Crossing Borders from Ljubljana: Slovenia Train Travel Deals and Fares for 2016
After another year-long break, I’m delighted to be back in Europe where I’ve been reunited with rail travel, by far my favorite mode of transport. (Besides my bike, of course.)
With the annual early December seasonal changes to the continent-wide timetables now behind us, it’s the opportune time to check the deals and destinations that will be available from here in Ljubljana for the next year. I’m compiling lots of useful information on Slovenia train travel which I’m again happy to pass along to others as well. So if you’ll be riding the rails through the Slovenian capital over the next year, this is for you. But first:
The Good & The Bad
I’ll begin with the latter.
When I first published this timetable roundup in January 2014 I was told by a Slovenia Rail info center employee that on-line ticket purchase would be available sometime in 2015. That obviously hasn’t come to pass; even more disappointing than the steady delays is that nobody seems to know when web service will be available. Slovenia Rail didn’t reply to email messages requesting a status update. A representative at Ljubljana station’s info center told me off the record that he too had no idea, but that it likely wouldn’t be this year either. There are some notices on the main website announcing that updates are being made which may signal that a major overhaul is forthcoming, so maybe we’ll all be surprised.
In any case, the current status is, for non-residents other travelers in general, a major downer. The ultra cheap fares listed below, where just four, six or nine tickets are available at a deep discounted price, will certainly not be available to a traveler passing through for a short stay.
But there are nonetheless some good bargains to be found at already low prices for routes that rarely, if ever, sell out, making even last minute purchases possible. So do read on. All prices in euros, convert to your currency here.
Belgrade, Budapest, Prague and Vienna: Four of the five Nearest Capitals
Nine tickets are available daily for €25 one way via the Beograd Spezial. Daily departure from Ljubljana at 08:25, arrives Belgrade 17:32. Return departs the Serbian capital at 11:00, arrives Ljubljana 20:54. Regular fares: one-way €56.20, €89.80 return.
One of the better deals of the bunch: €19 one-way, €38 return. Note that only 12 tickets are available at that fare per departure via the Budapest Spezial special. Standard fare is €39 EUR one-way, €49 return. One departure daily at 08:45, arrival Budapest Deli at 17:29.
As low as €39 one-way/ €78 roundtrip makes this one of the best deals on this page. But only four tickets are available daily at this fare via First Minute CD special. Standard fare in €135.60. One departure daily:
EC 212 – departure 09:23, arrival 21:08 (with changes to RJ 536 in Villach and RJ 370 at Vienna / Wien Meidling)
Return from Prague:
RJ 73 – departure at 08:52, arrival 20:40 (with changes to RJ 539 at Vienna / Wien Meidling and MV 315 in Villach)
Ljubljana-Vienna (Wien) Hbf (via Maribor)
€29 with two daily options: departure 08:05 (ICS 14, change in Maribor) and 16:00 (EC 150), arrival 14:02 and 22:02, both with a change in Maribor; 12 tickets available at that fare per departure via the SparSchiene special. Regular price is €68.80 one-way.
Return from Vienna:
Departure 07:58 (EC 151, change in Maribor) and 15:58 (EC 159), arrival 14:06 and 21.38.
Other Destinations in Points North and West
€49 one-way, six tickets available via the Smart SZ-DB special. Standard fare is €176.20. One departure daily:
EC 212/112 – 09:23, arrives 19:40
Return from Frankfurt:
EC 113/213 – departure 08:22, arrives 18:31
Ljubljana – Graz (via Maribor)
Standard fare €30.60 one-way, €61.20 round trip, but there is a cheaper round-trip option. The Regio AS-Graz ticket, valid for four days, is €44. If you’re arriving earlier in the day, you might want to consider the Regio AS-Graz+101 pass, which for just another €4 entitles you to travel on all public transport in Graz until midnight on the day of arrival: urban buses, the tram, S-Bahn and funicular railway to the Schlosberg castle. It’s also valid on bus and rail service between the city and airport. Two departures daily:
ICS 14 – Departure 08:05, arrival 11:20 (change to the EC 158 in Maribor)
EC 150 – Departure 16:00, arrival 19:20
Return from Graz:
EC 151 – Departure 10:38, arrival 14:06
EC 159 – Departure 18:38, arrival 21:38 (change to ICS 23 in Maribor)
Standard fare €24.40 one-way, €48.80 roundtrip. As with Graz, the Regio A-Graz roundtrip ticket, valid for four days, is €32. Three departures daily:
MV 314 – Departure 07:28, arrival 9:37 (change to RJ 534 in Villach)
EC 212 – Departure 09:23, arrival 11:37 (change to RJ 536 in Villach)
IC 210 – Departure 15:27, arrival 17:37 (change to RJ 632 in Villach)
Return from Klagenfurt:
RJ 533 – Departure 12:22, arrival 14:31 (change to IC 211 in Villach)
RJ 537 – Departure 16:22, arrival 18:31 (change to EC 213 in Villach)
RJ 539 – Departure 18:22, arrival 20:40 (change to M 315 in Villach)
Another solid deal if you can get it: six tickets available for €29 one-way via the Smart SZ or Spar Night specials. Round trip fares for €95.20 are more readily available. Four trains daily:
MV 314 – departure 07:28, arrival 13:41 (with a change to EC 114 in Villach)
EC 212 – Departure 09:23, arrival 15:41
IC 210 – departure 15:27, arrival 21:41 (with a change to EC 115 in Villach)
EN 498 – departure 23:55, arrival 06:10 the following morning
Return from Munich:
EC 111 – departure 08:18, arrival 14:31 (with a change to IC 211 in Villach)
EC 213 – departure 12:18, arrival 18:31
EC 115 – departure 14:18, arrival 20:40 (with a change to MV 315 in Villach)
EN 499 – departure 23:36, arrival 05:59 the following day
€52.40 one-way with four daily options:
MV 314 – departure 07:28, arrival 11:48 (change to EC 114 in Villach)
EC 212 – departure 0923, arrival 13:48
IC 210 – departure 15:27, arrival 19:48 (change to EC 110 in Villach)
EN 498 – departure 23:55, arrival 04:09 the following day
Return from Salzburg:
EN 499 – 01:34, arrival 05:59
EC 111 – departure 10:12, arrival 14:31 (change to EC 211 in Villach)
EC 213 – departure 14:12, arrival 18:31
EC 115 – departure 16:12, arrival 20:40 (change to MV 315 in Villach)
Ljubljana – Venice (via Villach)
This isn’t the most convenient way to journey between the two cities –shuttle and a combo bus/train options via Trieste are generally better and faster— but with special fares available for as little as €13 one way (€26 round trip), this journey that comes in at just under six-and-a-half-hours is an alternative for tight budgets. Two departures daily:
MV 314 – departure 07:28, arrival 13:53 (change to the EC 31 in Villach)
EN 414 – departure 21:10, arrival 02:50 (change to EN 235 in Villach)
Return from Venice:
EN 234 – departure 01:20, arrival 08:11 (change to EN 415 in Villach)
BUS 832 – departure 11:40, arrival 18:31 (change to EC 213 in Villach)
€18 one-way; a Regio AS round trip ticket, valid for four days, is €26. Five departures daily:
MV 314 – departure 07:28, arrival 09:08
EC 212 – departure 09:23, arrival 10:58
IC 210 – departure 15:27, arrival 17:09
EN 414 – departure 21:10, arrival 22:43
EN 498 – departure 23:55, arrival 01:31
Return from Villach:
EN 499 – departure 04:15, arrival 05:59
EN 415 – departure 06:25, arrival 08:11
IC 211 – departure 12:53, arrival 14:31
EC213 – departure 16:53, arrival 18:31
MV 315 – departure 18:53, arrival 20:40
The best deal if you can nab it, with four tickets available as low as 29 one-way through the SparSchine special. Sleeper in a six-berth compartment as low as 39 EUR, four-berth at €49. This ticket can (and should) be purchased three months in advance.
EN 414 – departure 21:10, arrival 09:20 the following day
Return from Zurich:
EN 415 – departure 20:40, arrival 08:11
Other Nearby Capitals?
These aren’t special fares per se but are worth noting beginning with Zagreb, the cheapest of the capital-to-capital connections.
Five departures daily, a limited number of tickets available for €9. Standard fare is €17.80 one-way, €28.40 round trip.
EN 499 – departure 06:20, arrival 08:38
EN 415 – departure 08:25, arrival 10:45
IC 211 – departure 14:45, arrival 17:13
EC 213 – departure 18:35, arrival 20:53
411 – departure 21:05, arrival 23:28
Return from Zagreb:
410 – departure 04:45, arrival 07:08
EC 212 – departure 06:50, arrival 09:06
IC 210 – departure 12:35, arrival 15:08
EN 414 – departure 18:37, arrival 20:54
EN 498 – departure 21:20, arrival 23:41
I made this journey in 2010. €50.60 one-way, €81 roundtrip. One departure daily:
EN 499 – departure at 06:20, arrival 18:23 (with a change to B 397 in Zagreb)
Return from Sarajevo:
B 396 – departure 10:21, arrival 23:41 (with a change to EN 498 in Zagreb)
Ljubljana – Sofia
€89.90 one-way to the Bulgarian capital, one train daily:
EN 415 – departure 08:25, arrival 08:45 the following day (with a change to B 293 in Belgrade and a four-and-a-half hour layover)
Return from Sofia:
B 292 – departure 20:25, arrival 20:54 the following day (with a change to EN 414 in Belgrade and a six hour layover)
€93.40 one-way. Two departures daily:
ICS 14 – departs 08:05, arrival 15:22 (with changes in Maribor and Vienna Hbf)
OS 2503 – departs 05:38, arrival 14:36 (with change in Vienna Hbf)
OS 2521 – departs 13:38, arrival 21:38 (with changes in Vienna Hbf and Maribor)
€89.80 one-way. Two departures daily:
EN 415 – departure 08:25, arrival 04:25 the following day (with a change to B 335 in Belgrade)
411 – departure 21:05, arrival 7:15 the following day (with a change to B 337 in Belgrade)
Return from Belgrade:
B 336 – departure 08:20, arrival 07:08 the following day (with a change to 410 un Belgrade)
B 334 – departure 22:19, arrival 20:54 the following day (with a change to EN 414 in Belgrade)
Sleeper supplement (in a six-berth cabin) 8 for the Ljubljana-Belgrade leg; 6 for the Belgrade-Skopje leg).
And a few more points south:
Ljubljana – Opatija and Rijeka
Two trains daily, €17 one way, €27.80 round trip for Opatija; €18.40/€29.40 for Rijeka. Four tickets at just €9 one-way are available via the Reka Spezial special.
MV 481 – Departure 06:35, arrival Opatija 09:06, Rijeka 09:20
MV 483 – Departure 15:10, arrival Opatija 17:41, Rijeka 17:55
MV 482 – from Rijeka 11:55 / Opatija 12:10, arrival 14:50
MV 480 – from Rijeka 20:50 / Opatija 21:05, arrival 23:36
€26.40 one-way, €31.60 round trip. One departure daily:
2606 – departure 13:12, arrival 17:52 (with changes at Divaca and Buzet)
Return from Pula:
4706 – departure 13:20, arrival 18:41 or 19:25 (with changes at Buzet and Divaca)
Ljubljana – Thessaloniki, Greece
Scheduled at just under 26 hours, this is more of a Balkan Odyssey than it is holiday frolic. €102.60 one way, €171.80 round trip; departure at 08:25, arrival at 10:07 the following day after a change in Belgrade. The return departs at 18:30 and arrives at 20:54 the following evening. Also with a change in Belgrade.
Note: Due to the ongoing stream of refugees and migrants crossing from Greece into Macedonia at or near this border point, trail travel has been limited. At the moment (29 December 2015) the three-hour leg of the journey from Skopje to Thessaloniki is by bus.
Where to buy?
Station ticket offices and authorized agencies. One list is here.
With the exception of the Budapest run, I’ve been on all of these routes, many of them several times. The quality of the trains still varies wildly; quality-wise there is still a wide bridge between the trains operated by the countries of the former Yugoslavia and eastern Europe and those of their western and northern Europe counterparts. That said, the gap isn’t nearly as wide as it was a dozen years ago when I moved to the continent.
And finally: unless otherwise specified, all tickets listed are for 2nd class travel. All can be purchased up to two months prior to departure, three months for the Zurich route. Timetables, routes, and prices valid through 12 December 2016. But we all know that it’s always best to double check, right? Also bear in mind that if you manage to get the cheaper fare, you can’t always upgrade to 1st class from those specially-priced tickets, but sometimes you can, so ask. Oftentimes the extra space, privacy and electric outlets are worth the few extra euros.
And to close, I leave you with this repeat performance of a 35-second video shot aboard the MV 482, the Rijeka-Ljubljana line. The soundtrack is Chrome Weels by Asian Women on the Telephone and it rocks.