Budapest, the Pearl of the Danube
At each of my trips, I arrived by plane directly at Budapest Liszt Ferenc international airport, but you can also reach the Hungarian capital by bus and of course by train, directly and easily from any neighboring capital (like Vienna for instance). From the airport, you can get to the city center with a bus-metro journey, a transport provided by your hotel or by taxi. For my part, I experienced the first two solutions, but the bus-metro ride remains the easiest, fastest and cheapest of all! Just after getting to the arrival hall, you will certainly be approached by drivers or hostesses offering a trip downtown at a specific price: ignore them (unless you’re interested by the offer, but watch out for scam!), leave the building and head to the bus stops.
There, you will find automatic terminals: look for the famous combo ticket for the city center, pay (everything is in English, follow the directions on the screen or on posters around) and stamp it once inside the bus in one of the little orange boxes. Ticket controls are rare, but it’s better to be in order. After about 10-15 minutes, get off the bus and head to the “Communist green toned” subway station nearby. Follow the other tourists in case of doubt or ask a local, assuming they speak English… A man checks your ticket, then let you access the platform. If the metro is already there, get on quickly because the driver will not wait for everybody to board before leaving the station… Yes, I’ve seen it, as we were only 4 on 25-30 people who made our way in the first car before the doors closed. When is the next metro? In about 15-20 minutes.
A few words about the Hungarian underground transportation system: despite the stereotypes, you should not worry about safety (presence of staff almost all the time) and cleanliness (very clean, much more that what I expected). I’m on my way for a half an hour journey towards the city center. That’s the time to get your map of the subway out of your bag, as you’ll have to determine the nearest station to your accommodation, which may require a change of line. Once again, don’t worry about it because it is included in your combined ticket and the various subway lines are well indicated with a color system. By the way, it’s hard to get lost in the heart of this network of only 4 lines. Getting lost in the Tokyo Metro, that I can understand, but there is little chance to happen in Budapest.
In all cases, travel time from the airport to a downtown hotel lasts in average between 30 and 60 minutes. Once you have checked in, take a shower or a nap, but people like me will have only one desire: go for a walk around! After an hour through the different streets and squares around my lodging, I’ve found everything I need: a few cheap places to eat, a conveniently placed ATM where I can withdraw Hungarian forint (the local currency), and a small supermarket where a liter of still water is only 0.49cts! Oh, also note that there are a few tramway lines on the surface which will take you along major roads between Buda and Pest. Great way to save time while traveling and to admire the surrounding buildings easily. The famous “Hop-on, Hop-off” red bus offer the same, but are subject to traffic jam! Then enjoy a good night of sleep before an early morning start, certainly in contrast to your fellow hostel roomates who will stay in bed the whole morning, if not more after a short and alcoholic night!
This article is about a tour of Buda, Pest is currently being drafted. Enjoy!