This post is written by our co-president, Simran Thakral. Check out her original post here.
Coming to Budapest, I didn’t have many preconceived notions about the place or the culture. In fact, the decision to visit Hungary on our 10 day long Europe trip was not mine. One of my friends insisted to stop by the city before heading off to Geneva so we all went along with it. I came blindly and left feeling almost enlightened! For starters, I learnt a few Hungarian words.
We were actually in the taxi on the way to airport and I asked the taxi driver what is the Hungarian word for ‘sorry’. Long story short, it is actually our thing to know the word for sorry in the language of every country we visit because at some point we know we’re going to unintentionally offend someone! Anyways, the taxi diver said it was “Bochanot” and that instantaneously rang a bell in my head from Mind Your Language, a show I used to be obsessed with! One of the main characters, a Hungarian man, keeps saying “Bochanot”! How did I forget? It was quite funny actually!
Anyways, back to my reflection. Despite being just a two-hour train ride from Vienna, the city has such a different feel. The architecture has a slight Eastern European touch with its domes, for instance. It would actually be really cool to travel eastwards from here and see the transition to Asia! It shows you how these barriers of continents that are set up are totally arbitrary- the culture of each country blends with its neighbouring countries and so we’re all connected somehow.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Wombatts City Hostel, Budapest. Our stay was fantastic and I highly recommend this hostel for anyone planning a trip to this central European city. At only about 10 euros (1 euro= approximately 300 Hungarian Forints) per bed per night, we got a great deal.
The location was great; it is situated in the backpacker district right in the heart of the city. There’s a ton of restaurants, pubs, street markets, and high street stores just steps away from the hostel. It is really lively yet not too loud. The area also seemed relatively safe.
The hostel was filled with young people (most looked like they were on their gap year, to be honest). There was a pool table and foosball table in the lobby and the atmosphere was just buzzing. If you’re on a budget, this place is ideal as it has an equipped kitchen and there is also a supermarket right outside the hostel. Additionally, right next to the kitchen is the launderette with free detergent provided!
The staff was also really nice. I have a story to share actually.
On the train from Vienna to Budapest, a lady happened to overhear that we were headed towards the Wombatts. Turns out, she worked there! She offered to take us there.
It was quite hilarious actually as I was terrified of going with her as, I mean, the last thing I want was for us to be in the back of a truck headed to Eastern Europe! But I guess she was guiding us there by metro not driving us there, so it made sense to follow. Also, we knew we had to head towards the city centre and not away from it.
Anyways, back to the story. We all bought tickets. The lady actually paid for us as well! Like Vienna, the metro system in Budapest is based on a system of trust. That meant there were no barriers in place you literally can just walk through.
*Note: If you’re a “party person”, you might want to check out Full Moon City Hostel. Apparently, this hostel is above the biggest nightclub in Budapest and parties go on from 5 pm in the evening to 5 am in the morning!
Another personal story here.
We initially booked our stay at Full Moon City Hostel. We knew it was above a nightclub but we did not anticipate it to be “the” nightclub of Budapest. Anyways, while we were in Vienna, we received an email informing us that we had been transferred to Wombats as the pipes in Full Moon City Hostel bursted and the hostel flooded. Weird, right? What are the odds that the hostel would flood?
Honestly, I’m so glad we didn’t end up staying there. In hindsight, I realize the noise would have been really loud, the area would have been dodgy, and it would not have been practical as one of us was still recovering from her sickness. Things just really do happen for a reason!
How to get around:
Generally, I do not like doing super touristy stuff because I feel it’s overpriced and a bit of a rip off. That being said, the Hop Off Hop On Bus in Budapest was actually really reasonable so we decided to use it instead of the metro.
There’s actually two companies running the busses but I honestly do not think either one is better than the other. It might be worth quickly comparing prices though. We did not really have the option as we decided to get it last minute from one of the agents selling the tickets on the streets.
The ticket costs approximately 17 euros. We had access to two routes that covered all of the major attractions for 48 hours. The busses were well equipped with audio guides. Their Wi-Fi was not working though which perhaps is a good thing because you can enjoy taking in the breathtaking architecture.
Along with the tickets, comes a small book of coupons. You get a coupon for a free bowl of Goulash- a Hungarian Beef Stew; from a restaurant along the route, free shots at a bar, two free cruises along the Danube river, and a ton of discounts for activities/attractions.
If you’re staying in a central area, this ticket should be all you need as you can walk from the Hop On Hop Off Bus stop to your hostel. If not though, there’s always the metro.
Just be sure to validate your ticket though!
Things to See/Do:
We only had 2 days to see Budapest- which is not a lot, but I think given the time constraints we did a pretty good job. We were able to visit many most of the tourist attractions because they were all along the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus route.
- Buda Castle:
Personally, this was the best sight in Budapest. You literally feel like you’re in a “fairy tale” world when you go up the castle. The architecture is amazing and so is the view as you’re also able to see the whole of Budapest from up there. There were a few nice cafes and shops nearby. We tried Dobostorta- a Hungarian specialty cake from a random café not too far from the main castle. It tasted exquisite. It was caramelized layers in between chocolate cake. You know what they say; sometimes the simplest things in life are the greatest!
- Budapest Bath:
There are many baths around Budapest but there is a specific one that tourists go too. They say you can’t really go to Budapest and not visit the baths, but honestly, it was a bit of a let down for me. It is beautiful, no doubt, but I don’t think its “the” place to visit. They don’t do tours everyday. The day we arrive they didn’t so we just had to peep in from outside. If you’re going to be in Budapest for quite a while and the weather is nice, it may be worth going for a swim. Otherwise, a good 5 minutes will do.
- Danube River Cruise
As we didn’t have enough time, we decided to just take one cruise. There are many companies running this but we just took the one we got for free with the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tickets that lasted about an hour long. I suggest taking the cruise in the evening as opposed to the one in the afternoon. This way, you’ll be able to see the sunset and the whole city light up. The parliament house is absolutely breathtaking. The commentary, however, was a bit dry. The narration was monotonous and I don’t even remember the content as I just kept zoning out. But it doesn’t matter because you can just gaze away at the city.
- Heroes Square (And National Museum) and Iron Curtain Monument
Heroes Square is basically a centre point of the city and has an extravagant monument which was built to commemorates soldiers- at least I think it does! I don’t know, you can look it up! There is also a national museum situated next to it but as we didn’t have time we didn’t visit. If you walk straight from the square for about 10-15 minutes (now don’t take my word for it, Google map!) you should arrive at the Iron Curtain Monument. It was built to commemorate the end of Cold War. We just stumbled across this monument and I was really fascinated by the wordings on it because I am a huge history buff.
- Synagogue and Holocaust Memorial
I didn’t get the chance to go inside the Synagogue because we didn’t have enough time. We had a flight to catch! And also, it cost 19 euros, which I felt was only worth it if I could spend a few hours exploring. It is such a shame as it would have been really interesting. Oh well, there’s always next time.
Disclaimer: I’ve divided my ‘travel diary’ into three section- where to stay, how to get around, and things to do. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. For an exhaustive list of things to do, please visit Trip Advisor. This is simply Budapest as how I experienced it and perhaps reading my experience will give you some inspiration!
Here are some pictures for inspiration!