We arrived in Sighisoara at 4 something am on a cold (nay freezing) late autumn day in 2011. The reason for our arrival at this ungodly hour was that we took the night train which connects Budapest with Bucharest – leaving the former at a very civilized 19.10 and arriving into the latter at an equally civilised 11.38 the following morning, dropping people of in Brasov a couple of hours earlier.
The last thing we expected from this train was that it would arrive on time and indeed we hoped it didn’t. The scheduled arrival time was around 6 am. Well off course, it wasn’t on time, it was nearly two hours early!
The night train – the Ister (Latin for the River Danube) has reasonably modern air-conditioned sleeping cars (1, 2 or 3-bed standard sleepers with washbasin, 1, 2 or 3 bed deluxe sleepers with toilet & shower) and 4 & 6-berth couchettes. We took a 2 bed standard sleeper which was quite adequate. We had eaten at Keleti station in Budapest prior to leaving, albeit it in a smoked filled restaurant, and our early arrival precluded my partaking of the gastronomic offerings of the train – though I do know there was a dining car attached (apparently this is not always the case and the food quality is distinctly average when it is so come prepared). The train was clean and comfortable with attentive staff and certainly a great way to get to Sighisoara if you find yourself in Budapest – not as crazy as it sounds as this is a well frequented route from London to Istanbul.
Also the night train is actually a good train to arrive on if you plan to head on to Brazov or Bucharest later the same day – something I seriously recommend you don’t do, though. Sighisoara warrants 2-3 days.
Given that the total trip was in the hours of darkness (the best time to arrive in Transylvania no doubt!) there was nothing to see outside though I do recall peeping out from behind the curtain while we passed through one station not far from Sighisoara and seeing a number of stray dogs on the platform – I knew I was in or getting close to Romania. Also be aware that you will be disturbed by border guards as you leave Hungary and then again when you enter Romania which prevents an uninterrupted nights sleep.
Note to self: When making ones way from a train station to ones hotel along deserted cobbled streets in the middle of the night, packs on wheels are not a good idea – I reckon we must have awakened half the town!
I have to admit that I do not recall how I got tickets for this train – It think it was via Deutsche Bahn’s UK office as I certainly picked them up from my parents place en-route. Anyway, getting (sleeper) tickets was not straight forward so the best Ithing to do is start your planning with http://www.seat61.com, an absolutely invaluable site for train travellers anywhere. http://www.mav-start.hu/english/index.php – Hungarian Railways may now also be an option. The two attached photos are courtesy http://www.seat61.com.