Getting There & Getting Around
By Train -- From Budapest, trains to the various towns along the lake depart from Déli Station. A few express trains run from Keleti Station and hook around the southern shore to Keszthely only. All towns on the lake are within 1 1/2 to 4 hours of Budapest by a gyors (fast) train, though the trip will take much longer on a sebes (local). The sebes trains are interminably slow, stopping at each village along the lake. Unless you're going to one of these little villages (sometimes a good idea, though we cover only the major towns in this section), try to get on a gyors. The number of trains to Balaton destinations is at their peak from the end of June to the end of August, then decrease in number for the "winter schedule."
by Car -- From Budapest, take the M7 motorway south through Székesfehérvár until you hit the lake. Route 71 circles the lake. Driving directly to the lake from Budapest will take approximately 1 1/2 hours depending on where along the lake you are planning to visit and, of course, traffic. During the summer season, traffic can be congested.
If you are planning to settle in one area, a car is not needed. If you're planning to visit different points on Lake Balaton for more than a day or two, you should consider renting a car, to give yourself much greater mobility. The various towns differ enough from one another that you may want to keep driving until you find a place that really sparks your interest. Without a car, this is obviously more difficult. Also, wherever you go in the region, you'll find that private rooms are both cheaper and easier to get if you travel a few miles off the lake.
By Boat & Ferry -- Passenger and car ferries on Lake Balaton allow you to travel across the lake as well as between towns on the same shore. The boat routes are extensive, and the rates are cheap, but they are considerably slower than surface transportation. All major towns have docks with departures and arrivals. A single ferry (komp) running between Tihany and Szántód lets you transport a car across the width of the lake. Children aged 3 and under travel free, and those 13 and under get half-price tickets.
All boat and ferry schedule information and rates are listed in English at www.balatonihajozas.hu/en/menetrend.htm. The Balaton Shipping office in Siófok (tel. 84/310-050) and local tourist offices all along the lake also have schedules and other information.
By Bus -- Once at the lake, you might find that buses are the best way of getting around locally. Buses will be indispensable, of course, for those who have taken the train to the lake, if you take private-room lodging a few miles away from the lake.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.