Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 5

So. This day. Where do I start?! It says it all when the only photo I have of this day is of a vehicle transporting train…

Train

DAY 11 – TO BUDAPEST (AKA, THE LONGEST DAY OF MY LIFE!)

Ljubljana to Budapest by train should have be a full travel day. Ljubljana to Zagreb, then the carriage should get picked up by a different engine and taken on to Budapest. 7am start, but 10 hours on we should have been walking through Budapest Keleti Railway Station, ready to check into our hotel. Key phrase there being should have been.

We walked to Ljubljana Train Station where we were immediately told that our first train was delayed. So we waited. Then our tour guide went to the ticket office to ask how long the delay would be. The answer = not sure. So we waited. Then McDonald’s opened. So we ate breakfast.

And waited.

After many hours (at least 3) our train arrived, so we jumped on, looking for our seats. Except the carriage our seats were on wasn’t part of the train… We hunted for some spare seats and waited to get to Zagreb.

Travelling through the EU and the Schengen Area from a country that forms part of the Schengen agreement is very simple. Border control boarded the train between Slovenia and Croatia, and again between Croatia and Hungary, but they just looked at my passport and handed it back. Anyone in our party from external countries, especially America, had a much lengthier inspection of their passports and some had to answer questions, so be prepared for this.

Our delay had been so long that our connection to Budapest had already left, so we had to wait for the next train, a train that didn’t leave for another two hours. By this point it was lunch time, but I had a minor problem – I had exchanged all of my Croatian Kuna… Luckily my roommate had some left, so lunch was on her at a little cafe not far from the station. We then decided we needed a treat so we found a little bakery, bought three chocolate croissants, and vowed to only eat them when we were on a train actually going to Budapest!

Luckily the second train did leave on time so we didn’t have long to wait for our treats. And we thought that would be the end of the days drama…




We were sat at the very end of the train, so the conductor checking tickets got to our group last. As he checked my ticket he looked at me and said “train, bus, train!”.

What?

“Train. Bus. Train!”

At which point the train stopped…

Turns out there were some sort of engineering works on the line so the train stopped in the middle of nowhere.

Getting off the train, we discovered we were at an old, derelict station (this was discovered once I walked round the train to see the station. My first view was just of fields as far as the eye could see!). Behind the station were two coaches – the Hungarian version of a bus replacement service…

Two of us managed to get our bags on one of the coaches, but climbing on we found it was standing room only. Our tour leader called us back off, insisting we all stayed together as a group. This was a brilliant call, as we ended up on a third, half empty coach! We were also on the same coach as the conductor so at least we knew they wouldn’t leave us behind.

We must have driven for 40 minutes before we arrived at a different station where we got onto yet another train, and once again waited to arrive into Budapest.

It’s moments like this, where if I had been travelling by myself I may have panicked and worried about what was happening. Travelling with Tucan Travel meant all the stress went onto the tour leader, which was bad for him but great for me!

We finally arrived into Budapest Keleti station far later than we should have, at around 9pm. We jumped on the Budapest Metro to Oktogon and our final hotel; Medosz.

We had woken up around 6am to catch the first train. We ended up sitting down to dinner at 11pm! It was a very long day!

If you choose to do this Tucan Travel trip, do book an extra night in Budapest. One member of the group had an early flight the following day and so was unable to see anything of Budapest. It is a beautiful city that you should definitely spend time exploring.

Next (Part 6 – 3rd March)


Next time, in part 6, we will actually get to see some of Budapest! Unfortunately that also means the end of my trip and the final part of this series

Have you had any travel days from hell? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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