and don't offer any extras (no free drinks or snacks, no onboard entertainment). However, the flight is only 90 minutes long, so you likely won't miss any of these extras too much.
For a little more comfort, national Czech Airlines also flies to Budapest twice a day, but expect to pay double the price or more for a ticket. You'll get a little more legroom, a bigger luggage allowance, and a nicer overall experience from them.
Once in Budapest, you can get to the city center on the 100E bus, which runs every 20 minutes and takes around 35 minutes to reach the city center.
4. From Prague to Budapest by Private Transfer
If you're looking for a comfortable journey plus the flexibility of door-to-door service, a Budapest Private Transfer from Prague is your best bet. With a private transfer, you get picked up from your hotel at any time of the day or night by a private air-conditioned minivan with a professional driver behind the wheel.
The car or van will then get you to your hotel or desired location in Budapest in about six hours, with the option of stopping along the way for a quick meal or to stretch your legs. All costs are included, and there's space to comfortably carry your luggage, so you can just relax and enjoy the views along the way.
5. From Prague to Budapest by Car
If you're up for a road trip, the drive from Prague to Budapest is as scenic as they get. Separated by at least 525 kilometers (550 kilometers if you choose the scenic option), the trip will take you at least five hours if you choose the fast highway but a little over six hours if you go the scenic way.
The scenic route cuts through the UNESCO-listed town of Tabor, passes right by historical Ceske Budejovice (the short detour is well worth it), and takes you through Vienna. Unless you're in a rush, this is a great place to spend a night, so you can explore the city's many attractions, try some traditional Sachertorte Austrian cake, and pick up some souvenirs. From Vienna, it's an additional two and a half hours to reach Budapest the next morning.
You'll need a highway vignette to drive in the Czech Republic and another one for Hungary. These are usually available at gas stations – as you approach the border with Hungary, gas stations on the Czech Republic side will sell you the vignette for Hungary. In both countries, vignettes are available for 10 or 30 days. It's cheaper to buy a 30-day one than two 10-day ones, so plan accordingly based on how long your trip is.
When renting a car in Prague (available at the airport or the city center via companies such as Rent Plus and Hire Car Prague), don't forget to mention you're crossing the border, as extra fees might apply for international driving. Also, keep in mind that dropping off your car in Budapest can result in a hefty surcharge – driving tends to be a better option if you're returning to Prague after.
All in all, driving is great if you're up for a little bit of adventure and beautiful stops along the way, but overall, it's cheaper and more convenient to take the train.
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