Are you guys looking to travel from Prague to Budapest? Or the other way around? We’ve made the trip a bunch of times ourselves and we’re here to help!
Be it by train, plane, bike, bus, car, motorcycle, or simply sticking out a thumb on a lonesome highway, half of the joy of travel is in the journey. In this case, we’re here to talk about getting from Prague to Budapest, the capital cities of the Czech Republic and Hungary, respectively. And vice versa.
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Prague to Budapest by Train
The approximately 500km journey from Prague to Budapest offers so many opportunities to be side-tracked, you may never finish. If you add in Austria’s Vienna and Slovakia’s Bratislava, then this small area of central Europe encompasses four architecturally bejeweled capital cities, plus a multitude of attractive, Gothic towns in between.
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Prague to Budapest by train is perhaps the most comfortable mode of travel, albeit the most expensive, between the two cities. The level of comfort increases with the more money you spend.
Day and night, trains leave from Prague’s must-see, half-art nouveau, half-communist-realist Main Railway Station (Praha Hlavni Nadraži) located close to New Town’s Wenceslas Square.
There are 19 trains running daily from Prague to Budapest with average prices, depending on the route, around 1,652 kc ($72 approximately). Tickets can be purchased with cash or with a credit/debit card.
All trains have restaurant cars or snack bars. If you travel at night there are sleeping carriages with beds available, but frustratingly often appear only on certain sections of the route. Trains are also equipped with wifi, electric sockets to recharge appliances, a ladies-only compartment, and compartments with space reserved for children under the age of 10. On select trains, there is also a carriage to stow bicycles for an extra fee.
Czech website IDOS (available in English or German by clicking on the tabs at the foot of each page) is your friend and supplies such detailed train information that even the most ardent of enthusiasts will be satisfied.
Prague’s main train station has a left luggage room next to the ticketing windows on the lower floor of the main concourse, which today is littered with fast food outlets, pubs and bookstores.
If you have time, grab a coffee in the station’s dome where the original departures hall has been restored to former imperial glories and passengers can sip a beverage in the uniquely circular Café Fanta/Fantova Kavarna, named after Josef Fanta, renowned Czech architect of the art nouveau style who designed the building that was finished in 1909.
Prague to Budapest by Bus
Prague to Budapest by bus is one of the most convenient, cheapest, and direct ways of getting there on conventional transport. An average journey takes 7 hours and 15 minutes, with 10 buses departing daily from Praha Florenc bus station, located within walking distance (1km) of the main railway station. Depending on the time of departure, average prices vary from $18.00 / €16.00 to $50.00 / €45.00 one way.
A variety of companies operate a service from Prague to Budapest. Regiojet/Student Agency offers assigned seating, comfy seats, luggage storage, entertainment systems, and free hot drinks. Additionally, they offer some split tickets with half the journey spent on rail, and the other on a bus.
Flixbus allows tickets to be bought directly from the driver and has a rack for up to five bicycles. Seats are not assigned so arrive early to get the best seat.
Amsbus.cz is an online ticketing agency for coach travel. Routes will often break at Brno, Břeclav, Vienna, Bratislava in Slovakia, and Rajka in Hungary before completing the trip in Budapest Népliget.
Prague to Budapest by Plane
At time of writing, there are four direct flights from Prague to Budapest by plane daily and various other indirect routes with stops at airports in the region.
Prices fluctuate, going as low as $24.00 / €21.00, or increasing to $200.00 / €177.00. Keep an eye on websites such as Skyscanner or Google Flights where bargains can always be found, particularly when booked well in advance.
All departures fly out of Prague’s Vaclav Havel airport, which can be reached from the Main Station by a regular Airport Express bus service leaving every 30 minutes outside Café Fanta. This service runs from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm, with tickets costing 60 kc / $2.60 / €2.00 and can be bought from the driver.
Alternatively, the very cheapest option is a 32 kc / $1.50 ticket with 90 minutes of traveling time to get you from downtown to the airport in the west of the city. Using the green A line metro to Nadraži Veleslavin, the 119 bus can be caught from just outside the station where tickets can be bought at machines or kiosks and must be punched in an onboard machine. Buses depart every five minutes or so and the journey takes around 20 minutes.
Flying from Prague to Budapest means that you will land in Ferenc Liszt Airport 10 miles/16 km south-east of the city. Public transport bus numbers 100E and 200E will take you into Budapest centre and connect to the subway system for citywide travel. Tickets can be bought from vending machines at the airport bus stops with prices very similar to those at the Czech end.
Mention to a Czech that you are taking a taxi to Prague airport and a wry smile may well appear thanks to the notoriously bad reputation of the city’s taxi drivers who await with the intention to fleece any foreign visitor. Prices range wildly from fair to rip-off, so agree on a price beforehand, and this can also be done via any number of online agencies, Uber and Taxify being the most prominent and reasonable. In Prague an Uber will cost you between 350 kc and 750 kc / $32.00 / €28.00. Similar rates can be expected in Budapest.
Alternatively, you can book a pre-arranged private transfer from Prague’s Airport to the city center for approximately $45.00 / €40.00. Likewise, you can book pre-arranged private transfer from Budapest’s airport to the city center for the same price.
Prague to Budapest by Rental Car or Motorcycle
Prague to Budapest by rental car or motorcycle is also a possibility, albeit a potentially expensive one, especially when a hefty deposit must be stumped up, and which may not be returned. The size of this fee and the scrupulousness of the hire firm is difficult to gauge, and a quick internet search will throw up scores of companies, both domestic and international names such as Avis and Budget.
Car hire deposit can be anything from $280.00 / €250.00 to $4000.00 / €3500.00, and in some cases even more. This fee depends on the type of car, the country you’re renting in, and the car rental company’s honesty.
It is also worth bearing in mind that both Czech and Hungarian highways tend to be two-lane all the way, traffic can be very dense, and accidents happen. Truck and coach drivers complain bitterly about the E50, a pan-European highway that cuts the continent and the Czech Republic in half from east to west. The criticisms concern the uneven section of road between Prague and Brno, which causes vehicles to bounce quite significantly. Blame for this has been put on Adolf Hitler who, legend has it, is rumored to have had the road constructed during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War Two.
Hitchhiking from Prague to Budapest
Back in the day, hitchhiking from Prague to Budapest would have been relatively easy and fun. Due to far lower ownership of private vehicles in the communist era, traffic was still very light in the 1990s and mostly limited to the ubiquitous Škoda 120 and Tatra trucks belching black smoke. Yet hitchhikers never had to wait long, and it was a very popular means of travel, especially among the youth. Ironically with a surge of car sales in the modern capitalist market, I’m sure you could sit at the side of the road all day without any of the thousands of cars stopping.
Standing with your thumb out on a road has moved on somewhat in the technological age. Online groups bring hitchhikers together to share experiences and pool information about their adventures, and, thanks to the internet, offers of car rides are regularly put up on sites such as BlaBlaCar and TrustRoots, as well as smartphone apps such as iThumb and Rideshare4less.
Travelers can now book seats in cars and post notices detailing where he or she wants to start and finish, for example from Prague to Budapest. Some drivers just want a friendly chat on a long journey and the ‘hitchhiker’ can contribute to petrol costs, but often rides for free. Accommodation can also be arranged through many of these sites.
While waiting, you may like to read the racy exploits of Fialka, a female Czech hitchhiker in Iva Pekarkova’s road novel ‘Truck Stop Rainbows’, following the young woman on a profitable and sexual odyssey around Europe.
Cycling From Prague to Budapest
Attempting to cycle from Prague to Budapest certainly won’t be easy but will be scenic and the land does flatten out south of Brno as you head down towards the Danube river basin.
An increasingly popular cycle route has been established on the backroads and forest trails between Prague and Vienna. Known as Greenways this trail passes through breathtaking south Bohemian and Moravian countryside before dropping due south and across the Austrian border to Vienna. From there it is possible to continue along the banks of the Danube River to Bratislava and follow the river east then south before arriving in Budapest. Unfortunately, there is currently no boat service between the two cities.
A host of online companies offer to organize Prague to Budapest bicycle trips, right down to the most minute of details. They will supply all the necessary equipment, from hire of bike, helmet, and tool kit, to a bed for the night in varying standards of accommodation. Insurance is often not included but may be offered.
The more intrepid cyclist will camp, of course, and cheap camping sites abound in the border areas. Wild camping does take place, mostly hidden away in the forests, but officially it is not allowed, yet tolerated. It is strictly forbidden to camp in national parks, which can be patrolled by rangers who will issue a fine.
Walking from Prague to Budapest
Humanity’s original form of transportation was by foot. So, if you are physically able and have plenty of time to spare, it will be a grueling yet bucolic hike from Prague to Budapest on a path so long that it will need to be followed very closely on a map.
Serious hikers may manage that 300-mile / 500-kilometer distance in two weeks or so, but 20 miles a day is tough going.
Whatever way you do go, enjoy the trip!
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