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Budapest - Planning your trip

All this Buda and Pest stuff is confusing at first. The capital of Hungary is called Budapest, but once upon a time, there were two towns: Buda and Pest (actually, three including Óbuda). In the 19th century they were united to form one big capital: Budapest. The part of town on the western side of the Danube, is called Buda, while the flatter and larger part on the eastern side of the Danube, where the lively heart of the city beats, is called Pest. Everyone will know you are a tourist as soon as ask what side Am I now? The city is known as the Heart of Europe and is one of the most culturally important metropolis in Eastern Europe. Budapest has an active expat scene. Many international companies have branches in the city, employing a multinational mixture of highly qualified locals and foreigners. Due to its low cost of living and high quality of life, Budapest is also a favorite choice of many students. They all fall in love with Budapest as soon as they arrive and many never leave. You will be surprised by the young and nice vibe!

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar in Budapest
Ruin Bars in Budapest

What you need to know before you go

Transport in Budapest - Budapest is a walkable city, it’s easy to get around the main points walking. Single tickets cost 350 Hungarian forints and you can change metro lines with a single ticket. Travel passes are also available for 24 hours (1,650 forints), 72 hours (4,150 forints), or a week (4,950 forints), which cover all modes of transportation. If you get a Budapest Card, you can have unlimited transport for the period you choose. If you have a single ticket, PLEASE, DON'T FORGET TO VALIDATE IT in one of the validation boxes at the metro entrance, and keep it with you until the end of the journey. We received a fine because even though we bought the ticket in the entrance, nobody let us know about the validation. Avoid paying 12,000 forints and make sure to validate it!

Uber is no longer available in Hungary. To navigate the city on the go, download the BKK (Budapest Közlekedési Központ) app, issued by the city’s official public transport agency, or CityMapper. For taxis, Bolt is a good option.

Where to stay in Budapest -The majority of luxurious 4- or 5-star hotels welcome guests in the heart of the city center. Visitors travelling to Budapest for tourism or even a business trip will not be disappointed by the comfortable rooms of 3-star hotels, most international hotel chains are in this category. Those who prefer a more cosy experience could opt for a pension or a guesthouse, where the owner will be happy to help planning city walks and recommend great restaurants. Friends and families can opt for one of the 400 apartments listed on, Airbnb and other travel apps.

Best time to visit Budapest - Budapest has 4 seasons, with the hottest months being July and August: +25/+40°C, the coldest months being December and January: -4/-15°C. The best time to visit Budapest is from March to May and September to November. March to May is the traveler-friendly weather. September to November is due to many festivals and events that are organized in the city around these months.

Tradicional food in Budapest - Goulash soup, paprika chicken, lángos (deep-fried flatbread), and pálinka, have you ever tried some of them? Any tourist arriving in Budapest must have least four or five typically Hungarian dishes, drinks and other specialties they want to try. Dishes are enriched with spicy Hungarian paprika and full of flavor.

Suggestion to get along with locals

Learn how to say a few words in Hungarian to go along with the locals. One very important tip: make sure you get the accent right on the “é” in “egészségedre” (“egg-ees-sheeg-ed-re”), and don’t accidentally say “egészsegedre” (“egg-ess-shegg-ed-re”). The first means “to your health,” but the other is “to your whole ass.”, which makes clear you are a tourist!

Here are a few words you should learn:

  • Hi – Szia
  • Please – kérem
  • Thank youköszönöm
  • Bye – Viszlát
  • Cheers – Egészségére

If you go into a smaller shop, it’s polite to say “Jó napot” (“good day”).

TIps for first visit

1. Bring forints, not euros Hungary uses the forint as its currency. Most hotels, restaurants and shops will accept Euros, but they will give you the change back in forints. In addition, some establishments can be reluctant to accept large bills (like 20,000 HUF), try to withdraw smaller bills from ATMs. Pick amounts like 9000 HUF or 19,000 HUF to ensure smaller change.

2. Call a cab or use the app – Flagging taxis on the street is risky because some rogue operators rip visitors off by driving around the city or using other tricks. It’s always better to call a cab or use an app to order one. It’s not recommended hail a taxi on the street.

3. Don’t clink your beer glasses with Hungarians. When Habsburgs Austria defeated Hungary in the 1848 revolution, Austrians in Vienna celebrated the defeat by toasting and clinking beer steins. As a form of subtle protest, Hungarians vowed never to do this same. They haven’t raised their beer glasses for the past 150 years!

Note that this rule doesn’t apply to other drinks and Hungarians even consider it rude not to look the other person in the eyes and say “cheers” when raising a glass of anything other than beer.

It is prohibited to drink alcohol in public spaces.

4. Visit the Castle District – No visit to Budapest is complete without a visit to the Castle District. The huge structure was formerly known as the Royal Palace, as it was once the Imperial Family’s accommodation. The place is one of most notable UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the European continent and host iconic landmarks. Being known worldwide, the place fascinates everyone with charming buildings and the best views of the city.

5. Drink a beer in the Szimpla Kert-  In the early 2000s, a group of young entrepreneurs wanted a community space for hosting cheap parties and events. In 2004, the first ruin bar, Szimpla Kert, opened at 14 Kazinczy Street. Without money to invest in upgrading and furnishing the place, the owners brought in whatever thing they could, and the bar gradually took on the eccentric, mismatched appearance that made the successful that is today.

Exactly as the name suggests, the ruin bars are abandoned buildings with whatever inside! Most have an open-air courtyard, eclectic and mismatched furniture, and, in general, cheap beer. Make sure to visit Szimpla Kert during your trip.

6. Relax at Széchenti – There are over 100 natural hot springs below the Hungarian capital and you must visit the most popular of Budapest’s spas Széchenyi. Built in 1913, the Neo-Baroque palace houses 11 indoor thermal pools several saunas and steam rooms. The thermal waters and their supposed healing powers have been enjoyed since Roman times over 2,000 years ago and you must try it!

Budapest Map

Essential Information

Passport and Visa – Hungary has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and is a country of the Schengen area. Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen States entitles its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for up to 90 days.

Currency – The currency is Forint – HUF. You can pay by debit or credit card (Visa/Mastercard), but in marketplaces and small shops, it is good to have cash available.

Language – Hungarian is the official language. English and German are commonly spoken foreign languages in the country.

Tipping – Although not mandatory, tipping in Budapest is considered courteous. A 10% to 15% tip can be applied to restaurant bills and services.

Population – There are 1.8M people in Budapest and almost 10M in Hungary.

Economy – Budapest is the financial and business capital of Hungary. The country is an open, export-driven economy, especially in the automotive and consumer electronics sectors.

Good to know: Buda: hilly, Pest: flat, in between is the Danube River. The city has 9 bridges, 3 islands and museums are generally closed on Mondays.

Scam and safety

Male travelers will often be approached by attractive, friendly young women who invite them to a bar. The scam comes with huge bills, try to resist or at least avoid any bar they suggest.

Pickpockets are common on rush-hour public transport and in busy touristy areas. Keep your belongings in a safe place and don’t put your wallet or phone in your pocket since this is the easiest place for someone to swipe it from. In addition, while Budapest’s city center (especially District VII) are safe after midnight, it’s safest to take a taxi to your accommodations if you going to Districts VIII or IX, beyond the Grand Boulevard at night.

Useful Links – Official tourist information

Transportation in Budapest

Budapest Card – Unlimited rides from 24-120h

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

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