Budapest is one of the most progressive cities in Eastern Europe and comparisons can be drawn to Paris and Prague in both style and architecture. The city sprawls from the majestic curve of the Danube with Pest on the right the more busy, modern side where the majority of the nightlife can be found. On the other side Buda with the stunning Castle Hill and the Buda Hills. From the beautiful bath houses to an array of nightlife there is something for everyone in Budapest.
Budapest's climate is similar to the UK, in the winter the thermal baths take on a new dimension! In the summer the climate can get quite hot, but is normally akin to current Southern UK temperatures.
Hungary uses the Hungarian Florint, of which £1 is approx 350Ft. Needless to say prices for food and drink are affordable with beers costing between £1-2 in more traditional places and between £2-3 in more touristic nightspots. A meal out will normally cost around £10 a head with drinks unless you opt for an expensive restaurant, you can also eat for much cheaper if you go to local restaurants/cafes out of the main tourist hotspots. One word of caution, if a restaurant does not have prices on the menu be very wary there are some restaurants that rip tourists off, the US Embassy runs a list of restaurants that are blacklisted on their website I believe. Another scam to avoid is women enticing groups of men into bars so they can buy drinks for them, this is a known scam and some people have been ripped off by such amounts up to $1000.
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If arriving by plane (Ferihegy Airport - 20km from the airport), the cheapest option is to take the Repterbusz which leaves from outside Terminal One, tickets can be bought at the ticket machines by the stop at a cost of 170Ft (don't forget to validate your ticket on entering the bus). The bus takes you direct to Kobanya-Kispest Metro (approx 20 mins) where you can then catch the blue metro line to Deak Ter in the centre (10 stops later). A single ticket for the Metro costs 170Ft, although if you are planning to do a multitude of journeys then can buy a book of tickets which works out cheaper.
Taxis notoriously rip off foreigners and unless you are arriving in the middle of the night its probably worth catching the Airport Minibus instead (approx 2500Ft), although the bus/metro option is perfectly safe. There is also a shuttle bus that is cheaper than the airport minibus.
If arriving by train you'll probably arrive at Nyugati Station, you can then connect with the centre by catching the blue line Metro to Deak ter. If coming from Vienna then you will come into Pest's Keleti station where you can connect with the centre via the red Metro line. Bus services into Budapest mostly wind up at the Erzsebet ter Bus Station which is right in the centre.
One note about Taxis do not use unmarked private cars and those hanging around stations and airports they charge a far higher rate especially to foreigners. The best advice is to book a Taxi from your hotel or hostel as they will use reputable firms.
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Marco Polo Youth Hostel - Big, fun youth hostel in the centre of town (nearest Metro, Astoria) with dormitories, doubles and triples. A triple room when we went cost only £17 a head per night. The hostel has a bar downstairs offering cheap drinks and food and breakfast is free with the cost of the room and is served between 7-11. The hostel can get quite noisy, especially from the bar downstairs so if you go to bed early then this might not be the place for you.
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Things to do
Castle Hill - Great views of Pest from the top aswell as the Hungarian National Gallery, Museum of Modern Art and Budapest History Museum.
Labyrinth of Buda Castle - These are worth a visit on a rainy day, they were used as a shelter in WWII and is now a New Age Experience
Fisherman's Bastion (Castle Hill) - Offering more spectacular views and a bar inside.
Parliament - One of Europe's most impressive parliament buildings, tours are available
Citadella - Even more impressive views than Castle Hill including the Liberation Monument, allow an hour and half round trip there and back
Great Market Hall (Vamhaz Korut) - A good place to pick up bargains and tasty food, open till 5pm Mon-Thu, till 6pm (Fri) and till 2pm (Sat)
Thermal Baths - No trip to Budapest would be complete without a trip to the baths, the most popular are Kiraly, Rudas and Szechenyi. Check listings to find out what the opening hours for as some have men/women only days, note that Men only days tend to be very Gay friendly. Szechenyi (Varosliget) is a good bet if you are in a mixed group, the price of the ticket is approx £8 (of which you get back £2 if you take less than 2 hours, but don't lose your receipt or tag!) They have a range of bathing pools of different temperatures all with different healing properties.
Statue Park - A place where all the old communist monuments are now housed it was also featured in the James Bond film 'Goldeneye'. It is 15km from the centre so you need to catch 2 buses (red #7-713 from Parizsi Udvar in Pest to Etele ter in Buda, then a yellow Volan bus from stand 2 towards Doisd (you need to buy ticket on the bus as passes are not valid). Allow 3 hours to do this trip.
Szentrendre - 20km north of Budapest, a former artist's colony and not surprisingly it makes for a beautifully picturesque place to visit if you want a break from Pest. You can either catch an HEV train or catch a ferry or hydrofoil from central Budapest.
Children's Railway (Szechenyi-hegy)- A narrow gauge railway built by youth brigades in 1948, the whole line is run by 13-17 year olds.
Cogwheel Railway (From Moszkva ter by tram 18 or 56 or bus 56, alight opposite the Budapest Hotel) - Good views if you take window seat on the right hand side
The Caves (Hills north of Huvosvolgy) - Impressive stalactites and labyrinths
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Magyar Etterem Essorozo (Keeskemetils) - Traditional Hungarian restaurant serving up tasty dishes including a wide selection of Game often accompanied bizarrely by potato croquettes with flags in! All main courses under £10
Habana Cafe (Kristof ter) - Bar/Cafe which serves up the best beef stew in town (only £6)
Pesti Sorcsarnok (Vamhaz Krt) - One of Budapest's gems, this traditional cafe/bar with wooden panelled booths decorated with old memorabilia. There is a wide selection of draught beer as well as an extensive Hungarian menu. Try the goulash soup which comes with its own burner to keep it warm!
Karolyi Etterem (Karoly Mihaly Utca) - Restaurant with outside seating and an excellent menu including some fusion food. Food portions are a little on the small side but the quality is good. The cheesy dumplings are a must!
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Bars & Clubs
Anna's Cafe (Vaci Utca) - Open plan bar/cafe serving Amstel and a large selection of ice cream. A bit pricey due to its' location
Amstel River Cafe (Parizsi) - Quiet Dutch style pub with a relaxed atmosphere and lots of 80s music. Gay friendly.
Black Pool (Vamhaz Krt 15) - Loud pool bar with 4 large pool tables (approx £4 for 1 hours play). Some of the bar staff can get a bit pushy here.
Marco Polo Club (Nyar Utca) - Loud raucous bar adjoining the hostel with table football and live music. Very cheap drinks.
Old Man's Music Bar (Akacfa Utca) - Very popular live music venue with 2 floors of disco open till dawn. Be warned the bouncers on the door don't take much to get provoked. We got chased down the street over an arguement about a bottle of water!
Old Fat Mo's Music Club (V Nyáry Pál út. 11) - Dance disco pick-up joint that can have a bit of a volatile atmosphere
Varosligeti Sorsator (Opposite Szechenyi Thermal Baths (Varosliget)) - Nice outside bar in park, good for relaxing after a spa.
PIAF Klub (Nagymezo Utca) - After hours club that boasts to be open after all the other clubs have shut. A bit pricey.
Info compiled by Andy Webb
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