Friday, 1 May 2009

Budapest on a Budget

I know it’s hard to think about going on holiday when all you hear about is the doom and gloom (and swine flu….) but rest assured this is one city break that is doable on any budget and I’m going to show you how…but first let’s get acquainted with our city of choice: Budapest, Hungary.

Hungry is part of the EU but does not have the Euro (€€) the currency is Forint (HUF) and it’s relatively low compared to the GBP or CND (bonus!). The city is mainly divided into 2 sections: Buda & Pest with the river Danube dividing them. The Buda side is the hilly west side whereas the Pest side is more flat and where most of the nightlife and restaurants are located. The city has roughly 118 natural or specially drilled hot springs beneath it and as a result there many baths and pools around the city. Have I caught your interest? That’s what I thought. So how does one travel here on the cheap? If you’re in Europe easyJet fly daily into Budapest from most major cities and our NA friends why not include a stopover here on the way to Austria or Germany – it’s a quick train ride away.

Things to do on the cheap:

We stayed at Suite Hostel and got the deluxe private room which ended up being a whole apartment to ourselves – it was perfect! Plus the hostel has entertainment in the evening (ie. BBQ on the Terrence, Boat cruise etc…) and b/c the employees are all travelers themselves they know what you’re looking for: free internet, breakfast & friendly service (to name a few).

We bought our lunch at the Great Market Hall where it’s a great place to try the local cuisine. Another good place is the ‘For Sale Pub’ located across the street from the Great Market Hall & beside the Burger King (don’t ask, BK is everywhere in Budapest). Also, if it’s sunny Liszt Ferenc street is lined with restaurants and good way to top up your tan.

Getting Around:
Budapest can easily be explored on foot but if you must…the metro, bus and tram all use a similar ticket – unfortunately you need a new one for each time you switch and tickets are only valid for 30 minutes. It’s a little cheaper to buy a pack of 10 tickets and sell any unused ones back to your hostel/hotel. Metro Line 1 is the oldest underground line in mainland Europe and has been recognized by UNESCO.

See: I love walking tours, I’ve said this before on Provoke, but the main reason I do is b/c they give you a good grasp of the city – almost like the Coles Notes to a city. There’s a tip-based tour running at 10:30 & 2:00 starting from Vörösmarty Square in front of Garbeaud Café

Views: The best view of the city is from the Citadel, it takes about 15-20 minutes to walk up but the views are well worth it.

Baths: I know this what you’ve been waiting for – I saved the best for last (gotta keep our readers on their toes!). The two major baths are Gellert & Szechenyi Baths. At the latter if you leave within 2 hours of entering you get a small refund. I went to Szechenyi Baths and was spoiled for choice with over 20 pools ranging from 18-78 degrees you’re sure to find your perfect temperature. Or for those wanting to workout, there’s also an outdoor pool for lane swim.

Start planning your trip today. You won’t be disappointed – promise!

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