Sunday, June 15, 2014

Train Rides 2014 - Bucharest to Budapest via Ister Train

Date: 9th April 2014

I'm sorry if I'm sharing too much photos of the train rides to Budapest as there's so many photos that I adored during this ride. We took 6-berth couchettes which had a proper storage right on top of the upper berth. Clean sheets and blanket were already there when we stepped in, where later after it's dark we somehow managed to pull down and make our own beds. It was 1 of the best ride ever and I personally falling deep in love with taking trains for my future travel. Will definitely convince my other half to follow suit. In sha Allah. 

The EuroNight Ister runs daily between Budapest and Bucharest. The larger part of the journey goes through Romania, crossing the country from west to south-east. The most interesting stop along the way is Brasov, in the Transylvania region where the famous Dracula’s @ Bran Castle is located. It was just a journey of 3 hours from Bucharest to Brasov. The entire journey from Bucharest to Budapest easily takes about 17 hours, 2 hours short from Istanbul to Bucharest.

Choosing "bracelet from Bucharest city", happen to be in Gara de Nord station :)

Our train is “EN 472” Ister express train which departed from Bucuresti Gara De Nord stopping at limited station, i.e. Ploiesti Vest, Brasov, Teius, Arad, Curtici, Lokoshaza, Bekescsaba, Szolnok to reach Budapest Keleti. I'm sharing below the travel map covering 2 countries in 859 km of slightly less than 17 hours.

Ister express train route, 859km: Bucuresti Gara De Nord-Ploiesti Vest- Brasov-Teius-Arad-Curtici-Lokoshaza-Bekescsaba-Szolnok-Budapest Keleti

The Euro Night sleeper train Ister, was leaving Bucharest Nord at around 17:30 and arriving at Budapest Keleti station at 08:50 in the morning of  the next day.  The Ister has a modern Romanian air-conditioned sleeping-car with safe, comfortable and carpeted 1, 2 & 3-bed compartments with washbasin, plus several deluxe compartments with 1, 2 or 3 beds and private shower & toilet.  This is the recommended option, the rooms can be converted to private sitting rooms by day and there's even a shower at the end of the corridor which might work if you're lucky.  There are also ordinary seats (not recommended) and 4-berth & 6-berth couchettes (basic bunks with rug and pillow).  The Ister also has a restaurant car for dinner and breakfast. 

We had the couchette to ourselves until the next passenger gets in at Brasov

Like I said, indeed, very2 comfy

Our couchettes are fairly basic, and a proper bed in the sleeper is much more comfortable and secure yet costs very little extra, so is the recommended option.  There's a modern Romanian restaurant car serving dinner and a cooked breakfast, but taking some supplies of your own is always a good idea. In addition, there are plenty of clean toilets in the cabin that you may chose to use. There's also heater for our comfortable sleeps beside a cable plug in to charge our cameras battery and lappy. It's a very happy ending case to our long journey, the best that you can dream of beside a comfortable and most safest mode of travel on earth. There will be no incident like our sad events of flight MH370, unless America decided to create another world conspiracy by creating chaos of the European tracks. Hehehe, I'm merely making a jokes, American people!

Another traveller Philip Dyer-Perry reports to our sifu and was written in his website, "The Main in Seat 61", "Budapest to Bucharest on the Ister is an absolute pleasure. I booked online with MAV and travelled in the new sleeping car, which was comfortable, smooth, and clean. There is a shower, but obviously not intended for use as most of the hose assembly was missing.  There was a dining car, and if you ask you can get a menu, but it's better to ask the man what he's got and negotiate a price.  If you have hard (non-Romanian) currency there is a certain amount of flexibility.  In the evening it was chicken & potatoes, next morning it was a rather tasty omelette.  Just be aware that the main purpose of the dining car is as a place for the traincrew to smoke!  It's good though, and a world away from Western Europe...". 

You may book the Ister sleeper train via (a Hungarian Railways). After choosing the language, you just enter Budapest to Bucuresti (Bucharest) or Brasov in the journey planner.  Thereafter, select 'couchette' or 'sleeping' car and do not forget to tick 'own compartment' if you are booking 2 or 3 people and want sole occupancy of a whole 2 or 3 bed compartment. After you had keyed in your personal information, click 'Tickets and prices' to select and book the train.  You can book couchettes or sleepers on the Ister online using this system, with various types of reduced-rate book-ahead ticket such as 'Fortuna', just pick the cheapest ticket.  The payment is online but the tickets can be collected from the internet ticket collection point at Budapest Keleti station with the 10-digit reference number.

In our case, we booked our tickets and couchettes from Bucharest to Budapest train online at The Singaporean staff in Eurorail was kind enough to help us checking the lowest option fare through out our journey. However it only seems to offer 6-berth couchettes or 2-bed sleepers eastbound, 3-berth & 2 berth sleepers westbound, not the full range of accommodation.  In 6-berth couchettes or 3-berth sleepers, Rail Europe's prices are similar to or slightly lower than those charged by German Railways' UK office, making online booking a good option. 

2 other passengers joined us at 2 different station. The 1st guy from Brasov station was on his way to get his medical problem attended by the specialist in Budapest. He was a bit shy when he first joined us, the 4 ladies, all in hijab. We teased him that he can get instants 4 wife's if he was Muslim. We saw how he was being teased by his family when he was checking our bunk from the platform. It was rare for European to see a hijabi's muslim in a train without male companion. The 2nd passenger was stopped at the immigration border for unknown reason and never returned to the car. It was how the 2 immigration officer asked him to step down to the office with them in below photo. 

Here come sunrise
The train stop at the Romanian border a bit too long. Maybe it was due to interrogation with the passenger that was with us. After we have done with our Fajar prayer, my sister and I stepped down from the train and walked for a short while in the track. It was horribly cold weather that forced us back to the bunk. The weather was below 10 degrees that morning.

After the train restarted, a short while later, the Hungarian immigration office stepped on the train to check our passport when we reached the Hungary border stop. He is a friendly officer who was a bit surprised to see the 4 Asian ladies without male companion traveling in the Romanian train. We thanked him for smooth and expeditious process of recognizing that travelers from Malaysia are not required to get visa when traveling in Europe.  

Can you notice the train stamped in my passport by the border's immigration check point?

The train assistant had distributed a packed breakfast comprised of 3-1 coffee pack and biscuit to all. But we had stored it away as we had our breakfast at the restaurant car that we discovered after all immigration checkpoint was cleared. The restaurant, though not many items left had offered hot coffee which we had with our own prepared foods and some biscuits. For the record, this is the only train rides that we were in the mood of wandered and co-incidentally found the restaurant car since we have our own foods that most comfortable eaten in the bunk for the rest of journey.

Close to 9am in the morning we safely arrived in Budapest Keleti station in a state where we desperately wanted to get fresh shower. We were so uncomfortable in the same cloths for more than 24 hours. Lucky that the weather was not hot and we were not sweat. If in Malaysia, we would want to have shower twice a day. Nevertheless, we still pose for the photo as that's what we know best... hahaha

Without any time to waste, we had approached the Keleti station ticketing office to purchase our ticket to Vienna and Salzburg on the next day and a day after. Rest assured that there are many options that you may get as plentiful of trains departing to Austria from Budapest, so, no worries if you are to depart even on the same day. We were a little worried in the beginning as we do not have any continuing ticket to Munich from Budapest. We only purchased online ticket for all night train including a day trip ticket to/from Paris to London. In the meantime, we had some breads and coffee again at bread shop in below photo after we exchanged some euros to local currency.

At the ticketing office, queue for our number to be called

We truly had a great time and feeling so secured and safe in arriving at Budapest City... Alhamdulillah, Yeay!!

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