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Budapest tips from Couchsurfers

Hot springs breaking through limestone mountains supplying water of 35-76 degrees centigrade gave rise to a flourishing culture of spas in the Roman Age and made Budapest one of the most popular spa cities of Europe. . . ” Sorry, confused ourselves with Lonely Planet there for a moment.

If you want to learn more about Budpest history or more details about the different things please check a travel guide, Wikipedia, Wikitravel etc, here we will focus on tips from couchsurfers, mostly the ones living here. Because of that, this is not the right place to look for hotels/hostels.

CouchSurfing Budapest

A residual resistance to long term planning still appears to linger here. Don't be offended if your request to eat/drink/party/surf goes unanswered right away. It's probably not personal, chances are high people are wondering what chaotic things might happen between now and the very far away next week. Ironically, once people do decide to plan something they often plan the hell out of it, so don't be put off if the first reply is not 'yes' but 'why don't you create a meeting for this'.

If you really want to get a group together, think up something entirely wacky and unique. Remember, this is a city that closes its major downtown streets every now and again so people can rollerskate.

Get Lost

Budapest is a walking city. Odd, as the public transportation stops every block, but there is it. Perhaps the best way to really experience this city is to wander it, without destination, with an open mind. Pick a district that sounds intriguing and go exploring. I recommend the old Jewish quarter or OBuda for some of the better street art and historic buildings, or try the Buda hills if you're more naturally inclined.

If you want to go outside of Budapest, check Day trips and nearby sights

Maps

the cs guide to all things Budapest sights to see, pubs, restaraunts, laundrymats, shops…

Things you must see

or if u want to be informed about the details, just try free guided tours in Budapest (based on tip) - google it..

Yes, a lot of these things are turisty but they are still worth it, there are other things (like Vaci utca) you can skip ;)

  • Castle hill - Royal palace, Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church etc.
  • Parliament - really nice from outside but also worth to go inside - although it's no longer free to enter, but if you're European Union citizen, it costs ~6 euros. If you want to go inside, I really recommend you to book it a day before.
  • St. Stephen's Basilica
  • A thermal bath - many to choose from, see further down.
  • Ruin bar's - visit the ones in 7th district while walking around in the Jewish Quarter (Szimpla kert, Fogashaz etc)
  • Opera house - look at it from the outside or buy a cheap ticket (cheaper then taking a tour).
  • Gellert hill - if it's a clear day it gives you perfect view over the city.
  • Margit island - not worth it in the winter but on a summer day there are a lot of things going on here.

Sites, insider's view

  • Annie thinks Hero's Square is only impressive at night. Then, though, it'd be worth a trip from Prague.
  • No, it's probably not wine in the fountains (though it rarely hurts to try), but the labyrinth is fun none the less.
  • Bookcafe - a reasonable priced cafe in a really nice building, located at Andrássy út 39 (6th District).
  • You've read In the Name of the Rose, but have you ever seen one of Foucault's famous pendulums, first demonstrating the rotation of the Earth in 1851, in person? You can in Budapest. Banki Donat : 8th district, Nepszinhaz u. 8. Near Blaha Lujza ter.

Eating Out

Finding reasonably priced Hungarian food in Hungary is rather like herding cats. When Hungarians want reasonably priced Hungarian food they quite logically cook it themselves. Check the map for the best of what's available.

For a roundup of Daily Set Menus, the best deal in town, check out menu bed

When you do choose a place, here are some traditional options

Starters

  • meggyleves (cold cherry soup)
  • Jókai bableves (bean soup with smoked beef meat)
  • halászlé (fish soup)
  • hortobágyi palacsinta (meat n paprikas filled pancake)
  • tárkonyos ragúleves (tarragon soup)
  • gulyásleves (aka goulashsoup)

Main dish

  • csirke paprikás (chicken paprikash, or try all the paprikás varieties)
  • marha pörkölt (beef paprika stew)
  • töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage)
  • cigány pecsenye (gypsy style pork. mmm, garlic)
  • töltött paprika (paprika stuffed with mixed meat and rice)
  • fogas (perch-pike)
  • disznótoros, véres és májashurkával (a slightly complicated dish involving bread, red cabbage, and liverwurst/black pudding)
  • brassói aprópecsenye (spicy roast pork with fried potato)
  • libamáj (goose liver)
  • vadas (wild dead animals)

Dessert

  • mákos guba (difficult to explain, involves poppy seeds)
  • somlói galuska (sponge cake with chocolate sause and whipped cream)
  • gesztenye püré (chestnut puree with whipped cream)
  • Gundel palacsinta (nut cream pancake topped with bitter chocolate sauce)
  • Dobos torta (drummers' cake : chocolate cream layer cake topped with caramel candy)
  • lúdláb (biscuit/layer cake with a considerable amount of chocolate cream)

Prices
Average Main Course, sit down 1500-2000 forint. Be happy to find a full meal that costs under 1000 (look for 'napi menu' or 'mai menu' (set menus) Street food can fill one up for 700 HUF (try Lángos: deep-fried dough with optional garlic, heavy cream and cheese)
Beer 250-600 forint / 500ml.
Wine 60-1000 forint / 100ml (the 60Ft wine is not always drinkable).

Tipping
Check first! Some places include tip in the price. It should be clearly stated on the bill. Ten percent is normal. Most people just round up (eg if bill is 4700 leave 5000 total)

Entertainment

The pub scene bustles in this busy city, but most DJs stopped buying records in 1989. Which is lovely if you're in for a night of disco or salsa but rather awkward if you're expecting a rave. Have another beer, relax, and enjoy the nostalgia.

In the summer, Budapest's teeming with outdoor bars. The “kert” is a typical Budapest phenomenon has quite a beat to it. The best places are secreted up side streets in rundown districts, thrown together in the courtyards of abandoned buildings or even slapped onto the roof of crumbling communist-era shopping centres. Some of these bars are in the hidden courtyards of old abandoned city buildings and are quite a treat. The venues change a lot as some of the buildings become scheduled for demolition, check the map for current local favorites. For current happenings, grab a free copy of Pesti Est http://www.est.hu - Hungarian or Funzine http://www.funzine.hu - English.

The Opera has cheap tourist rates for the third-floor balcony, which has a separate staircase and concessions area so you don't even need to dress up too much… The building is beautiful so even if you don't want to see a performance you might want to check it out.

You can't leave Budapest without trying one of its famous thermal baths. Budapest has many medicinal thermal springs that have been used for medicinal and recreational purposes since the time of the ancient Roman settlements, and some of the baths were originally built by the invading Ottoman Turks in the 16th century… You can find information on all the baths, including photos, here. (click all-year baths, then the name of the bath you want to find out more about, then the type of information). here's a few places to check out:

  • The Gellert http://www.gellertbath.com/ is really nice (and probably the cleanest one too) with its Art Nouveau style. Open 6am-7pm it costs about $15 to get into both the pool and the thermal sections (if you stay less than 2 hours you get part of that back), and a 30-minute massage will cost about $15-25.
  • As to the actual old Turkish domed baths, the Kiraly bath costs $7-8 or so, but it is indeed very old so I'm not sure about the quality of services offered. They have men-only and women-only days. There are one or two rumors flying around about what happens when the women aren't around so the men-only days are not for everyone.
  • There's also the recently renovated Rudas bath (The oldest in Budapest, built in 1566 during the Turkish occupation.). Weekdays except for Tuesday it's men only and Tuesdays are women only (so there's some nudity involved), but on weekends they have swimsuit-compulsory group days (Friday and Saturday they even offer all-night-bath from 10pm to 4 am) and occasionally parties (usually packed).
  • The only bath on the Pest side, the Szechenyi is a tourist favorite. Slightly cheaper than the Gellert and recently renovated, it attracts quite a crowd. It also has longer opening hours than Gellert (6am-10pm every day), and is featured in many guide books with photos of old men playing chess while sitting in the thermal waters :) Costs about $12-15 to get in, and you get a couple bucks back if you leave within 2 hours.

Festivals:

  • Sziget Festival: Don't miss Central-Europe's biggest week long festival that is held on an island of the Danube (Hajogyari sziget). It was awarded the title “Best Major Festival 2011” by the European Festival Awards. The festival is not as cheap as before, but thousands still come (especially Dutch people). Check out the website for dates, prices and line ups here
  • Budapest Spring Festival: If you've got a thirst for culture visit Budapest during the last two weeks of March. More than 200 events (concerts, theatre, film etc.) are organised in around 50-60 venues. Check the program calendar here.
  • More festivals: If you want to learn more about other festivals in Budapest including the Palinka Festival (hohoho), Jewish Summer Festival, Budapest Summer and Autumn Festival and the St Steven's Day's celebrations each year on the 20th of August, please check the event calendar here.

For another layer of understanding, a little bookshelf for you to peruse

  • Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948 by Marai Sandor
  • Gypsies by Jan Yoors
  • The Hungarians by Paul Lendvai
  • True Stories of a Fictitious Spy - A Hungarian Gulag Grotesquerie by Ferenc Aladar Gyorgyey
  • Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy
  • One Minute Stories by Istvan Orkeny
  • The Paul Street Boys by Ferenc Molnar
  • Eclipse of the Crescent Moon by Geza Gardonyi
  • The Town in Black by Kalman Mikszath
  • The Door by Magda Szabo
  • Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb
  • Very Merry by Moricz Zsigmond
  • Moments of Sincerity by Geza Paskandi

Parting Gifts

Buy yourself a Hungaricum. But whats a Hungaricum? Primarily its a consumer good or other product linked with Hungarian production culture and knowledge, with the traditions of the generations of people living here, characteristic of and accepted by us Hungarians as Hungarian. It is some generally recognised outstanding peculiarity that even an outsider sees as typifying Hungarianness.

The narrowest and most formal group of Hungaricums are domestically and internationally patented. Within Europe, they can only be produced in Hungary.

Among them are listed four kinds of pálinka (spirits with alcohol content over 37%) : Szatmár plum, Szabolcs apple, Kecskemét apricot and Békés plum (try Zwack Barack with honey!). Add to these paprika from Kalocsa and Szeged, Makó onions (well I wouldn't go for it as a present), Szeged and Budapest szalámi (Pick Téliszalámi is a lovely choice), Csabai and Gyulai kolbász (spicey sausage with lots of paprika) and of course wine. Don't miss Tokaji aszu, “the king of wines, the wine of kings” and try the dry red Bull's blood from Eger. Try Zwack Unicum if you like Jagermeister type liquores, or cough syrup. Pungent and Hungarian honey can be a good choice too. For your mum you can bring ceramics of the Herendi or Zsolnay Porcelain factory (not a cheap pressie!). And don't forget about the indeed the world-famous Rubiks Cube.

You can find most of these goodies and a fascinating atmosphere at the overpriced but convenient Vásárcsarnok (Central Markel Hall) in the IX. district Vámház körút, 1-3. Although you are better off buying all those Hungarian liquores and wines at the local Tescos or corner shops ;)

For slightly more unusual gifts, don't miss the weekend market in Varosliget. Old scout uniforms, antique pictures and postcards, slightly broken opera glasses, more pins than you can poke a stick at. Bargain hard with the lovely older folks who come with the collected contents of their neighborhood attics. If you're pressed for time but really want to take home a seltzer bottle or some communist propaganda, a little shop in the 7th district on Klauzal Utca (between Dohany utca and Rakoczi utca) offers the best of the lot at higher prices but quicker shopping.

Tourist Services

Budapest Tourism They have offices in the airport and also at

  • Deák Ferenc tér, 1052 Budapest, Sütő u. 2. Open: 8.00-20.00
  • (and in above office there is a c.s. member works: Daniel Szabo, he will help you with infos)
  • Liszt Ferenc tér, 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 47. Open: 10.00-18.00

Transportation

From the Airport

From Terminal 2 (now ALL flights) Take bus 200E to Kobánya-Kispest metro terminal. Then Blue Line (Metro Line 3) wherever you need to go. You will need either a Budapest Card, Budapest Travel Card or two tickets. Buy your tickets at the post office, newsagent, Tourinform office or at the vending machines located at some of the bus stops. The tickets are HUF 350 each, the 24-hour Budapest Travelcard is HUF 1650. Or buy ticket at the driver (onboard fare HUF 450). The bus runs between 4am and 11pm, at other times there is a night bus 900 and then you can change to bus 950 or 950A to get to the city center.

public transport / night map if you'd like to give the bkv a shot at 2am : )

For more information about the public transportation to the airport both day and night services, click here.

It's also possible to take the 200E bus to Terminal 1 (not in use) and from there take the train to Nyugati (Western) Railway Station - the journey takes 22-25 minutes. One way costs HUF 370 on 2nd class standard or HUF 465 for 1st class. Some InterCity trains (the one at :37 every hour) require a HUF 560 reservation in top of these, so makes it HUF 930 for InterCity 2nd class and HUF 1025 for InterCity 1st in total (prices and times as of Jan 2012). There is a ticket vending machine at the platform. Have your ticket ready before you board the train! In case the machine is out of order, tell the conductor and he/she will issue the ticket for the normal price. Any other cases you will be considered as travelling without a ticket and thus have to pay a HUF 2600 fine! Budapest Travel Cards are valid on passenger trains on 2nd class. For timetable check [http://mav-start.hu/english/index.php www.mav-start.hu]: from “Airport Budapest [Ferihegy]” to “Nyugati [Budapest-Nyugati]”.

Solo travelers, midprice
'Airport Minibus' offers door to door service from both terminals. It's a good deal if you are alone, but for groups of 3 or more taxis are generally cheaper.

The posh way The airport now have a contract with Fötaxi who has taxi stands outside the terminals and charges 3800-6500 forint to central Budapest (price depends on what district you are going to).
Fötaxi

City Public Transport system

(BKV homepage)
Regular Service ~5am-11pm. Night Bus service ~12am-4am (depending on area)

Worth knowing - the 4/6 tram (on the Nagykörút from Szell Kalman Ter to Moricz Zsigmond Korter) now runs 24/7!

Google maps is now BKV aware! Click the bus icon and enter your destination!

You have to validate (punch) a single ticket every time you get on a new bus/tram/trolley. (Even if you just got off another one!) Metro tickets are valid on all lines (including transfer) for 1 hour. A Travel Card is available for 24 hours, 72 hours, or 7 days. Be sure to sign/date as appropriate, you might be subject to a fine if it's not filled out properly. The Budapest Card (travel plus discount card) is only a good deal if you see museums all day every day. Some international train tickets include the use of public transport. If so, it should state it on the back. Overall, public transport is confusing as there are a thousand ticket options. If all you plan on doing is riding the metro and occasionally the 4/6, best bet is probably to grab a discount pack of 10 single tickets. If you are staying longer there are also 14 days and monthly passes for good prices but then you need to bring a spare photo of yourself.

Some locals ride buses and trams without a ticket (not the Metro, which is really cracking down). Be aware that while there are not checkers on every route every time, if you get caught without a ticket the fine is 6000 HUF (or more if you don't pay within 2 days).

Full list of ticket options and prices (for 2013)

Taxis

If you flag down a taxi in the street you will pay quite a bit more. Best is to call, even if you're reading the phone number off the side of the cab you're standing in front of.

City Taxi (not the cheapest, but reliably English speaking) : 2-111-111

Drive to a party and forget about Budapest's zero tolerance policy? Call Pótsofőr, they will show up, drive you home in your own car, then go away. More expensive than a one-way taxi, but cheaper than round trip. 06 20 9505505

Bicycling

It's not quite as crazy as Manhattan at rush hour, but some good reflexes are handy when riding in Budapest.

Finding your way :: online route planner simple google map with bike lanes marked

Getting to and from Budapest

For trains use http://mav-start.hu/english/index.php for exact train times.

International bus companies

Vienna

Trains 9 trains a day, basically every 2 hrs. Takes ca. 3 hrs. One-way tickets from 13/19EUR (purchased in Hungary/Austria respectively).
http://www.oebb.at/en/Travelling_abroad/SparSchiene/Hungary/index.jsp
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=1467fb552f11b1 (only in Hungarian, unfortunately)

Buses

  • Orangeways: 2/day, 2750 HUF one-way
  • Eurolines: 5/day, between 2900-5900 HUF one-way

Munich

5 trains a day, takes ca. 7 hrs. One-way tickets from 29 EUR
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=14945661a12006

Berlin

3 trains a day, takes 11 hrs. One-way from 29 EUR (overnight train seat) or from 39 EUR (daytime trains seat and overnight train berth).
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=148f342a469f6a

Zürich

2 trains a day, takes 11 hrs. One-way from 39 EUR.
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=1467fbec969606

Bratislava

7 trains a day, basically every 2 hrs. Takes ca. 2 hrs 45 mins. 1-month return for 17,50 EUR.
http://www.slovakrail.sk/index.php?id=madarsko
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/szlovak_pozsony.php

Buses

  • Orangeways: 2/day, 1990 HUF one-way
  • Eurolines: 1/day, from 2900 HUF one-way
  • Studentagency: 2/day, 2500 HUF one-way, 4000 HUF return. Discount for under 26, above 60, and with ISIC cards.

Prague

6 trains a day, takes ca. 7 hrs. One-way tickets from 19 EUR. 4-day return for 49 EUR.
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/cseh_praga.php

Buses

  • Orangeways: 2/day, 4490 HUF one-way
  • Eurolines: 1/day, from 5900 HUF one-way
  • Studentagency: 2/day, 5500 HUF one-way, 9.900 HUF return. Discount for under 26, above 60, and with ISIC cards.

Belgrade

3 trains a day, takes ca. 7,5 hrs. One-way for 15 and 1-month return for 26 EUR.
http://www.zeleznicesrbije.com/active/sr-latin/home/glavna_navigacija/putnicki_saobracaj/medjunarodni_saobracaj/cene_prevoza_v01.html
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/szerbia.php

Bucharest

2 night trains a day, takes ca. 15 hrs. One-way from 29 EUR.

Brasov

4 trains a day, takes ca 12-15 hrs. One-way from 19 EUR (seat) or 29 EUR (berth).

Sibiu

1 train a day, takes 10 hrs, one-way from 19 EUR.

Tg. Mures

2 trains a day, takes 10 hrs, one-way from 19 EUR.

Zagreb

2 trains a day, takes ca. 6 hrs. One extra train during summer. 1-month return for 30 EUR. The one-way should be a bit more even so go for the 30 return anyway.

Ljubljana

1 train a day, takes ca. 9 hrs. An other extra one runs during summer. 35 EUR for one-way and 49 EUR for 1-month return.
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=14945661ab3c9e

Sarajevo

1 train a day, takes 11 hrs. 53,20 EUR for 1-month return.
http://mav-start.hu/utazas/kulfoldi_utazasi_ajanlatok.php?mid=14c0d0ac5a7654

Phones

The country code is 36 from an international phone, but 06 from within Hungary. If you are dialing a number from a payphone or land-line within the same city, you can just dial the 7-digit number. If you are calling a different prefix (such as cell phone numbers - prefixes 20, 30, or 70) dial “06” and then the prefix and the number. For international calls, dial “00” first.

There are many payphones, but most of them are “card” phones which means you need to buy a phone card at a newsstand or convenience store first. There are a few coin phones, which are blue instead of the grey-and-pink of the card phones.

Prepaid sim cards can be bought from T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Pannon, or DJuice.

Hostels

Prices of dorm rooms are between 6 and 25 Euro per night and person. The people living in Budapest normally don't use hostels so to choose hostel I recommend you to either ask other travelers or look at the ratings and reviews at hostelworld.com

Pest :

Marco Polo Hostel
Nyár utca 6, 1072 Budapest (VII. District)
A bit pricey, but seems popular with visitors

Buda :

http://www.backpackbudapest.hu/
Said to be very nice. The owners reply indeed very nicely by email.

Money exchange

If you don't really need to, do NOT change money at the airport or the trainstation - the rates are usually really bad there.

In Budapest center you find a lot of offices with good rates, the best rates I have found is at Correct Change which has many offices, one at Erzsebet korut 41.

In case of emergency

  • English language Ambulance: 311 1666
  • English language crime hot-line: 438-8080

Housing

Prices are almost always negotiable. A little talk can bring flat rent down 10-20k / month. (Unsure if this is also true for roommate searches…Anyone? ) Usually it's hard to rent a normal apartment for less then one year, that is also why the ones specialized in renting to foreigners that often stay less can charge much more. It's also harder if you need a receipt.

  • alberlet.hu : ads for apartments and rooms. Sometimes the Hungarian version of the same ad contains more information than the English. 'Rent to foreigners - no' doesn't always mean no, though it often means the landlord only speaks Hungarian.
  • ingatlan.com : fairly up-to-date directory of flats for rent and sale.
  • lakasalberlet.hu : Apartment rentals - Hungarian Apartment rental's database.
  • express : local paper filled with ads. hit and miss

Which district?

Asking where to live will often spark lively debate among residents. Every district has its own devotees. Many swear the 8th district is dangerous. Others live there happily and probably get their houses broken into less often than people in the 1st. Buy a map, take a walk, and see what feels like home to you. Then ask locals for pros and cons of your favorites ; )

Most of the younger CSers in Budapest who have moved out from their parents live on the Pest side, usually in district 6 or 7 which is close to a big part of the restaurants and nightlife.

Shopping, on the cheap

Freecycle options

Book box outside Printa @ Rumbach Sebestyén utca 10 - grab one, leave one, whatever suits your fancy :)

Doctors

(Anyone?…)

Dentists

(for normal not touristic prices, copied from the groups, they were recommended by local csers)

(It is not an ordered list)

1. SOS Dent, in Kiraly ut. www.nonstopfogaszat.hu
They are nice, and the doctor speaks english. 24h a day service.

2. egressydental

3. Contact CS member Anna dental student +36203265911

4. Renata at welldent

5. dentours

6. fogorvosi-rendelo

7. AAA Klinikák Dent Kft.
1094 Budapest, IX. ker.
Tűzoltó utca 70.
Telefon:(1) 215-6872
Fax: (1) 215-6872
Mobil:(20) 485-3284

If you call this mobile number - +36 20 4853284 - you will talk to my personal friend George. Tell him I - Wolfgang - gave you this number over Couch Surfing.

Miscellaneous tidbits

If your contract is in both English and Hungarian, be aware that only the Hungarian one is legally binding. (posted January 2009, still effective Sept. 2011)

General :

Translation :

  • webforditas.hu your new best friend. text and web translator, dictionary, godsend.

Entertainment :

Transportation :

Districts :

budapest.txt · Last modified: 2013/04/30 23:38 by 84.2.173.52