In Europe, most people use their own car for traveling from one country to another. Thanks to „Autobahn“ this is often named as the fastest option. But for the very first time, we tried to travel from Germany to Austria, Slovakia and Hungary by train. It wasn’t as convenient as the speed trains in China, but a very good travel option if you want to avoid traffic jams and travel in a climate-friendly way.
Just make sure that your accomodation is in walking distance of either the train station or close to a metro/bus station. Outside of cities, bus connections are poor, and taxis cost a fortune.
Railway tickets can be pretty expensive though, we highly recommend to book a couple of days in advance. Especially during weekdays there are plenty of offers for budget tickets (called „Saver Fare“, „Flexible Fare“or „Regional Offers“) at DB (Deutsche Bahn, German Railway). Most trains are reliable and eventually very comfortable, depending on their type and the class.
For our trip from Ulm to Munich we enjoyed the comfort of an ICE train. All of them come with a family compartment where kids find some space to play, a toilet with a changing table is next door and there is enough space to put the pram close to you.
From Munich to Salzburg, it takes two hours with the so-called „Meridian“, a regional train riding along the beautiful Chiemsee. Within Austria, the ÖBB (Austria Railway) provides a good booking platform.
We chose the route from Salzburg to Schladming in Styria and then further east to Vienna. Beautiful scenery included, and if you or your child suffer from motion sickness, believe me: Going by train is absolutely hassle-free!
From Vienna to Bratislava, it’s only a short train ride of 50 minutes as these two capital cities are only 50 kilometres apart. There is also a passenger boat connecting these two cities on the Danube river but the price is three times higher than the price for the train tickets.
Another very convenient option for trips within Europe are overland coaches. We chose Flixbus for our trip from Bratislava to Budapest as there is no direct train connection between these two cities. The booking process is absolutely easy and optimized for mobile phones. The bus was only a few minutes late.
Our last train trip started at Budapest and took us within 2 hours all the way down south to Lake Balaton, following the eastern shore of the lake. The train was quite old and the AC wasn’t working well, but the view was great.
How much does it cost?
- Ticket from Ulm/Germany to Munich/Germany (145 km): ~16 € per person
- Ticket from Munich/Germany to Salzburg/Austria (160 km): ~16 € per person
- Ticket from Salzburg/Austria to Schladming/Austria (90 km): ~7 € per person
- Ticket from Schladming/Austria to Vienna/Austria (287 km): ~30 € per person
- Ticket from Vienna/Austria to Bratislava/Slovakia (53 km): ~10 € per person
- Ticket from Bratislava/Slovakia to Budapest/Hungary (200 km): ~15 € per person
- Ticket from Budapest/Hungary to Lake Balaton/Hungary (190 km): ~10 € per person
Prices for adults. Children travel for a reduced fare.
How to book a train ticket for Germany/Austria/Slovakia/Hungary?
- Train tickets can both be bought at the ticket machines located inside train stations (most of them offer different language options and payment via credit card).
- Special offers can only be bought online in advance but no longer than 90 days before traveling. You can use the soft copy on your phone to travel so there is no need for printing the ticket.
- It is mandatory to buy the ticket in advance if you want to make a seat reservation. This is highly recommended if you travel on a weekend on a highly frequented route or on peak season and you want to make sure to have a seat. you’re able to fix a date.
- During the booking process, you have to choose between first and second class. Personally, I have never traveled first class on a train – the ticket price might double there, and second class is pretty comfortable.
- You don’t have to purchase a ticket for every single train. There are tickets for connecting trains; just choose your departure station and your preferred destination. The booking website will show the best connection and the ticket for the complete trip.
- Be aware that the AC in European trains are not the best. On a hot summer day it might get pretty warm inside the compartment.
- Make sure to bring your own power bank, not all trains are equiped with sockets.
- Most long-distance train offer free WiFi.
- There are both restaurant cars as well as push carts with food and drinks.
- The toilets on the train are not luxury, but okay. Close to the family area you’ll find a changing table.
- Be prepared for delays, which can happen on highly frequented routes. The train attendant can assist you if you miss your connecting train due to delay.
Train Types and Timetables
The best overview over excisting train types, booking process and updated timetables can be found here: https://www.seat61.com