Hobo Advice

Make sure to walk around and explore the city as much as you can. Budapest has some of the most amazing architecture in Europe and nearly any place you walk, you're sure to find something new. If you like nightlife, Budapest's ruin pubs are really fun and surprisingly cheap, meaning you can have an absolutely ridiculous night for about the equivalent of $10-15. Most of all, MAKE SURE TO VISIT THE CAVES! Even more so than the nightlife and the architecture, this is a truly unique and exciting experience you cannot have in other places.

WARNING: beware of the bus company Orange Ways which 'operates' out of Hungary. My friend Blake and I bought tickets from them thinking they were the cheapest option, but they cancelled the trip and without notifying us, leaving up to scramble at the bus station and search for another option. At first they refused to refund us until we threatened legal action. Bottom line, this seems an awful lot like a scam. Do not use this company.

Overall Impression

  • Running on Margarita Island is awesome
  • There are so many unique and odd things to do
  • The caves are huge
  • Everything is affordable
  • This is one of the best cities to wander and get lost in
  • Views along the Danube are amazing
  • Nightlife can be really fun but some bars are a bit too touristy
  • You'll need at least a week or more in this city (I didn't stay long enough)

My Trip

July 2015

I traveled to Hungary in July 2015 as part of my backpacking trip with my friend Blake. I came to Hungary after Romania, and unfortunately my time there was short and restricted to the capital city, Budapest. This was back in my early days of travel when I naively focused on quantity of places visited and didn't give myself enough time to fully experience and enjoy each location. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Budapest.

Over the past decade, the city's low cost, unique nightlife centered around ruin pubs, public bathhouses have made it an increasingly popular destination for backpackers. As a result, the nightlife and bathhouses/bathhouse parties are the first thing you'll see about Budapest on nearly every travel blog or backpacking site. Therefore, I won't spend much time talking about them. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the nightlife, I definitely did, but there is so much more to the city that makes it amazing that often goes unrecognized. This is what I'll discuss.


July 2015

I landed in Budapest after a nauseatingly turbulent (yet very affordable) Wizz Air flight from Targu Mures in Romania. Like an idiot, I had only fit three days here into my trip schedule, so I was absolutely ready to light the candle on both ends and make the best of it. After a little walk/search through the city, we finally found our hostel, cozily situated alongside the river. We checked in, then things got exciting.

Many people were already sitting down around a large common table, so we took the opportunity to introduce ourselves. The whole group (which we soon found out to be several groups) seemed to gravitate towards this one character. He wore a backwards hat, hadn't shaved in a few days, had a huge upper body but cartoonishly small legs. He replied to us with a heavy South African accent and introduced himself by a single letter: H.

Once we were all aquainted and a few rounds deep, it was agreed to head out for one of Budapest's ruin pubs. (For those of you unfamiliar, these were abandon warehouses that were turned into bars as an art project. Initially, they were decorated by random people bringing in old furniture). Since we had just arrived, we had no idea where to go, so one guy who claimed he knew a place stepped forward. We all got up and headed for the door.

The city streets were broad and open. The buildings stood in grand, baroque forms and people were scattered about every here and there on the sidewalks. It wasn't overly crowded, but it wasn't deserted either. We walked neighborhood to neighborhood. The drinks were starting to wear off, but I was enjoying the exploring so it didn't really matter. But then an hour passed and we still hadn't reached this place we were being led two. Blake walked up and asked how much longer it would be and the guy responded, saying that it would be probably 10-15 minutes more (the same answer he had given half an hour earlier). By this point H had enough. "Alright, I'm taking over!" he exclaimed as his little legs scurried to the front of the group. "We're going to that place," he said, choosing a bar right next to us. We entered, and from this point on, H would become Blake's idol.

I won't go on and on about the ruin pub, there are plenty of other blogs for that. I will, though, say that it was absolutely worth it and the design of the building made it so cool. It was like a maze of different oddly shaped rooms, each with a different size and character. But anyway, I later heard that Blake got kicked out after being mistaken for someone who had gotten into a fight. I had to go help, I thought. I then left and roamed around the city. I checked the area near the bar... no Blake. I went around the nearby blocks and even checked inside a few nearby bars to see if he went in there, but still no sign anywhere. After an hour or so, I finally gave up and left for the hostel. It was just after 3:00 and Blake was not there either. What could have happened?

Well, as it turns out, Blake decided, after getting kicked out, to head over to Margarite Island (which was over 2 miles/3 kilometers away) and proceeded to jump around and play in the fountains until a homeless guy yelled at him around 5:00 in the morning. From that, I can conclude her was alright.

Then came the next day... described in my post below this one.


July 2015





Before getting there, I had no idea of this, but Budapest sits on top of a massive network of caves that are open to the public. So yes, you can actually go spelunking under Budapest, and it's pretty easy too. Most hostels let you make a booking to go with a group and guide, and it's pretty cheap (equivalent to about €20 from what I remember). Obviously, Blake and I did this.

We met a group of backpackers later that day at a determined location in the city center, and once everyone was there, we boarded a bus for the cave entrance on the city outskirts. I was feeling a an odd mix of tired and excited at this time. Excited because I was about to go spelunking for the first time in my life, but tired since I now had about two weeks of compounded sleep deprivation and was currently running on a caffeine deficit. But anyway, just as I was mid-yawn, Blake struck up a conversation with two Irish girls on the bus, Maud and Hannah, and soon we were all chatting like we’d been friends for years (foreshadowing!!!). The tiredness went away.

Then we arrived. I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Maybe they were something similar to the open, well maintained salt mines of Krakow, or maybe they were something that more closely resembled a bear’s dwelling. I had no idea, but first thing first, I made sure to get a coffee before we started (addiction). Then they handed up our equipment which consisted of a full-body jump suit and a hardhat with a headlamp. Ok, this seems legit now. We entered… and it blew my mind. Before me now stood massive network of vast caverns and narrow crawl passages, which was in no way smooth or polished. They were rugged, untamed, wild caves, born out of clay and rock. I going to get down and dirty and when they had up shut off our headlamps, everything became entirely pitch black. It was just us and the cold, dark underbelly of earth. And it was amazing!

Wards of warning: If you are not nimble and tremendously lack flexibility (like me), Some of the crawl spaces will be difficult to get through, and sharp rocks will poke you in unfortunate places. That said, still totally worth it!


July 2015

I'll start here by admitting that I never made it to Budapest's famous bathhouses. The previous night I had stayed up until 4:00am, so I ended up sleeping during the one time of opportunity to go. That said, Blake took the initiative and made the journey, leaving the hostel at 6:00am on a Monday morning. Keep in mind, backpackers go to these baths late on Friday or Saturday nights for ridiculous pool parties, so Blake was in for an entirely different experience. Shortly after I awoke later on, he returned. Curiously, I asked him how it went and what he thought. This was his reply:

"Dude, it was sick! I got there right when it opened and it was almost completely empty. I was just me and some really old Hungarian men who kept giving me weird looks. I laughed a lot, it was awesome!" I instantly regretted my decision to sleep.

Margarite Island

July 2015

An interesting feature of the city is that it is divided into two halves, Buda and Pest, by the Danube River. Oddly enough, however, one of my favorite spots lies between the two. Margarite Island is a long, narrow green space, lacking any high rise buildings and surrounded by the river on all sides. And I can say with absolute certainty that I have never seen anything quite like it before.

The first thing to catch my attention was a red, single lane running track around the perimeter of the entire island. Now, for some of you this may not mean much of anything, but for me, a compulsive runner who makes laces up the sneakers every morning come hell, high water or hangover, I felt like a 19th century prospector striking gold. So obviously, I went running on it my very first day.*

And while the track is amazing, the island between it was not too shabby either, and crammed a whole lot within a small space, like a swimming pool, fountains, sporting fields, and even a zoo. Although the zoo mostly contained animals like the common deer and a few birds. I guess you can't win them all sometimes. Mostly, I just liked how the island was a bit of an escape from the urban center, yet still provided some pretty great pictures of both sides of the city.

*and second day.