By ALEIX GWILLIAM
With hundreds of thousands of tourists arriving in Budapest every year, you want to be among those in the know to avoid unwanted surprises. Here are a few tips if you visit Budapest for the first-time.
In the last few decades, since the dismantlement of the USSR, all countries behind the Iron Curtain, such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic countries, have become interesting and popular tourist destinations for visitors. These countries still preserve some of the essence of the past, which mixed with modernity, make them unique destinations at cheap prices, since most of them aren’t in the Eurozone yet. Hungary is one of the prime examples, and its capital Budapest is the crown jewel. Budapest apartments are becoming an increasingly popular accommodation choice for those who want to visit this city on the shores of the Danube, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed to the tourist services in the city.
First of all, it’s important to know that Hungary still trades in Forints (HUF), and not Euro. Since it’s quite a weak currency (approximately 300HUF = 1 Euro), it can be easy to get confused if you’re not used to handling these types of currencies. If you arrive at Keleti Train Station, you may be approached by people who offer allegedly better exchange rates than the official bureau de change. However, their exchange rate isn’t correct and notes can be false so make sure to change your currency at the bureau de change.
Once that is sorted, try out the excellent Hungarian cuisine. Not trying its typical food (goulash) and spirits, such as Pálinka (try Unicum at your own peril), is almost a crime. When you go to a restaurant, some of them will try and sell you the so-called ‘tourist menu’. Even as a purist, you shouldn’t be put off by this since Hungarian people are very pleasant and welcoming and will strive to give you their best cuisine. The portions will be abundant and they will probably give you a free shot of pálinka at the end, so these are highly recommended.
Budapest is also famous for its thermal baths. Since most baths have cheaper rates usually after 7pm or 8pm, save your visit to these beautiful buildings, such as the Szechenyi, Gellert or Rudas, for the evening. A bath will be especially rewarding after a busy day in the city, and also more beautiful since the outdoor areas of the thermal baths will be lit up at night.
Last, Hungarian is a very complicated language and the Hungarian people are aware of this so a lot of them speak some English. However, if you can learn some basic words (Hello & Goodbye = Szia; Thank you = Köszönöm; Please = Kérem), the locals will warm to you and will go that extra mile to help you with whatever you may need.
For the highest comfort during your stay in the city, rent apartments in Budapest and enjoy your home from home on the shores of the river Danube.