Munich to Budapest & Siófok via Overnight Sleeper Train


Austria / Germany / Hungary

Travelling around Europe is an exceptional life experience and having traveled around for the last 6 weeks it was now coming to the end of that adventure. However, the journey still has two final stops along the way. If you previously read about the fun I had at Oktoberfest you would have read a lead into a daunting experience about to confront us on this next leg of the trip from Munich to Budapest and then onto Siófok.

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Before we get into all of that this is where we have come from to get to this point, as we come towards the end of our journey around Europe we have seen and experienced many things along the way, it all started back in Barcelona all those weeks ago spending the next couple of weeks criss-crossing our way around Spain with Busabout and getting messy at the La Tomatina Festival just outside of Valencia. Along the way we have entered eight countries (including Austria and Lichtenstein) experiencing many cultures along the way and having stories to last a lifetime.

RECAP: La Tomatina Spain, the world’s largest food fight with Busabout

This whole trip has really centred around travelling with Busabout, along with the above La Tomatina Festival Busabout gave us the opportunity to experience Spain, Portugal and Morocco from a different perspective for a week long trip on the Iberian Adventure Tour. The jewel in the crown for Busabout travel is of course the Hop-On Hop-Off network of coach stops, this is a great way to experience Europe with all the comfort of a tour but with the flexibility to allow you to do whatever you want to do.

RECAP: Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off

RECAP: Busabout Iberian Adventure Tour – Spain & Portugal


Munich to Siófok via Budapest – 24 & 25 September, 2015

This evening we have made our way back to the main train terminal in Munich, Hauptbahnhof and from here we will await our overnight sleeper train to take up to the capital of Hungary, Budapest. It had already been a long day experiencing the fun of Oktoberfest which would have to be one of the most awesome experiences of a lifetime. Recap all the fun of our Munich adventure here.

We found a seat in one of the lounges to wait for our train to depart at 11:30pm. The whole station was on a higher security level than normal with the current refugee situation that was gripping Europe. Just a week or so prior the entire station we were in was overrun with refugees seeking refuge in the European Union. During our travels we were watching the situation unfold on the TV news channels when staying in hotels and were a little worried what might confront us in Munich. However it was fair to say that we hadn’t really noticed anything the entire time we were in Munich as everyone had been moved on by the time we arrived. The situation was worse at the time in Budapest, our next destination so we always had in the back of our minds what we would be confronted with when we arrived there in the morning.

Because of this sudden influx of refugees, Germany was prompted to close its borders for the first time in the history of the Schengen Agreement that allows for open borders in Europe, of which we knew about at the time. What we didn’t realise was that this had an on flow effect to transport and particularly the train we were here to catch. Luckily by chance whilst waiting, I was bored and decided to turn on the data through the sim card in my phone to look at my email, I had received a message from Deutsche Bahn, the company that operates trains within Germany advising of changes to the service.

Without much detail to go by in the email I went to the information booth to investigate and was told that the border is closed and that the train won’t go beyond the border. Our options were to catch a different service from Munich to the border and switch services there, or wait in the station overnight and sleep on a train and travel in the morning. The second option didn’t really make much sense given we had to make the journey regardless and would waste time. I was told that we would be able to meet our train in Salzburg, Austria but I wasn’t clearly told how we get across the border to Salzburg to meet the train. I then sent my friend who I was traveling with to ask for the same information to see what they would tell him.

We now learn that apparently there is a shuttle bus that will take us across the border. We board our train and head off on what would be a nervous hour long train journey not really knowing where we are going. The positive thing was that it looked like we weren’t the only travelers with many others carrying suitcases and bags so we thought we are in good hands and can always follow some other people if we think we are getting lost. We arrived at Freilassing Station the last station before crossing the Austrian border so we jumped off and followed the crowd of travelers wheeling their luggage, echoing through the station as we entered the early hours of Friday morning. This is where we had our first confronting scene of the refugee movement, a stationary train was at the exit of the station crammed full of refugees as if they were travelling at peak hour.

Once outside the station we could see our transfer bus waiting, we hop on board and we start heading towards the border. At the border we are ushered through the roadblock on the bridge crossing the border and the River Saalach, here we see a tent city erected right up to the imaginary line that separates Germany and Austria with police standing guard. We continue on for the short trip and make it to Salzburg Station where we now have a three hour wait where our regular train will meet us.

It had now been an extremely exhausting day and night and I couldn’t wait until we boarded our train and could tuck into our sleeper compartment arriving fresh into Budapest in the morning. After the painstaking wait to board the train the end was in sight until we are told that the sleeper compartment carriage that we had booked wasn’t attached and we had to go into a regular seat. NOT HAPPY! Once on board my friend and I greedily took an entire cabin to ourselves, laid down and went to sleep. During the night the train continued to stop to pick up passengers who were looking for a seat, with one eye open I could see them moving on after seeing that we were taking up all the room.

In the morning on arrival I went for a walk down the carnage to find that the rest of the train was crammed with people having to sit up the entire way next to each other, a little part of me felt guilty but the selfish part of me was saying that I damn well paid for a sleeper cabin and so I’m laying down and sleeping.

Budapest to Siófok – 25 September, 2015

Upon arrival into Budapest we are greeted with a stormy day in the Hungarian capital. The train pulls into the main station Budapest-Keleti at 7:00am and from here in order to get to Siófok I needed to catch the metro to the other main station Budapest-Déli. But where is Siófok you may ask? I certainly asked the same question too.

Siófok is the main town located on the shore of Lake Balaton, a popular holiday destination in summer for Hungarians and Europeans. During summer the place is bustling with people of all ages and has a well known night life. However right now it was the end of summer and getting cooler everyday, the place was essentially deserted, but more on that later.

Once arriving at Budapest-Déli on the metro I changed trains in the main terminal and was on my way to Siófok. The train journey takes just over an hour and during my journey the conductor on the train was trying to tell me I needed to change trains. He didn’t speak English but he tried his best to tell me the name of the station, which was really difficult to comprehend in Hungarian so I asked him to write the name on my ticket. Turns out all I needed to do was wait until the train stopped and couldn’t go any further and buses were replacing the train for upgrade works. The challenge now was the figure out which bus to catch as there were several going in different directions. The first bus I went up to I though was the correct one, but the bus driver told me it wasn’t, so I went to the one he pointed to, that driver told me no, it was the one I just came from. There were two buses going to the same place so I got on the other one and had my fingers crossed that I ended up in the right place.


A short drive down the highway later I arrived at the main train station and from here I still needed to walk over to my hotel which was a 15 minute walk out of town. Walking through the streets of Siófok it was as if the place was a ghost town with not much going on at all. I walked the soggy streets until I finally found the place I would be staying for the next two nights on the shore of Lake Balaton, the Hotel Azur Premium.

The Hotel Azur Premium is one of two hotels located on the site, the other being a budget alternative that was packed full of people on arrival for some sort of conference. Not knowing that there were two separate hotels I went into the main entrance and was told that I needed to go around the back to check in. Finding the entrance is pretty difficult because it is located at the back of the complex facing the lake, so I had to walk around the whole building which is quite large as it is also a health spa.

Checking into the hotel you are not given a key to the room, rather you are given a wristband that you use to scan against the door the same way you would with a key card. Because of the health resort the hotel is catering for the idea is so you don’t have to remember to carry a room key if you’re going for a swim or to any of the day spa treatments. A unique part of this hotel is that both breakfast and dinner are included, dinner was a five course meal and on both nights staying here I was starving so I would come and eat at 6:00pm and would be the only one in the restaurant. A little awkward.

Today was a long day for me, I started travelling from midnight in Munich and made it all the way eventually to Budapest at 7:00am continuing on my journey to Siófok and arriving in the early afternoon. After dinner I went straight to my room and curled up in bed watching one of the few English TV channels on offer, BBC World News not knowing what I’ll do tomorrow. I have absolutely no clue what to do in this town and you’ll be wondering why I even came here then. I didn’t choose to come here, I was travelling with a friend and he decided not to come after we got off the train in Budapest as he wasn’t feeling well, I decided to continue on and he chose to visit Siófok. It actually worked out pretty well at this point to have some alone time as I was getting to the end of my six week European adventure.

Siófok – 26 September, 2015

This morning I treated myself to a sleep in before getting up and having some breakfast. I had no idea what I was going to do today, I’m the type of person who plans everything and I just had no clue what there was here to see or do. The weather wasn’t great again and it was quite cold outside but I wasn’t going to let that keep me cooped up in the hotel all day. So I thought I would go and check out the town of Siófok and also see if I could figure out how I can buy a ticket to get myself back to Budapest tomorrow given the trains aren’t operating.

Siófok actually is quite interesting to have a wonder around, mind you it only took about 15-20 minutes and I had seen everything. In the centre of town there is a tourist information centre underneath a large tower. For a small fee you can take the lift to the summit of the tower to get some views of the area and the lake. I decided that the view wasn’t that exciting down here so it probably wouldn’t be that much more exciting from up the top of the tower.

One of the unique things about Siófok is that there are a lot of wacky sculptures located around the place from fountains to a random metal statue inside a gazebo in a park. Heading down to the lake many more line the shore and even though the weather wasn’t great and I was freezing cold, you can see why it would be a popular destination in the height of summer.

I started to head back walking along the canal, I was getting a bit too nosy at one stage and must have ventured onto private property as a guy manning a bomb gate yelled out to me with what I can only assume is along the lines of get out in Hungarian. At this point I had enough and went back to the hotel. I figured I’ll just spend my afternoon relaxing and prepare my things for tomorrow and then the onward flight back home to Melbourne. After today I only had two more nights in Europe and this journey would be over.

Tonight I once again went down to dinner at what would be considered an early time for European standards, although tonight the food didn’t agree with me at all and upon returning to my room a was pretty ill for the rest of the night and into tomorrow. Not a great feeling when you know you’ll be spending at least an hour travelling on a train, I was really dreading it.

Siófok to Budapest – 27 September, 2015

This morning I would make my way back to Budapest after not having such a great experience in Siófok. After breakfast I checked out and started the long walk back to the train station where I needed to catch a bus back to the train station in the middle of nowhere from where the train would depart. I was a bit nervous about catching the bus as I didn’t know if I was in the right place or not, however there were other people standing around so I thought I was in good hands.

Upon arriving back in Budapest-Déli I transferred to the metro and it was only a few stops later where I got off right near the River Danube. It was a short walk from here to where I would be staying for my final two nights in Europe, the Boutique Hotel Victoria Budapest. The hotel is located right on the river’s edge and offers great views of the Hungarian Parliament, of which I was really looking forward to seeing what the view would be like at night.

Once settled in we headed out and headed towards the Chain Bridge in Budapest which is one of the better known historical bridges crossing the River Danube, the first permanent structure across the river in Hungary just a couple of hundred metres from our hotel. On the other side of the bridge we explored the streets and the various souvenir shops and also grabbed a bite to eat at a fine local establishment that you may have heard of, McDonald’s.

I still wasn’t feeling the best today after travelling from Siófok and not feeling well the night before so I went back to relax in the hotel and catch some sleep so I would have the energy to explore Budapest tomorrow.

Later that night my friends who I had traveled around with caught up with a friend and they went out all night to some of the clubs around town whilst I stayed back curled up in my nice warm bed, eating dinner watching BBC World News and watching the massive tourist ships sail past down the river to take in the view of the Parliament Building all lit up at night.

Budapest – 28 September, 2015

Today was my final full day in Europe before heading home tomorrow so I wanted to make the most of it. One of the things I really wanted to do was go on a tour inside the parliament Building. It’s very popular and the last time I was in Budapest i missed out on doing it so I was determined this time. Last night I jumped online and booked tickets so I wouldn’t miss out again this time and booked it in for 2:00pm.

This meant the whole morning was free to explore the city and we started nice and early after breakfast by walking to the Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall of Budapest. It was quite busy here with tourists and locals shopping for produce as well as eating from food stalls and checking out souvenirs. I grabbed a bite to eat from here and stood to the side watching the masses of people walking around finding that elusive bargain.

From the market we made our way over to the Parliament for our tour. From outside the building is quite amazing and last time I was here they were cleaning it so it looked quite black at the rear of the building. Now that the restoration was complete the whole building was glowing and a brand new entrance had been built for tour groups to enter that included a cafe and shop. This is where the tour begins by going through a security check and cloaking any items that are deemed not acceptable to take inside the building.

The tour lasts for roughly an hour and you are taken around the main foyer areas of the building and are told about the history and the cost of putting the building together. We also learnt how Hungarian Parliament works with the building housing two chambers, but at some point one was disbanded and today Parliament only has one house rather than two therefore making one of the chambers obsolete.

The Parliament is also home to the Crown of Saint Stephen, the coronation crown worn by all the Kings of Hungary right up to Charles IV the last king of Hungary in 1910. Today whilst on display they are very strict, so much so that you cannot take photos of the crown, all other areas of the Parliament you are fine to take as many photos as you like. The crown is unique in that the cross at the top is crooked, believed to be damaged in the 17th century it was never fixed and has remained so ever since.

Once the tour was completed we headed back and checked out Saint Stephen’s Basilica which is named in honour of Stephen the first king of Hungary. This impressive church was completed in 1905 and is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest along with the Hungarian Parliament. Inside it can get quite busy with a long line of people wanting to get inside for a look, but once you get right inside you can easily navigate around the church.

One of my favourite locations to visit in Budapest is the castle district, conveniently located just behind our hotel you can get to the summit by walking up as we did or you can catch the funicular to the top. The line for the funicular was really long and it’s not really worth paying for something that isn’t that long a walk up. Additionally the views you get making the trek to the summit cannot be beaten.

From the top of the castle district you can witness the changing of the guard outside the Hungarian Presidential Palace and also check out the lovely Matthias Church which is covered in colourful tiles. From here you can also gain lookout views of the river and the Parliament. You can do this freely or you can pay an entrance fee to walk along the castle walls, probably not worth paying for.

Tonight was another quiet night as I gathered my things and packed my bag for the last time. It was a good time to sit by the window and take in the view with the Parliament Building that I had visited a couple of hours earlier now all lit up.

Budapest to Melbourne – 29 September, 2015

Home time. After spending the last six weeks in Europe it was time to make the long journey back to Melbourne and depart the city of Budapest. As I was awake early this morning and there was no rush to get to the airport for our afternoon flight I decided after breakfast to go for one last hike up to the castle district which was right behind our hotel. Taking a different route up to the summit I ended up just in front of the Matthias Church. I didn’t spend much time around here and then walked back down to the hotel to go and collect my belongings from the hotel.

After checking out of the Boutique Hotel Victoria Budapest it was time to make our way to Budapest Airport. From the hotel it was relatively easy, we caught a bus then the metro and then another bus to get us right at the entrance to terminal 2 with plenty of time to spare. Reality was starting to set in that I was now heading home and in front of me there was 26 hours worth of flights to get through. Our flight with Emirates would take us from Budapest to Dubai for a three hour stop-over and then a Dubai to Melbourne flight with a refuelling stop in Kuala Lumper arriving back in Melbourne in the evening two days later.

This entire six week journey around Europe has been unforgettable, taking in a lot of new destinations and returning to some that I loved the first time I visited. It was great to experience different ways of getting around Europe from using Busabout to catching the high speed trains of France and of course the unforgettable yet unfortunate overnight train dramas of travelling between Germany and Hungary. I can only hope that my journey around Europe has inspired you to go out and see and experience many of the cities that I have and that you enjoy them as much as I have.

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Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...

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