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Trip Report 10 Lessons from a Short Trip to Budapest - Sept. 2016

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We just spent two and a half days in Budapest, our first visit. A short trip, indeed, so here's a short list of insights we took away from a wonderful city. Thanks very much to the wise posters on Fodors forums for your advice.

(We are: two U.S. men in our 50s, experienced travelers, able-bodied, with little language proficiency.)

1. Hungarian can be a tough language, but try to learn a few basic words and phrases. It's not necessary, but it's appreciated.

2. Start your visit with a historic walking tour to get the lay of the land and some context.

3. Do not jaywalk. It is frowned upon and dangerous.

4. The Budapest Card is totally worth it, if you work it. We got a discounted airport shuttle, an excellent free walking tour, free public transportation the entire time, and free admission to museums we wanted to see, including Memento Park. Use the free guide that comes with the card to strategize.

5. Go to Memento Park. It's just outside the city limits but worth the trip to see this fitting tribute to the impotence of communist rule. And it's easier to get there than the website indicates (it's confusingly written). But allow 45 minutes or so to get there. First, get to the Kelenfold Vasutallomas station via the 49 tram. From there, take either a 101 OR 150 bus , not a 101 WITH a 150. Ask the park attendant where to catch the bus on the way back; it's just across the street from the park entrance.

6. No one ever asked us for or checked our Budapest Card on any of the public transportation.

7. Rather than paying for and taking the funicular to the top of Buda Castle, walk 250m to the adjacent garden and take the free escalator and elevator up.

8. The oft-advertised and recommended Legenda evening cruise on the Danube (we opted for the one with a free drink, no dinner) wasn't worth the time or money, we thought. Better to find one that features the magnificent view of the illuminated buildings and the quiet of the night air rather than the distracting electric glow of big-screen monitors playing a video that often has nothing to do with what you're seeing. We had to work to tune out the video and the canned muzak (let alone the gents sitting across from us who took selfies of themselves. The. Whole. Time.) Such a tour may not exist, but with so many tour vendors on the river, one would hope...

9. We wish now we had returned to the Jewish Quarter for every lunch and dinner. We had delicious meals and fascinating walks there.

10. Mazel Tov. This is where we had our best meal, a restaurant set in a whimsical "ruin bar"-inspired setting. Also go to one of the many ruin bars and experience this creative reclaiming of abandoned urban spaces. (Second-best meal: Kazimir.)

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    We were there around the same time as you.

    Agree that every bus we took, no one ever checked. And we used the bus a LOT getting up and down from the Castle District (we stayed at the Hilton - excellent choice!) That said, the Metro was different, and you often were met with guards checking tickets entering to Metro, especially on the M1 (yellow) line.

    Agree also on the jaywalking . . . it's just really dangerous because the city centre is jammed with cars; the buses have their own lane, so private cars and taxis are further squeezed. So cutting them off after they've spent an hour driving 2 blocks can be annoying!

    You should have taken the evening dinner cruise on the Legenda. Completely different experience. There were no videos or canned muzak. Instead, the windows were completely opened in the early part of the evening (it was a very warm night!), and our tables candle-lit, for a great view of the water, and the lit up buildings, like Parliament, and the bridges. Soft live music (a singer and a keyboardist)played gently in the background so we could talk. Fabulous food (we opted for the a la carte menu) at a very reasonable price, and reasonably priced drinks. Couldn't have been a better evening, even though I'm generally not a fan of dinner cruises.

    We had great food wherever we went, but I will admit we were there with my friend who was born in Hungary and had been back many times visiting a hoard of relatives that still live there. We went with her cousin to Paprika, down the road from Hero Square in the Jewish Quarter. A favorite with locals, the food was excellent (huge portions though!).

    Cherry soup still remains my favorite Hungarian lunch. It used to be served in the cafeteria at UCLA back in the '70's on Thursdays before the place was switched over to the God awful fast food bars. So, really good memories for me!

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    Thank you so much for this. We have done months of research, but are leaving tomorrow from our house in France for a night in Paris followed by a flight on Thursday to Budapest for 5 nights, a night in Györ, two nights in Bratislava, another night in Budapest, back to Paris for two nights, then home to St-Cirq. It seems we've spent months reading guidebooks and studying websites, but info-on-the ground like this is invaluable. Thank you! Oh, and I have what they call "a talent for languages" and speak several, but Hungarian has thrown me for a loop. I've got a few hundred expressions under my belt, but I'm hoping I can get by with English and German. Fingers crossed because it is an unfathomable language.

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    The language and the signs are indeed tough and I, like you, StCirq, have a talent for languages . . . except as life lingers, my ability to memorize is fading fast. Standard "hello" is (phonetically): "Ser-vuus" (accent equally on each syllable). Informal hi and bye is "See Ya". Didn't meet anyone that didn't speak English, although if they didn't, my back-up was French and German.

    There's a lot of history in beautiful Budapest and, to me, it was a gorgeous city, with trams and buses that run everywhere. The new Metro lines are way, way down in the ground with long escalators. The old line A is like taking one of those old Paris Metro or London Tube lines with the cars and stations beautifully lined with old, shiny lacquered wood. It's like you stepped back in time 100 years! And it's located just under the street, so no escalators. The pass, which you can pick up at the information & ticket booth right at the airport. Tickets for public transportation are available at the airport from BKK (what they call their metro system) at its customer service points. You can get multiple day passes and they give you the option as to what date and time you want the ticket to be valid. Alternatively, at the Tourist information place (across from the BKK) located on the arrivals levels of Terminals 2A and 2B, 24, 48 and 72-hour Budapest Cards are also available, which, in addition to numerous discounts, offer unlimited use of public transportation during the period of validity.

    We bought the BKK tickets because most of what we wanted to see was free (shoes on the Danube, the controversial memorial, Hero square, castle district, etc.). We only paid for the Museum of Terror, Matthias Church up in the Castle District, and the National Gallery, since there was a Modigliani exhibit going on that I had to see. (It just closed).

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