Visiting a new country can be daunting, especially for novice travellers. Most of us find ourselves travelling to ‘safe’ destinations such as Spain or France because English is widely spoken. It’s also a lot easier to find our way around. However, if you find yourself travelling to Hungary – and why wouldn’t you it’s a diverse city bursting with so much to offer tourists. Budapest, the capital is a prime example. It’s a world away from what we know back home, which makes it all the more of an adventure. This guide will give you some top tips so you don’t feel completely lost in translation!
This may seem scary at first especially since Hungary isn’t very “English”. You’re pretty much left to work out your own way around. It isn’t impossible though, with a bit of patience you’ll soon be a ‘Budapesti Metro’ expert. I enjoyed using the underground system because it felt like an adventure. Not to mention how cheap and reliable it was. I got to see a lot more of the city. Since everything is pretty spread out you would have to really love walking to not use the Metro system. On a side note: Please make sure you validate your ticket (signs will point out where to do this) because guards do check. You don’t want to run into all sorts of trouble having someone who speaks Hungarian trying to fine you!
Similar to places like Dubrovnik, Budapest gets very busy during the summer months. I visited the city in November. Despite having to really wrap up warm and brace the freezing temperatures it was worth it. I wasn’t fighting for a view of the Parliament building from the Fisherman’s Bastion, and endless tour groups weren’t blocking my way. I think it’s a more peaceful time to travel as you feel like you have the city to yourself. Plane tickets at this time of year are also a LOT cheaper. Absolutely perfect if you want a long weekend away (if you can put up with the cold!).
It’s Easy to Eat Cheap.
If you find yourself on a strict budget when you’re travelling like myself, then you can’t always afford to go on extravagant meals. Usually finding somewhere really cheap can lead to a disappointing meal. In Budapest this isn’t a problem as eating for cheap is a really easy thing to do. That is if you know where to go. As with any city the touristy places are a lot more expensive – in the case of Budapest this is the Castle District. Try to stay off the beaten track when going for food: One night we ate in our hotel, which was in the Castle District anyway so we had a nice meal with great views. You can also try going freestyle and visit the Great Market Hall for lunch, as they have food stands – this is also a great place for souvenirs. Do your research beforehand and use apps like TripAdvisor to look at menus. You won’t have to look for long! When in Budapest make sure you try a dish with paprika in it, it’s the city’s speciality after all.
(Great Market Hall.)
Touristy but Good.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths: Budapest is famous for its hot springs and it doesn’t take a genius to guess why. I could have spent all day here, especially since I was there in the winter. It was the perfect escape from the cold. Spend the day lazily soaking in the naturally heated water and feel completely rejuvenated afterwards. All without breaking the bank.
Parliament Building: A stunning piece of architecture, which cannot be missed while you’re in the capital. The purple and black details give it a really gothic feel. It is best viewed from the Fisherman’s Bastion viewpoint, here you can see right across the city. Perfect for a photo opportunity!
Castle District: I like to think of this as Budapest’s old town. Charming shops and top quality restaurants make this a mini destination in itself. Home to many tourist hotspots such as the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias’ Church.
This is a pretty random top tip to finish on but it feel like it’s worth a mention. In Budapest there are these little shops on the end of street corners, which have a big 18 painted on the side with a cross drawn through it. We went inside and my partner didn’t have ID so we couldn’t buy a bottle of wine – fair enough, this would happen anywhere else too. We then tried to buy a can of diet coke but we couldn’t buy this either because we didn’t have the ID. Turns out you can’t buy anything in these shops if you’re under eighteen or don’t have ID. You’re probably best just using the supermarkets to avoid the annoyance of bringing your ID out all the time.
This concludes a short guide to Budapest. Hopefully reading this you are inspired to make the journey to this alternative yet explosively diverse city. It is a prime example of being rewarded for going out of your comfort zone. These little tips will surely make your trip a little bit easier!