[Citeste acest articol in Romana AICI]
We wanted to avoid the big crowds of the National Navy Day back home so we decided to leave for the extended weekend on a road trip to Budapest. Like any good idea, this trip came to our minds during a drunken night in Vama Veche. All being said and done, on Saturday morning, two couples were in my car, on our way to the border with Hungary. From Constanta to Budapest there are about 1050 kilometers, of which only 218 km are on national two lane roads and not on the motorway, namely Olt Valley between Pitesti and Sibiu entrance, and the missing A1 section between Deva and Faget – Dumbrava. In theory you should do this trip in 11 hours, in practice we live in Romania and it’s baaaad , very bad. I recommend a lot of patience and cold blood, on the Olt Valley I lost at least 3 hours in the still traffic, blocked between coaches and an infinite number of cars on both lanes, bringing the time up to 15 hours. Once you cross the ring road of Bucharest and the Olt Valley and you reach the A1 highway from Sibiu, it’s clear roads from there. The new section of A1 highway goes all the way to the border of Hungary at Nadlac and on to Budapest. The new border crossing point at Nadlac has enough lanes and works like a drive-in, just show the id or passport at the booth and go on. Immediately after the border at the first car park on the M43 motorway, you need to stop and buy a vignette. A 10 days pass will cost 2975 Forints (10 EUR) and if you buy it from the Internet you pay this price, if you buy it from the parking lot you will pay EUR 14, as we have discovered. The roads and the highway system in Hungary are impeccable and everybody drives very civilized on lane 1, lane 2 being used on short intervals only when you overtake a slower car from lane 1. Lane 2 is not always busy and when you’re on it no one will come in your back and flash you insistently, but will rather wait calm until you finish overtaking and come back on lane 1 or at worst they will turn on the left signalling to alert you that you keeping the lane busy. The GPS assistance is truly holy during this trip, especially in the city.
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Due to the fact that all the trip was planned at a very short notice, finding accommodation was a challenge. Unlike the previous visit in 2012 Budapest , when all the travel package came at 100 EUR price per person, now we were at the peak of the season and on top of that we were going at the same weekend when the Sziget Festival was underway in Budapest. After I tried all the hotels and motels in town, I caught a break and got a last minute deal on Booking.com. We booked a lovely central apartment in Budapest with 2 bedrooms at a rate of 110 EUR / night. The high sealing historical building had an interior courtyard, fully equipped kitchen and the interior was designated in a minimalist modern style. It was worth every penny and was more than enough for two couples. There was even a third bed that you reached by a small staircase. Unfortunately it did not offer parking. The parking in Budapest, like in any major city in the West, is not free. Spots are scarce and the price per hour depends on the zone you are in. We were in zone 2 and here for an hour of parking you had to pay at the meter on the street 265 Forints (0.9 EUR) per hour between 08:00 to 18:00. After 18:00 and in the weekends, parking on the street is free of charge. You must pay by yourself the parking at one of the many meters on the street and keep in mind they work only with coins. Also keep in mind that in some areas in the center, parking is limited to 3-4 hours, after which you must come back to the car and renew your ticket. There are of course several underground secured parkings for long term parking.
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The city is just as beautiful as my previous visit in 2012, maybe just a bit more expensive. If at that time the prices were about the same as in Romania, now I felt a considerable increase. A ticket at the subway costs 350 Forints (1.15 EUR) , a beer at the pub 700 Forints (2.3 EUR) and a meal for two in town about 7000 Forints (23 EUR), which is actually not so bad in comparison to Romania, considering that the average wage in the country is almost double.
Two days in the Hungarian capital is enough to visit Heroes Square, ride the oldest subway in Continental Europe, sail on the Danube, visit the Castle on the Buda side, walk across the Chain Bridge and on the many pedestrian streets in commercial side of Pest. A visit up in the tower of Saint Stephan Cathedral is a must. As an alternative to the expensive Danube Cruises, I recommend taking the public transport ferry which are considerably cheaper and basicly have the same route. However they do tend to run at different times and routes than what is mentioned on the boards. The superb Parliament building has a few upgrades, there is now an underground Visitors Center that must be paid for by the tourists. Before, the visit inside the Parliament was free of charge for EU residents and now you have to pay as a EU resident 2200 Forints (7.2 EUR). In the evenings I recommend a pub crawl , there are so many unique nice bars and pubs and the local beer is great …. well most of it anyway.
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In conclusion let’s see the bill for this fun: 330 EUR accomodation + 131 EUR Diesel +14 EUR Vignette + 200 EUR budget for spending at museums, food and alcohol comes to 430 EUR for each couple for 3 nights in Budapest. Not bad at all considering was the peak of the season in Mid August. We will certainly come back.
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