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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.