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I will be travelling from London to Debrecen via Budapest next Sunday and I would like to know whether it's best to book my Budapest-Debrecen train in advance or directly in the station.

My flight lands at about 3pm and I need to be in Debrecen at some point in the evening. I would like to have the flexibility to go to Budapest and walk around / have a meal, and then take the train from the city, but if it will cause me a load of pain or expense then I might simply book online a train from the airport.

Will the trains be more expensive if I just rock up to the station a half hour before the train? Are they likely to be booked out? (From what I can tell MÁV still has tickets even for tomorrow, but I can't quite puzzle out the colour code on the timetables.) More generally, is there anything specific I should watch out for?

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Train tickets are only more expensive if you don't have one when the conductor comes and you need to buy one from her/him on board. There is no difference in the price between buying days ahead or minutes before the train leaves.

The one thing you should watch out for, is that sometimes large queues can form in front of the cashiers for various reasons. So if you have some time to kill, buy your ticket first and then enjoy the remaining time, rather than go for a stroll and return to see that you won't make it to the end of the queue before the train leaves.

  • Thanks for this. Do you know if I can buy an open ticket at the station? Or do I need to reserve a specific service when I get there? – E.P. Oct 28 '15 at 11:33
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    The basic ticket (from city A to city B on day C) can be bought just at any time. There is an extra price if you wish to travel with an express train ("gyorsvonat") instead of a train that stops at every second apple tree ("személyvonat"), but at this point you are still free to travel whenever you wish. If you are considering a Railjet or Intercity, you'll need a seat reservation for a specific train. All of the above you can buy even minutes before the train leaves, but seat reservations can run out for really popular trains (think friday evening on a major line). – zovits Oct 28 '15 at 14:04
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It depends on the type of train. From Budapest to Debrecen you are likely to take an InterCity or EuroCity train and even if the price of the ticket itself is the same, the price of the compulsory seat reservation is higher if you buy it the same day, as if you buy it at least a day in advance. The difference is only a small 120 HUF (about 0.40€), but it is there.

I've never used it, but MAV also sell electronic tickets. You can find further informations (in English) here. Depending on the ticket type, you can either print it at home or have to pick it up from one of the ticket machines at the Hungarian railway stations.

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