A decent train service is something we British are not really used to. In general, our trains are overcrowded, often delayed and expensive. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a quality train service available for our transfer from Budapest to Vienna.
Also, a decent train service does not involve the frustrations of travelling by plane. No security, less waiting, no bag weight restrictions and most stations are situated in the heart of the city and not a 50 euro taxi ride away.
An economy ticket was €19 per person but needing a bit more comfort we upgraded to the premium business class service. Unlike airlines, the business class is the highest level offered (above first class). The total price for this service was €54 per person.
Included with your business class ticket is access to the station’s business lounge although the lounge in Budapest’s Keleti station was quite unremarkable. We were greeted by a stony faced receptionist who scoured our tickets before allowing us entry into an empty room. I think she may have been left over from the cold war days.
We were then joined in the room by colleagues of the woman who simply sat around drinking the free coffee themselves. To finish off this ‘John le Carré’ experience Mrs W was actually told off for putting a small bag of peanuts in her bag. No Food Is To Be Taken Out Of The Lounge, this was pointed out by one of the staff who was sitting around doing nothing but tucking into the complimentary food himself. So not wanting to end up in the Gulag we obeyed the orders. Luckily by this time, we were ready to board the train.
Just to point out that the unspectacular lounge in Budapest was operated by Hungarian MAV and not by the Austrian rail company OBB.
From the outside the train didn’t look different from any other but on boarding the buisness class carriage we were greeted with a clean spacious interior. It had a corridor on one side and an office like partitioned space on the other side. These partitions were quite large and featured no more than 3 reclining seats, each with side table, reading lights and individual power points. There was also free wifi but this proved to be very intermittent and only really good enough for emails.
Being electric, the train departed very smoothly and exactly on time. There was an extensive menu available, VERY extensive compared to the motley food selection available on UK trains. A very polite, english speaking member of staff soon came around to take our order. He also explained that as a business class customer we had a free drink, yes including alcohol! It seemed rude to say no, so wine and beer it was.
When the food arrived it was surprisingly good, the prices were also reasonable compared to UK prices. The attentive staff returned to check everything was OK and to take another drinks order (unfortunately we had to pay for this one).
Arriving In Vienna
Soon we were approaching Vienna, on time, just over 2 and a half hours after leaving Budapest. The journey was comfortable and if you build in the time to get to and from the airport, getting through security and all the associated rigmarole, it was probably quicker than flying.
It was then only a short taxi ride from Vienna train station to our hotel in the centre of Vienna. Arriving early afternoon, refreshed if not slightly too relaxed after the wine.
We would definitely consider using the train when we are next travelling across Europe. It was reasonable, comfortable, quick and you get to see more of the countryside, although the journey between Budapest and Vienna was not particularly picturesque.
What was your experience of travelling by train outside the UK, please share your hints and tips. The journeys don’t have to be just in Europe but also anywhere else in the world.