Many of my followers noticed that I no longer post pictures of Budapest but of an entirely different continent. Besides that, I also changed my Twitter profile from Katechka Magyarka to Katechka Voyageuse. Note: I haven’t changed it on Facebook because it doesn’t want to let me. But what has happened?
Before you get to know the reasons that led me to leaving Hungary, here are a few facts. I arrived to Budapest on 13.12.2013, and left on 31.7.2017. That makes it 43 months, 2 weeks and 4 days = 1,326 days. Yes, I travelled here and there, but 1,326?
That sounds “wow”! That was certainly not my plan when I landed on that freezing cold Friday the 13th. I was hoping to stay for a year or so, experience living abroad, wait for the political situation to normalize in my country, and see where life carries me. Instead, I fell in love not only with Budapest, and decided to stay longer.
Being a foreigner in Budapest
Foreigners are wealthy
This is a common misperception in the Eastern Europe – all the foreigners are richer than Uncle Scrooge, and deserve to be ripped off. And there are multiple ways for doing that.
You go to the non-touristy market at Lehel tér, but because your Hungarian has an accent or is not super fluent, you all of the sudden pay double for the fresh produce compared to the rest of the people with you in the queue.
Wearing luxurious clothes, reading a foreign book in the metro or even speaking a different language? Ripping off time. Let’s demonstrate you how handy our pickpockets are.
You manage to stop a pick pocket in his best? Don’t count on the locals to help you! They would just emptily look into their smartphones, trying to ignore the world around them as much as possible. But that’s probably not their fault, that’s how individualistic and indifferent people got over time.
Need to rent a flat in Budapest, but speak no Hungarian? No problem, just prepare monthly 20-30% more for the rent. You are a rich foreigner, you can afford that. Or not?
Going to a bar, and inviting a sitting by lady for a drink? This famous Budapest scam might cost you more than a few drinks downtown New York. Much more.
And yes, there is no Uber. Forget it, take the yellow taxi and get ripped off in style. Budapest style.
Need forints? No worries, the driver will bring you to the ATM to personally supervise you withdraw enough. Or to an exchange office nearby that surprisingly sells forints with a commission of 30%. Impossible is nothing in Budapest.
Budapest – the tourist den
With the recent terror attacks in Western Europe, it was quite obvious that Budapest will become the next hot spot for tourism. It’s a cheap, compact, and a relatively small city especially for tourists coming from the West.
The truth is, there are even more tourists than one could bear. I used to live in Prague for 10 years. My university was right by the Old Town square, I also worked in the city centre by Wenceslas Square. I know how it feels to be surrounded by tourists. But Budapest managed to bring it to an all new level.
Cheap airfare and other tourism drivers
With the bankruptcy of the national airline Malev, the city has become a hub for low cost airlines bringing in heaps of tourists every hour. Rich history, stunning architecture, thermal baths, business meetings, conference tourism and lively party scene. All these are the main drivers of tourism into Budapest.
Stag parties in Budapest
Also, I don’t know what is the decision-making process behind choosing the right place for a stag do, but both Prague and Budapest seem to be getting a lot of these groups. I devoted a whole article to why I hate the stag parties in Budapest, go ahead and read it now.
Walking through the historical streets of Budapest
But how does it look like in the streets of Budapest? They are packed. Luckily the Kossuth Lajos square is huge to accommodate all of the selfie-stick maniacs. However, the rest of the city is rather the opposite. Castle district? I recommend to visit it early morning or late afternoon. Else, head on head + cars + buses (cute and small, luckily).
Parking in Budapest
Coming to Budapest by car, and wonder where to park? That doesn’t have many easy solutions. In all the cases, it will cost you. Since many buildings have been taken down, and nothing has been built on the plots again. What does it make?
A perfect parking lot.
You just need to hire a guard, buy an RV for him, or buy him a modular living unit, and your perfect cash machine is here. Can work to launder too. I wonder how much money goes through the hands of these guys. Anybody looked into this already? Leave me a link leading to an article in comments below, pretty please!
Budapest, the car friendly city
And since Budapest is a city of cars, and many more cars, it would make perfect sense to make some parts of the inner-city pedestrian only. However, this will never happen in Budapest. Walking the city gets challenging with many cars parked on the curbs, too.
The Mayor of Budapest, István Tarlos has been emphasizing the personal vehicle use as opposed to the bicycles, bus lanes and pedestrians amenities. I dare say, I don’t share the same viewpoint. Funnily enough, the only place that is traffic restricted with fancy poles sliding from the ground, is the surroundings of the Budapest City Hall. Budapest has many unexpected faces.
Walking through the Jewish district
So, when you walk through the Jewish district, you get run over or hit by taxis or other cars, you have to navigate through parked cars, and if you take an early morning stroll (regardless of whether it is Tuesday or Saturday), you just have to watch your step. There is a lot of puke around. Bars in the Jewish district barely close, if ever. And since smoking is not allowed inside, all the funny business happens on the street.
Dior J’adore – edition Budapest
The city has a very specific smell. A combination of urine, decay and heat mix up the funkiest perfume. I once read that the Germans developed a paint that reflects urine. I believe they should donate a few cans to Budapest to mitigate for the drunken compatriots behaving like they cannot during the famous Oktoberfest.
Comically, the only time when I saw a cleaning truck spraying water on the streets was during the FINA World Swimming Championship that took place this July right before I left.
Budapest is loud and dirty
No, seriously, living in the city centre of Budapest is a nightmare. Not only you pay incredibly high rent, your neighbours change every weekend because of all those Airbnb’s, but you cannot even open your window because people are very loud in the streets.
And when spring kicks in, you have all those motorcycle maniacs driving super-fast through the city centre. Very loud and dangerous pastime. And police do nothing. I haven’t seen a single police car issuing a fine to any of those motorcycle aficionados. Yet, with iron regularity, they cruise the streets of the Hungarian capital every day. Dear Rendőrség, if you want a tip – Bajcsy Zsilinszky út from Nyugati to Deák is your fine piggy bank. You are welcome.
This is Budapest…
A city that I will always love. A city that will be deeply rooted in my heart, forever. I could probably never get bored of its buildings. But yes, the current face of Budapest is just super monotonous. Drunken tourists, omnipresent heat, underdressed girls, and loud streets.
I guess this could be summed up the best by the following story. Back in 2015, I met a friend of mine, a big party animal Manos, on the eve of his last night in Budapest. I asked him, why are you leaving? He answered: “This city is just too much of a party”. I didn’t understand back then, now I fully agree. And, I am not the only one.
The residents of the VII. district were demonstrating by the district office against the noise coming after 22:00 from the streets of Budapest party district – Kazinczy street and its close vicinity. Not New York, but Budapest is a city that never sleeps.
Budapest needs to change
I believe the change needs to come from within. I hope Budapest doesn’t do the same mistake as Prague. So here is my message to you – people of Budapest – do not ever give up on your city centre. Work there, live there, raise your children there, and most importantly have fun there. Do not let the tourists take over.
And do you know how to recognize when it is too late? When there is more exchange offices than grocery stores in one street. When the number of souvenir shops exceeds the normal ones. When you cannot hear a word of Hungarian, but only English in the streets. And lastly, when restaurants around the centre give up on having the menu in a local language, but offer it in 48 other languages instead.
This is the end of PART 1 —> PART 2
Curious to read more? How does it feel to live in Budapest? And what about the locals? Continue reading the second part.
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Want to know, where am I now? Follow my life trip from North to South America on Instagram. I post daily and also publish Instastories.