3 days in Budapest: Solo Travel Guide

Solo travel, in general, can sound like a crazy idea. Or maybe it could appear that you don’t have any friends or something. In 2018, more and more people are deciding to take some time away from their normal routines to get some space to think and see different parts of the world. Budapest is one of the best places for solo travel for several reasons: it’s inexpensive, easy to reach in terms of transport and also has many great cultural differences (which make it a desirable place to visit).

My first visit to Hungary

This trip included many first’s: first time in Hungary, first time travelling solo and the first time that I went on a city trip that wasn’t somewhere I had been before (I tend to re-visit certain cities).

A lot could go wrong here.

I definitely felt flustered at the thought of Hungarian Forint (HUF) and the idea of people speaking to me in a language I did not understand. Not even one word.

Hungarians

– Family oriented people
– Friendly (pick your moment)
– Direct and to the point (avoid chit-chat)
– Love a thermal spa
– Love the paprika

With this 3-day guide I want to explain how you can sample a slice of solo travel in Budapest, especially if you dislike the idea of planning every minute. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, see where I went, where I disliked, and the highlights of my spontaneous wonders:

The Chain Bridge

The architect of this lovely bridge which stretches across the Danube apparently once dared anyone to find a fault in its design. The bridge itself connects the (previously separate) two cities, Buda and Pest.

Every day, I walked across this bridge to reach the ‘Pest’ side where most of the places were that I visited. What I liked most is the fact you see cyclists, joggers and other locals strolling across it, looking happy for the most The tram (47,48,49) has to drive over the bridge which is a wonderful experience. If one day want to experience the tram, pick up a single ticket for just 350 Forint.

Chain Bridge Budapest

Drum Café

This place is great. I ordered a three-course meal, a glass of wine (0,2) and an espresso for around 10€. I actually came back the next day to have the goulash soup again, it was so nice. I suppose the reason for coming back was that the staff were really approachable. The second time, I ordered Hungarian pike served with vegetables for around 4€. And more wine. Thank you, sir! But shhh, don’t go telling anyone.

Why it’s ideal for solo travel:

Nice Hungarian food, good service, free wi-fi, very affordable. The area nearby has lots of bars to head to afterwards, too.

Robert Capa Photography Exhibition

After a recommendation from a good friend, I went down to see Robert Capa’s exhibition. Galleries are always good when the weather isn’t as inspiring. His photos were really powerful, he lived a simple life and always wanted to document action in key events in war, including capturing moments of D-Day, even if it meant getting dangerously close to the battlefield. He famously said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
There was another collection called “Golden Boundaries” where works from Hungarian photographers were shown. Everyone is used to seeing central european photographers’ work but Hungarian photography was new for me. There were some really nice portraits here that captured emotions, relationships and the idea of finding your identity. See more here.

Stika, Arioso and Kontakt

As you probably have gathered by now, although considered potentially a necessity, coffee is really something I enjoy. Thanks to the French and Italians I learned how it should be served and when.

When I go on city trips, going for coffee is always fun because you can actively look for new coffee shops that you haven’t been to before. In Budapest, as a solo traveller, you can enjoy coffee and flowers at Arioso, take coffee with “NO SUGAR” at Kontakt, or go to Stika for a late brunch (if you manage to find a table).

Why they’re ideal for solo travel:

Free WiFi, good/strong coffee and food options available for a 2-in-1 drop-in session.


Kontakt

Gerbeaud Café

If you want to go somewhere special for the Hungarian version of afternoon tea, I would highly recommend the Gerbeaud Café. Their patisserie-making skills date back to 1858, so you know they sort of have an idea.

Why it’s ideal for solo travel:

When you’re travelling solo, sometimes its nice to treat yourself. Their patisserie selection should say it all.


Gellert Hotel Thermal Baths

These thermal baths are not only famous in Budapest but also ingrained in Hungarian culture.

You can understand why.

There are different thermal baths heated at different temperatures, ranging from 36 to 38 and finally, 40 degrees Celsius. It’s super relaxing, the water has several minerals such as magnesium (also calcium) which is excellent in relieving muscle tension. I went thermal bath hopping at Géllert over three hours – for me, it was the highlight of my trip! Take a few hours, especially on a cold day to explore the outdoor springs and thermal spas in Budapest, it’s the best present you can give yourself as a solo traveller. Also: there is Szechenyi thermal bath which is super popular and slightly bigger than Géllert.

Why it’s ideal for solo travel:

You can fully relax and not worry about the fact you’re on your own. Enjoy the sauna, steam room and thermal baths to sooth your aches and pains – a good idea when the weather is miserable!

Currency

The Hungarian Forint can be confusing if you’ve never used it before. When I checked, 1 GBP was 355 HUF and 1 EUR was 309 HUF (exchange rate in 2018). The best way to navigate your way around the city is to use your Mastercard to pay for tickets, food, coffee… etc. As I live in Berlin, I luckily saw the light a year ago and got myself a N26 Black card.

Tip: Hungary is indeed in 2018: they have contactless payment and unlike in Germany, are not afraid of card payments. You can pay with contactless in most places or even withdraw cash from an ATM. Pick an official bank to withdraw cash, avoid Euronet, Travelex, Cardpoint and Cashzone because they exist purely to rip you off. Big time. I put my card in a Euronet cashpoint and it gave me the most awful exchange rate. I declined their kind offer, obviously. They are at the airport to trap the tourists. Strongly advise that you avoid these ATMs – if you can.

Why it’s ideal for solo travel:

Cannot recommend N26 enough: use it for the best interest rates on cash withdrawal and card payments. They offer the mid-market rate on exchanges and no withdrawal fees. The N26 Black card also includes travel insurance & cover if you get cash stolen within 4 hours of withdrawing from the ATM. It’s simply the best card if you travel often around Europe.

Where to stay

Finding it easy to get flights but no affordable places to stay? I made the mistake of staying in a hotel, next time I would definitely think about finding an AirBnB in Hungary. My advice is to do some early research, as you can find some studios for 10-20 euros per night – I love the idea of staying in District VI, near the ruins bars or in the more alternative artsy areas of Budapest.

Why its ideal for solo travel:

You can get a nice bed, you don’t have to share with anyone and it can feel like a secret escape. Having an entire flat to yourself can be exciting, cleansing and also peaceful. No one is going to steal your stuff, either. Win-Win.

How to get there

Coming from Berlin, my dear, beloved Berlin, the journey across to Hungary is very simple: fly with WizzAir from Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) in 1h20mins. If you’re coming from the UK, fly with easyJet from London Heathrow, this airline should, of course, have nice deals. From the airport, get a bus ticket to the centre for 350 HUF, which is an absolute bargain.

If, like me, you arrived utterly bewildered because of a) the language and b) you have had 2 hour’s sleep, then hop in an Autobusz and share the ride with max 7 others; it takes you door to door and has a pick-up service to the airport on your way back. Usually you can get this for 3000 Forint each way, so it’s around 25€ there and back. Quite nice to, essentially, have a driver.

Street Art Budapest


| Cologne city break guide | Oktoberfest | Munich | Bangkok |

If you liked this city guide, see the links above.

Have you been to Budapest? What were your highlights and what was overrated for you?

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