We took a Fo Taxi from the airport (keep to the left exiting the airport and there is a little kiosk – it didn’t say Fo Taxi but I asked someone, have your hotel address handy) to the Bo18 Superior hotel which took about half an hour and cost 6250 Hungarian forints (approx. £16). We did speak to another couple at our hotel who took the transfer bus from the airport to the metro which took them straight to the metro stn at Corvin-negyed, 10 mins from the hotel. I would probably do that the next time as they said it was pretty straightforward.
Our room was a triple room and the beds were all singles and not too close together. The TV has no English channels but there is free WiFi in your room. We slept fine but had to leave the window open as the room was uncomfortably hot. There was air con but it wasn’t switched on (this was March). I think they have a heating/cooling system that governs the temperature throughout the hotel. We had to close the window the 2nd night as it was a bit noisy outside but tossed & turned all night as it was too hot. The bathroom was warm with a heated towel rail which was fine. Shampoo, body lotion was provided and there were soap dispensers at the sink & bath. Take your own conditioner. There was a bottle of wine in the room, 3 green apples and 3 small bottles of water (all complimentary). There was a chargeable mini bar and larger bottles of water for 600 frts each – a large bottle of water from the supermarket was 99 frts. The non-fizzy water is the bottle with the pink label. We paid for everything in Forints as we exchanged £100 before we came.
The breakfast at the hotel was fine. Plenty of choices and a chocolate fountain at weekends. We enjoyed the glass of fizz with our scrambled eggs, very novel.
In the basement of the hotel there is a tiny gym, hot tub and a massage room. There was also a cool water dispenser which we saw a young girl fill her water bottle from.
When we took the taxi from Fo Taxi I said “return” but when I asked the receptionist at the hotel to call the number on the receipt from Fo Taxi he said he could only ring his own taxi contact. I said we were told we would get a reduction for a roundtrip but he said this was not possible as all the taxis were regulated and no-one could offer discounts. I did try the number +36 (1 or 20 or 30 or 70) 2 222 222. I tried 36 1 2 222 222 and 36 20 2 222 222, etc but didn’t manage to get through so in the end we used the taxi firm organised by the hotel. This time the meter read just over 6000 forints and we gave him 7000 but no change was forthcoming. I know 1000 frts is only equivalent to £2.54 and we would have given him that as a tip but he didn’t even attempt to give us any change.
We walked to Corvin-negyed shopping centre which you can see as you turn left from the hotel. To get to the underground we went into Corvin shopping centre, turned right past Ecco shoe shop and out the door at the bottom (keeping left). Go past the shed selling waffles and you have the yellow cinema on your right. Follow the precinct keeping left and you see the underground on the left hand side. We bought a 72 hr travel card which cost 4500 frts (£11) and you could use on trams, buses and underground. You don’t have to validate this ticket, just show it to the officials who usually stand at the escalators. Be careful when buying this pass though (we paid by CC) as the ticket falls to the collection tray and I took it. It was only when my friend purchased her ticket I realised I had only picked up the receipt and not the actual ticket itself. She picked mine up when she collected hers. So make sure you collect your ticket AND receipt, if paying by CC. We were initially trepidatious about using the underground but once you get used to the names of the stations it was pretty easy. There are only 4 lines. Our main problem was finding our way out of the various stations to where we wanted to go but we always ended up there or thereabouts. We also used the number 2 tram which was recommended as one of the top 10 tram rides in the world (we never saw anything as people were standing up in front of us). I would take the tram ride at the weekend as you would see more then.
We also did the 2-day open topped bus tour with City Sightseeing. The cost was 5000 frts which included a 6.30pm river cruise past the Parliament Building. The problem was, because it was out of season (March), the buses were few and far between. The other Hop On Hop Off buses seemed to be more regular than the City Sightseeing bus. Still, for £12.70 it was a deal. He started off at 6000 frts but this dropped to 5000 when we started to walk away. I saw one of the other lines were charging 7500 frts for the same. I would check bus regularity before buying a ticket. We did get off the bus at The New York Café (they say, probably the most beautiful café in the world – possibly the most expensive, I say). We had a coffee and took photos of the inside which was really ornate.
Using the underground, we saw Heroes Square, the Central Market, St Stephens Basilica, the Parliament Building, Tram line 2 (didn’t find the Little Princess Statue) and the lovely Philanthia Flower Shop display.
We took the open topped bus to Buda and saw St Matthias Church (1000 frts for seniors, otherwise 1,500 frts), Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Hill & Castle. The views were outstanding across the Danube. There was also a Marzipan Museum so made a few purchases there.
We bought souvenirs in the Central Market. Downstairs as you enter from the metro keep to the right hand side and towards the end (I think stand D15) we bought paprika. 100g for 400 frts (£1.10). Ask for the little wooden scoop and she’ll throw one in. That was the cheapest I saw for paprika. There was homemade paprika but it was only in clear thin plastic bags whereas the red packets we bought, we thought, would survive the journey home better (they did).
Go upstairs on the escalator at the end and go forwards turning to the right – along there we bought T-shirts (xxl for 1200 frts each). They are well made and for £3 you can’t go wrong. Other sellers were selling for twice the price so be careful you are not ripped off. We also bought one of the medium sized (Russian/Hung) dolls (£12) and a shot glass (£1).
We ate in a burger bar 2 nights which was great value. We both had a large burger (came with coleslaw), portion of chips between us, a cheesecake (shared) and 3 large beers – total £15. I think it was called Burger & Beer and was opposite a theatre. The toilets were on the same level so no going up/down stairs. The service was crisp and English was understood. The No. 2 tram stop Jaszai Mari ter (beside the flower seller near Margaret Bridge) is at the top of the road so if you head down the street (called something like Szent Istvan) towards the blue metre stop Nyugati Palyaudvar, it’s about half way down on the right hand side on a corner. The other night we ate in a traditional Hungarian restaurant which was excellent but a good bit more expensive. They spoke English as well but there is always the fear you don’t know quite what’s going to turn up. We didn’t bring our swimmies so didn’t visit any baths although we did see the Gellert spa from the open topped bus and also the Szechenyi baths which was near Heroes Square. Seemingly they are the biggest in the city.
I would definitely go back to Budapest as I fancy seeing Statue Park, the Jewish Quarter and the cobbled streets of the Old Town. A lot of the buildings were in disrepair (looked like acid rain damage) – although there was a lot of restoration going on so it would be interesting to see how this was progressing. Budapest itself was extremely clean and we only saw a little bit of graffiti near the tram lines. We felt safe (more so than in Rome) and the people were extremely helpful with directions etc and very courteous.
We couldn’t speak any Hungarian but some words we found useful were (as they sounded to me):
Koos a Num – thank you
Civashan – you’re welcome
See a (as in apple) – hello
Vislat – goodbye
I prepared some easy price ready reckoners to keep in our pockets so we could see at a glance how much things cost. It was a lifesaver.