Budapest is a city that feels lived in: an urban center that isn’t manicured, where the people you meet, even in the city center, are often as likely locals as visitors.
It’s a place where people unapologetically sit back and enjoy the summer, and although it has an inexplicable amount of advertisements for “Thai massage,” it also has an optimistic amount of gelato stands. Budapest is a city where entire crowds spontaneously climb up and lounge upon the massive steel beams of Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge). After witnessing such a scene, we’re tempted to say “Enough!” with all of the liability nonsense espoused in other countries. If people want to climb all over potentially dangerous public fixtures, then let the people climb! Spending a week scouting out Budapest’s best places to kick your feet up and relax is the perfect way to start off a trip, for above all else, this city reminds you that every once in a while, it’s okay to just stop and take a breath.
The rule of thumb for orienting yourself in Budapest is to know your position in relation to the Danube River. If you know this, it’s impossible to get lost. Street names in Budapest are sometimes hard to find, but are usually written on white tiles on the sides of corner buildings. Underneath the street name, there is a series of numbers with an arrow (8 → 12, for example). This indicates the address numbers found on this block. The city itself is split into two sides and is divided by the Danube River, with Buda located to the west and Pest to the east. While Buda contains popular tourist areas such as Gellért Hill and the castle quarter, Pest is truly the city center. District 7 (in Pest) is home to much of the city’s nightlife.
Getting to Budapest is easy by plane, train, or bus. Planes fly into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport, from which most city destinations can be reached via public transport. However, routes change frequently depending on destination, so check ahead. Taxis from the airport are safe, give a price estimate before the ride, and generally take cash or card (though we recommend keeping cash on you just in case). The airport offers shuttle services to the city center through miniBUD (www.minibud.hu), which can be booked in advance.
Budapest is a very walkable city, especially within the city center, and public transportation (the metro, trams, and buses) is fairly efficient. The city’s public transportation authority BKV uses a ticket system, so each new ride requires a single ticket. Transfers between metro lines are free, but all other transfers are not. If you plan to travel by public transportation frequently, it may be worthwhile to purchase a 24-hour, 72-hour, or weeklong pass.
Tourist Offices: Budapestinfo is the city’s official tourist office, with information available online at www.budapestinfo.hu. Tourism stands also can be found throughout the city center selling Budapest Cards, which provide unlimited public transportation and free or reduced admission to many of the city’s museums. However, we wouldn’t recommend purchasing one unless you intend to use more than a handful of public transport rides or visit the majority of museums in a brief window of time.
ATMs: ATMs are available throughout Budapest and typically have options to perform transactions in English. Many show the exchange rate and withdrawal equivalency in U.S. dollars before concluding transactions. Currency exchange booths are also widely available.
BLGTQ+ Resources: www.budapestgaycity.net provides updates on BGLTQ+-friendly businesses in the city and is a hub for information on BGLTQ+ activities and events.
Internet: Wi-Fi is available throughout the city in accommodations, as well as often in restaurants and bars. Some major squares and tourist attractions also provide free public Wi-Fi.
Post Offices: Post offices in Budapest are run by Maygar Post. Information regarding shipping mail internationally can be found online at https://posta.hu. You can translate the site from Hungarian to English by clicking on a button located in the top right corner of the home screen.
Emergency Number: 112, English-speaking tourist hotline (14388080)
Pharmacies: Pharmacies are marked with a green “+” sign. Many are not open 24hr, but Delí Pharmacy (Alkotás út 1/B) and Teréz Pharmacy (Teréz körút 41) are two reliable stops.
Hospitals: The majority of medical centers in Budapest have English-speaking staff. The US Embassy keeps a list of English-speaking doctors as well.
US Embassy: The American Embassy is located at Liberty Square. (Szabadság tér 12; 14754400; hu.usembassy.gov.)