I'm going to Hungary in the spring and will be staying at at a castle 75km from Budapest (http://www.kastelyszirak.hu/en/). There is no train station nearby (closest is a 30 minute drive). I want to sign up for some site-seeing trips, but haven't been able to find one that picks up at the hotel. Is my only option going to be to rent a car (not comfortable driving in a country where I don't speak the language)? Any suggestions that won't double my in-country costs?
E-mail the hotel and ask if they offer any excursions.
Contact a private guide and get a quote that would include a pick-up at your hotel - be prepared for this to be costlier.
Did you not consider the implications of being so far out when you booked? Can you change your reservation and book one of the many excellent hotels in Budapest itself?
Are you accompanying someone attending a conference? Sometimes conference organizers put together a sightseeing program for companions. Ask.
You have a predicament. Your issue is why location is so important. But I am guessing you have some reason for the decision. I can only recommend a good guide (excellent guide) Andrew ILLES http://www.guideinbudapest.com/ If you are luck maybe the hotel has a daily car into Budapest or a cut rate driver.
Get over your fears and drive. It's no big deal.
I rarely drive on trips due to the little use of the car in most daily sightseeing; and the sheer cost of gas, tolls, parking, and rental. But this just might have to be the exception. Parking in Budapest isn't cheap.
It all depends where you want to go. If you want to do a lot of sightseeing then rent a car. But for Budapest, Eger and some other nearby destination I would not bother. There is a train station Szurdokpuspoki (umlauf above second u and second o), judging by a map not farther than 15 to 20 km from your castle. It's very likely there is a bus service to that station. You will be in Hungary, not US. Almost all villages have public transportation there. Maybe they even have a direct bus to Budapest. Unfortunately I was not able to find bus connection from Szirak on Internet but that does not mean that it does not exist. You can find out by asking at your hotel. Of course if there is bus connection to other stations between Szurdokpuspoki and Hatvan you can go to them (Jobagyi, Apc-Zagyvaszanto, Lorinci and Hatvan itself). In the worst case scenario there is no bus (which I strongly doubt) I would go to the train station by taxi. It would still cost less than renting, gas, parking, etc. There are frequent trains (every hour to two hours) from Szurdokpuspoki to Budapest Keleti with one change in Hatvan. Train takes 1 hour 38 minutes. You can also get to Eger from Szurdokpuspoki with a change in Hatvan and sometimes also in Fuzesabony. You can try to contact Hungarian tourist office. There is one even in this country (or more?) in New York City. You can google them.
Ilja; you do that really well. I guess you spend a lot of time in Budapest. Send me a schedule and maybe my wife and I can buy you a cup of coffee on one of your visits.
I'll take you up on that and will reciprocate by buying you a beer in Prague.
Excellent. We will be in Bpest the second/third week in March and the second/third week in May and probably Christmas/New Year week. Prague isn't back on the radar until we get to a few new places. Tops on the radar right now is the western portion of the Balkans. .