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Budapest as home base for 2 weeks but want to venture out

We three women will be in Budapest for a wedding in early August 2019 and – because of the cost savings – will be booking round-trip from NYC to BUD, staying for two weeks. We also want to venture out to Zagreb and/or Ljubijana. Question: Should we rent a car and drive from Budapest to one or both of the above mentioned cities where we could stop along the way, or is it advisable to take a train, bus, or flight? Also, with two weeks, would we have time to hit both Zagreb and Ljubijana or should we concentrate on one in addition to Budapest? If only one city, we are leaning towards Zagreb because, from what we've read, seems more like a step back in time in a sense. Any suggestions and ideas are much appreciated!

Posted by
13300 posts

How many nights can you spend away from Budapest before the wedding? After the wedding?

I like Ljubljana and Zagreb a lot. Both have very attractive historic districts, sidewalk cafes, etc. Zagreb is larger and is considerably stronger on art museums. Ljubljana has what I think more than 50% of potential visitors would say is a somewhat more festive atmosphere. There's a small river flowing right through the historic district, and it adds something. I think just about everyone finds the city immediately engaging, and the river walk has a lot to do with it.

The two cities are only about 2-1/2 hours apart by train and by bus, so you might have time to see both. I'd want at least 3 nights in each one. If your group happens to be full of art fanatics, I'd add at least one night to Zagreb. You could also add time to Ljubljana just to relax or to go (by bus, easily) to Lake Bled and (by bus, not quite as easily) to either the Postojna Caves or the Skocjan Caves. If you're in Ljubljana over a weekend, you may encounter an art market or craft market near the river.

Hungary itself has many enticing smaller cities you could visit. It really depends on precisely how much time you have.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for your response. We can spend 7 or 8 nights away from Budapest before the wedding and remain in Budapest the rest of that time. It's great to see that we may be able to do both cities, or spend more time in Ljubljana venturing around and about. Do you advise us driving by car (i.e., safe to do so?) or train or bus? We would be so interested in your take on smaller cities in Hungary if you have information to give us on this. Thanks again!

Posted by
13300 posts

I haven't driven in Europe, but quite a lot of people here have, and it's certainly fine for trips hitting a lot of rural sights or small towns off the public-transportation grid if you do the necessary prep (all drivers need international driving permits from AAA or CAA, and you must research local driving regulations). Parking can be really tough in Europe, and unless you're all traveling light, trunk capacity can be a real problem. It is not prudent to park the car anywhere with some of your belongings visible. However, a quick look at ViaMichelin.com (driving times) and the Deutsche Bahn website (train schedules) does suggest that driving will be faster.

I'd look into flights if you decide to venture to Slovenia and/or Croatia. Use skyscanner for your initial research. But be aware of the usually-very-low baggage allowance on the budget airlines.

Perhaps your Budapest hotel would allow you to store some luggage there before your stay actually begins? There are also commercial luggage-storage options; you'd just have to pay for the service. That could be helpful no matter how you travel outside Budapest if you are carrying a bit more luggage than most would recommend because of wedding commitments.

I'm sure James E and a few other hardcore Hungary fans are going to notice this thread and give you ideas based on more experience than mine, but I especially liked Gyor in the west, and Pecs was my favorite city in the south, though I would happily return to Sopron (west), Kecskemet (south) and Szeged (south). You could have a grand trip within Hungary's borders. If you are wine-lovers, Eger would be recommended.

Posted by
9192 posts

It is 7 to 9 hours from Budapest to Ljb, by car, train or plane. It will probably cost $200 per person round trip no matter how you do it. And you will lose 2 fill days going there and back. So first I would pay a few hundred dollars extra for an open jaw ticket, arriving at Ljb and departing Budapest. Then fly to Vienna nonstop from Ljb, spend a couple of nights, then train to Budapest.

Posted by
474 posts

I think you would have time to see both Zagreb and Ljubijana with the time you have. If you choose only one of the two, hands down for me it would be Ljubijana. It is small enough to feel quaint and charming, but large enough that you don't wonder what to do after one day. I loved it there. Zagreb is very nice too but is much larger and in my mind not as charming.

Posted by
1751 posts

You can test out the transport options on rome2rio.com. If you want to visit big cities, I would not rent a car. As Rick likes to say, a car is a worthless headache in a big city. I have driven in around ten countries in Europe and I would hesitate to drive across borders over long distances in this part of Europe without researching it thoroughly. It might be fine, but you could run into unexpected challenges. I want to visit these cities too, but you could also consider venturing out to Vienna and Bratislava (maybe you have already been to those places). Eger and Sopron are other worthy stops within Hungary that I have personally visited. I think Pecs looks nice too but I have never been there myself. Unfortunately the other places in Hungary that you might want to visit are in different directions from Budapest.

Posted by
9192 posts

Or you could just go the Hungarian Rail site and get the schedule. Car time I would suspect that Google Maps is a best case scenario and add 15% to it. Dont forget the cost of gas and toll roads and parking it for a week.

Budapest is a great hub for about everyplace but where you want to go. So many really beautiful places within 3.5 hours on the train or 1.5 hours on a discount airline ($50).

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for all the information and advice. It's a lot to process and all sounds wonderful. We are set on driving from Budapest to Slovenia/Croatia to explore as we go, and return to Buda for the wedding. That gives us one week. So the question is whether anyone has information about rentals and driving. It seems it will be cost-efficient as we will be returning to same country. Any advice and recommendations are welcome, again!

Posted by
13300 posts

I have no reason to think it will be a problem, but be sure you advise the car-rental company of your plans to drive to Slovenia and Croatia.

Many people here have reported using car-rental consolidators AutoEurope, Kemwel and Gemut. Often they come up with rental rates lower than what can be found by going directly to the rental companies--though it would be smart to check there as well.

Posted by
9192 posts

A wild guess here (I understand your desire. I am just doing this for my own education)

OPTION 1: Fly in and out of Budapest and drive to Zagreb and back.
Rental Rate, no less than 65 euro a day x 6 days = 390 euro
Parking , not less than 25 euro a day x 4 days = 100 euro
Tolls and gas, not less than 130 euro round trip
Total 620 euro / 3 people <210+ euro each.

OPTION 2: Fly open jaw and then drive to Budapest.
Rental Rate, no less than 65 euro a day x 1 days = 65 euro
Tolls and gas, not less than 65 euro
Drop Charge, at least 300 euro
Added cost for Open Jaw, 100 euro each x 3 = 300 euro.
Total 130 euro / 3 people = 45 euro each.
Total 775 euro / 3 people <275 euro each.

OPTION 3: Fly open jaw and then fly / train to Budapest
Added cost for Open Jaw, 100 euro each x 3 = 300 euro.
Flight to Vienna, 100 euro x 3 = $300 euro
Train to Budapest, 30 euro x 3 = 90 euro
Total 690 euro / 3 people <250 euro each.

Looks like you found the cheapest way and given flight times and travel times, etc; it really isnt costing you any vacation time.

https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Expense_report?cityDeparture=Budapest&departure=1007%20Budapest,%20Hungary&cityArrival=Ljubljana&arrival=Ljubljana,%20Slovenia&directionName=M7&vehicle=0&vignetteCost=24.26&time=04h34&distance=461&motorwayTime=04h06&motorwayDist=446&fuelCost=1.36&consumption=38.63&currency=EUR&totalCosts=62.89&distanceUnit=km&carTypeName=Hatchback

Posted by
13 posts

We are honing in on definite plans! Will be renting car from and returning to Buda. The wedding looks to be in District XII so we will look for an Air BnB somewhat near there. Are there any Districts/areas we should gravitate to or stay away from in particular?

Also, we will be driving to Croatia (Zagreb and surrounds) and Slovenia (Ljubijana and surrounds). We love to explore rural areas or places of interest along the way. Does anyone have any especially interesting and/or unique places you've visited?

Again, your information has been valuable and is so appreciated.
Bonnie

Posted by
9192 posts

District XII is a beautiful spot in the Buda hills. Full of great old homes and nature. It's also about a 15 minute drive to 85% of what you will want to see. Figure another 20 minutes to find a place to park and at least $15 in parking fees. Or you could take public transport and reach Deak Ferenc ter in under 40 minutes. From there most of the sites are maybe 10 minutes away on a tram or metro line. Or you could stay in Pest and save the cost and daily commute; except for the one commute to the wedding. In Pest I like anything along or within a block or two of Andrassy ut. Of course I am biased, as that's where my home is. But then I think I chose well after a lot of trips.

Posted by
9192 posts

As for where to avoid .... not much bad in Budapest. Stay anyplace in Buda or any place in Pest inside the outer loop road or along Andrassy ut, all the way out to the park.

Posted by
13 posts

Getting set! Flights in and out of Budapest are booked, as is a lovely looking AirBnB near the Opera and Andrassy Ave for 6 nights -- at the end of our trip. SO . . . in filling the first 7 nights of the trip, as noted before, we will be renting a car for exploring in Croatia and Slovenia. We are thinking about the coastal town of Rovinj in Croatia driving inland to Ljubljana and venturing out and around this City before returning to Budapest. Does this seem doable? Any advice or suggestions in and around these places are so appreciated. This plan is not written in stone in case anyone has alternate suggestions or ideas. Thanks once again for all the informative discussions.

Posted by
9192 posts

You might have read that I spend a bit of time in Budapest. It really opened up a lot of Europe when Wizzair opened up there. So, while your driving tour is great, at least know that you can be in Budapest on Monday and laying on a beach on the Adriatic (Montenegro) on Tuesday (about $100, one way, nonstop, in about 1.5 hours) or Romania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania (dont laugh, it beautiful), Ukraine (another favorite), Poland, etc... I build my trips to Budapest around this. Fly into X for a few days, quick flight to Budapest for a week or two, then home. Google Flights: choose Budapest to Europe, nonstop, one way and then explore different days of the week for options. Its incrediable what opens up.

Posted by
13 posts

I do apologize as I realize this is a Hungary forum and I have been asking about other countries here as well. But, since I am getting answers here I will continue. Just let me know if I should move on over to another Forum for advice on anything besides Hungary!

As we are not into big cities but rather smaller cities and countryside/rural areas, we will be driving BUT returning the car upon rearrival to Budapest (big city)! While away from Budapest, I am wondering if anyone would advise we visit another nearby country or countries to explore rather than Slovenia and/or Croatia.

So . . . getting back to Hungary. I'm trying to keep it simple but we arrive in Budapest noon Wednesday, spending the night then picking up rental car from downtown location the following morning and leaving the City. We have time to roam for 8 nights before returning to Budapest (Thursday). We have wedding obligations Friday night, Saturday from mid-afternoon on, and Sunday midday so these days we could find plenty to see and do in Budapest itself.

This gives us only 2 full days (Thursday and Monday) for day trips outside of Budapest. I note previous recommendations of Gyor, Pecs, Kecskemet, Eger, and Szeged. Given we only have two full and separate days, I would be interested in any opinions or advice as to town preferences, etc. Also, since we will have a car for about half of our trip, would it be best we make it a point to keep the car for an extra day (pay for parking) and drive for a day trip outside of Budapest?

Once again, thanks much for all the informative information!

Posted by
183 posts

If you prefer countryside to cities, why not scrap Ljubljana for Lake Bled/Vintgar Gorge and Zagreb for Motovun/Rovinj. That said, I love Ljubljana and it is a "smallish city" and Zagreb is fine too. Just being "devil's advocate."

Kaye

Posted by
9192 posts

I'm not going to argue about you dislike of big cities, but I do strongly suggest you spend the first 2 nights in Budapest. Get a room on Andrassy ut, the night you arrive take the M1 metro down to the river, eat outside and enjoy the view. Then walk back. Not liking cities, a metro probably turns you off too, but this one is small, simple and a bit more like an amusement park ride than a traditional metro. Then the next day walk up Andrassy to the Oktogon intersection and get on the tram. Take it to Margret Island in the middle of the Danube. It a lovely park with green lawns, monuments, restaurants, old architecture and lots of flowers. Beautiful setting. Then after lunch take the tram back to the Oktogon, get on the M1 to Heros square and the city park. Enjoy the lakes, trees, architecture. Brave? The bath house is there too. Then walk past some stunning architecture on your way back down Andrassy ut. Would you enjoy some good food or a wine bar? You now have s good feel for Pest. If it was good and you want more, put the driving trip off another day. Your stay in Buda at the end will be a complete opposite of this.

Then, if it were my road trip, I would go the other way. I would drive to Eger and Lillafuerd for the night at the Palota Hotel. Then on to Kosice for another night. Then probably on to Strbske Pleso for a night. Then to Banská Štiavnica for a night before returning to Budapest by way of Estergom and Szentendre.

Posted by
9192 posts

OR!!! another favorite of mine is Montenegro. Fly to Podgorica from the States. Rent a car and spend a week along the Aegean and in the mountains. From Podgorica Wizz air is under $100 nonstop to Budapest

Posted by
13 posts

James, we are taking your plan of seeing Pest. It sounds great. Have you ever done the KAQUN baths there? There is one spa in Pest very close to Andrassay ut where we will be booking baths. Thanks again.

Posted by
9192 posts

Interesting. I learn about something new every day. The closest my quick search came up with is at Telepes utca 58.

https://kaqun-zuglo.com/galeria/

Which is a bit of a trek. But go for it! It's a perfect way to immerse yourself in a city. But know that this will be a clinical bath, not to be confused with the old world thermal baths that Budapest us famous for.

http://szechenyispabaths.com

I think you will be happy that you spent an extra night in Budapest. Stay flexible in the event that you like it more than expected and want to make it two extra nights.

Posted by
13 posts

scythian, i appreciate your valuable input! by now we have nixed croatia. will be looking into slovakia. the 3 of us really want to see slovenia too. we are determined to attempt to make the best of our time in what now seems will be a too short two-week trip!

Posted by
140 posts

Last year my wife and I were based in Budapest (BP) and visited Ljubljana (Lj). It was easy and great. LJ is a 6 hr bus ride away (we took FlixBus). We arrived in LJ and immediately rented a car, drove to Bled, visited Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bohinj. Early morning we drove to Vrsic Pass and made our way to Trieste, Italy (you could skip Italy and go directly to Piran, Slovenia. From Piran we drove to Postonja Cave (last trip) and then back to LJ where we dropped off the car. LJ is a totally fine walking town, car not needed. Check out google maps for driving times but the longest ride was Bled to Trieste maybe 3-4 hrs (but you have to commit to drive early otherwise the Pass becomes crowded). You can expand the trip or make it leaner but the circle: LJ-Bled-VP-Piran-Postonja-LJ is easy.
Slovenia was delightful: clean, easy to navigate, great vistas: mountains/lakes/ocean (Piran), caves, fun city.
That part of the country is compact.
We flew into BP [from the States] and flew back to US from LJ - so we didn't bus back to BP.
I'm intrigued by the wedding in BP! That'll be interesting.

Posted by
13 posts

vivien, thanks so much for the valuable information. we are excited to visit Hungary and have decided to venture to Slovinia as well in an effort to experience their culture as well, so we will spend a week in each country. If you have specific recommendations for restaurants, opera houses, etc., I would appreciate your input.

Posted by
13 posts

Don,
We are excited to visit Slovinia. When leaving Budapest, we will rent a car and keep it until our return to Buda for the wedding which -- by the way -- is a three-day affair and I'm sure will be something for the books!

We have lodging at an apt w/terrace in Old Town LJB and -- as you and your wife did -- plan to venture out for daily treks and return to LJB. Of course, if we get sidetracked away from LJB, we'll be prepared for that as well. I would love specifics if any stand out as to restaurants, areas to not miss, etc.

Thanks for your input!

Posted by
9192 posts

With two weeks you can think out of the box a bit. Budapest is connected to a lot of Eastern Europe by Wizzair. That 5 or 6 hours it will take you to drive or train to Slovenia will also get you to the coast of Montenegro or Albania (both stunning) or to Sofia or Kyiv or Sarajevo, or Clug N. Closer are the castles and High Tatras of Slovskia. Still closer Pecs, Gyor, Lake Bslston, Eger are all worth a night or two.

A different suggestion- off the beaten path. I took the train and stayed 1 night in Szeged before having a car service drive me to a remote and luxe yurt (glamping) or historic rooms (2 in the house I stayed in- think b&b). Food was phenomenal (maybe 10 tables?). They grow their own vegetables and one afternoon I was reading next to the building with the dining room. The owner brought me out some cookies that were made from extra crust from that nights dessert and I saw the chef pick eggplant from the garden that was my appetizer. The owners are an Austrian couple. The highlight was horseback riding to the local Sunday market (fascinating). My guide and I grabbed fried pike from a stall- huge piece and really good. They had everything there and it was huge and busy (no tourists). I got my butt kicked riding as I was not in good enough shape, and the rides are fast but I was the only rider so I mostly walked and the horses were great. It was very romantic and beautifully decorated. You are out in the putska surrounded by farmland. They have a sauna and other spa services. The water was heavily mineraled and perfect for a long soak in my tub after riding. The other room in my building had a washer and dryer (I peaked). http://homokilodge.com/ I didn’t have the time to stop in Kecskemét on my trip but I wish I had. It looked like there are a few really interesting small museums. Szeged is best known for the votive church, and has a nice pedestrian walking area. I did stop in the museum there and the shoe exhibit was interesting but the natural history museum (same building) is very dated. (The ethnographic museum in Budapest was a highlight for me and also had an interesting shoe exhibit). I had originally intended to go to Pecs, then the lodge and then Szeged but didn’t know what to expect for driving. Based on what I saw totally doable. Also wish I had done that. Make sure you try Tokaj- wonderful. The lodge has wine pairings with dinner- needed to mention that. Check their Facebook page. They post pics of dinner and the food is as good as it looks. They can arrange other side trips too. Afterwards head off to Croatia rested and pampered.

Posted by
13 posts

This sounds like a great aside! Am sending to my compadres and will wait for the majority! I would love to do this. Thanks for this information. I really appreciate it.