In many ways, Budapest, Hungary’s capital is similar to other big European cities. Beautiful buildings stand astride grand boulevards whilst residents and tourists busy themselves with shopping, socialising and business lunches.
There are though some things that are unique to Budapest that we think visitors ought to be aware of. That’s we we’ve put together this list, based on our own experiences, of things we think you should know before you go to Budapest.
Let’s dive straight in!
1. How to pronounce Budapest
The first thing to get right is pronouncing the name of the place you’re visiting. If you’re saying ‘Boo-da-PEST’, you’re saying it wrong. It’s pronounced, ‘Boo-da-PESHT’.
2. Budapest is safe and you’re unlikely to be hassled
It’s pretty easy to find stories from fellow travellers telling of scams and rip-offs in Budapest. While they may all be true, we don’t think Budapest has a problem with this kind of thing. On our visit, we weren’t scammed, ripped-off or approached by anyone. Even at 1am, we felt perfectly safe walking the streets. Budapest is just as safe, if not safer than most other European cities, so don’t worry.
3. Validate your metro ticket
This is a tip you commonly come across in Budapest guidebooks. We can confirm ticket inspections are very common and we’ve heard on-the-spot fines can be issued if you’re travelling on an invalidated ticket.
To validate your ticket, simply stick it into one of the orange machines at metro station entrances for a few seconds. You’ll hear a validation mark being printed onto the ticket and then a beep. It’s as simple as that.
4. It’s cheaper to buy your bus/tram ticket before you board
If you see a self-service ticket machine at the station or stop you’re departing from, use it. It’s always cheaper to buy your tickets in advance than buying directly from the driver.
5. Pedestrians have priority on crossings
I always wonder this when travelling to different parts of the world, so I’ve included this to keep you safe when crossing the road. Pedestrians have the right of way on zebra/pedestrian crossings in Hungary and generally, vehicles will give way to you. As always though, exercise caution!
As a side note, jaywalking is illegal in Hungary, so keep to the crossings.
6. Pay in Forints, not Euros
The currency in Hungary is the Forint (shortened to HUF). Occasionally though, you might find prices in shops quoted in Euros (EUR). Don’t be tempted! The conversion rate is almost always poor and you end up paying more than you should. If you’re given the choice, always ask to pay in Forints (HUF).
7. Budapest is very English-friendly
Against everything we’d read online, Budapest is great if you’re an English speaker. Almost everyone we encountered spoke English well or even fluently. Signs on the streets and in shops are generally in both Hungarian and English and every restaurant were visited had a menu in English.
That said, we always recommend you embrace the culture of the country you’re visiting by learning a few basic phrases. Here are a few to get you started.
|Do you speak English?||Beszélsz angolul?||be-sayl on-gaw-lul|
8. Don’t clink your glasses together
Thanks to an urban legend about Austrian generals allegedly clinking their beer glasses to celebrate the execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad in 1849, Hungarians don’t clink their glasses together when saying ‘cheers’. While the unofficial ban expired in 1999, many still uphold the tradition. Visitors are encouraged to do the same.
9. Look around for 5 star hotel deals
Accommodation in Budapest is cheaper on average than in other European capitals. We scored an excellent deal at the fabulous Corinthia Grand, so have a good look around for deals.
Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest’s City Park
10. Wear grippy shoes in winter
Bizarrely, we found the pavements in Budapest to be quite slippery after snowfall. If you’re visiting during Winter, we recommend wearing waterproof footwear with a decent grip.
11. Make sure you tip!
Unlike many other countries in Europe, Hungary has an active tipping culture. Generally speaking, 10% of the total is appreciated in all cases with higher percentages for exceptional service. For bell hops, give 300-400 HUF. If you’re in a cafe/restaurant, leaving the tip on the table is considered rude, so hand it to staff directly.
12. Never hail a taxi off the street
It’s easy to find horror stories about people getting ripped off by taxi drivers in Budapest. But it’s simple to avoid becoming the lead role in the next one.
In short, always call a reputable taxi firm and ask to be picked up from where you are. Never hail a cab from the side of the street. Fõ Taxi and City Taxi are two firms we used on our trip and have good track records. Even if you use these companies though, just make sure the meter is running when you set off. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask your river to switch it on.
13. Ignore taxi touts at the airport
There will be plenty of drivers touting for business at arrivals in Budapest Airport. Do as we did and ignore them. There’s an official taxi rank run by reputable firm Fõ Taxi just outside the arrivals hall. We have detailed advice about this in the HTT Guide to Budapest.
Do you have any other tips for visitors to Budapest? Share them in the comments box below.