When I met my friend Jodie in Budapest in August, it was my third visit.
The first time was pretty much unsuccessful – not Budapest’s fault.
The second time was also relatively unsuccessful – again, not Budapest’s fault.
The third time’s the charm.
I jumped on the Flix bus in Graz to start my journey. This is a great European-wide bus service. In relative terms, it’s cheap, reliable and decent. Of course you can always have a bad experience, but I have nothing to complain about.
So after a short stop at Vienna airport I arrived in Budapest and negotiated the scary subway. I’d read online about tourists getting scammed for not validating tickets. My tip: if you can, just go to information and buy a ticket from a real person, then validate it. It’s easy if you have the prior knowledge. I also had no coins on me at the time so going to customer service meant I not only had the right ticket, but also that I could break a note.
Tip: Hungary does not use the Euro. Despite going there twice before, I didn’t remember this until two day’s before departure.
It was mid-August and Budapest was hot. Hot, I tell you. Like 37 degrees in the afternoon hot. No city is nice in that heat but we didn’t let it get us down. Budapest is a fantastic city. Despite my two previous visits being less than ideal and despite the heat, I really enjoyed it. You can just keep going back there again and again. For a city, it’s damn beautiful, and it’s so big it feels like you could explore forever.
Our first night took us within spitting distance from the hotel to an American bar. Oh, I know I know. We should have had Hungarian food. But we were tired, and damn I miss burgers and ribs. We had a share platter and it was awesome. Then us grandmas were in bed by 9pm. Tuckered out from travelling and tuckered out from the heat.
The next day we jumped on the Hop on Hop off bus… or the ho-ho bus as we affectionately named it. I wouldn’t normally do this – I’m more of a walk around or jump on the train kind of girl. But Budapest is such a big city – if you want an instant overview and to see all the big sites in one hit then it’s a good way to go. Tip: remember which bus company you’re with – there are multiple ho-ho busses… and we waited at a bus stop for 40 minutes before realizing we should have been up the street a bit.
So after a full day on the ho ho bus… we were again very tired. And hot. So after a shower and some wine and cheese in our room, off we went to the cute little Hungarian restaurant on the corner. The food was decent, the service poor, but it allowed us to stumble home only a short distance and fall into bed at about 9:13.
After the intense ho-ho bus experience it was our final day and we decided to take it easy. In the morning we wandered over to Margaret Island – which is a great place to chill in amongst the trees. There’s plenty to do if you’re keen – we visited the mini zoo and ate gelato. That’s about all we could handle. In the afternoon we shopped for souvenirs, went to the shopping mall and had drinks in the park. It was glorious. We thought about visiting the famous baths, and I know they’re the can’t miss in Budapest, but we just couldn’t face sitting in a hot thermal pool with thousands of other people, so we skipped it. Something for next time.
We went all the way around the corner for dinner this time – our hotel (NH Budapest) was in a great location with plenty of restaurants nearby. And guess what, we went to bed early because… well… grandmas.
We caught the bus back to Austria the next day, which was a very smooth, almost empty bus ride of around 5 hours… complete with toilet stop, no chance of getting left behind and air-conditioned comfort.
Budapest, I will be back… maybe when it’s cooler next time. Maybe I’ll even do the baths.