Wondering how you should get from Prague to Budapest or vice-versa? It’s extremely common for visitors to wonder whether it is more efficient and enjoyable to fly, drive, or take a train. The cities are only about 450km (280 miles) apart, so you’ve got a number of good options.
There’s no wrong answer, but there are definitely a number of things to consider before you make a decision. Both are incredible cities and you definitely want to make the best use of your time and money while exploring them.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the best ways to get from Prague to Budapest or Budapest to Prague. We’ll cover everything from cost to transit time and comfort. Our goal is to help you to spend less time planning the logistics of your trip and more time planning the fun parts.
Prague to Budapest – The Short Answer
The best way to travel from Prague to Budapest greatly depends on your personal needs. Taking a train will be the most cost-effective and straightforward option. Flying will be the most efficient in regard to time. Driving is typically the most expensive and inconvenient, save for a few situations.
That’s the very quick, very oversimplified breakdown of the different methods to travel between the two cities. There’s quite a bit more to be said of each option and it’s hard to make a decision without knowing the in’s and out’s.
That said, we’ll break down each option for you. There are pros and cons to each one, so it’s worth taking some time to really evaluate what works best for you. We’ll also include some tips to make your journey a bit smoother, no matter which method you choose.
Prague to Budapest by Train
We’ll start with the train since it’s the most logical option for the majority of travelers. It’s definitely the cheapest and most efficient way to get from one city to the other. Taking a train in this region will eliminate some of the headaches that come with other means of transit.
Traveling to and from Prague or Budapest takes about 6 hours and 30 minutes for the quickest route. This can obviously be longer depending on the stops. The 6:30 length trip is always available and the most common choice.
Prices can vary depending on your ticket selection, but it’s a relatively cheap trip no matter what. The cheapest tickets for basic seats are well under 30 euros, but I don’t recommend them unless you are absolutely strapped for cash. If you have any any means at all, upgrade your ticket.
The reason I don’t recommend the basic train ticket is that you can get a couchette for about 10 to 15 euros more. You can even get a private double sleeper ticket for about 30 euros more than the basic ticket. Both of these options are no-brainers for all but the most frugal travelers.
The couchette is essentially a multi-person room with a number of beds for travelers to rest in. You’ll pay the least for a 6-berth (6 beds) couchette with prices increasing for couchettes with fewer beds. Just remember that this is not a private room. You will be sharing the space with up to 5 other travelers.
A single or double sleeper is a private room to yourself. It’s also the option that I recommend for almost anyone planning to take a nighttime Prague-Budapest or Budapest-Prague train ride. It’s really not that expensive and it’s 100% worth the extra money for the extra comfort and safety.
Deciding whether to take a day train or a night train is also a big piece of the equation. If you find it easy to get decent rest on a train, I’d advise you to opt for a sleeper on the night train. This will save you quite a few hours of daytime that you can use for things far more enjoyable than utilitarian transit.
If you do opt for a day train, just get whatever ticket you’re most comfortable with on the quickest schedule possible.
One last word of advice: Unless you have other train plans in Europe that align, avoid purchasing your Prague/Budapest train tickets from any third-party sellers. Purchase directly from Czech Railways or you’ll end up spending way more than you should. Here is a link to Czech Railways’ online shop.
Prague to Budapest by Plane
Flying is a great choice if your goal is to get from Prague to Budapest or Budapest to Prague as quickly as possible. It’s also not that expensive.
You can find plenty of one-way nonstop flights between the two cities most commonly ranging from around 65 euros to 250 euros. I’ve seen even cheaper flights from time to time, but not reliably enough to count on them.
A nonstop flight is about 1 hour and 20 minutes long, give or take 10 minutes in either direction depending on circumstances. That short of a flight is a no-brainer for anyone who wants maximum efficiency of time. Even when you account for the time to travel to and from an airport, along with time spend in the airport, it’s still going to be quicker than the train.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between a flight or a train ride, just check the prices. Check for cheap nonstop flights and compare them to both day trains and night train sleepers. You may find that you’d still rather sleep on a train for maximum time efficiency, but a flight probably beats out the day train in every way but price.
As always, be sure to take a look at your luggage requirements on flights. I’ve seen plenty of dirt cheap flights back and forth from Prague to Budapest that didn’t include a checked bag. This is nothing new for an experienced traveler, but it’s sometimes easy to overlook the details when you see a flight listed for less than 30 euros.
Prague to Budapest by Car
Driving the Prague/Budapest route is much more of a niche option. Chances are you already know why it makes sense for you if you’re considering it. However, most people will find the drive to be far too expensive and far too complicated compared to a train ride or a flight.
At best, the drive takes a little over 5 hours. That’s if you drive a relatively speedy pace and do not stop. In most cases, you’re looking at a little over 6 hours driving.
The cost to rent a car isn’t terrible, but that’s only if you plan to make a round-trip. Most travelers are going one-way and won’t be bringing the car back to their origin city. That means a very hefty fee for dropping the car off in a different country.
You also have to deal with legal things like permit stickers from country to country. For example, you can a pretty steep fine if you’re pulled over in a place like Slovakia without a sticker. Unless you already have access to a sticker, you’d have to quickly stop and get one in the country that requires it.
Still, driving is a perfectly fine option for certain travelers. It’s a good idea if you want to see some other cities in between Prague and Budapest. Vienna or Bratislava, for example, are great places for an in-between. You could easily spend the night in one of these places and enjoy a day or two there before making your way to your final destination.
You should be able to save yourself some time now that you know a little more about your options for getting back and forth between Prague and Budapest. Both cities are chock full of things to do and it’s much more fun to plan your activities than your transit.
Enjoy your time in the Czech Republic and in Hungary!
Let us know if this guide helped you in your planning! And definitely let us know if you have any helpful tips to add!