Rail passes will be available for sale later in 2021 — watch this space. Until then, you can still buy point-to-point train tickets as well as the Swiss Travel Pass, and read ahead on your options for other passes while collecting key tips for traveling by train in Europe.
Since point-to-point train tickets are cheap in Hungary, as they are throughout Eastern Europe, a rail pass isn't likely to save you much money. The main reason to buy a rail pass in this region is to avoid the hassle of buying tickets as you go. If a rail pass happens to match the countries you plan to visit, it can be a smart choice.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. (Dotted lines show ferry routes and dashed lines show bus routes, neither of which are covered by rail passes.)
Extra tip #1: The European East Pass is priced competitively with the other passes listed here — compare rates even if you're not planning on traveling in all four of the covered countries.
Extra tip #2: If you string together more than one regional rail pass (such as a Germany Rail Pass and a European East Pass), you'll use a day from each pass when crossing the border between them.
Do I need to make seat reservations on Hungarian trains?
For the most part, you can hop on nearly all Hungarian trains with just your rail pass in hand. Only overnight trains, and some international routes, require reservations (as indicated in online train schedules).
Any tips for buying point-to-point train tickets in Hungary?
All orders for passes and tickets are fulfilled by Rail Europe (not by Rick Steves' Europe). For customer-service questions, contact them online (or call 800 622 8600, but expect long waits and periods of unavailability at the call desk) — and keep in mind that refund options are fairly limited.
European East and Central European Triangle rail passes: Key details
European East Pass: Covers nearly all trains in Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia (but isn't accepted on Austria's privately operated WestBahn trains, nor on a few other privately operated lines). This pass has no youth or senior discount; kids age 4–11 pay half price. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so overnight trains are counted according to the "7 p.m. rule," and special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.
Central Europe Triangle Pass: Covers three train trips in a circle of either Vienna–Budapest–Prague or Vienna–Salzburg–Prague (choose your cities at time of purchase). If these specific routes fit your trip, this pass saves money over buying separate train tickets between these cities. You can start at any listed city and travel in either direction to return to your starting point via the most direct route. For instance, Prague–Salzburg travel is covered via Linz (6/day, 1 direct, most with 2 changes), but not via Germany. Not valid on Austria's privately operated WestBahn trains. This pass is pre-validated for your specified one-month travel period, but still needs to be activated (stamped) by a train-station staffer prior to first use, and cannot be refunded after the first day of validity. This pass has no youth or senior discount; kids age 4–11 pay half price. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.