Travel on a shoestring : Budapest
Seeking a few days away-from-it-all, HOT’s Bev Francis, flew to Budapest, discovering a location which shares some interesting similarities with her home town of Hastings.
Flights to Budapest cost around £160 pounds return with easy jet and the journey time is around an hour and a half, travelling from Gatwick.
Accommodation varies in price and quality, but you can find many bargain apartments online and deal directly with the vendor to bag a great deal. We managed to find a very good deal right in the heart of the city. The apartment cost us 35 Euros a night and could sleep up to 3 three sharing the one room. The entrance to our apartment was through a communal door that was covered in graffiti, leading into a dilapidated courtyard that may alarm some. However, the apartment was tastefully decorated inside and was fresh, clean and cosy – and although the gas heating was antique, it worked a treat. The kitchen area was well equipped if you chose to eat in. For the price, we were delighted.
Our apartment was surrounded by places to eat of varying quality and styles; the choice was vast. On our first evening, we managed to get a three course meal for a mere £25 including a carafe of rather quaffable wine. Our best bargain though was a lunch time three course meal in a very fashionable restaurant/bar at an amazing £4 a head.
Food was so cheap, we never once ate in
Four days was perfect for exploring and travelling around on the trams and underground. You can purchase three day travel passes at the underground station. We visited the parks on the Buda side of the Danube, where you can visit caves, ride the funicular railway and look around the castle; sounds like it could be twinned with Hastings.
Shops are varied with some interesting local designer shops spread all over town and vintage clothing is popular. There is a shop that sells only brushes; sounds familiar!
We also spent an afternoon in one of the many ancient spa baths. We chose a less touristy one, recommended to us by an Irish boy called Brendon, who’d lived in Budapest for the last four years and gave us lots of good advice about where to visit. The baths were fun once we had worked out how to enter the building and hire a towel from a lady selling some interesting thick nylon swimsuits and flowery swimming hats from a fold-up table.
Don’t expect anyone to speak English here; we had to get by with sign language, which was rather refreshing. It began to snow while we sat outside in the warm sulphurous spa water, which was rather romantic, although I was in awe of the sunbathers at the side of the pool!
Don’t miss the Terror Museum. A moving record of life in 20thHungary, it contains exhibits related to the fascists and communist dictatorships and in the basement there is a memorial to those tortured, interrogated and killed in the building. The basement is set out as the victims would have seen it – and the gallows are still there. Listening to the survivors’ stories is harrowing.
Evenings in Budapest are brilliant for those short on cash
Budapest’s famous ‘Ruin Pubs’ are great for cheap drink and great atmosphere. These bars have sprung up in disused buildings and act as community centres, showing films and live music. There are no rules in the pubs and each one is different and decorated in its own particular style; you can spend all evening going from one to another. These pubs are friendly and people of all ages frequent them. Because these pubs are in ruined buildings, don’t expect luxury, but do expect creativity.
Later in the evening, they can become crowded and because the music from bar to bar varies, you can wander from place to place to find music to suit your taste. Be prepared to dance the night away! Budapest is worth a visit for the ruin pubs alone.
We went for our visit during the week, so we missed the weekend designer market called Wamp and the flea markets were closed – and so we need to go back to check them out and discover more ruin pubs.
Details of accommodation here.
Details of ruin pubs here.