The featured article is sourced from Flickr.
While the word ‘cruise’ may conjure up an image of passing palm-fringed islands while sipping an exotic cocktail, there is actually a multitude of cruise options available all across the world.
Outside the Americas, arguably the best of these cruise excursions are the varying European cruises, where all the best bits of the continent are available to keen groups of travellers, eager to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and culture of western or eastern Europe.
Where cruises to historically popular locations like the Mediterranean or cities like Paris and Venice are well documented, recent years have seen an upsurge in visits to places like Copenhagen or Gothenburg. Many of these European cruise lines offer fantastic in-land excursions – or, even better, start and finish in interesting destinations like Budapest.
Over the years, the Hungarian capital has proved itself a hugely popular European destination for group travellers (and, as Hungary maintains its own currency, the majority of travellers find Budapest to be much kinder on the wallet than numerous other popular European cities!).
Here are some pointers to ensure your group gets the best out of Budapest this season:
Don’t blindly trust official-looking cabbies
No one likes receiving a hefty financial sting as soon as you disembark. While extortionate taxi prices are by no means only found in Budapest, you will find a surprising number of locals guaranteeing you the cheapest price for you to get to your hotel from the train station or airport. Even though they are mostly legitimate cabs, this won’t stop them spotting out-of-towners and hiking up the price to as much as three times the going rate. Try to figure out how much the average taxi fare will be in advance – and ensuring that someone in the group has a bit of the local language can go a long way.
If you can, arrange for your hostel or hotel to organise a taxi service from the airport for you. Failing that, hail one from the designated taxi stand outside the airport or station – don’t be tempted to look elsewhere. Groups can organise minibuses in advance; this is by far the safest and cheapest option.
Take a bath
While ‘City of Baths’ isn’t the most original or inspiring nickname for a capital, that’s the moniker Budapest has been labeled with – and with good reason.
Hungary is the land of thermal springs, and while many will profess to the ‘healing’ qualities in the water of Budapest baths, those going there expecting the fountain of eternal youth may be disappointed. What they do provide, however, is an excellent (and cleansing!) experience! This reviving experience, coupled with the striking architecture in a number of the baths, is more than enough to overlook the numerous elderly locals padding around in nothing but a pair of speedos.
Király Baths is one of the city’s oldest, retaining many traditional elements of Turkish baths. Here, guests can linger in the ornate inside pools or brave the outdoor springs, where the initial unpleasantness of being practically naked in winter Budapest is quickly alleviated with a 37 degree (Celsius) bath. Make sure your towels are close to hand when you get out!
Sample the local beer…not the local shots.
Not only is it cheap, but the Hungarian beer Soproni is actually one of the nicest lagers in eastern Europe. The same cannot be said of popular local tipple ‘Unicum’, a traditional Hungarian herbal liquor. For the inexperienced, a shot of this might go down about as smoothly as lighter fluid! Barmen will try telling you that this Hungarian liquor is everything from a ‘delicacy’ to a ‘must try’ – make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy!
Don’t judge a pub by its cover
Ruined pubs, located in formerly abandoned buildings, make up the chiselled, authentic face of the city’s drinking scene. Don’t be put off by the entrance to many of these hidden gems – here, the masses congregate to watch live music, catch up or sample the local cuisine.
You don’t have to hotel hop
There is a good choice of affordable, clean, and friendly hostels in Budapest. Chains like Wombats are newly refurbished and offer a well-stocked bar and a great atmosphere. These hostels are ideal for group travel – quite simply, the more there are of you in a private room, the cheaper the room (and you won’t have to share your bathroom with people you don’t know!).
So whether you experience Budapest for a day on your cruise, or are lucky enough to finish your trip there, you and your friends can sample a fascinating bit of Europe that goes largely unnoticed over in many other parts of the world.
The featured article is sourced from Flickr.