First time visiting Budapest, the Pearl on the Danube? Looking forward to spending your hard-earned money on shopping in Budapest? Or you came here to throw an unforgettable stag party? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are on the right spot to find out about some peculiarities of Budapest that might help you avoiding an awkward situation.
Budapest tip #1: Buy booze before 10 pm, because:
It is forbidden to sell alcohol after 22:00 in shops in the central districts of Budapest. Some shops have a special license, and they are able to supply you with some liquid volts, but try avoiding needing to buy alcohol late at night.
Budapest tip #2: where to buy cigarettes in Budapest:
These little devil sticks are sold only in the National Tobacco Shop – Nemzeti dohánybolt that have a unified design, and should have a curtain or milk glass, so that it is not possible to see inside from the street. You can also buy water and other sodas including liquors (!!!) and beer in these stores. It gets very ridiculous to see night shops with locks on their beer fridges after 22:00, and people buying alcohol in a nearby dohánybolt, but that is how it is.
Coming to Budapest with kids? Bad news, it is not allowed to enter the premises if you are younger than 18 years old. Leave your dog and kids on the street or get enough supplies before arriving in Budapest.
Budapest tips #3: Do not fall for this tourist trap – being ambushed by a person showing you kid photos:
Be alert and think twice before pulling out your wallet! A cheap trick of people at the Keleti train station is to approach you while you stand outside of it or sit already in the train to show you photos of their kids claiming that they are hungry and asking you if you could stretch a dollar or two. As I am travelling quite often from this train station, I see that several people form a little group together. I do not want to be too negative, but seeing these young guys, smoking and drinking alcohol, while they wait for another international train to come is just not making me buy the story of starving poor children.
Budapest tip #4: No Uber in Budapest, get a taxi
Or even better, arrange a pick up! Taxi from Nyugati and Keleti train stations tips:
All the Budapest taxi vehicles need to have by law a yellow color and have a sticker with rates on the window with the officially approved, i.e. not custom price list. This should make it easier for you to find a correct, licensed one.
Even a bigger tip I can give you is that licensed taxi drivers do not usually solicit new customers on the platform of the Keleti train station. If you want to have somebody pick you up, then there is nothing simpler than organizing a taxi pick up. You can often request that online on the website of Budapest taxi companies or by calling them. The biggest ones are:
- Főtaxi – link to online order form
- Taxi4 – link to online order form
- City taxi – link to website with their phone numbers. Operators speak English.
It is always nice to arrive at an unknown city and have somebody wait for you with your name on a piece of paper.
Budapest tips #5: how to be generous and giving:
You would often see homeless people taking cigarette butts from the little metal boxes attached to a trash can or from big ashtrays. Sadly, this is normal, and do not expect to get harassed or endangered by them as in no way they want to harm you.
You can also see local homeless collecting beer cans or bottles, especially after hot night around Deák Ferenc Tér, or going through trash bins in search of some food/booze. The metal cans can be returned to the shop in exchange for 2 HUF and there is even a bigger deposit for your wine bottle. So do not trash them to pieces as these make an additional source of income for them, no need to have you worry. On the contrary, develop the habit of smoking only a half of your cigarette and place the butt in the small black box on the trash can. You will smoke less plus you will make somebody happy too. Double win!
Budapest tips #6: get postcards like a travelling pro:
The Hungarian post offices are something between a service provider and a shop with unnecessary things. I am not sure what is the philosophy of turning a post office into a phone case/paper/electro shop, but this is how it is.
Did not buy your Budapest postcards yet? Then, I would suggest to get them in a post office as they are much cheaper than in the souvenir shops on Váci utca and nobody is buying them, so you can take your time to choose the best ones. Believe me, they will feature the same sights that are on the postcards in the city center.
One more thing – fancy paying by card? It is possible! So keep your coins for the beggars and use your plastic friend. Also, as you are in a post office, it will not happen to you to not be able to get stamps for your postcards. It gets a bit tiring to wonder around cities, buy postcards and then search for a place to get stamps for them as the tourist shop had none. Just skip the whole souvenir shop and go directly to the post office.
Budapest tip #7: return home as a millionaire (not guaranteed):
Ever wanted to win millions? Probably unlikely in your country, but if you are in Hungary, you can actually turn into a millionaire quite easily! How? Take advantage of the Hungarian currency and buy a scratch card! Be like the locals, who are very much into buying them and you would see hordes of peoples in the post office scratching with their oversized Hungarian coins in the hope of becoming a little richer. Why not join them, the odds may be in your favor this time!
Want to know something more about Hungarians? Read my series to befriend a local!
Budapest tips #8 for not getting lost:
This one is particularly tricky, so pay attention. Budapest used to be much smaller city and it grew by gradually adding surrounding villages to the capital as it was growing. And as Hungarians are pretty proud of their country, in many cities, you will find streets and squares bearing the same name. So for example, almost every Hungarian city has Andrássy út. In Békéscsaba, it is the main avenue, in Budapest, it is too. And there are many more popular streets that are multiple times on the map of Budapest – Bajcsy Zsilinszky út is 2x in Budapest and the only way you can differentiate between them when putting the address to your navigation is by the ZIP code. The one in the city center is 1055 (the third digit is 5 for the 5th district, V. kerület).
And btw always make sure you enter the correct name of the street where you are headed to. There is a difference between út (way), utca (street), tér (square), etc. Practice on the map to see the difference between Váci utca and Váci út. Big one, right?
Navigating through streets of Budapest is on the contrary quite easy. All street signs contain the house numbers of a particular block. That is very handy and eases up navigation if you do not want to use your data plan, or get the phone out in the public.
House entrances have little keypads, where you need to press the number of the flat to ring the flat and to have the door opened remotely. If you know the combination then you can enjoy opening the front door without needing to get your keys out of the pocket. Very practical. Staying in Budapest Airbnb? Ask for the code. The usual way to open the front door is typing the flat number, then pressing the key symbol and then entering the pin code.
Hope this list has been useful, make the best out of your stay in Budapest and if you want to receive more of my content by email, sign up: