With this trip being both Pete and I’s first ever visit to Budapest, neither of us knew quite what to expect from the city other than lots of baths and the possibility of cheap booze. Having just left Budapest after 5 days, we are a little wiser about this amazing city and thought we would share some of our learnings which may come in useful for other first time visitors;
1. Ditch the Taxi or Airport Shuttle Bus
Whether you are travelling on a budget, or just want to immerse yourself in Hungarian life, getting a bus from the airport to Budapest City Centre is great for both. The 100E bus stops right outside the airport and takes you right to the main Metro stop, Deák Ferenc. From there you can get the Metro to any part of the city.
2. Carry some Hungarian Forint with you, small denominations if possible.
The majority of public restrooms charge a small fee for use, as do most restaurants and bars for non-customers. Fees range from around 100 to 500Ft (around 30p to £1.40).
3. While on the subject of toilets…
Not all toilets have pictures to denote which is for males and which is for females (I found this out the hard way) so its good to know the Hungarian and German;
Ladies – Holgyek in Hungarian or Damen in German
Mens – Ferfi in Hungarian or Herren in German
4. Buy a Travel Card
Using public transport is the easiest way to get around the city, with the metro and trams going to all the main tourist sites. We opted for a 72 hour travel card which we purchased from a metro station. It cost us 4150Ft each (around 11.50) and we used it every day. It was much cheaper than the more highly advertised Budapest Travel which costs 37 euros (around £32) for 72 hours, although the Budapest Travel card does provide free access to a number of museums and free tickets to tours so is worth checking out too.
5. Try one of the Smaller Baths
The majority of people have heard of or seen pictures of the famous Szechenyi Thermal Bath, and will understandably try and visit while in Budapest. Due to this it can get seriously over-crowded. We decided to try one of the less well-known and smaller baths. We went to Kiraly Medicinal Bath and loved every minute of it. From the outside, it didn’t look like much but the inside was stunning, and with only around 10 other people in there with us, it felt like we had stumbled upon a hidden secret.
6. Don your walking boots
The citadel is a great site to visit and the views are really stunning, but if you plan to walk to the top, make sure you have water and decent walking shoes as it is not for the faint hearted. While not a long distance, it is fairly steep and really gets the heart pumping.
7. Queen for a day
If you plan to visit Buda Castle (and you really should), we recommend you get the Fanicular to the top and then walk back down. A single ticket is 1200Ft (around £3.35) and a return is 1800Ft (around £5.00) however the views on the walk back are stunning and are worth the extra leg work. Be sure to make time to explore Buda old town while you are there.
8.Try the Goulash
If this is your first visit to Hungary, you may be a little apprehensive about the local cuisine. Don’t be! The local dishes are delicious (as long as you are a fan of paprika). Goulash, Pork and Potato casserole and Chimney Cake are all worth tucking in to.
9. There’s a time and a place…
Budapest is well known for it’s famous Ruin Bars; bars that have built in the ruins of abandoned buildings. While most are open during the day, we recommend visiting them in the evening to get a more authentic experience. Szimpla Kert is properly the most well known, and with good reason. It’s eclectic (to say the least) décor, lively atmosphere and cheap prices make it a must visit location.
10. While at Szimpla Kert
Be sure to check out the Street Food Karavan. It is on the same street as Szimpla Kert and offers a wide range of street food, including Hungarian Specialities like Lángos (Hungarian fried bread). It also sells Chimney cake so you can tick off some of the items in point 8.