Despite the fact that my entire life is a vacation, I actually went on vacation last week to Budapest to visit a human male who isn’t a complete waste of air (more on that story later).
This trip was my third to the Hungarian capital, being a big fan of cheap alcohol, beautiful architecture and food which is largely comprised of different types of potato. Also despite my claims that this is a blog about travel, I realised I had spent almost the entire year in Spain, bar a quick creep home to the UK. Oops. So I packed my bag(s) and headed off.
Unfortunately, due to poor budgeting (and spending too much money on pincho-eating competitions during my six weeks in Barcelona), I was MC Hammer broke. Usually when I travel, I save in advance so I can afford fancy food and fancier gin, so this time I had to improvise. Luckily, the beauty of Eastern Europe is that, despite the influx of tourists over the past decade, it’s still relatively cheap to have a good time. Here are some of my top tips to enjoy Budapest on a lemonade budget:
Walk everywhere you lazy bums
Budapest is very walkable for most, and walking along the river (on both sides) means you can gawp at the Hungarian Parliament, cross one or all of the bridges, check out Buda Castle (trust me, the uphill hike is worth is, and cheaper than the funicular) and wander around Fisherman’s Bastion, all in one day. The castle and surrounding areas are beautiful, especially at night and are you even really in Budapest if you haven’t taken a gratuitous Millennial selfie in Heroes Square? This city is extremely Insta-worthy and most of the hot spots you can visit for free. WINNER
Invest in a few local delicacies, buffet-style
Let’s be real, Hungarian food is never going to rival the Atkins Diet, is it? That said, it’s affordable and very delicious. Creep a bit further away from the city centre to find some great authentic restaurants that aren’t tourist traps. I found an AMAZING buffet which, for the equivalent of four Euros, enabled me to stuff myself with various traditional dishes. I ate so much that I briefly slipped into a food coma, however, so I forget the name and address, must add later.
Close to the Budapest Eye are some great authentic places to eat langos – the Hungarian answer to pizza. Fried dough topped with cheese, sour cream and occasionally other bits and pieces, it will almost certainly contribute to a heart attack, but it’s cheap and delicious and a must-try.
THERE IS A WATER PARK
If you’re visiting during the summer months, Budapest is hot AF. Even cheaper than taking an emergency detour to Iceland, however, is the very cool water park on the Buda side of the river. For 6-8 Euros for three hours, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor and indoor pools, including thermal pools, jacuzzis, wave pools and GIANT SLIDES. Shout out to the girl who tackled the orange slide after me and flashed the entire pool, your boobs were acceptable viewing. Slightly reminiscent of a 1970s holiday camp, it’s a really cool place to chill out and has something for everyone – couples, families, friend groups and Speedo aficionados.
AirBnB rules, but don’t discount the hostels
AirBnb is having a moment in Budapest right now and for the equivalent of 50 or 60 Euros per night you can find some fab apartments close to the city centre WITH AIR CONDITIONING PRAISE JESUS. This will make you feel like a fancy person without actually breaking the bank.
If you’re backpacking or otherwise living on a budget, check out some of the central hostels, many of which are very cool and offer excellent facilities. Top of the list for me is always Hostel One Basilica or Hostel One Budapest – perfect for solo travellers, bang in the centre of the city and with a great vibe (they boast free day activities, free dinners and night time party party fun too). Having previously worked for one of their sister hostels in Barcelona (and having stayed at their Madrid and London hostels) I cannot recommend these places enough.
Ruin pubs will ruin your liver but not your wallet
Budapest is famous for its ruin pubs – bright, lively and often bonkers bars that make their homes in abandoned buildings across the city. They’re very unique and your money goes a long way – a pint is usually the equivalent of only a couple of Euros. Probably the most famous is Szimpla, a gigantic sprawling mass of bright lights, unique installations and themed rooms. It may be one of the top destinations for drunk tourists (you can even buy branded merch now) but it’s still worth a visit. Go during the day for a spot of chilled boozing or at night if you want to go mental (fellow Brits, I’m looking at you).
Take a cheeky pedal boat trip
Next to Heroes square, you can hijack a pedal boat (or a romantic old school canoe if you’re exercising your inner Lord Byron) and for the equivalent of about 7 or 8 Euros, you can pedal around and stare at other people trying to be romantic. Naturally I chose the boat that looked like a police car so we could follow other boats around and blast KRS-One at them for jokes.