Budapest-Tehran train trip is newest luxury pursuit

Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:37pm EDT
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A luxury train connecting the capitals of Hungary and Iran left Budapest for the first time on Wednesday, with 70 passengers set to cross the Balkans, the Bosphorus and Kurdistan on the way to Persia aboard a set of deluxe railcars.

The two-week trip sets back each participant at least 9,000 pounds ($14,333) and some as much as 25,000 pounds including full service with private bathroom, a sightseeing program and the beautiful scenery that rolls leisurely by for about 7,000 km (4,350 miles).

The tickets for the first train sold out in 10 days, said Tim Littler, the founder of tour operator Golden Eagle, adding he planned four more trains to make the trip next year.

"There is a huge vacuum in the tourist industry for people who would like to go to Iran, but want to do it in comfort and safety," Littler told Reuters while aboard a pre-war sleeper as a steam locomotive pulled the cars through the Hungarian plains.

"The train offers both of those things," he added. "Luxury train travel sells for about $1,000-to-$2,000 per day, and this trip is in that price range."

The train may carry more wealth than the annual economic output of some of the places it crosses, but he said that has almost never posed security problems in Golden Eagle's adventure destinations.

"We had more problems in Russia when we started 25 years ago," he said. "We went into areas where people were literally starving and we arrived in an opulent train full of caviar and sturgeon and fine wines."

To make sure absolutely no problem arises, some countries offered extra assistance, he said. The Iranian government, which has announced it would spend heavily to develop its tourism industry, said it would put military marshals on the train.   Continued...

A train engineer looks out of a historic steam locomotive as it pulls a Tehran-bound train into Nyugati Terminus in Budapest, October 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh