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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in budapest
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Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. Home to some 1.8 million inhabitants, it is the country's commercial and administrative center.
Located on both sides of the Danube River and featuring both the rolling hills of Buda (on the west bank) and the organized, gridlike layout of Pest (east bank), these two very different cities united by convenience into one city offer the traveller a Viennese-style aura at half the price. But Budapest (pronounced "BOO-dah-pesht") is still very much its own city. The people are charming, and for the most part very helpful. They are proud of what this ancient capital has to offer, and proud of their contributions to European culture, especially in the field of music, a universal language one doesn't need to speak to appreciate.
Budapest is administratively divided into 23 districts, but for time being Wikitravel uses a simpler division:
Ferihegy International Airport (BUD, Ferihegyi nemzetkozi repül?tér; pronounced "Ferry-hed'") is the country's largest airport and the hub of the Hungarian national carrier Malév (http://www.malev.com). It has two terminals a few kilometers apart, imaginatively entitled Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
As of September 2005 the small but renewed Terminal 1 (originally opened May 7, 1950) is being used by discount air companies. There are numerous low-budget airlines serve Budapest including, EasyJet, Wizz Air, Sky Europe, Air Berlin, Germanwings, Malmo Aviation, Norwegian Air, Sterling and Jet2.
The more spacious Terminal 2 (dated November 1, 1985) is further split into terminal 2A, used mostly by Malév, Air Malta, Moldavian Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Carpatair and 2B, used by everybody else.
One way of getting to and from the airport is to take the Airport Minibus, a "shared taxi"-type operation that rounds up passengers going in the same direction and will take you to or from anywhere in Budapest for a flat fee of 2100 Forint (approx. 10 EURO) per person. Join the queue at the airport and you'll be on your way in 15 minutes; for the trip back, call the center (pref. with 24h advance notice) and they'll be there to pick you up.
Another option is to take a normal taxi. It's somewhat faster than the Airport Minibus and if you're not travelling alone it will also be cheaper; the official fare is around 3500-4500 forints per car, depending on whether you go to Buda or Pest.
The cheapest way is to take Reptér busz (http://www.bkv.hu/angol/busz/reptervissza.html) from Terminal 2 or Bus No. 93 (http://www.bkv.hu/angol/busz/93.html) from Terminal 1 to K?bánya-Kispest, from where you can continue on to central Pest with the blue metro (http://www.bkv.hu/angol/metro/metro3.html) for a total cost of two tickets (320 forints at time of writing).
Budapest has a number of train stations (pályaudvar), the main ones being Keleti(Eastern), Déli(Southern) and Nyugati(Western). Be sure to check where your train is leaving from! The stations aren't named for their geographic location in the city, neither for the direction of the destinations served by each. For instance trains to Vienna leave from Keleti. Transferring is fairly painless, as Keleti and Déli are both on the subway red line, while Nyugati is just a few stops away on the blue line.
There is a scheduled hydrofoil service on the Danube to and from Vienna and Bratislava daily between early April and early November operated by Mahart 1 (http://www.web-set.hu/webset32.cgi?Mahart_P@@EN@@38@@370949001).
Public transportation in Budapest is run by BKV (http://www.bkv.hu/angol/home/index.html), which has a useful English-language site. As of July 2005, single tickets cost 170 Ft a pop, or 200 Ft if you buy them on boarding. It's probably best to get a day pass (1750 Ft)or a discount coupon book (10 tickets for 1450) or a tourist ticket (2700 for 3 days) rather than try to understand the byzantine system of transfers, however, or risk getting fined. Most up-to-date information about tickets and prices can be found on BKV's ticket and pass information site (http://www.bkv.hu/angol/jegyek/index.html). One ticket is good for only one direction on one line. Ticketing is apparently based on the honour system, but they do check tickets at major exits quite frequently.
The Budapest Card (http://www.budapestinfo.http://wikitravel.org/en/card/main) is an excellent discount card for travel within the city. You can get it in 2 or 3 day versions, and along with allowing free travel on all public transport, it also gives you discounts at museums, restaurants etc. At time of writing, the 2-day card is 4700 Ft while the 3-day card is 5900 Ft.
You might get lost in Budapest or be unable to find a bus or tramline using the maps found in foreign published guidebooks (many tourists experience this problem). Buy a map of Budapest produced in Hungary, and you won't have problems! There are many bookshops (konyvesbolt or konyváruház in Hungarian) in the city, where you can buy a map for approximately 1000-1300 HUF (4-5 ?).
Budapest's metro, consisting of three main lines, is the oldest in continental Europe. It's in good condition and an excellent way to get around the city. The yellow M1 line sometimes still uses old wooden metro cars, and is a fun change from the ordinary, Soviet-style steel metros seen elsewhere in Central Europe. Sometimes called the Millenary Metro, because it was built to celebrate the thousandth year of Hungarian nationhood in 1896 along with the Millenary Monument, the yellow line was recently renovated for its hundredth anniversary. The stations covered in white and dark brown-red ceramic tile signs are the originals. They are easily distinguished from the Soviet-style metro stations and cars on the other two lines, the red M2 line and the blue M3 line.
Be careful of ticket inspectors who prowl the platforms and stations of Budapest's metro and seem particularly keen to target tourists. You must have a ticket for each trip or interchange on the metro; pleas of ignorance will go unheard. If you're issued with a fine by one of these blue-green armbanded officers, it is cheaper to pay on the spot (HUF 2,000, or about USD 10) than later by mail (HUF 6,500, or about USD 33, if paid within 30 days). The transit authorities have no power of arrest. The ticket inspectors usually speak enough English, German or Russian to get their point across.
Trams are tourist-friendly way of getting around, slower but more scenic than the subway and particularly useful on the nearly subway-less Buda side of the river.
The two lines serving along the Danube (no. 19 on Buda and no. 2 on Pest) are considered as a part of the cityscape. Let yourself ride the yellow trams and enjoy the view from them.
The 4-6 tram is easily the most useful tram in the city, following Pest's inner ring road, providing access to all three metro lines at multiple stations, and crossing over to Buda on the Margaret Bridge - another beautiful view. Although technically two lines, 4 and 6 only diverge for their last two stops, which the tourist is unlikely to visit.
Where the trams don't go, there are buses. Budapest has a dense bus network, also with connections to the surrounding cities.
Budapest has a good night transportation system. Nightbus line numbers are triple-digit, starting with number '9'. Buses run every 15-60 minutes from around 11 p.m. until 4 a.m.; you need the same ticket as for daytime. The main linking points of the nightbus network are Moszkva tér and Astoria, but you can find a night line in any tourist part of the city. It's suggested to buy a map of the nightbus network (available at BKV ticket offices), because there are 29 lines leaving for several parts of Budapest.
You can also use BKV Plc.'s site (http://www.bkv.hu/ejszakai/index.html) for checking the actual lines (unfortunately there's only a Hungarian version of this page yet, because of the night network's renewal - the English version is hopefully coming soon)!
HÉV suburban railways connect central Budapest to several suburbs but are of little use to most visitors, with the notable exception of the line to scenic little upriver Szentendre. The same train takes you to Sziget Fesztivál (http://www.sziget.hu), Central Europe's biggest summer festival. Connect from Batthyány tér on the subway red line.
Apart from the summer holiday Budapest has a heavy traffic with long-lasting traffic jams in the morning and in the afternoon. If you don't want to spend your visit to Budapest in a traffic jam, leave your car in the hotel's garage, and use the public transport.
If you happen to cross the downtown driving a car, plan your journey otherwise you can get into tough situations. For example you mustn't turn left in most of the crossings of the Great Boulevard (Nagykorút) or on the main avenues like Andrássy út, Váci út, Üll?i út or Rákóczi út.
Use one of the taxi companies with English speaking switchboards - these are generally efficient and reasonably priced. Taxis hailed on the street or at taxi ranks may charge inflated prices.
A map of the city: http://www.fsz.bme.hu/hungary/budapest/cgi-bin/search_tkp
Aside from the river itself, the best reference points for orienting yourself are the bridges crossing the river. From north to south, they are:
The main sights on Castle Hill are:
The Danube Bridges, especially the Chain Bridge (see Orientation above) are really attractive and make it worthy to promenade along the river bank. You can have a superb glimpse over them from the Citadella on the top of Buda's Gellert Hill (Gellérthegy).
Margaret Island (Margitsziget) and its large parks (see Buda) is a very pleasant place to relax and wander. Perfect for a sunny afternoon!
Downtown (Belváros) of Pest is the administrative and business centre of Budapest and the whole of Hungary. The main sights here are:
Aquincum was a city in the Roman times, it's remains are turned into a great open-air museum. It's situated in the Óbuda district of northern Buda.
Gül Baba Türbéje is the shrine where Gül Baba (literally Rose Father, from whom the Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) was named) lies. He was a rich turkish merchant in the Ottoman times. When I visited the place hosted a modern art fair. Also offers a nice view and the little street which leads down the hill from there contains more houses that won the "House of the Year" award.
Victor Vasarely (1908-1997) (Vásárhelyi Gy?z?) Museum shows many of this famous hungarian post-modern painter's works.
Most of the visitors from far away end up shopping in Pest in the middle of the city: Váci utca and nearby. It is historically the most expensive part of the city. You may want to check Nagy Vásárcsarnok at F?vám tér the recently renovated markethall with essential atmosphere.
There are hypermarkets like Auchan, Tesco, Cora where daily stuff and food is cheap, and they offer usually wide range of articles. The "plaza"s are usually good for buying clothes, but prices may wildly differ even in the shops next to each others. For electronics the cheap supermarkets like Electro World, Media Markt are good targets but their prices match the quality.
Local specialties include paprikás, gulyás, Lake Balaton pike-perch (fogas), porkolt (a goulash-like stew with lots of onions), halászlé (fishermen's soup served differently by regions), stuffed cabbage, and liberal use of paprika.
Coffeehouses (kaveház) are a Budapest institution and visit to one should be on every visitor's agenda. As the name implies, these are places for a cup of coffee and a delectable pastry, not a full meal.
For high-quality, medium-budget (>3000F) food, try the Berliner Restaurant on Raday Utca.
Budapest offers plenty of places to drink, from cool and ultrahip to rowdy and downmarket. One particularly Hungarian experience is to visit a borozó (wine pub), where cheap but tasty Hungarian wine is available on tap, at ridiculously low prices if you find one off the tourist circuit.
Budapest offers a wide range of accommodation in all price classes, although the costs of staying here are notably higher than elsewhere in Hungary. Arriving trains are often met by touts offering free rides to hostels, as well as little old grannies offering their apartments for rent. Try to figure out exactly where you're going before you choose — or, better yet, visit any of the many travel agencies to browse the many options in a more comfortable environment.