The scheduled time from Budapest to Belgrade reads departure at 22:29 and arrival at 06:06. Next phase of my solo travel begins upon boarding the train. Unlike the excitement that filled me when I arrived in Budapest, the departure was total opposite – anxiety ruled the night. On hindsight, perhaps I was being paranoid but a simple Google research will tell about many negative experiences of travellers who took the infamous overnight train between Budapest to Belgrade.
The overnight train has a shady reputation where stories of useless door locks, stolen luggage, missing passports, corrupt border officials, robbers, money scams are common. People from Travel forums advised me to board the day train instead.
But the little adventurer in me wanted it and I don’t want to spend 8 hours on the train during the daytime.
So I decided to go ahead but immediately hit a roadblock – it seems that the ticket from Budapest to Belgrade can only be bought over the counter and not online via MAV-START. However, I would prefer to secure one of the limited single bed compartments before the trip. That’s when I realised that the tickets can be purchased via RailEurope.
I tapped on their network and finally gotten my ticket amid paying much more. MAV-START price was EUR 80.50 (SGD 143.29) whereas I paid SGD 204.00 with the breakdown as such;
SGD 104.00 – 1st Class Train Seats
SGD 84.00 – Single Bed/ Own Compartment
SGD 16.00 – Admin Fee
The train definitely has seen better days and was nowhere near modern. My train conductor was a friendly old man who speaks some English and he showed me my compartment in the dimly lighted old train.
And that’s when I was presented to my 1st Class single Bedder compartment. Ok, well… it’s not too bad though it was kinda dirty. The middle bed partition was folded up to convert into a single compartment. There wasn’t any electricity until much later in the journey.
The toilet is forgettable – it was plain horrible. It’s also hard to rest well on the not-so-comfortable makeshift bed. For the price I paid, it’s really expensive but I will just take this as an experience.
Border checks on Budapest Belgrade train
The Budapest Belgrade train reached Hungarian border at around 1am and I was woken up by the train operator whom had mumbled something at 1am when I was boarding the train. Now I know he had meant passport check.
Two Hungarian Passport Control officers came over and they looked rather surprised that mine’s a single cabin. Then when one saw my passport, he told his colleague in English – hey, a man from Singapour! We chatted a little bit more before he stamped my passport. Then I realized that the whole sleeper train car has got only 3 passengers, me and 2 other Caucasian lads.
Electricity! Finally!! But yet I couldn’t charge my phone because both charging points in my compartment were spoilt!! What rotten luck…
Another passport checks half an hour later when the train reached Serbian border. This time around were 3 stern-looking officers but they had the same expression as the Hungarian officers after seeing my passport.
The lady officer commented – hey, from Singapour! Both her colleagues then examined my passport very closely before breaking into laughter. I have no clue about the jokes but I can’t be bothered as long my passport is stamped.
As such, the next time I get up from the stiff bed is when the train reaches Belgrade and ending the cold journey. So yeah! I live to tell the tale but with none of the previously mentioned nasty encounters – thank goodness LOL!! It’s more like a far-from ‘1st Class’ experience on board the Budapest Belgrade train.