Photo: Matt Perich
1. All this Buda and Pest stuff is confusing you.
Yes, today the city is called Budapest. But once upon a time, there were two towns: Buda and Pest (actually, three including Óbuda). In the 19th century they were united to form one big capital: Budapest. The part of town on the western side of the Danube, Budapest’s green lung with its lush hills and gorgeous villas, is called Buda, while the flatter and larger part on the eastern side of the Danube, where the lively heart of the city beats, is called Pest.
2. You’re waiting in front of the wrong bridge.
Your new friends want to meet you in front of Szabadság Bridge. Doesn’t sound difficult, does it? You are on time, waiting, waiting, still waiting. Finally your phone rings and your friends want to know why you are late; they are all in front of Szabadság Bridge waiting for YOU. And slowly you start to realize that you went to the wrong bridge. This city simply has too darn many of them — eight bridges span the Danube linking Buda and Pest.
3. Correctly pronouncing ‘Egészségedre’ is damn near impossible.
Egészségedre (“to your health”) is the common Hungarian toast. While it is slightly more difficult to remember (and pronounce) than “Cheers,” “Prost,” or “Salud,” after a couple of pálinka it will role easily enough off your tongue — and help you make a lot of new Hungarian friends.
4. You think lunch for 3,000HUF (roughly 10EUR) is a great deal.
On the contrary, that is quite expensive here. Once you have been in Budapest a while, you will almost never eat in the city center because there are tons of self-service restaurants with huge portions of everything your heart could desire for half the price just a two-minute walk from the touristic center.
5. You refuse to go in the dodgy bar your friends are trying to drag you into.
The building looks like it should be torn down, the furniture is ratty and broken, and no two chairs match. Welcome to Szimpla, once voted the third best bar in the world, and definitely worth going to.
6. Once you finally go in, you think the vibe at Szimpla is so unique.
While it is an amazing place and not easy to find something comparable in most other cities, there are plenty of ruin bars in Budapest. Each of them is a little different and has its very own character. Just go out and explore!
7. You want to pre-drink before going out to save money.
Sure, it might be a tad cheaper to pre-drink at home or at your hostel before you go out for the big party. But going out in Budapest is quite an affordable affair, especially for tourists. It’s not worth sacrificing all the memorable places you will see and the interesting people you will meet to save a couple euros.
8. You try to pay the exact amount in the supermarket.
The bill is 1,597HUF. You managed to somehow find the appropriate coins and already have 1,595HUF. But you just can’t find any 1HUF coins in your purse. Stop looking — they don’t exist anymore! 5HUF is the smallest you will get. How can things cost 1,597HUF, then? Welcome to Hungary. Numbers ending in 1, 2, 6, and 7 are rounded down to 0 or 5, so you actually save some money. 3, 4, 8, and 9 are rounded up, so you lose some money. It all works out in the end.
9. You are blown away by the amount of foreigners living in Budapest.
Budapest is not the central European provincial town you might think it is. You will find a huge, active expat scene. Many international companies have branches here, employing a multinational mixture of highly qualified locals and foreigners. Due to its (at least compared to Western Europe) low cost of living and high quality of life, Budapest is also a favorite choice of many Erasmus students. Expat or student, they all fall in love with Budapest as soon as they arrive and many never leave.