Surviving a Study Abroad in Budapest
January 1, 1970
by Mariana Robert
The City of BUDAPEST
Probably one of the most cultural and historical cities in the world. Do not hesitate about its name: Which fun fact: it’s composed of two words representing the two parts of the city that conforms the capital of Hungary. The Buda side, mainly known by being the “old” or antique part of the city and the Pest side, which contains most of the sightseeing of the city. Doesn’t really matter the side you decide to stay for your semester abroad, since the city is really well connected and has a well-communicated transportation system (might experience some technical problems once in a while but believe me you can cross from one side to the other in just a couple of minutes).
Once you have established yourself the first thing you should learn it’s the name of your street, or at least try to associate it to a familiar word, just in case you get so excited walking the city that you ran out of battery and there’s no way to use the amazing GPS. At first sight, you will feel like in an extra-terrestrial movie. Hungarian is not the friendliest language after all. However, you will start catching the stations, street names, even avenues.
The most important ones from the Pest side you have to look for and remember are: Andrassy Utca, which connects to the Oktogon station, (we will talk about this very important meeting point later) and József Korut which is one of the main streets and belongs to the Line 4 and 6, the busiest ones in the city, also known as the “Tram Street”.
While from the Buda side, make sure to walk aside the Szent Gellért street, which is the one next to the Danube River, and the Margit Híd, which is part of the “Tram Street” but from the Buda side. Besides, it’s close to one of the most beautiful spots in the city: Margit Island.
Meeting people from east and west.
Take note folks, if you are coming for a study abroad you want to make sure to be surrounded by people from all around the world. So; Do not get stuck with students that come from your same country, neither from the same university! In case you do please, make sure to include more people in the crew. The first weeks are crucial and if you get stuck with people from the same place that you come from then, it will be kind of difficult to meet and get really involved with new people.
True that you can get better communication and understanding with people that speak the same language but becoming international it’s the whole point of the study abroad even about traveling. So, you can give a second thought about getting involved with as many people as you can.
Don’t be shy, after all, you don’t know each other, and you can start with very cliché questions to break the ice like: Where are you from? Why did you choose Budapest? What kind of music do you like? Once you realized you will be spending most of the time together, integrating more and more people into the crew till you get a whole group to hang out every night, come together to share a couple of drinks, even try some new typical dishes from countries you never picture yourself before.
Actually, here’s an extra tip: make sure to have more than one group of people to hang out. So, you will be able to meet new places, attend improvised but amazing parties and become totally a global citizen. Remember: “Strangers are just friends you haven’t meet yet”. And those that crossed your way by accident are the ones that will bring the best memories once it’s over.
Partytime in the Ruin Pubs
Personally, I was looking to have some party, and a chill time during my stay in Budapest. Therefore, I look up for the most peculiar places to grab some drinks and listen to good music. But I would have never imagined the way you can have fun all over the city. There’s always something to do, there’s always somewhere to go. And there’s always something to eat afterward.
Welcome to the longest party place in Central Europe. Where the best nights start with the phrase: “Today we’ll have only a couple of drinks”. But in the end, you’ll find yourself hiking the Citadel to reach the best city’s viewpoint and watch the sun rising over the Danube.
Be aware because in here you will not find simple bars but ruin pubs. Which are antique buildings, that might give the sensation to be abandoned, but it’ s totally the opposite once you are inside.
Here are some of the most famous ones: Akvárium Klub, Corvin Club, Kuplung, Morrison’s 2, Ötkert, UdvaRom, Szimpla Kert, 360° Bar. But from all the options you can find and even be recommended there’s one that you can’t miss and you must visit at least once during your stay in Budapest.
I’m talking about the biggest and more versatile ruinpub in the whole city: Instant. Located between the streets of Dob and Akácfa.
Don’t be fooled, if you hear any of the following names we are still talking about the same ruinpub: Fogas, Lärm, Liebling or Robot. Each of them, are the names of the rooms that play different music styles. So, once you are done with electronic you can just go downstairs for some rock and punk music.
The best of all is that when a place is closing, the other is about to open its doors, so you can play the hopper and be from place to place till you realise you need some sleep to charge battery and be ready for the following adventure or be hungry, which will not be a problem; kebab places are open till 5 a.m. and there’s always a McDonald’s, not my favourite, actually I would avoid it as long as possible. But don’t be ashamed if you end one night asking for an ice-cream.
Oktogon Station (Your food court)
I would like to introduce myself as a food lover and as an athletic person. At home, I try to watch what I eat BUT, believe me, you don’t want to follow any diet or have any restrictions once here. Because Budapest is not only a party place but a whole international menu.
From the typical goulash soup to the students favorite’s pizza place close to the Liberty Bridge: Pizza Manufaktura. Budapest is full of options to please even the tough ones and satisfy the simplest craving.
My advice would be to try most of the Hungarian dishes and pastries. After all, you are already there, doesn’t matter you have tried some of them before or similar ones. The taste will be different. I can assure this after making a German friend to try a Lángos (which have tried one back home) a very fulfill and tasty snack covered with sour cream and cheese, she simply loved the Hungarian one. And of course, give also a try to other cuisines; Arabic is a really good option.
My recommendation for excellence: Hummus Bar.
The best spot to take a look and get something new every time is Oktogon station, which is full of different options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will find such a variety separated just for a couple of meters that the main problem you will face after a while will be what to choose for today’s meal. Besides, an advantage about Oktogon is that most of the ruin pubs are close by or connected by the Tram Street, so each time you wanna have dinner, some pre-drinking and later head to party time. Oktogon is the meeting point for your new crew.
Traveling to eastern Europe
A huge advantage of living for a while in Budapest is the central location it has to visit other countries, I would suggest to take a look at a map and let creativity flow. Leave prejudices out and be ready for adventures. The best ways to travel are by plane (Ryanair is the cheapest option if you are a light traveler) or by bus (Flixbus or EasyBus) is the most comfortable for a fair price.
You can also try by train just consider that the journey can take longer. I made one trip by train from Keleti Station to Brasov, Romania. For 75 euros round way was worth the 13 hours of travel.
Remeber to be creative. Look up for a map and ask yourself: “Which place would be complicated to visit once I’m back home?” Think about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia or Slovenia.
Each country and city has its own beauty. And don’t worry about the money, since you are in the Heart of Europe there are lots of destinations and ways to travel that can fit different budgets.
Budapest is in the heart of Europe, and it’ll become part of yours. Once you start your way to the airport to go back home you will experience a weird sensation while crossing for the last time those tricky streets, bringing you flashbacks and good memories. It’s part of the experience as well, let it be, and let go. As a good friend of mine told me: “You don’t have an exchange in a lifetime but you got a lifetime during the exchange”. So, be ready because that bus, cab, or shuttle is just taking you on a new adventure.