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How to Get from Prague to Budapest

Budapest's Great Market
Budapest’s Great Market

A common itinerary for our guests on their Eastern European tours combines a visit to Prague, the Czech capital, and a few days in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

In American terms these cities are quite close together, just 330 miles apart by road but it’s a journey with a number of options.

Plane

There are a couple of direct flights a day, operated by Czech Airlines. It’s a one hour flight, but you’ll pay a pretty penny for the convenience – flights in August run around $800 (yes, that’s not a typo!). You’re better off buying a return and not using the second half. Indirect flights are only a little cheaper but involve changing in Vienna, or somewhere in Germany. The change means the total journey time is closer to that of the train or long-distance bus.

Train

There are several direct trains a day, taking just under 7 hours to get from Prague main station to Budapest. There are a couple of night trains, one just after 11pm, the other just after midnight. Somehow both arrive in Budapest at 8:35 the following morning. For more background and advice on night trains in general, see our Prague to Krakow article. Our preference, even though it’s a long journey, is to avoid the night train; it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep so the next day is usually wasted anyway and arriving long before you can check in to your accommodation means spending much of the day without having showered. Tickets for daytime trains can be bought online whereas night train tickets cannot. Booking in advance you can get a one-way ticket for between $25 and $30. The big advantage of train travel is arriving in the centre of the city.

Automobile

(Sorry, couldn’t resist the John Candy reference!) Driving is a possibility but isn’t particularly economical when compared to bus or train because you’ll pay a lot more for a one-way rental, if that’s how your itinerary works and fuel is very expensive in Europe, compared to the US. If you have a number of things you want to see on the way (Brno, the Czech Republic’s second largest city, and Bratislava, the Slovak capital are en route and Vienna is only a slight detour) you could always break your bus or train journey in either of those cities too, and add a night or two.

Private Transfer

There are several downsides to renting a car, among them driving in unfamiliar countries, the need to buy highway vignettes for each country you pass through (unless you stick to the slow side roads), parking costs and finally the one-way rental fee. None of these are an issue if you opt for a private transfer. You get picked up from your accommodation in a comfortable car or minivan depending on your group size and driven door-to-door, with the freedom to make stops along the way, for a small per-hour waiting fee. When you factor in all the advantages it may make more sense than renting a car or even opting for bus & train. You also have the freedom to choose an off-beaten-path stop along the way.

Bus

With some intense competition between the rail companies and numerous bus companies on the Prague – Budapest route, there are plenty of buses every day and the prices are very reasonable, usually a little cheaper than the train. All the buses leave from the Florenc international bus station just outside the very centre of Prague. We usually book our guests tickets for the Student Agency yellow bus service – they have very modern coaches, free hot drinks service and show films throughout the journey to keep you entertained. The journey to Budapest by bus takes between 7 hours 30 minutes and 7 hours 45 minutes. You’ll arrive close to the Nepliget bus station where you’ll find a metro station and plenty of taxis to take you into the centre or for guests taking a vacation package with us we’ll arrange for a driver to meet you there.

Whichever mode of transport you choose, we can arrange accommodation, day trips and tours for you in either of these beautiful cities, as well as making reservations for travel.

Charlie
Charlie takes care of the marketing side of things at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and travel.

9 Responses to How to Get from Prague to Budapest

  1. Need to know if the bus route passes theu Schengen countries only ie no other visas needed? Between Prague and Budapest? Thanks

    • Hi Ronel, the only country the Prague to Budapest bus passes through is Slovakia, another Schengen country, so there is no additional visa requirement (nor is there a passport check at the borders, under normal circumstances). The bus just drives through the neglected border posts.

  2. Hi Charlie, we are planning a trip to Prague and Budapest and was hoping to stopover at Brno and Bratislava too. As we have three young kids with us, I would like to check out the option of either self-drive a private transfer. I read that we have to buy a sticker when we entered the different country, Slovakia and Hungary? Is it easy to get such a sticker? What other consideration do we need to take into account when driving? We intend to rent and return the car in Prague.

    For private transfer, is it easy to find such a service and how much do they typically charged?

    Thank you for your kind attention.

    • Hi Shirley, yes, you need to have a highway sticker for each country you enter. You can buy the stickers at gas stations, either side of the border (so in Czech Republic you can buy the sticker for Slovakia). Have a read of our article about car rental in Europe for more background and our general advice. We can certainly arrange either a private driver or the car rental option for you as part of a complete package (we don’t sell these services on their own) so if you’d like us to put together a package including accommodation, transfers and transport, please get in touch with us and one of my colleagues will prepare a custom itinerary for you. In addition to making all the arrangements for you, we provide our guests with a local cellphone with which to contact our local representative who will be looking after your needs before and during your travels.

  3. The best definitely train. It takes 6 hours to get to Budapest from Prague. The station is in the center in Budapest and the metro brings you everywhere. Also the flight ticket is very expensive. Buses are cheaper and takes 30-1 h less time, if you are lucky. The student agency buses are quite comfortable tho, but the traffic might be an issue. Moreover to travel in winter it can prolong the time of the bus…I choose train all the time. Make sure you dont go on Monday or sunday, a lot of students going home.

  4. hi Charlie
    I need 2 bus ticket from prague to Budapest
    departing on 31 july 2016
    for 2 person
    how much is the ticket price in euro for 2

    • Hi Jan. We don’t sell tickets separately, we include transport tickets within vacation packages we put together. If you’d like us to plan a whole vacation for you, send us your details, with approximate dates and your preferred style or star level of hotels and we’ll put a custom quote together for you.

  5. Hi charlie,

    i am travelling from India. I want to book my train tickets for Prague-budapest, budapest-Vienna, Vienna-Salzburg, Salzburg-Innsbruck and finally Innsbruck-Zurich. I am little confused with so many websites which has different rates/ fares for the train booking.

    Can you please suggest which train website i should use to get an economical fare and also can book all the train tickets for the AM journey plan.

    currently i have been using rail.ninja.com and goeuro.com website. please suggest.

    • Hi Abhishek, we only arrange tickets for our guests as part of a complete vacation package. My colleagues in Europe take care of buying them, usually directly from the train companies, so we can get the best prices for our guests.

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