{This blogpost is also available in German / auf Deutsch}

As a globetrotter, the desire to travel is never satisfied. Jesse and I have already been on trip around the world, but it reinforced our desire to visit even more places and countries. But I also know that constant travel is not the most sustainable for our planet. That’s why I’ve been trying to greatly reduce my travel and flights in the past few years.

Last year, for example, with a heavy heart, I said no to blogger trips to Ibiza, Mexico, Khao Lak / Thailand and Tyrol (due to time constraints I would have only been able to do the Tyrol trip if I travelled by plane). But I got to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, and several times to Munich and Vienna by train!

This year we flew to Serbia for a family visit and wedding planning in March (read my Belgrade Travel Guide here). But for the trip back, I finally got to try the train. Unfortunately, there is currently construction on the tracks for the connection between Belgrade and Budapest, making the route rather complicated. The good news: starting next year, the direct connection between Belgrade and Budapest will be extremely fast, just 3.5 hours!

Today I will share our journey and all the information with you, but also some info about what the connection will be like after the construction!

Researching the route

I think there aren’t so many good sites where you can do research on transnational train travel. Usually, I combine information that I get from several pages together to get an overview of all the travel options, e.g. Night trains. Recently I discovered Seat61 again. We used the site a lot during our trip around the world, but I had completely forgotten about it it.

On Seat61 you can find lots and lots of information about train travel around the world! The info is sometimes more detailed than the official train company pages. Seat61 is not a travel agency and there is no company behind it, just a blogger who has a passion for train travel.

There we also found all of the information about the construction between Belgrade and Budapest and were able to plan our trip accordingly.

From Belgrade to Budapest – planning and ticket purchase (with construction works)
Thanks to Seat61, we knew that there would be a train to Budapest from Novi Sad (starting next year, of course, from Belgrade). We found the exact connection on srbvoz, as well as the train number and time. The time was a few minutes different than on Seat61. This was also important for the ticket purchase, since the woman from the information desk at Belgrade Central Station had no idea that the train leaves from Novi Sad. But the people at ticket sales office knew about it.

Theoretically you can also buy the ticket directly at the Novi Sad train station shortly before the trip, the train is actually never full. But we wanted to play it safe and bought the ticket in Belgrade. For this we went to Beograd Centar Station, which was a bit complicated to get to. There we followed the signs to the lobby (basement) and bought our tickets there. You can probably also buy the tickets somewhere in the city center at a travel agency. But we were getting around by car that day anyways so it was a quick stop for us. On Seat61 you can find an exact contact person who could write to you if you really want to buy tickets beforehand. But as said, you really don’t have to purchase them in advance.

From Belgrade you can take a bus to Novi Sad. The Novi Sad bus station is right next to Novi Sad central station, but you should of course inform yourself when you are there to make sure there are no changes. You can buy the tickets online (see again Seat61), or directly at the bus station in Belgrade. You can reach it very well from the center of the city.

Without construction work

If there is construction, you can just take a direct train from Belgrade to Budapest, easy peasy. Hopefully the construction works will be finished by the end of the year!

Cost Belgrade – Budapest
The train ticket from Novi Sad to Budapest cost us around 12 euros per person. We took a private transfer from Pancevo to Novi Sad, as there was no bus from there to take us to Novi Sad at an appropriate time. But a bus from Belgrade to Novi Sad usually costs around 3.50 – 6 euros.

Experience & travel times
We left for Novi Sad relatively early in the morning and arrived at Novi Sad Central Station at about 10 o’clock. The train to Budapest left at 10:57 so we grabbed some nuts and ice cream and took some photos at the train station, which has a great retro atmosphere.

The train was at the track very early, so we already boarded the train at 10:30 and found a good seat. But as I said before, the train was not full anyway. And right on time at 10:57 the train left the station.

Immediately, however, our documents were checked and, frankly, that was the most annoying part of the entire journey. In Serbia, passports or identity cards of all passengers were checked three times, although there were further stops in Serbia before the Hungarian border. I think that was a certain security measure, but I do not feel so comfortable with so much police. At one point, you also drive past a landfill, which unfortunately was not a nice sight.

Apart from that, the ride in Serbia was very pleasant and nice. You get into conversation very quickly with the other passengers and time flew by for us, haha: P

Punctually at 14:15 clock we arrived at the border at the Kelebia train station in Hungary. Before, of course, there was again a passport control on the Serbian side. In Kelebia we had to stay on the train, until the Hungarian side had checked our passports, but also our suitcases. After the check, you simply board the Hungarian train on the opposite track. The whole thing lasts only 20-30 minutes and at 14:45 o’clock we were on our way to Budapest.

The train in Hungary reminded me of a chic German regional train, but in contrast to Germany had strong and reliable Wi-Fi!

We arrived right on time, shortly after 6pm, at the Budapest Keleti station. Again the time passed quickly because we had internet and also EU telephone signal (so we could use our German data) so I was able to write messages and upload Instagram stories.

The journey from Novi Sad to Budapest took a total of 7 hours. Due to the longer stopover at the border and the conversations on the train, it definitely felt a lot shorter. Starting next year, the journey time is much shorter and then I can definitely recommend the route. Now it’s more for adventurers and really determined slow travelers, in my opinion.

24 hours in Budapest

After that you can theoretically take the night train to Berlin at 19:25, but we took one day for a quick tour of the city. You can read everything here.

Night train back to Berlin
After our day in Budapest, the next day we went back to Berlin. We booked the night train weeks in advance (on Oebb.at) and also reserved a compartment for us alone. This is of course more expensive than a normal seat or a sleeping place in a six or four-person compartment.

The scheduled departure was 19:25 clock and we were already on the train at 19:00. The conductor for our car welcomed us directly and showed our compartment. Our beds were already unfolded and freshly made. The compartment was quite large, some in the same car were narrower, although there were 4 beds in it.

We folded on of the beds down again so that we could sit normally on the bench for a bit.

Unfortunately, we quickly realized that the power plug did not work, and the ventilation only sort of worked. Fortunately, we were able to charge our cell phones in the conductor’s compartment which was the only place where the plugs worked. The ventilation was ok later.

For all guests there was a slip to fill out with your choices for breakfast. Vegan did not really exist (except margarine). There were also two water bottles with plastic cups ready. We did not touch these. I thought that the plastic cups were a big waste. We did not have a sink in the compartment, instead we had two cabins with sinks and two toilets in the hallway of the wagon.

We had a little snack, watched an episode on Netflix and then went to bed some time between 10 and 11. I had earplugs with me and therefore slept like a baby! The jerking of the train was quite strong at the beginning, but then it kind of rocked me to sleep.

I slept so well that Jesse had to wake me up the next day, so that I would not miss the morning hours on the train. Jesse knew that I wanted to take pictures and would like to enjoy the morning train ride and then pack in peace.

At about 7 o’clock breakfast came. It wasn’t much but I had packed some more for us in Budapest. We arrived at the main station in Berlin at 9 o’clock. Earlier than scheduled!

I found the night ride very romantic and pleasant. First I was annoyed that the power plug did not work and the ventilation was only kind of functioning, but the annoyance quickly passed. I slept very well, but I really recommend earplugs and possibly a sleep mask. Of course we made sure that our compartment was always locked from the inside at night.

Cost Night train Budapest – Berlin
The night train was unfortunately quite expensive. The ticket itself is very cheap at 29 Euro per person. But that’s only for one seat! If you want a bed in a sleeping compartment, you have to pay. In the 3-bed compartment you pay then already 69 euros. We booked relatively late and wanted to be alone in the sleeping compartment, so we paid 99 euros per person.

Compare flight & train
A direct flight from Belgrade to Berlin takes 1 hour and 50 minutes. The train journey from Belgrade to Berlin currently takes about 24 hours. Starting next year it will only take 3.5 hours from Belgrade to Budapest and then depending on the connection another 12-14 hours from Budapest to Berlin.

Too bad that the train route between Berlin and Budapest takes so long. For comparison: Between Berlin and Munich is about 580 kilometers and the ICE now only takes 4 hours for this route. Between Berlin and Vienna are about 660 kilometers and it takes 9 hours by train. Between Berlin and Budapest are about 870 kilometers and it takes 12-14 hours by train. We need more express trains in Europe then a stretch between Berlin and Budapest would take 6 hours!

Too bad that it is much cheaper to fly:

You can find direct flight from Belgrade to Berlin for as cheap as 40 euros per person. A direct flight from Budapest to Berlin is available for only 13 Euros!!! Something is wrong with this picture. Why am I going on about this here? Because I am in favor of slow travel and sustainable travel, but I also understand that it is sometimes simply not possible to do because of cost and time reasons. But it should be easier and cheaper to take the train than flying. There should be more fast trains and it should be more attractive in terms of price to take the train. But you can read more about why this isn’t the case here.

Meals on our train journeys
On the journey from Belgrade to Budapest there was no on-board restaurant and in the night train Budapest to Berlin there was only one breakfast. That’s why we packed a lot of food for both trips:

ON the train Belgrade to Budapest we had fruits and raw vegetables, a bean stew and stuffed potato pita (a Serbian dish with puff pastry), biscuits, soymilk and tea in a thermos. Before the trip we had a good breakfast and dinner we had, albeit quite late for us, in Budapest. In addition we had packed at least 3 liters of tap water, in metal bottles and in a large 1.5 liter plastic bottle reused from my parent’s apartment.

Above: bean stew and cookies. Below: To-Go food from Budapest Restaurants, and fruits & veggies.

From Budapest to Berlin we packed 3 liters of water in metal bottles again and filled up the 1.5 liter plastic bottle again. In the hotel we could also fill my small thermos with tea. In the night train there was also tea. For an evening snack and my breakfast we had a vegan potato-mince dish (we just packed in a lunchbox in a restaurant) as well as two pieces of cake (also ordered and packed in the restaurant). That was definitely more than enough! It was important for us to have enough to drink so that we would not have to buy water in plastic bottles.

Have you ever taken a night train? Where? How was it?

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Ich stimme zu.

2 comments
  1. Liebe Mia, ich hab es ja schon auf Insta verfolgt, aber schön, das nochmal so toll aufbereitet zu lesen. Das macht echt Lust auf Slow Travel! Oft fehlt mir die Zeit dazu, muss ich ehrlich sagen. Dabei ist es eine tolle Art zu reisen! Ich bin mal mit dem Nachtzug von München nach Amsterdam gefahren und fand es super. Total gemütlich.
    Liebe Grüße,
    Ela

  2. Das war eine super Reisebeschreibung und Dokumentation – ich wünschte mir mehr davon im Netz und hoffe , du bleibst dran . Deinen Überlegungen zum Ausbau der Zugverbindungen kann ich nur zustimmen , es ist unverständlich das die Flüge so viel günstiger sein können .
    Ich wünsche dir viele schöne Reisen , bei bester Gesundheit und hoffe auf weiterhin schöne Reisebeschreibungen !
    Liebe Grüsse Bernhard