Welcome you to the first in a series of posts to exploring Budapest – a jewel of Eastern Europe with a rich history, monumental architecture and rich culture. Budapest is one of the 5 cities I fall in love with in Europe along with Amsterdam, Florence, Gdansk, Ljubljana. It can be said that I had an almost perfect trip when visiting this city with no dead corners. Before going to the following articles of Budapest, I would like to share some of my travel experiences and what you need to know before coming here. So, is Budapest worth visiting and what things to know before going to Budapest? Let’s check out our guide to Budapest with the +17 Budapest travel tips (Budapest tips, Budapest insider tips, top tips for Budapest, tips in Budapest), Budapest etiquette, Budapest dos and don’ts as well as Budapest things to know to help you planning a perfect trip to the hidden gem of Europe!
- Where to go in Budapest — 9 top, must see & best places to visit in Budapest
- What to do in Budapest — 7 fun, must & best things to do in Budapest
- Budapest travel blog — The fullest Budapest travel guide for a great trip to Budapest for the first-timers
- What to buy in Hungary? — 15+ best gifts from Hungary & souvenirs from Hungary
- Tasting Hungarian Goulash soup — The delicious traditional soup of Hungary
Budapest things to know: How to get to Budapest?
Budapest is one of the key tourist destinations of Europe, of course, with many cheap and high-priced flights. I do not specifically recommend airlines or tips to buy tickets. However, I will share my personal experience to make it easier for you to plan your own itinerary as follows.
I flew from Palermo to Pisa, then from Pisa to Budapest. As I found, flights to Budapest from small cities are much cheaper than flying from big cities. If your “young and cheap” spirit is still at its peak, let consider flying to a smaller city and then from there to fly to Budapest. Ryanair ticket from Pisa to Budapest I paid only… 14 euros (of course booked 1 month early).
In addition, traveling in Eastern Europe (ie some countries like Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia downward to Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, etc.), with bus is extremely cheap. If you have a good health and can traveling on a long distance, the bus is also a good choice. My friend from Prague, taking the bus to Krakow (7 or 8 hours) costs 10 euros then continue going to Budapest (about 8 hours) is also only 10 euros. However, traveling by road takes a lot of effort!!
If you choose to fly, here’s how to get from the airport to central Budapest:
Take the N100E Express bus right outside, the ticket is about 2.7 euros. You can buy tickets from the carrier at Terminal 2B or direct from the driver. Every 10 minutes with a trip, traveling time is 60 minutes. This bus runs straight into the center.
Budapest’s Shuttle Bus: Unlike the Express bus of a private carrier, the shuttle bus is the public transport of the city. This bus only takes guests to the nearest tram station! Take bus No. 200E, cost 2 euros, catch the bus at the ground floor of Terminal 2. Tickets can be purchased at newsstands or information counters. Every 10 minutes with a trip, traveling time is only 30 minutes. There is a night bus, which is route No. 900, every half hour with a trip.
Budapest tips: Train
MAV train, the train run every 20 minutes, 40 minutes of traveling to the center (all trains go through Budapest, no choice). The train station is near Terminal 1. The cheapest price is 1,2 euros, you can buy tickets from ticket collectors or ticket vending machines.
Also of course there is the option of renting a car or book a transfer service. These two options are very suitable if traveling in a large group or going to Budapest at night. You can check out more here.
Budapest tips: Where to stay in Budapest?
In Budapest, it is best to choose airbnb. Budapest is a very “friendly” price destination compared to the common level of Europe. Renting a studio or a moderate apartment for 20 to 30 euros a night is doable (in terms of savings). And of course, any price range is available. However, booking.com has the advantage that it is often located in very convenient central locations. And you can cancel for free.
Basically, Budapest is located on banks of the lyrical Danube River. On one side is Buda, on the other is Pest. I recommend that you choose a place to stay on the Pest side. The Buda side is mostly “historical”, more ancient attractions. And Pest is newer, more vibrant, has a lot of bars and entertainment venues. In addition, the houses, buildings are also more modern. To distinguish? Pest is the side with Hero Square.
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Continental Hotel Budapest with room rates from $133/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Maverick City Lodge with room rates from $15/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Danubius Hotel Astoria City Center with room rates from $90/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Budapest Panorama Central with room rates from $63/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Corinthia Hotel Budapest with room rates from $184/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Danubius Hotel Helia with room rates from $81/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Ibis Budapest Centrum with room rates from $76/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget with room rates from $95/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- NH Budapest City with room rates from $80/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Danubius Grand Hotel Margitsziget with room rates from $90/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Piano Castle Hill with room rates from $39/night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
In addition, you can find more good hotels in Budapest on Booking.com and Agoda.com is also very good choice because local people are very friendly, many people are willing to pick you up at the airport.
Budapest travel tips: Things to know before going to Budapest
Franz Liszt is still present everywhere!
Franz Liszt is a famous and great composer who is extremely loved in Hungary! Franz Liszt himself was born in a village in present-day Austria (but once belonged to Hungary and Liszt himself identified as a Hungarian), he spoke German and French and died in Germany, he is still extremely revered in Hungary. There is a square named after him (Liszt Ferenc), where there are many lovely cafes, very bustling in the summer. Sometimes passing through this square is still listening to music from street troupes or free outdoor classical music shows!
Tips in Budapest: Hungarians are smart! Just ask the people who have won the Nobel Prize ^^
This country is one of the countries with the highest ranking (per capita) in the number of Nobel laureates – 13 people, counting back to the first person in 1905 to win the physics prize (according to wikipedia). The Hungarian also invented many things: from ballpoint pens to computer science. As Minister of State for Economic Strategy Zoltán Cséfalvay once said: “I am very proud to be able to say that everything was invented by the Hungarians.”
He was just joking. (Something like that)
Goulash – Hungarian specialty
One of Hungary’s national specialties is goulash (along with sausages and assorted pickles). But unlike other countries where goulash is a stewed beef dish, in Hungary it’s a soup. They serve it differently depending on the place, but I see at Vorosmarty market, they put goulash in the bread. Eat one portion of this “bread bowl of soup” and you’ll be full for the whole day.
Every year in September, the Hungarians also hold a goulash festival for people to compete with their own secret family recipes. Apparently in Szolnok (about 120km from Budapest).
Things to know before going to Budapest: Hungarians are “crazy” for paprika!
This magical red powder presents in every kitchen, from Grandma’s kitchen with warm home dishes to the professional kitchen of 5-star restaurants. It can be said that paprika is an important ingredient in most “special Hungarian” dishes. The Hungarians are so proud and loving of their paprikas that they put them in everything, including chocolate (I bought and tried it, it was quite fun!). And it’s also the only country I can count dozens of different kinds of sauces/dippings with paprika as the main ingredient. (That’s the perfect souvenir.)
Tokaji Wine – Wine of the Kings
Tokaji is the world’s oldest sweet wine, made in the Tokaj region of Hungary – where the soil is fertile thanks to the volcanic ash and the ideal microclimate. This wine is so delicious that it is said that King Louis XIV of France had to say it was “Wine of Kings, King of Wines”. The most famous in this range is Tokaji Aszú – 4th sweetness on a scale of 6 (sweetness is called “puttonyos”.) The wine was even considered a symbol of Hungary and used as a diplomatic gift.
The best, rarest Tokaji is Eszencia. Eszencia is made from hand-harvested grapes, which are then pressed to obtain a thick syrup-like liquid. The sugar content of this liquid is so high that it ferments super slow and can be as thick as honey. This wine is extremely expensive not only because of the effort to make it but also because of its “rare” – an entire hectare of grapes makes only… two bottles. Eszencia is not often bottled, but the quantity that is bottled can cost up to a hundred dollars per bottle. And despite such a high price, but wine farmers do not make them for money, but for its historical value and enjoyment. Furthermore, making Eszencia… was so expensive, 10 times more expensive than normal.
If you want to buy Tokaji wine, you can find it at Bortársaság (Wine Society) wine shops everywhere across Hungary.
Budapest insider tips: Want to enjoy the nightlife with endless partying?
Come to the Jewish Quarter. Here is a collection of Budapest’s unique “ruin” bars, each aimed at a specific group of customers, so the music will be very different!
However, if you want to find a comfortable accommodation, it is best to avoid the Jewish quarter. It will be very noisy at night, and since the cost of partying here is cheaper than the average in Europe, it will attract a lot of disorganized drunks.
You don’t need any city pass!
Budapest is quite large, but actually still easy to walk. It is much cheaper to buy a bus/tram/metro single ticket only when needed than buy a pass. Unless you have a specific detailed itinerary to make the most of every offer in the City Pass, you can consider to buying it. As for me, if you like wandering, you don’t need to buy it to save money. Moreover, the main attractions are very close to each other. Is it easy to walk?
If you intend to buy a City pass, there are a few types for you to consider:
Free public transport: 24-hour Budapest pass, about 5 to 6 euros (depending on exchange rate). This pass is valid for one day and unlimited travel on public transport. In Budapest, each place is a worth visit, so unless your hotel is a bit far (like me, I rented at Hero square), and a day go to at least 3 to 4 spots, it is not essential. This pass does not include entrance fees to popular attractions.
Entry Lukas bath: This pass is only about 12, 13 euros, including a locker in the hot bath Lukas bath. That’s almost half the price of the two most famous pools, the Szechenyi Bath or the Gellert Bath. However, this pool is not as famous as the other two, and quite far. If you don’t have time, I suggest you visit the other two pools.
Guided Tour Buda 2h and Guided Tour Pest 2h: This is a guided tour pass to visit Buda and Pest. This pass is completely unnecessary, because Badapest in particular and many other places in Eastern Europe in general, such as Bulgaria, Poland (especially Krakow), the Czech Republic,… all have a lot of free, guide walking tours, just show up. In Budapest, if you want to go on a free tour, you can find it here.
6 Top Museum Entries: This is a pass to visit the 6 largest museums of Budapest. This pass is valid for one day only. But Budapest’s museums are large and unique, visiting more than one museum is difficult and not advisable. It’s best to pick out the museums you like best. Admission to the museums in Budapest is not expensive, and there are discounts for students, children and the elderly. On national holidays, admission to museums is usually free.
60+ Discounts (10-50%): This pass can help you reduce the cost of many services such as swimming pools, museums, sightseeing, etc. There are a number of places associated with this pass that will offer pass holders a 50% discount on the entrance/joining fee. However, not much, and if you do not intend to visit a lot, this pass is not so reasonable. The most valuable one is probably 20% off in some restaurants. But dining in Budapest, if not in a high-end restaurants (this pass definitely could not work in places like that) is not expensive on average, about 8 to 10 euros a meal. Reducing 20% is not much, and the choice of places to eat is a bit limited.
Tip: There is a small incident when I bought the Big Bus sightseeing tour, I saw that they had a voucher for the customer. That voucher will include a lot of coupons at restaurants, bars or museums, experience services. Moreover, buying hop-on hop-off bus tour from Big Bus also enjoys cruise tour discounts. (Read more: what to do in Budapest to see recommended boat tours on the Danube). Whether to buy this service or not is still to be considered. Because Hop-on hop-off… is exactly like the bus, but it only goes to the most famous spots, and the operation time is quite short, until 6, 7 pm is the end. The price is also quite high. If you want to have an overview of the city, know a little about the famous spots and then visit again, and be able to take advantage of all the services associated with hop-on hop-off, then consider this. Otherwise, buying a map, taking the public bus yourself or buying a one-day pass is much cheaper. (Me and my friend bought a big bus for 5 days, it cost about 40 euros each. But got Silverline discount).
Want to see the shimmering parliament building from the romantic Danube?
Please choose a suitable cruise tour. Don’t pick one or two of the most advertised cruise operators. You can refer to Silverline company. This is a fairly new one, the service I used (2021) was extremely good, less crowded, delicious food and much and diverse programs. (See also: what to do and see when visiting Budapest for more).
Budapest things to know: No need to visit New York cafe!
New York cafe is an old European-palace-style cafe, and is always ranked as one of the must-visit places in Budapest. But I see that apart from the decor, the food is expensive and quite ordinary. If you have visited palaces in Italy or in France or Buda castle, you can skip New York cafe. What if you want to visit? Please reserve a table in advance, usually very crowded. It’s hard to get a table if you suddenly visit.
Hungary uses Florins, not Euros.
1 Euro equals about 320 florins. This number is not very even, so you should have an app to exchange money.
Absolutely do not withdraw money at Euronet ATMs.
Although the Euronet ATM system is convenient and appears everywhere in Europe, they charge very high withdrawal fees. Need to exchange money, just find local banks (foreign banks are still charge high). Or reputable money exchangers (preferably those located outside the central or old quarter). In fact, restaurants and services in Budapest still accept Euro if you really don’t have any Florins. But the exchange fee is completely up to them. Be careful.
It is not recommended to take an illegal taxi (unlicensed taxi), a lot of scams.
This is the situation of Eastern European countries in general. If you really need a taxi? Call Fo taxi or City taxi – two official Hungarian taxi companies.
Should only visit, not eat at Great Hall Market
This is Budapest’s Great Market, full of specialty shops. However, today only tourists come here. So the price is inflated quite a lot. But of course there are many other places to try local food! (See also: What to eat in Budapest here).
Budapest etiquette: Don’t clink glasses of beer and “cheers”!
In Hungary, you will rarely hear the sound of beer glasses clinking. Why? When the Hungarians lost the Independence Revolution of 1848-1840, the Austrians executed 13 of Hungary’s most veteran generals, then celebrated by clinking beer glasses and said “cheers”. So the Hungarians swore that they would not clink glasses to celebrate for 150 years. Today this oath has ended, but this custom still persists to this day, especially with the elderly.
But clink a glass of wine or spirits is okay.
In Eastern European countries in general, it is highly recommended to leave a tip for the waiter or driver.
This is not mandatory. But wages in eastern Europe are quite low. Please thank them if the service is good. And don’t leave tips on the table. Always give a tip to the person who served you. Usually 10% is a good standard.
Horse riding tradition still alive in Hungary
Hungarians loves horses. Especially since the proud Hungarians rode to conquer the Carpathian Basin. Since then, the Hungarian’s love of horses has continued to be passed down from generation to generation, not inferior to their love of sport. Their virtuosity on horseback earned them the name “Huszár” – the name reserved for Hungarian’s light cavalry (I know this from the game Civilization. This game is so good, you should try it out).
Today, many places in Hungary, there are still equestrian schools, and horse racing.
Visit Synagogue (a shul or temple, is a Jewish house of worship)
Please dress modestly and carefully! In Eastern Europe, faith is still very strong. Budapest also has a strong Jewish culture. They will prevent you at the door if you are dressed inappropriately for a sacred place (this also applies to cemeteries or churches).
Tips in Budapest: Safety in Budapest
Budapest, it must be said, is extremely safe. Although there are cases of interception of visitors, it is quite limited. But many days we came the hotel very late, 1am or 2am in the morning, and still nothing happened. I even saw many women walking with their dogs late at night.
Oh, today we stop here! Stay tuned for the next articles in the Hungarian series to plan the perfect trip! Happy traveling!
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Budapest you can refer to
- Budapest Day Tour from Vienna
- Private Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD) Transfers for Budapest
- Budapest City Card
- Budapest Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Széchenyi Spa Fast Track Ticket
- Dinner and Cruise with Live Music on Danube River in Budapest
- Budapest Walking Tour and Danube River Night Cruise
- Lunch and Cruise on Danube River in Budapest
- Danube River Cruise with Drinks in Budapest
- Morning or Afternoon Sightseeing Cruise on Danube River in Budapest
- Budapest Day Tour from Vienna
- Budapest Big Bus Open-Top Hop-On Hop-Off Tours