Budapest, located in Hungary, is a gem for people who love culture, architecture and exploration. The city consist of two parts – Buda and Pest, divided by the river Danube. It’s a city full of amazing activites, wonderful food and a vivid nightlife. This is a quick, practical guide for anyone dreaming about a vacation in the lovely city. Note that Budapest is very easy to navigate as a tourist, but there are a couple of things that are good to know before you go!
Walking along Danube on Margit Sziget, the island between Buda and Pest.
Exploring the city by foot
Bring two pair of good walking shoes, and with “good walking shoes” I mean shoes that can withstand hours upon hours of walking. Budapest has so many things to see and if you want to make the most out of your visit, you will find yourself walking a lot. Those pretty sandals you plan on bringing on your trip won’t work for very long and your feet will most likely hurt if you insist on using them for too long.
Speaking English in Budapest
Not everyone in Budapest speak english, with that being said, we had no difficulty communicating with people and we had no trouble finding someone who could help us with directions whenever we got lost. Most of the staff working in restaurants speak english and they are quite used to tourists. Most of the menus are in english showing prices in both HUF and Euros.
Don’t forget to leave a tip
In Hungary it’s common to leave a 12% tip on close to everything from a restaurant visit to a new haircut.
The currency used in Budapest is called forint and will be spelled HUF or Ft when you look at menus or pricetags. Note that most of the coins are actually worth close to nothing, so leaving what seems like a big load of money when you tip might actually not be that big after all.
Finding your way around the city
Big Bus has a free brochure that comes with an amazing map that I highly recommend for english speaking tourists as it is illustrated and offers a great overview of the city and the many districts. The brochure can be found all over Budapest but you can also download the map for free here.
The view from our livingroom window at Izabella utca.
Renting an apartment during your stay
Hotels are cheap in Budapest, but I wouldn’t know what it’s like to stay in one because I’ve gone for the cheaper alternative – apartments on Airbnb – and I’m so glad that I did! On my last trip I found a beautiful apartment located within the city center, twice the size of my own apartment, with a balcony, dishwasher, washing machine and much more for $315 a week.
Transportation between the airport and the city
Forget about taking expensive taxis and navigating the metro!
As you arrive at the Hungarian airport, the first thing you will see is the Airport Shuttle service where you can book your transportation from and back to the airport for a total of 40$ for 2 people. It’s very comfortable, easy and you don’t have to worry about finding your way. Just remember to book your shuttle back to the airport prior to 24 hours before leaving.
Gellért Hill has a stunning view of both Pest and Buda.
Choosing between Pest and Buda
Lets assume that you are thinking about booking a room at a hotel or browsing the many apartments in Budapest on Airbnb, but you are wondering which side of the river you should choose when booking.
To put things simple: Most of the things that you might want to explore; The Central Market Hall, the many restaurants and the nightlife, the museums and more are located on the Pest side, with the castle district and Gellért Hill and Gellért bath within walking distance just across the bridge.
I have not had the chance to fully explore Buda on my own visits, but while planning my trips and asking for advice from people who have lived in Budapest or stayed there longer than I have, most people tend to recommend Pest as the best location.
Walking along Danube on a sunny afternoon.
Avoiding the heat
During my first trip to Budapest I went in April, and on my second trip I went in early June, both months provided great weather and very high temperatures. I have been adviced not to travel to Budapest during high summer, as it is already extremely hot in June. Going between April and June should be just perfect if you enjoy exploring and you want to move around without overheating.
Avoid Váci Street
Váci Street (or Váci utca) is the most touristy street in Budapest and if you ever go there you will understand why it’s wise to avoid it. The street is crowded with overpriced souvenirs and desperate restaurants trying their best to reach out to tourists. You can find more authentic souvenires, better food and a more comfortable atmosphere elsewhere.
Fresh juice at The Central Market Hall.
Don’t forget to drink
It might seem like an obvious thing, but it’s really easy to forget to drink when you are busy having fun. A bottle of water cost close to nothing in Budapest (somewhere inbetween 200-300ft). Have a bottle or two in your backpack, and remember to refill them as often as you can. During my first trip we forgot to drink before heading to the top of Gellért Hill and everyone in my group got seriously ill from overheating.
Last but not least, you might be wondering what a trip to Budapest could cost. Here you have my expenses for a one week vacation in the city. Note that while I might avoid expensive hotels and other luxuries, we never denied ourselves anything we craved during the trip and the money we brought on our trip was more than enough (and we went out to eat three times a day).
Plane tickets (Sweden-Hungary, Hungary-Sweden) 350$
Airbnb Apartment, 1 week for 2 people 315$
Airport shuttle for 2 people 40$
Spending money (food, shopping, activites) 580$
I hope you enjoyed this guide!
Click here to read about my last trip to Budapest.
If you have any other questions about Budapest please leave a comment below.