Backpacking in Hungary
Hungary, in the heart of Europe, is a country with many faces and presents you when backpacking through the country not only the puszta, which is known across the borders. There are enchanting cities, beautiful lakes and mountains in Northern Hungary, where you will encounter a diverse nature and unique wildlife. The country is surrounded by Slovakia and Ukraine in the north, Romania in the southeast, Austria in the southwest and Serbia and Montenegro in the south. There is no direct access to the sea, which does not restrict travelling and discovering diversity at all, as lakes invite you to swim and relax.
The country stretches over 93,036 km² and is divided into 19 combines, five city districts and one capital district. You will find dense forests, low mountain ranges for trekking or ski trips, Lake Balaton for an extended summer feeling and the vastness of the Puszta. Other well-known lakes are Lake Neusiedl, Lake Tisza and Lake Velenc, to name but a few.
The capital is Budapest, where about 1.7 million people live. Around 9.8 million people live in the whole country. For unique nature experiences you should visit the numerous national parks like the Bükki national park, the Aggelek national park with its stalactite caves as well as the different nature reserves, which let you dive into the originality of the nature areas. You will encounter a wonderful animal world with rare bird species and ermines that live in the wild.
Travelling in the country is very pleasant, as the public transport will take you comfortably from A to B during backpacking. There is a good infrastructure with a good rail and road network. In addition to fascinating landscapes, you will find historical relics from long ago, seven of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of which is a World Heritage Site. Lake Balaton covers an area of 600 km² and is only 3 m deep in most places. Here you can enjoy the pleasantly warm water and relax on the beautiful beaches.
Due to the diversity of the country you will find unique architecture. Due to the proximity to Austria you will sometimes feel transported to small Austrian villages. In Budapest there is monumental architecture from long ago, which shape the cityscape and give it a special flair. The official language in Hungary is Hungarian. But you can communicate very well with German and English everywhere. You have to exchange Euros into the national currency Forint.
You can get cash at cash machines all over the country, both with the Mastero-Card and with your credit card. You can also pay with the most common credit cards. However, you should use a credit card where there are no additional costs for foreign assignments. Hungarian cuisine is very versatile and can sometimes be very hot. But you won’t starve to death, because next to restaurants you will find a variety of catering options on almost every street corner.
Culture in Hungary
Hungarian culture is uniquely reflected in art, literature, music, painting and folk art. The country offers everything that refers to human history. The Ottomans have left lasting traces that you can follow backpacking through the country. So you’ll find wonderful mosques and beautiful baths. The Hungarian creativity will show you its own variation of Art Nouveau, the so-called Hungarian National Style and beautiful craftsmanship.
In Hungary you’ll come across gypsies who make the streetscape special with their very own style of music. A well-known Hungarian composer is Franz Liszt, who opened a music academy in Budapest in 1875 to study Hungarian folk music. Hungary’s folk art is presented to you on every street corner. Above all you will find stylized flower patterns as embroidery and dreamlike applications on clothes, tablecloths, bedclothes and much more.
In the country you will be welcomed as a backpacker polite and friendly. The Hungarians are very sceptical about religious issues, so some contemporaries think that this is why they are so successful in mathematics and natural sciences. Religious communities are mostly Catholic, Protestant-Lutheran and Calvinist, but there are also Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities. In Budapest there is even a Jewish community.
More backpacking information about Hungary
Hungary is no longer the cheap travel country of the past, so as a backpacker you should calculate a daily budget of 60 to 90 euros. The country has many years of tourism experience, which makes it an attractive holiday destination on an Eastern European trip.
Besides Lake Balaton, the country offers world-famous wine-growing areas, bird paradises in the puszta, dreamy little villages, baroque towns, relaxing spas and last but not least a very lively art, culture, music, pubs and café scene.
Everywhere you will find great accommodation. So there are hostels for you, where you can get a place to sleep with a small budget of 7 to 10 Euros. The average price in a hostel depends on the location and varies between 11 and 28 Euros.
Hungary is famous for its delicious, tasty cuisine. It is a mixture of farmer’s food as well as dishes of the high cuisine and belongs to the best cuisines of Eastern Europe. Simple dishes such as Pörkölt and opulent desserts invite you on a culinary journey. Paprika is omnipresent as a spice. Foodies who love hearty dishes will get their money’s worth in Hungary.
The various markets are the places to go for extended shopping tours, where you can buy all sorts of things as well as typical local crafts. Always try to trade because that’s what the prices are based on. As a German citizen you don’t need a visa for Hungary. What else you need to know about Hungary as a backpacker can be found under Visas & Vaccinations.
Hungary is no longer a cheap travel destination, which is reflected in the cost of your backpacker trip. As a rule, however, you can expect to make ends meet with 60 to 90 euros a day.
Due to the up-and-coming economy of the country, you are well provided for in the whole country. The Forint has been on the decline for quite some time, so the cost of living is absolutely manageable. A meal with starter, main course, drink and obligatory espresso in a small restaurant is already available for 10 Euro per person.
In upscale restaurants the prices are higher. At snack stands you can get local delicacies like Boly or Töttös as well as pizza between 3 and 7 Euro. You can buy cheap drinks in the supermarket. For a litre of petrol or diesel you pay between 1.17 and 1.18 euros.
Taxi driving Bus driving in Hungary
Driving a taxi in Hungary is quite inexpensive, as a completely new taxi regulation has been in place for Budapest since September 2013. The prices are uniform fixed prices that apply day and night. You pay a basic price of 1.55 euros and 0.95 euros for every kilometre driven. Theoretically you would never pay more than 10 Euro for a trip through the city centre.
The reality looks unfortunately somewhat differently, since there are in the taxi industry some black sheep, which collect the double and triple for a journey. Due to your ignorance you make an unwanted city tour or get possibly to a taxi, where the taximeter was manipulated. A cheap alternative are therefore buses, which you can use in the city centres and for longer distances.
Buses in Hungary
There are 28 state bus companies in Hungary that have joined forces under the Volán association. For longer distances, buses are a good means of transport, as they are modernly equipped and make travelling very pleasant. Budapest also has a well-developed tram and underground network, which will take you from one part of the city to another. Tickets are available directly at the bus stops or from the driver. Buses with a red number do not stop at all bus stops. You should pay attention to this when backpacking in Hungary.
Domestic fares in Hungary
Although the Hungarian air network could also offer domestic flights, you will find it difficult to find domestic flights. A convenient and fast way to travel from A to B is by train.
Rail travel in Hungary
Travelling through Hungary by train can be an experience despite the well-developed railway network. Many trains don’t meet German standards, so you might have to do without air-conditioned compartments. Information about the routes and how to get from A to B can be found online at MVA, the Hungarian railway company, even in German. Tickets for the trip are still sold in Hungary in the classic way at the ticket counter.
On your backpacker tour through Hungary you will find a geographically diverse country and indescribable cultural treasures. A large part of it belongs to the UNESCO world and world cultural heritage. In addition to trekking in the mountains and unique hikes through the Puszta, you can go horseback riding, bird watching, hiking in the Zemplén and Mátra mountains, canoeing on the Tisza, biking and windsurfing on Lake Balaton, as well as sightseeing flights with an ultralight aircraft.
You can plan your route in different ways and discover the country far away from Budapest and Lake Balaton. However, you should still make a detour to Budapest, because the city simply exudes a magical flair. Don’t forget to dive into the nightlife of the pulsating metropolis. Lake Balaton is an absolute tourist centre, but also offers quiet, tranquil corners that are a little off the beaten track and invite you to relax. What should you have seen on your backpacker trip through Hungary?
Route 1: The classic (15-22 days)
- 3 days of immersing Budapest in the history and enchanting flair of the city on the Danube.
- 2 days Eger, the Schönfrauental, Stierblut and much Barock enjoy
- 2 days to discover the Aggtelek National Park and the stalactite cave
- 2 days exploring the big and at the same time sleepy city Debrecen
- 2 days Hortobagy in the Nemzeti Park and experience the diverse bird and plant world.
- 2 days Szeged, experience the pulsating city on the Tisza River and canoe tour
- 2 days in Pecs to immerse yourself in art and culture.
- 1 day Szombathely to immerse in the beauty of the city.
- 2 days Sopron the jewel at the Austrian border visit
- 2 days visiting Esterhazy Castle near Fertöd
- Visit Esztergom for 1 day and visit the wonderful basilica.
- 1 day in Visegrad to discover the medieval castle and enjoy the landscape.
Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 35 days and more)
- 5 days of immersing Budapest in the history and enchanting flair of the city on the Danube.
- 4 days Eger, the Schönfrauental, bull’s blood and much baroque enjoy
- 3 days to discover the Aggtelek National Park and the stalactite cave
- 2 days exploring the big and at the same time sleepy city Debrecen
- 3 days Hortobagy in the Nemzeti Park and experience the diverse bird and plant world.
- 3 days Szeged, experience the pulsating city at the Tisza River and canoe tour
- 4 days in Pecs to immerse yourself in art and culture.
- 2 days Szombathely to immerse in the beauty of the city.
- 3 days Sopron the jewel at the Austrian border visit
- 2 days visiting Esterhazy Castle near Fertöd
- Visit Esztergom for 2 days and visit the wonderful basilica.
- 2 days in Visegrad to discover the medieval castle and enjoy the landscape.
Travel times in Hungary
Although the months of May and June can be quite humid, a backpacker trip to Hungary is worthwhile during this time, as you can experience the beauty of the Hungarian spring. In the summer months it is very sunny and hot. July and August are ideal for exploring the seaside resorts at the various lakes and for doing activities on the beaches and on the water. You should avoid Budapest in August as it is too hot for any activities and sightseeing.
If you want to experience the mountains around Budapest and the northern low mountain range up close, you should choose autumn as your travel season. The rainiest month of the year is November. In the winter months Hungary is a less attractive destination because it is cold and cloudy and most museums and tourist attractions are closed. In spring and autumn, rainwear should not be missing from your luggage.
There are a lot of overnight accommodations that you can use on your backpacker trip through Hungary. So you will find chic hotels, directly at the lake as well as in the big cities. Depending on the equipment, you can quickly pay 150 Euros or more for an overnight stay. But it’s also cheaper if you use simpler hostels.
You can get some real bargains where you pay 10 Euros per night for a bed. There is no talk of special luxury. You will be offered a total of 101 youth hostels or hostels spread all over the country. A look at the Hostelworld hostel page will quickly tell you what you pay for an overnight stay. So you pay the following prices for a bed in a hostel:
- Budapest 10 -22 Euro
- Pecs 9 -11 Euro
- Siofok 17 Euro
- Balaton 18 Euro
- Keszthely 27 Euro
Most hostels are located in Budapest, so you have the opportunity to look for very cheap hostels as well as more comfortable equipped hostels.
Motels and hotels on exit roads and motorways
Motels and small hotels are an alternative to hostels. Motels are located at the entrance and exit roads of cities and motorways and even offer you a room with breakfast and good WLAN. However, there are differences in prices. However, it is possible to get a double room for 40 euros a night. Small hotels are often privately run. You can find them in the city centres and pay in the best case for an overnight stay between 26 and 28 euros.
Camping in Hungary
Camping in Hungary is not only fun, but also very cheap. Unique campsites can be found all over the country. They are located at Lake Balaton, in Zala, Verszprém, Somogy, Vas, Baranya and Budapest. For 11, 13, 15, 17 or 19 Euro you can pitch your tent with 2 persons. In the low season the prices are even cheaper.
Hungary with its impressive landscape, beautiful cities and wonderful lakes offers you everything you want to experience while backpacking. The offers range from excursions into the unique history to wonderful nature experiences that await you while trekking and hiking in dreamy landscapes.
The Hungarians are a friendly people, so you will quickly feel at home. In conversations with the locals you can get tips and suggestions for excursions that are guaranteed not to be included in any travel guide. Get involved with the cultural diversity of the country and you will be welcomed with open arms.
Backpacker Highlights in Hungary
A special highlight in Hungary is the metropolis Budapest, which is waiting for you on your backpacker trip with numerous sights. The city is also known as the “Paris of the East”. Both sides of the Danube bank are connected by the Margaret Bridge, Chain Bridge, Elisabeth Bridge and Freedom Bridge. You can discover the Castle Palace, the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Matthias Church and the huge Parliament Building as well as the Gresham Palace.
Hollókö, in northern Hungary, is reminiscent of a small, sleepy mountain village and is an example of a traditional settlement from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are 55 buildings and a beautiful church. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you should not forget it when backpacking in Hungary.
The Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma should also be on your itinerary. To this day it plays an important role in the spread of Christianity in Central Europe and is still run by Benedictine monks. The monastery complex consists of an archabbey, a basilica, several school buildings with boarding schools and several chapels. There are beautiful parks with herb gardens. The monastery also has a library with 360,000 volumes, one of the largest in the world. You should definitely taste the wine that you have pressed yourself from your own vineyard.
Backpacker Insider Tips in Hungary
An indescribable experience awaits you in the caves of the Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst on the northern border of Hungary. The whole area covers about 57 hectares. There are now 1000 known caves in the Karst area. In the Barabla Cave in Aggtelek Karst you will find an indescribably impressive world of stalagmites and stalactites that rise from the ceiling to the floor or from the floor to the ceiling and appear in an incredible light.
The steppe landscape of the Puszta is a special insider’s tip, as here you will encounter the originality of the country. The typical Puszta landscape can be found in the Hortobágy-Puszta National Park, located in the Great Plain in the east of the country. There are large pastures, meadows and wetlands. Here there is a unique interaction between nature and man, which you can enjoy to the full.
Don’t miss the early Christian burial chamber in Pécs, which dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. In the centre of the city is the burial chamber discovered during excavations. A stroll through the city will take you to other historic buildings. In 2010, Pécs was the European Capital of Culture.
Delicious wines and an indescribable landscape can be found in the Tokaj wine region. The variety of landscapes on your backpacker trip offers you high mountains, hilly landscapes, partially dried out lakes, salt soils, areas with reeds and wonderful wetlands. As you roam through, you’ll come across various species of animals that live here in the wild. From the Kegelberg, the landmark of Tokaj, you have a great view over the landscape.
One of the best cuisines in Eastern Europe is Hungarian cuisine, rightly called Balkan cuisine. There are a variety of rural dishes, as well as opulent desserts that perfectly round off a delicious meal. The spice paprika is omnipresent and is used in many dishes.
Many dishes from Hungary came to Vienna during the imperial period. These include pancakes and Pörkölt. You dine in the classic way in Csurdas, the traditional inns, where delicious fish soup with potatoes, vegetables and goulash is cooked in kettles. In addition to paprika powder, sham lard and sour cream are used for cooking.
Although meat plays an important role in Hungarian cuisine, vegetarians do not need to starve. There are delicious vegetable dishes. These stews consist of tomatoes, onions and peppers and are served as a main course or side dish with grilled meat.
Food in Hungary
Besides Hungarian goulash and other delicacies, you shouldn’t miss the Dobo cake. These sweet treats were created by Jószef Dobos at the end of the 18th century and consist of six layers of biscuit and seven layers of chocolate butter cream. Named after the nobleman and diplomat Paul III Anton Esterházy, the Esterházy cake is an almond chocolate cake with a light chocolate coating and a dark chocolate pattern.
Other Hungarian delicacies include Hálászlé (a spicy fish soup made from freshwater fish with peppers and noodles), Gulyás (a hearty potato soup) and Gundel Palacsinta (pancakes with walnuts, lemon peel, raisins, rum and chocolate sauce).
Drinking in Hungary
Hungary’s national drink is pálinka, made from washed fruit without flavorings or additives and distilled. Typical Hungarian wines include Szürkebarát, Merlot, Tokaji and Kékfrankos, Törley sparkling wine, Unicum, a very bitter herb schnapps and of course beer. The Hungarian loves homemade drinks like Házibor and Hazipálinka as well as fruit brandies, which usually have more than 51% alcohol by volume.
Beer is the men’s favourite drink and in Hungary it is very cheap, so you don’t have to hold back when it comes to beer. There are 35 breweries in Hungary. In any case you should try Dreher Sörgyárak, Stari Kézmuves Sörfozde, Hopfanatic Brewery, Monyo Brewing Co., Szent András Sörfőzde, Pécsi Sörfőzde and Fóti Kézműves Sörfőzde.
As a German citizen you don’t need a visa for your backpacker trip through Hungary. But make sure that your entry papers are still valid. The entry regulations according to the Foreign Office are as follows:
- Passport: Yes
- Provisional passport: Yes
- Identity card: Yes
- Temporary identity card: Yes
- Child passport with photograph: Yes
German citizens are generally advised to register on crisis prevention lists in order to ensure rapid contact in the event of an emergency. Information on the security situation in the country can be obtained from the Federal Foreign Office.
Medical Information & Vaccinations for Hungary
For your backpacker trip to Hungary it is advisable to have the standard vaccinations of the Robert Koch Institute up to date. There are no serious infectious diseases such as malaria in Hungary. A good medical care is guaranteed in the big cities and tourist areas. Sometimes they do not meet the standards you are accustomed to in Germany.