Budapest is more awesome than you would think
My three month trip in Europe didn’t go as planned. I work part-time from my computer doing marketing and social media for a few companies and lost my main client mid-way through my trip. This had me stressing about money, so I took a few detours to do work exchange and housesitting to save. My goal was to visit only new countries but I had to go where I could get hooked up with accommodations. I did however get to visit a new country after Greece: beautiful Hungary. This started with a one week work exchange in the countryside helping out teenagers in an English language program. It was like a language summer camp and pretty fun.
The countryside was beautiful and peaceful. The hills were lined with fields on sunflowers and every morning I walked along these fields in awe. Who knew Hungary was so stunning? I had no idea! After spending a week volunteering I headed to Budapest. I didn’t know what to expect but heard it was a great city, not very expensive, and had many vegan options available. It did not disappoint.
The city itself is great. It’s very walkable and has great public transportation. I stayed at the Hipster Hostel, which is a small hostel in a good, central location. They only have two dorm rooms, one with 6 beds and one with 10 beds so I opted for the smaller one for about $20 USD per night. It wasn’t ideal to stay in a hostel but for a short 4 day trip I made it work. Thankfully, it wasn’t a party hostel and everyone was pretty chill. Many coffeeshops and vegan options, along with tourist spots, were within walking distance or a short subway ride away.
I would consider Budapest in the average price range compared to the rest of Europe for a vacation. My hostel was a great price, subway tickets are about $1.30 (but not a great system of checking so you can get away with some free returns), while most my meals averaged about $7-13 USD, coffee shops were more than I expected, but beer is super cheap (go figure). I didn’t cook or make many meals in the hostel because I was only there for four days and wanted to try the vegan restaurants. From what my tour guide said rent is super cheap, and if buying groceries and cooking at home, actually living here would be below average for the rest of Europe. So it’s definitely somewhere I would consider staying for a month or two.
One of my favorite activities to do when visiting a new city is do a free walking tour. This gives you an overview of the city and it’s history and you just tip your tour guide at the end making it a very affordable activity to do if you are on a budget. The tour guides work on tips so they are usually entertaining and share with you little secrets and background stories of the town. Befriend your tour guide and they may just take you out to the coolest bar in town later in the week.
One or the two activities I splurged on during this trip was to see the symphony. It was playing in a beautiful outdoor castle and was only about $13 USD so how could I resist! I was blown away because it was my first real symphony experience. The last few songs the clouds rolled in as lightening and thunder shook the sky. The rain didn’t start until they were standing for applause and not having an umbrella I huddled tightly under a small ledge with the musicians for about 15 minutes as it poured. Then one of the musicians kindly walked me to the subway station under his umbrella. It was an experience!
The second splurge was a visit to the Turkish baths called Rudas. I chose this one specifically because it’s very traditional and has female-only days where you can be naked and not worry about creepy dudes looking at you. The other baths were coed and looked quite touristy and crowded so I’m glad I made this choice. It really depends on what you are into. Rudas has a special price if you go early before 12 pm so take advantage of that (2600 HUF, ~$10 USD)!
Now onto the food! There are some solid vegan options in Budapest. You aren’t going to starve. The food was hit or miss, not much that is mind-blowing except the vegan burger above at VeganLove. VeganLove has many vegan burgers to choose from like the BBQ tofu steak I had, curry lentil burger, and broccoli burger with millet. Honestly, it was hard to choose which one to have because they all sounded amazing. As a Texas gal it’s hard to turn down BBQ, but this burger didn’t actually have much of a BBQ flavor. Oh well, it was still fantastic. With fries and a drink this put me back about $10 USD. This place is small and always packed during busy hours so try to go during an off time.
The most well-known vegan restaurant in Budapest is Napfenyes. I went with a gal from my hostel and we ordered this huge 2 person plate to share. It was mostly fried stuff but oh so delicious and about $21 USD split in 2 if you share. I went back later in the week to have their pizza and salad bar. It also did not disappoint. If I had more days in Budapest I would have eaten here many more times!
Another decent meal was had at Vega, which happened to be a short walk from my hostel. They have rotating menu items throughout the week and you choose what you want and they weigh it. I went with some rice pilaf, squash sauce and grilled seitan. It was a wholesome meal. I had a few desserts that were not very tasty. I wish I had the chance to try more things there to give it a thorough review. A brilliant idea I had was to get takeout here for the plane ride to Spain.
Hungary itself has some pretty messed up things happening in their government and society. You wouldn’t be able to tell just from visiting so it’s a solid place to go for a short trip or a longer stay if you are a digital nomad. But a part of me feel uneasy about the things that don’t affect me because I’m not Hungarian. In all honesty, there are messed up things happening all over the world that we are shielded from as travelers. It’s easy to just see the good and focus on that in travel blogs but traveling isn’t just about seeing cool places and trying vegan food for me; I want to learn more about the country’s history and hardships. We think our government is corrupt in America…and don’t get me wrong, it totally is. Remember we don’t live in a bubble and there are many other countries that suffer. I’m not sure I can do anything about it but I feel better having some awareness.
Have you been to Budapest? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below!