anyone been to Budapest?

thinking of taking a trip in October. I’ve never been anywhere in Eastern Europe before and I’m really very excited to see Hungary. I’m thinking about spending 2-3 days in the capital and then going to a wine region and possibly to the hot springs.

As excited as I am, I’m also kind of nervous. I’d love some first hand advice on where to stay, what to do, what NOT to do, etc.

any help from the Dopers?

I was last in Budapest in about 1992. At that time, the place was wide open (as in hookers, strippers, you name it). Perhaps it has settled down some by now. The city is divided by the Danube River, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. There are many hotels and pensions that are fine to stay in. There was at least one large chain hotel (I think Hilton) at that time. The food is good and public transportation is excellent, as it is in nearly all of Europe.

I wouldn’t be too nervous, but be careful outside at night, as in any busy city. IMO, October is the best month to visit Europe, so have fun!

I’ve been to Hungary 16 years ago. We went to Gyor, Budapest, Matrafured, and Szeged. Great place, very friendly people. If you don’t know Hungarian but you do know English/German you’d be all set. I recommend going to the Balaton. It’s a gorgeous huge lake perfect for swimming. Though in October, it might be too cold for that. Budapest is cut in half by the Danube. The Buda side is more suburban and the Pest side is more urban. I would highly suggest trying to get a ferry/boat ride down the Danube. I remember back when I visited, the poverty and exchange rate was a little sad. We didn’t go into Hungary with lots of money, but once exchanged we were rich to regular Hungarians.

I did a quick currency check today and it looks like the 1 American dollar equals about 4 Hungarian cents. Roughly. Though I’m sure inflation takes care of a lot of that. Currency exchanges aren’t my forte.

So would you recommend staying on the Pest side?

How likely is it that Hugarians will speak enough English for everyone to get by?

I was also there as a 19 year old or so around '92. Interesting town but I had the worst allergies of my life while I was there (don’t know the cause) or some kind of throat bug (I passed it off air pollution at the time). We got by through pointing and gesturing and handwaving and showing the hotel’s card to the cabdrivers (as we couldn’t eve start to proounce it) and being kind of confused a lot-- the customs were different enough from Vienna that I was frequently at a loss (re: things like bathroom ettiquette; reading menus-- at the time there was VERY little English going on). There was a neat museum there.
We got hounded into a bed and breakfast way outside town by a taxi-driver/ bed-and-breakfast investor (apparently) right as we got off the train and had to take a cab into town-- so arrange something ahead of time and don’t take the trainstation solicitations at their word (I was 19 and a dope, gimme a break).
It was a very interesting place-- a rich culture different from western Europe with interesting traces of the soviet era-- great big plazas and such. A really fascinating (read: terrifying) subway system from the 1890s or something.
This probably wasn’t all that helpful, but, heh. The food was really good, too, although I’m not sure what I ate.

I was there in 1997, lots of Westernization was coming: chicken McNuggets, the Ford Fiesta and Pantene shampoo were all “Uj!” (new!) that year.

I didn’t say in a hotel (had friends who let us stay in their place while they were in Russia) so I couldn’t tell you about that.

On the Buda side of the river there is a cool art/museum/castle at the top of the hill. You can take a funicular lift (a sort of cable car) up the hill which is very cool and gives good views of the downtowny/Parliament area.

If you like geeky stuff, seek out the Museum of Electrotechnology. It was one of the coolest things I did in 7 weeks of Europe travel. Basically a bunch of retired physics professors, who get like 1 visitor a day, explaining how Hungary was at the center of electric technology. Neat exhibits, even if their English is a little rusty. (or was). It’s located on a dank side street not too far from the Chain Bridge (IIRC) on the Pest side.

You can take a cheap commuter rail to Szentendre (a vacation town) and then a ferry to even smaller towns on the Danube, if that’s your thing. Szentendre has a Museum of Marzipan that’s worth seeing just for the life-sized Michael Jackson made of marzipan candy. In Estergom (one of those tiny towns up the Danube), the big church has a museum of papal vestments, and the entire thighbone of St. Steven in a reliquary. (as you might imagine I go in for strange little museums)

I didn’t find the subway at all terrifying (but then I grew up in New York City) and the people are nice, if a bit dour. The main language of tourism is actually German, not English, so if you can pick up a few words it smoths the way. I speak about 10 words of German: 1, 2, 3, good, bad, night, day, please, thank you, yes, no. They came in handy.

Hungarian is so astonishingly difficult to learn that if you learn to say just please and thank you during your visit, Hungarians will be impressed.

Hungary has some a local fruit brandy called Palinka (comes in plum, pear, peach, etc.) and a truly vile herbal liquer called Unicum. If you want your bottled water without bubbles its “sin gaz.”

Have fun!!

One of the main things I remember about the Pest side is horrible pollution and diesel fumes but this is from before the Berlin Wall fell so it might be less polluted now with more Western automobiles. Yes, I highly suggest finding a B&B on the Buda side. We stayed in a really nice apartment that was rented out as a hotel suite on the Buda side. Definitely brush up on your German. I got to rely on my English because I had family in Budapest.
The fresh fruit and vegetables that are available in markets are superb. Definitely try to have paprikas and goulash while you’re there.
Hungarian is an insane language. It’s not Ural Altaic or Romance . It has some slight similarities with Estonian and Asian tribal tongues. Here’s the tips that I have been able to glean from my dad and my family.
cs = “ch” sound
s = “sh” sound
sz = “s” sound
g = “j” sound
nula = 0
edge = 1
ketoer - 2
harum = 3
naydge = 4
oet = 5
hot = 6
hate = 7
nyoltz = 8
keelentz = 9
tease = 10

Hi. Total newbie here, so please be patient if I do anything stoopid. Just had to check in on this thread, as it seems tailor made for me. I’ve been living in Budapest for the past 3 years, and my S.O is a native. Budapest is a great city, with a vibrant nightlife and an interesting cultural history, some wonderful architecture (sp.?) and generally, open minded and friendly people, especially amongst the younger generations. I first visited the city about 6 years ago, and even in that short time it’s changed a lot- become more westernised, lost a little (but not too much) of its rough around the edges charm and evidence of its communist past. It’s still changing rapidly, and in my opinion will change even more in the next few years, as the country is joining the E.U next March, so this is a great time to come for a visit. I would recommend visiting the castle area for a look at the musumes and art galleries, at least one of the old spa- especially Kiraly Furdo- a genuine Turkish spa left over from when the turks conquered the country. Plus do at least one wine tasting tour- there’s lots of wine cellars dotted throughout the city to try out- and nightlife wise- got your map of Budapest out?- try the area around Liszt Ferenc ter and Andrassy ut for the most trendy and livliest bars. oh, and make sure you try the food! a little on the fatty side, but totally delicious!

useful words (phonetically)

Kireck (please)
Kosonem (thank- you)
Finom (delicious)
El neez esht (excuse me)
Eg ghisi gedre (cheers, good health)

Edge kosho shirt kireck- A pint of beer please

oh, forgot to add, about the language thing. People generally don’t speak that much English- you can’t just stop people on the street and assume they will speak English, like you can in some cities in Europe. But, a lot of the younger people these days speak it, and all of the people working in bars, restaurants etc. should speak at least a little, and will probably speak a lot.

It tastes like concentrated Jagermeister mixed with PineSol and comes in a bottle that looks like the holy hand grenade of Antioch. It’ll mess you up good.

Hanza! Welcome!
I just remembered the castle ruins up on the hill-- there was a bicycle race circuit around it while I was there. . also there was a kind of church excavated out of some caves. . . and a [hotel?] with a neat set of mosaics and a pool? Vague memories-- I was sick AND drunk most of the visit. . .

If you have an extra day or so, make sure to take a train ride to Prague! Both cities complement each other nicely, and no trip to that area of Europe is complete without seeing some of the wonders Prague has to offer.

Beer and cigarettes are cheap, but everything else is pretty much on par with American prices - especially in touristy locales. And be forewarned - the food in both countries is rather…bland.

Furiously writing that down.

Awesome. And the phoenetic words are a huge help, thanks. What are the odds of finding a Hungarian on Tape set at the library?

As of now we’re going to hit up Budapest for several days as well as Eger and maybe a small town by the Danube Curve.

How long does it take to train it to Prague? Worth a day trip and stayover?

Introduction to the Hungarian language

I didn’t go directly to Prague but took a hydrofoil up the Danube to Bratislava (capitol of Slovakia). It was a very cool boat ride.

The third and tinyest town I visited on the Danube was Visgrad – where they have a very neat castle ruin and only one restaurant that I recall – but that restaurant served me a chocolate crepe that I will remember to my dying day. <drool> If I had done it over I wouldn’t have stayed over in Estergom – it is somewhat on the charmless side. Although there is a place to play minigolf.

I’m trying and failing to remember the name of the Panzio (B&B) I stayed in Szentendre. I know I booked it through the central tourism office once I got there. They served us breakfast at a table in their pint-sized cherry orchard. They even gave us a lift to the ferry dock! Nice people.

An article about Szentendre:

I lived in Hungary from 1991 to 1995, but to the east (Debrecen and Szeghalom). I did get to Budapest a lot though.

The Hungarian national travel agency is Ibusz and the have offices in most towns. You can arrange B&B through them and their personnel almost always speak English. If you go to the one in Debrecen, say “Szervusz” to Ilona for me.

Don’t change money on the street, it is almost always a rip-off.

Avoid the nightclubs in Budapest, when I was there they were almost all clip joints. Budapest has a good subway system (the oldest in Europe) and it will save you a lot of walking if you figure it out.

Go north. Satoralujhely, Tokaj, and Sarospatak are wine country and you can usually arrange to go into the wine cellars and drink up a storm (while eating bread smeared with lard and red onions).

You can’t get too lost speaking either English or German. Hungarian itself is bizarre. I learned it well enough to get married, but my wife says I only speak it fluently when I drink.

Prague is hands down my favorite European city. It is the one place I recommend to people who want to see intact old-world architecture. I believe Prague was the only major city in Europe that wasn’t severely damaged in WWII, so the old structures are largely intact. The Charles Bridge alone is worth the trip.

The beer is the best on the planet (IMO) and they also have a fiery liquor called ‘Becherovka’, which is (as near as I could tell) a clove-flavored vodka. It’s a great place to shop for garnet jewelry and crystal, as well.

[nitpick]Second oldest, unless you meant mainland Europe.[/nitpick]

When I was there the big problem was changing their vaguely-valued money, which should now be moot.

German will help, but it’s not actually common. English is fairly useless except in expensive hotels.
But smaller hotels and cafes in main towns like tourists of all nationalities.

Shh! Don’t tell them that!:wink:

It is also not a good idea to bring up either World War.