Introducing www.mavcsoport.hu...

If you want to buy cheap online tickets for trains within Hungary and from Budapest to neighbouring cities such as Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Krakow, Warsaw, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Belgrade or Bucharest - the Hungarian Railways (MAV) website www.mavcsoport.hu (formerly www.mav-start.hu) is the place.  No overseas ticketing agency has yet connected to MAV's ticketing system, so these cheap fares are only available direct from MAV.  They are not available from any other source, neither by phone nor online from any of the usual ticketing agencies including the various Rail Europes.  www.mavcsoport.hu has a few quirks, so here's a brief run-down to stop you getting stuck...

= Key points.  If you'd rather just jump in and start booking, at least read these key points first.  How to collect your tickets.

1.  Go to www.mavcsoport.hu...

  • Click 'EN' top right for English.

 

MAV website - switch to English

2.  Use the journey planner....

  • Be realistic!  Don't expect it to book multi-leg journeys from Budapest to London or Paris or Venice or Istanbul - I explain how to book longer-haul train journeys from Budapest here.  It's just a simple system selling special cheap fares for a limited number of direct trains from Budapest to neighbouring countries, for example to Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Krakow, Warsaw, Munich, Berlin, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Brasov, Bucharest.  And Hungarian domestic trains, of course.

  • Booking opens 60 days ahead. The most common reason people fail is they try to book too far ahead.

  • The 60 days can shrink for dates after the timetable changes on the 2nd Sundays in June & December.  I've known dates from 11 December onwards not open for booking until 3 December, so just be patient!

  • Leave Full fare selected unless you qualify for the one-legged octogenarian Hungarian war-widow discount.  Which you probably don't.  Well, OK, if you are under 26 or an adult accompanying children, there may be a discount to try.

 

MAV website - enquiry form

3.  Complete the main journey planner screen.

  • Leave the return part blank for a one-way.

  • Complete the form and click Tickets and prices.

  • The red warning underneath means tickets must be collected at Budapest Keleti or any other main Hungarian station, they aren't 'print at home'.  You can't collect tickets in Vienna, or Prague, or Outer Mongolia.  Only in Budapest & Hungary. 

  • The system usually stops you booking an inwards journey into Hungary, but not always.  If you mistakenly book a ticket from Prague or Vienna to Budapest, you will waste your money as there's no way to collect your ticket outside Hungary

  • If you want a one-way ticket from Prague to Budapest, book it with the Czech Railways at www.cd.cz/eshop.

  • If you want a one-way ticket from from Vienna to Budapest, book it with the Austrian Railways at www.oebb.at.

  • How to buy tickets for any given European journey

 

MAV website - journey planner

4.  Click further information...

  • In this example, there's a 13 fare available on some departures, a 19 fare on others.

  • When booking a sleeper, the cheaper price is usually for a 3-bed sleeper the higher price for a 2-bed sleeper.  Click and see.

  • When booking a couchette, the cheaper price is usually for berths in a 6-berth compartment, the higher price for berths in a 4-berth compartment.  Click and see.

 

5.  Click Open...

  • I've known people get stuck at this stage because they didn't know they had to click open!

 

6.  A list of trains appears...

  • You should now see a list of trains on which that fare is available.

  • Select the departure you want and click Continue

  • Why are certain departures missing?  The list only includes trains on which the selected fare (the 13 fare in this example) is available.

  • What if you want a departure that's not shown?  If you go back and click on further information against the more expensive fare (the 19 one), you'll see the remaining trains, assuming these have the 19 fare available on them.  If you still don't see the departure you want, then it probably doesn't have any cheap fares left on it, so you'll have to buy a full-price ticket in person at the station or choose another departure.

  • If you're going to Salzburg, it won't sell tickets for the regular daytime Railjets from Budapest to Salzburg, only an inconvenient night train.  The workaround is simply to book from Budapest to Munich instead, and simply get off at Salzburg, all trains from Budapest to Munich stop at Salzburg.

 

MAV website search results

If you get the dreaded 'No offer available...'

  • Are you trying to book more than 60 days ahead?  Just wait until booking opens!

  • Are you trying to book a route with no special offers or online tickets, for example Budapest to Sofia or Budapest to Kiev, even though there's a direct train?  You'll have to book such journeys another way, they can't be booked online.  There's sometimes a workaround - for example, it won't book from Budapest to Sibiu in Romania, but it'll book from Budapest to Brasov on the same train and you can simply get off at Sibiu.

  • Are you trying to book 1st class?  Sometimes a route offers cheap fares in 2nd class, but none exist in 1st class - Budapest to Belgrade is one such route.  Simply re-run the enquiry with 2nd class selected as 2nd class is absolutely fine, or buy an expensive 1st class full-price ticket at the station.  I recommend the former!

  • Maybe all the cheap tickets have sold out, or none are on offer... This system only sells special cheap fares, it cannot sell full-price regular tickets.  So if the cheapies for that class or type of accommodation have sold out, it will say No offer available.  This does not mean the train is full, only that there are no cheap fares left in that class or accommodation.  Solution:  If the 2nd class cheap tickets have sold out, try again with 1st class selected.  Or if the couchettes show no availability, try for a sleeper.  If all else fails, you'll be able to buy a regular full-price ticket at the station.  On routes to (for example) Vienna and Prague, full-price tickets are available in unlimited numbers, they cannot sell out.

  • Going to Bratislava one-way?  There are no cheap one-way fares from Budapest to Bratislava so you get 'No offers available'.  The solution is to add a dummy return date, buy a cheap round trip ticket and simply not use the return leg.  This is the cheapest option even for a one-way trip.

 

7.  Click Registration and register.

  • Setting up an account is pretty straightforward.

8.  Pay for your tickets. 

  • All international Visa & MasterCard accepted.

 

MAV website registration

9. Collect your tickets...

  • You collect tickets from the small blue internet collection machines (Hungarian domestic tickets only) or the larger yellow ticket vending machines (domestic & international ticket types) at Budapest Keleti and other main Hungarian stations.

  • Right:  A blue machine, for collecting Hungarian domestic tickets only.

 

Ticket collection machine

  • Right:   A larger yellow self-service ticket vending machines, for collecting both domestic & international tickets...

 

Ticket machine

  • They have a touch screen, with English language facility.  You simply enter your 10-digit reference and touch Bevitel (Hungarian for enter) and out come your tickets.

 


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