Prepaid GSM
Photos Hu
Photos Au

28.5: Munich -> Budapest
29.5: Budapest
30.5: Budapest
31.5: Budapest -> Vienna
01.06: Vienna -> Munich

This was a brief four-day trip from Munich to Budapest and Vienna, which we did by car on an extended weekend, at the end of May 2003. We lost a lot of time  driving from Munich to Budapest, probably due to the extended weekend. Budapest is a beaufitul city, with a special atmosphere and many sights.

Rooms were relatively expensive, both in Budapest and Vienna. "Relatively" if compared to accomodation in Portugal, where we paid around 30 Euro/night in pensaos in 2002, while the cheapest double rooms with bath we found both in Budapest and Vienna were around 60 Euro. In Budapest possibly room rates are lower in low season (during this extended weekend the town was packed with tourists, mostly from Germany).

Food in Budapest was cheaper than in Germany and Austria. It is possible for instance to have a lunch for two in a Chinese restaurant for 5 Euro (including drink). Prices for food in Vienna instead are more or less in line with prices in Germany (not cheap).

Fuel for the car ("Normalbenzin") was 103 Euro cents in German towns, 90 Euro cents on Austrian motorways, 83.6 Euro cents in Vienna and the equivalent of 90 Euro cents in Budapest (225 Forint).
For an overview of other expenses please read the travelogue.

Money / Exchange rate (early June 2003)
1 Euro = 1.17 US $
1 Euro = 250 Forint
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

GSM coverage/ mobile phones
Hungary: full country coverage; three GSM operators. For coverage maps and more information click here.
Austria: full counry coverage; four GSM operators and one 3G operator; more information available here.
You'll need a GSM 900/1800 phone. Before travelling to these countries check if your provider has a roaming agreement with the GSM operators in Austria and Hungary.

Internet access
In Budapest and Vienna we easily found Internet cafes. Rates in Budapest were 700 Forint/hour; in Vienna 10 Euro cents/minute.

Sunny and hot; some clouds.

Health / Vaccinations
None required or necessary.

VISA / Entry requirements
For Hungary a valid passport is necessary. EU nationals and nationals from several other countries need no VISA. For more information contact the Hungarian embassy of your country. Austria is a member of the European Union and the Schengen zone. There are no border controls between Germany and Austria. General EU entry requirements.

No problem at all.

28.05.03, Munich -> Budapest
Garibaldi guesthouse, Garibaldi Street 5, Tel. 01-3023456 (Fax/phone), 01-3023457 (phone only), garibaldiguest@hotmail.com; 60 Euro/night; big room with big bath+shower, quiet.
Sunny with clouds; no rain; warm, with a fresh air

We leave Munich at 1:15 pm. Everything runs smooth until there is the first traffic jam about 10km from the Austrian border. We spend around half an hour to one hour in the traffic jam. Then we enter Austria and refuel the car (90 cents/liter for 'Normal Benzin' 91 ROZ) and buy the Austrian vignette for 8 euro. We drive past Salzburg and then continue, but not too fast (average around 100 km/h or less), because the motorway only has two lanes, is full of curves and there is lots of traffic. Around Vienna we get stuck in a huge traffic jam, in which we lose around one hour. We finally leave Vienna around 7:30-8pm and after a short drive get stuck in the next traffic jam (we lose around 30-60 minutes). By the way, we make two short snack breaks of about 20 minutes each in motorway restaurants.

The motorway from Vienna to Hungary is full of Austrian, Hungarian and other Central European cars. After this traffic jam the drive continues for maybe 20 minutes until we end into the mother of all traffic jams. We lose two and a half hours at the border, because there are so many cars waiting to enter Hungary and the Hungarian border police thoroughly checks every single car. We finally enter Hungary at 11:20pm. Then I change some money (50 Euro) into Forint (at the bad rate of 232 Forint/Euro) and get the Hungarian vignette for 1900 Forint. Then we start making phone calls and look for rooms to stay. We finally find a place to spend the night for 50 Euro/night for a room with bath.

There is now a fast motorway from the Hungarian border to Budapest. 20 km from Budapest there are many commercial centres with shops. We manage to reach Budapest around 1:30am and find the place shortly before two. The owner is still awake waiting for us; even his wife shows up. We sleep at 3am.

29.05.03, Budapest
Garibaldi guesthouse
Sunny day, warm; in the afternoon and evening overcast sky

My car has a ticket (apparently parking in Garibaldi street costs money). The owner of the guesthouse explains that in the whole central area of Budapest parking is not free. Great, so where am I supposed to park the car ?

In the morning we have a talk with the lady who runs the Garibaldi guesthouse (Mrs. Ena Bottka). She tells us that the room rate is 60 Euro (15000 Forint), although yesterday when we booked the room the guy quoted us a price of 50 Euro. The Let's Go 2003 guide quotes a prince range of 6000-10000 Forint. The room is nice, but is overpriced at 60 Euro (last year we payed 30 Euro/night for similar rooms in Portugal). I call other places in the Let's Go guide, but they are all full, so we are basically forced to stay in this place.

After a short and late breakfast (11am) Shirley and I start looking for an ATM. My idea is to go to the Citibank ATM, as cash deductions from these ATMs are free of fees. It takes us over an hour to find the Citibank ATM, as driving by car through Budapest is very complicated if you are new in town. Finding a parking is a big problem.

After lunch in a Chinese restaurant (very cheap at 1240 Forint, i.e. 5 Euro, for two) we start exploring the town. Getting by car across the chain bridge to the base of the Royal Palace hill in Buda is complicated and tiring, as there is so much traffic. We take the cablecar up to the Royal Palace. From there you enjoy a nice view of Budapest. At 4pm something we go back to the car. The ídea is to drive to the guesthouse, fetch the swimstuff and then got to the Széchenyi bath (which closes at 7pm). Now, on the way back from the Royal Palace to Garibaldi street we make a mistake and drive about 500 meters too far to the south along the Danube. It takes us an hour to drive back these 500 meters, as there is a huge traffic jam in downtown Budapest. At one point we are forced to make an (illegal) U-turn, otherwise we would end up driving out of Budapest (in this town turning to the left is often not allowed). Overall it's very messy to drive by car across Budapest. Since we arrive to the hotel after 5:30pm (too late for the bath) we simply give up on the bath and relax in the hotel.

At 7:30pm we go out again. Girls and young women in Budapest are HOT. They like to wear sexy things (miniskirts, short dresses, tight pants, tight tops etc.) whích best put their curves into display. I haven't seen so many women dressing sexy things in a long time. It's as if the women here were competing for attention, for who has the best body shape. Or perhaps I live in a country where women dress very bad.

In the evening we have a brief dinner and then go to an internet cafe (700 Forint/hour; Andrassy Street 46; Oktogon underground station; quite fast access) to check the emails. On the way back we take the underground. When changing lines, from M1 to M2, we are asked to produce tickets while in the underground station - before even being able to go on board of the M2 underground. We are told that we have the wrong tickets (ours apparently are single line ones for 120 Forint and we should have bought "transit" ones for 190 Forint). The lady tells us that we have to pay 1500 Forint fine each. Weird, because we haven't taken yet the second line. After some discussion (with two ladies later joined by a guy) we simply walk away.

30.05.03, Budapest
Garibaldi guesthouse
Warm and sunny the whole day
In the morning we manage to get out of the guesthouse at 10am and start the sightseeing after a brief breakfast in the cafe next to the guesthouse. We briefly stop at the Parliament, then get into the nearby M2 underground station. The ticket costs 80 Forint and allows you to travel up to the third underground station. We get out one station later, at Batthyany Ter. After a quick look at the St. Anna church we take again the underground to the next station, Moszkva Ter. At the exit of the underground a controller checks our tickets - the station of entry and the duration of our trip. Apparently this time everything is ok. It's a quarter to eleven and we start walking up the hill to the Fishermen's bastion which we reach 15 minutes later. The entry fees to the monuments are around 300-500 Forint per person.
We spend almost two hours there, then walk slowly to the Royal Palace which we reach at 1:30pm. Then the idea would be to have lunch somewhere in Pest. We walk down the Royal Palace hill to the base and look for a public transportation to get us across the Danube. The problem is that tickets are sold nowhere, i.e. there is no Metro station or newspaper shop nearby where we could buy bus tickets. So we simply walk across the chain bridge and get the Nr. 2 tram for two stations, getting out at the Parliament.
The discovery of the day is the Momotaro Metélt chinese restaurant (Széchenyi U. 16), which from the outside looks like nothing special (the entrance is run down and dirty), but inside it's quite nice and the food is very good. Much better than the Chinese restaurants in Germany.
After lunch at almost 3pm we rest for a while in the guesthouse. At 4:40pm we drive by car to the Széchenyi bath (ticket costs 1100 Forint). Very nice place, with a wide range of activities - thermal baths at 34 and 38°C in sulphureous water, saunas and cold baths. kind of a hig speed circular whirlpool where people are moved by a strong current and indoor and outdoor basins and whirlpools. Beautiful setting.
At 7pm we visit then the Varosliget park, then drive to the base of the Citadel (we climb up the hill, because we can't find the road which leads up the hill.
Dinner is again in the Momotaro restaurant.

31.05.03, Budapest -> Vienna
Hotel Stadt Bamberg, Mariahilfstrasse 167, Vienna; small double room with shower and water basin, no toilet, 64 Euro
Hot sunny day with a few clouds in the sky

We wake up still tired from yesterday's sightseeing (my eyes are still red, either from the sun or from yesterday's sauna). We check out at 10am and have a brief breakfast. Again the car has a ticket for wrong parking.
There is little traffic in Budapest at 10:45am and we manage to get out of town relatively smoothly. The motorway is quite empty. It takes one hour and a half to reach the border and crossing it today takes little time.
Once in Austria we start calling the hotels and hostels listed in the Let's Go Europe 2003 guide. It turns out that this guide is pretty useless, because there is only a handful of places listed and these places are all full. Probably these places are full because too many people are using the Let's Go guide and only call these places. It would probably make sense to use a less widely used guidebook.
Let's Go also doesn't list the telephone number of the tourist office, so I have to get it from the directory service of the Austrian mobile phone operator. I call the tourist office, but since nobody replies we drive to Albertinaplatz (where the tourist office is) and make a reservation there (the tourist office will make reservations for you for a fee of 2.60 Euro).
It's 3pm by now and since the roads today are blocked until 5 or 6pm due to an activity (marathon maybe), we decide to visit the downtown area until 6pm then drive to the hotel. After a late lunch in the Markt restaurant near the tourist office (Maysedergasse, 24 Euro for two, food is ok), we walk along the pedestrian area (Kärtner Strasse) to the Stephan's church. Lots of people on the streets.
In Stephansplatz there is lots of activity with several street artists performing. From there we take the underground U3 for two stations until Volkstheater (very overpriced at 1.50 Euro for two stations - they should lower their prices). From Volkstheater we stroll slowly to the Parliament then from there to the Hofburg, passing by the Volksgarten. Then we walk towards the Opera and from there back to the car. It's now 6:20pm and we drive to the hotel.
It turns out that the hotel is one star only and the room is a disappointment (very small, separate beds in opposite corners of the room, a TV on top of the cupboard). We change to a bigger double room without bath. It's regrettable that in a town like Vienna you only get such a room for 64 Euro. In the evening we walk out for dinner. After dinner I briefly check my emails in an Internet cafe (Mariahilfstrasse, 10 Euro cents/ minute).

01.06.03 Vienna -> Munich
Variable weather; sunny with clouds; brief shower at noon

We leave the hotel at 10:20am and drive into town along the Mariahilfstrasse, briefly stopping in two places to take pictures. Around 11:30 we park the car in a back road near the university. After visiting the Rathaus we meet my brother Markus who happens to be in Vienna for the weekend. Together we have a late breakfast in the cafe Zentral (around 18 Euro for the three of us; a cake and a drink each). This Cafe has a very nice interior and excellent cakes (they even play some music).

After we walk out; brief photo stop at the Votiv church, then we fetch the D tram line to the Belvedere castle (quite nice, though much smaller than Schönbrunn castle). Around 2pm we walk to the Südtirolerplatz and fetch the U1 to Praterstern. Basically it's a huge fun fair with a giant panoramic wheel (7.50 Euro per person). Nice view from the Panoramic wheel. It's almost 3pm and we go back to the car which we reach at 4:10pm after a brief snack (we have two change two times the underground).

Getting to Schönbrunn castle and finding a parking takes almost one hour (we enter Schönbrunn castle at 5pm). We spend over an hour at the castle and just see a small part of the castle and park. There is a nice maze (2.60 Euro per person) in the park. At 6:30pm we are back in the car. We refuel the car in a nearby petrol station (83.6 Euro cents for Normalbenzin - cheaper than the 103 Euro cents the Normalbenzin costs in Germany and the 90 cents it costs in Hungary).

At 6:40pm we finally leave Wien and reach the border to Germany very speedily shortly after 9pm (no traffic jams). At the border we again refuel the car (this time 90 Euro cents/liter, but still less than what the fuel costs in Germany). After a dinner we reach home at 11:20pm.

Copyright (c) 2003 Alfred Molon