Back in Europe, baby! I was, as always, sad to leave Japan but this time it wasn’t to the point of tears streaming down my face as we take off. Two months of Japan with all its wonderful food were enough to satisfy me for a while. I was ready for Europe, which always feels more familiar and feeds me with its beautiful bread, cheeses, potatoes and sausages.
We chose Budapest to be our first Euro-stop this year mostly because of the location – we needed to be close to Poland as that’s where we were going next for some family time and friends’ wedding. We also liked it when we visited for a weekend 10 years ago and were keen to see how much it has changed since.
Our neighbourhood & accommodation
Oh, we chose wisely this time! This was the best Airbnb apartment we’ve had and our host also turned out to be fantastic. Such combo happens rarely, if ever.
We were located about 20 minutes walk from the tourist area, on a quiet street of residential buildings. With a great croissant shop downstairs and a supermarket 5 minutes away, we weren’t complaining.
The apartment itself was beautifully designed (that’s what you get when the owner is an architect) and had a lot of room for activities. It felt especially large after our microscopic “house” in Tokyo. For the first week, the distance from our bedroom to the toilet at the other end of the apartment felt like a really long walk.
There were two bedrooms, a separate study, centrally located kitchen/dining/living with a small balcony, a decent size bathroom (with bubble wrap as the shower curtain) and a toilet. We were able to unpack everything, hide the suitcases and really felt at home from the very beginning.
As we hit the jackpot with the weather as well, the balcony was used a lot for tea, coffee and wine drinking.
Impressions about Budapest – likes & dislikes
Tracksuit is a suit… kind of
When you walk around, especially on Sundays, you’ll see many local men wearing their Sunday best attire – a full-on tracksuit. Those are often complemented by thick gold chains around their necks and too-much-gel hairstyles.
Did we travel back in time?
Budapest feels and looks a lot like Krakow used to look 15 years ago. There are way too many kebab shops and ugly advertisements covering beautiful buildings. It kind of seems like nobody cares about the aesthetic of the city centre.
Watch out for poop-mines!
Looking down while you walk is a good idea. People of Budapest don’t like to clean up after their dogs. Once a guy saw me look back a few times after we saw his dog do a big dump and he pretended to look for the bag in his pockets, as soon as we were far enough he turned around and started walking away from the poop.
Unfortunately, it’s not just dog poop on the streets. Just walk away from the usual tourist areas and the streets are full of rubbish lying around, the buildings are tagged and some are falling apart. There’s also a lot of dust from all the many construction sites which you’ll soon see on your shoes and feel on your teeth. There are also places (like inner corners and underground passages) where dogs, as well as drunk people, go and pee on the walls which can get really stinky, especially on warmer days. It was, at the very least, disappointing to see.
When there are no ugly billboards or dilapidated buildings, there’s a lot of room for interesting street art. I really enjoyed walking around and discovering the colourful, large-scale pieces of art.
Pretty much all 4 weeks were filled with constant “oh look at that one! Oooooh, this one is gorgeous!” during every stroll. There are some unusual roofs too. Unfortunately, all the euphoria was usually quickly brought down and replaced with sadness as most of those brilliant buildings are either vandalized with tags or in a state of disrepair.
Customer service? What’s that?
Customer service is just not good enough in many places. The staff in supermarkets and restaurants are apathetic, disinterested and unpleasant to be around. Cafes are a different story though but that’s maybe because the people who work there are bouncing off the walls from the coffee fumes all the time.
Bad news if you’re a smoke-hater like we are. Budapest is even worse than Prague or Berlin when it comes to cigarette smoke. Everybody seems to be a smoker. The streets are full of clouds of smoke and cigarette butts and I seriously considered walking around in my face mask from Vietnam.
My favourite thing about Budapest – the market halls. Almost every district of the town has one and they’re simply amazing. We did a lot of shopping there instead of supermarkets as the quality of produce seemed better and it felt more personal to buy straight from the producers/farmers.
Budapest is becoming real expensive real fast. We were expecting to spend less than in most places we visited but in reality, it was quite the opposite. For example, beer was more expensive than in Prague, which came as a surprise. Our friends who visited Budapest just 2 years ago noticed the same thing – their hotel would cost twice as much now.
That’s a tough one. Most words don’t even resemble any other language we know so it wasn’t easy trying to pick up even a few words. Fortunately, English is spoken by almost anyone we talked to. We got the basics though, like good morning, thank you (even in the shorter way locals say it), cheers (which must be the hardest word in the world for cheers – egészségedre) or sajt which means cheese (a very useful word when it comes to ordering lángos).
In April 2019 10 000 HUF cost us around 49.85 AUD (at the same time, it would be around 35.56 USD).
How much do groceries cost in Budapest? For example:
- 1.5L sparkling water: 65 – 89 HUF = 0.33 – 0.45 AUD
- 6 eggs: 222 HUF = 1.10 AUD
- 500g pack of cherry tomatoes: 500 HUF = 2.46 AUD
- 100g salami: 550 HUF = 2.72 AUD
- 250g butter: 639 HUF = 3.15 AUD
- bread roll: 149 HUF = 0.74 AUD
- a bottle of good local red wine: from 1600 HUF = 8.07 AUD
How much you should expect to pay for:
- one small flat white in a cafe: 800 – 880 HUF = 3.97 – 4.44 AUD
- a fancy restaurant meal for two with drinks: 10 800 HUF = 53.37 AUD
- 0.4L beer in a beer garden or a pub: 1100 – 1240 HUF = 5.43 – 6.26 AUD
- a kebab: 800 HUF = 3.97 AUD
How much we spent in 4 weeks (2 people)
Accommodation: 1 471.43 EUR (around 472 650 HUF) = 2 345.09 AUD
Groceries: 108 897 HUF = 540.13 AUD
Eating out (we went out for meals, snacks or lángos 19 times): 70 457 HUF = 349.53 AUD
Coffee: 30 520 HUF = 151.19 AUD
Alcohol: 88 961 HUF = 440.79 AUD
Transport (public transport, Bolt): 8 700 HUF = 43.81 AUD
Entertainment (thermal baths, museums, tours etc): 114 470 HUF = 566.16 AUD
SIM x2: 7 380 HUF = 36.58 AUD
Total: 902 035 = 4 473.28 AUD
I was happy to finally spend spring in Europe – it’s been 9 years since I last had a chance to smell it (and that was always one of my favourite things about spring). I missed it but didn’t know it until I got to experience it in Hungary & Poland. There’s nothing better than smelling lilacs while walking around in warm spring sun.
Happened this month
Together with our friend Jodie, we went on a lunch-time wine tasting tour in the Etyek region. Four glasses of wine at each of the two wineries, followed by a three-course meal was a fun way to spend half of a Saturday.
When two of the top teams of Hungarian football league play in the city you’re in and your host gifts you two VIP tickets you go and watch the match. It was a lot of fun to see how the locals are supporting their teams with songs and giant banners.
Check out We Love Budapest for info on new bars, restaurants and events.