A piercing sound broke the silence in the dimly lit room. I extended my hand out and struggled to find where the noise was coming from. Was it morning already? Half asleep, I turned the alarm off and tried to orient myself with my surroundings. I was on the top bunk of one of the three-tiered beds. I was still on the night train headed for Budapest.

The arrival of the train at Brasov station brought chills up my spine. Apart from the chilly Romanian weather, I was filled with excitement for my first night train experience. I wasn’t sure if I’d even get the chance to sleep with the motion of the train but it was one mode of transport that I’d always wanted to try.

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Jon and I shared a 6-bed cabin with 2 other people. We got the top beds across from each other and had some space to store our backpacks. This could just be the way to travel! We had enough room and the beds were pretty comfortable. After we watched a few TV shows on his laptop, Jon and I called it a night and went to sleep.

night-train-photo

I turned my torch light on and woke Jon. Time check: 6 o’clock in the morning. The train had stopped. We had reached the border of Romania. We had no idea how the border checks would proceed until the immigration officers got on the train and checked our passports. Very convenient. I was so glad we didn’t have to go out in the cold. We got our passports stamped while we remained on our coaches.

The train had started to move again, the checks didn’t seem to take that long. The train conductor passed each of us a plastic bag which contained a bottle of water and a pack of salted pretzels. At least there was breakfast. He also mentioned the next border check will be in another few minutes so we can relax for a while.

Knock! Knock! Knock! The train conductor alerted everyone in our coach that we have reached the Hungarian border, Lokoshaza, our entry point for the Schengen area. Two Hungarian officers stood by our coach’s door and asked us for our passports. The other two passengers in  our coach handed over IDs instead of passports, I think they were Romanians. It didn’t take long for their IDs to be cleared. Jon’s passport was next. After a bit of trouble with the scanner, it was cleared. My passport was the last one to be checked. It felt like ages. Was something wrong? I began worry.

The officers did not speak in English but it seemed like my passport did not work on either of the two scanners. This was not good. The female officer gestured something to me. I have to get off the train. Oh my God, I’m getting kicked off the train.

Where will they take me? How long will it be? Do I just have to stay for a while and then get back on the train? Do I have to bring my stuff? What about Jon? All these questions ran through my head as I tried to grasp the situation. I think I may have blurted out a few questions to the officers but the language barrier just made it difficult and intimidating for my part. I got no answers. I was in trouble.

The woman officer again gestured that I had to get off the train quickly to get the visa checked at their office. Jon and I badly packed our sleeping bags and the rest of our stuff in our backpacks. The two officers then escorted us across the narrow train corridor and finally off the train, exposed and free to be judged by other passengers. We had to walk down the long platform like criminals, flanked by policemen! It was a really embarrassing situation. I felt pretty bad I had to drag Jon because of my visa check.

Although Jon had wanted to go with me to the police station, which also served as their border control office, the officer had told him to wait at the train station. I was on my own.

They have no reason to stop me from getting to Hungary. I have a valid Schengen visa. I tried to get myself mentally prepared for what was about to happen. I had to think positive and hope for the best.

I was told to wait in one of the rooms of the police station. An officer came in a few minutes later and handed me a form to fill out my personal details. He was joined by another officer, who asked how much money I had with me. I answered with roughly the amount I had with me. No good. They asked me to take my wallet out and count the bills one by one. It was quite interesting to see their curious looks at the different currencies I had (USD, Euro, SGD, MYR, NPR, LEI). They examined some of the notes and I guess they talked about how different the materials were to their own money. (They did not speak English!) I signed a waiver form after. The form noted how they had to undergo another round of checks at their office for the visa check.

After another few minutes of waiting, I was asked to go to the next room where they asked me to check my details in their computer system. One officer still managed to teach another on how the system worked, as if there was no rush to get me out of there. Patience. After waiting a few more minutes, I got my stamp.

Was I the first one to cross that border with a Philippine passport? It surely felt like it! Did their scanners really have difficulty reading my passport or was it just an excuse? I have no answers to these questions and I couldn’t make my situation any better if I had complained. I could only follow their visa procedures.

I reunited with Jon at the train station with a smile back on my face. We took another train to Budapest half an hour later, it was good that the tickets we had were still valid for the trip. It would have been troublesome if we had to buy another pair of tickets.

Still, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I cannot deny that it was a big hassle to undergo the immigration checks for the train at the border of Hungary. Nevertheless, I am not put off by night trains as a means of transport. I really do think it’s the best way to cross countries around Europe, just as long as it’s within the Schengen states.

RELATED POST: How to Fall in Love with a Beautiful City Like Budapest

Night Train in Europe Brasov Romania to Hungary Budapest

 Have you been on a night train in Europe? Or have you ever had difficulty with immigration? Let us know!

About the author

Gia Kristel Algie

Gia, who currently lives in New Zealand, grew up in Manila, lived in Singapore for three years and travelled the world for nearly 2 years. From watching sunsets to hiking mountains, she loves the outdoors. She enjoys living in big cities but takes pleasure staying in quaint, small towns. An aspiring photographer and budding writer, she is the voice behind Mismatched Passports, a travel blog dedicated to the journey around the world with her New Zealander partner, Jon.

12 Comments

    • Hi Marissa! Yeah, night trains are really the way to go specially in Europe. You are so right about the not paying for a hotel part. It’s really convenient and works most times for us.

  • Crazy story
    We had a sleeper train from Thailand to Malaysia. The train was freezing while we slept. We got to the Malaysian border and the thai immigration got excited that we over stayed our visit. They say we get 60 days but our passport was stamped for only 59 days (think it was a mistake). We had to pay 500 baht each and we were on our way, we delayed the train for 15 min but they waited for us. We made it to malaysia but with a little less money lol!

    • On the contrary, most trains in Europe are too warm during winter, I think!
      I’m glad your experience with the Malaysian border wasn’t as difficult as mine! It would have been a hassle to get another train like we did.

  • Hungary has a big concern with economic immigrants, so I’m sure the Philippines passport was a concern that you may come and not have enough money or not leave. What a pain! So glad you didn’t have to wait long for another train, though.

    • I see. It’s a bit of a hassle but I guess they were just doing their job.
      Yeah, quite glad it didn’t take hours and no further complications happened in Immigration.
      Cheers TheWindwalkerDuo!

  • I remember crossing the Romanian-Hungarian border too (around June 2014). I am a Malaysian citizen. So I handed the immigration officer my passport and he hesitated for a few minutes. I was a little nervous back then, to think about the suspense. Thank goodness I eventually got my stamp after he checked with another officer (I think).

  • Hello Gia,
    Need your help.
    I also plan to travel to Europe via tourist visa in Aug’16. I have been issued Schengen Multi Entry Tourist Visa from 13Aug’16. I will enter Europe via Romania on 13Aug. I will be issued a Romanian visa on arrival.
    Now, I plan to travel from Bucharest to Budapest on 17Aug via Night Train. I don’t know how my passport will be stamped at Hungary border. As per your article, Hungarian Border Police will come in train, check our passport and stamp it. If this is really true, can you please share some reference, that would be huge relief for me.

    • Hi Aakash! If you have a Schengen visa then there should be no problem for your entry to Hungary by train. But depending on their immigration procedure they may process it while on the train or they may ask you to get off at the border in Lokoshaza (if I’m not mistaken) to do the visa in their office. I hope it goes smoothly.

      • Thanx Gia for the prompt reply. What I understand is that, I can get the night train from Bucharest to Budapest and the train will stop at Lokoshaza. Police officers will get in train and they may stamp my passport on train itself or they may take me to the visa office for the stamping.

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