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Welcome to Budapest

Flying in as a US citizen requires a 72 hour PCR test. The US vaccine card is not recognized. Otherwise, quick and painless.

The word is 60% of the restaurants, bars and shops have gone under and that is painfully evident. Tourism reminds me of 20 years ago ... but cleaner. But all (most?) of the usual tourist sites seem to be open.

If you are uncomfortable being in a location with no face masks and social distancing ... go elsewhere. Face masks are only required in medical facilities and some large indoor gatherings. The vaccination rate here is about the same as most of Europe but they achieved it faster than most countries. The case rate is better than many locations.

Airbnbs and hotels are starting to pick up a bit. What restaurants and bars that are still in business are operating normally.

Posted by
2058 posts

A negative PCR Test is required for entry into Hungary but no face masks or social distancing? This is contradictory even if the case rate is low. A head scratcher. I spent 9-10 days in Venice at the end of August and face masks and social distancing were required in all indoor venues. Lots of outdoor cafes so no need there. Before you could enter museums, churches or other indoor shops or venues, we had to show our CDC Cards.

Posted by
13426 posts

The sort of "official" word is no Christmas Markets, but last week they had a very large beer festival, this week the pope came and spoke to thousands, next week is the Castle Wine Festival. So, I dont see why the Christmas Markets might not happen. Only that it takes them a long while to organize it. Unlike a lot of markets, the ones in Budapest only sell local crafts; no imported junk. And every booth has to submit their wares for approval before they can sell them. That and renting the booths and the whole set up takes time. With the markets opening in mid-November they woudl have to move fast if they havent already started. We wait and see.

Posted by
2298 posts

Glad you made it to Budapest, James! I watched a live feed of the Szent Istvan day parade a few weeks ago and noticed that no one in the crowd wore a mask and was a bit surprised. I am beyond ready to return to Budapest but will probably wait until next spring as was usual for me in the past...need some time with the storks and I am hoping Ecseri piac is still in business.

Posted by
13426 posts

The government says new restrictions are unlikely. Which is a healthy positive attitude. Spent most of today in government offices, no masks or distancing there either.

Good news, a new laundry and dry cleaning service just opened next door to where I stay!! Clean skivvies at 2pm!!

Posted by
14792 posts

Hi James. I'm so happy for your being in one of your favorite places. Please tell me that Kadarka is still going strong or I'll be devastated.

Posted by
13426 posts

Kadarka is fine. Would have ruined me too, as it has good memories .... thank you. Its an interesting mix of what survived the lockdown and what did not.

Chani, wish I could post photos. Kadarka has been full or near full most evenings. Zoltan and Arpie still running the ship. Prices a tad higher .... pretty typical now. Just paid 1500ft for an excellent Cab/Franc but still plenty good wine under 800ft.

Weather has been georgious. 80F high, 60F low; maybe a bit cooler the last 2 days.

Posted by
13426 posts

Heading home today. Just noticed masks aren't required in the airport. So far, the only time I was required to wear one was in the dentist office and the doctor office and an imaging lab (health care here is a bargain).

Posted by
13426 posts

Okay, Antigen Test checked to get boarding pass in Budapest. I got it at FirstMed a few days earlier when I had my annual physical. Took about 10 minutes to get boarding passes and another 10 to get through security and get to the gate.

To be honest, in the last 2 months I have flown out of IAH, IST, KBP, ODS, ATH and BUD and the whole COVID protocols don't seem to have created beyond a minor impact in how long everything takes.

In Istanbul Antigen Test checked again at the gate. Also passport checked FOUR times and my carryon x-rayed upon arrival and searched at the gate.

Despite what it sounds like, the entire process only took about 30 minutes. Pretty organized and well run airport.

Oh, and one of the ladies that checked my passport told me I had a beautiful sounding name ....

Its a perfect day to travel.

Posted by
13426 posts

Things are picking up in Budapest. Of the two AirBnbs I generally stay at, one rented 17 days this month (including me), the other 20 days. Compared to 5 in August and 0 most of the year prior.

But prices are up and portions are down. Up by maybe 10% in the tourist shops and restaurants. Hungarians are like Americans, they pile too much food on a plate. Portions are approaching French standards 🤯. But everyone is trying to hang on the best they can ... actually, the 50% that survived are fortunate. I spoke with one bar owner and one restaurant owner, both closed since last fall ... they both said they were waiting till March to reopen.

Posted by
2215 posts

In terms of prices, if James E is correct and many places have closed, this will naturally affect prices. Less supply, more demand, higher prices. As things go back to normal (and when will that be, we wonder?), prices should slip back a bit.

Posted by
13426 posts

Might be that with the local places and people just trying to pay staff with the tourist venues. The tourist venues are at very low capacity; no supply and demand issues there. The local places are full and the ones that survived are doing very good. An interesting dynamic. A very good restaurant on the tourist path is empty, and equal restaurant 3 blocks off the tourist path is packed.

Posted by
466 posts

James, is Pata Negra still open at the end of Vasvari? We had a pretty decent meal there, although if I remember correctly, unexpectedly pricey for BP.

Posted by
13426 posts

Peter, el ASADOR de Pata Negra is still open. They make a pretty mean steak (if you want a great steak, PM me --- its my secret) and the tapas are good; actually the whole menu is good. But yes a bit pricy. Here is the menu: https://patanegra.hu/hu/asador/etlap/

Also on the street, still open is Kadarka Wine Bar. When was the last time you bought just a glass of wine and they let you try it before they poured it full? Here is the wine list: http://kadarkawinebar.com/winelist/ at 300 ft to the dollar, look at the prices. Food is good too: http://kadarkawinebar.com/menu/

What is closed for the time being is the Lion's Locker. Originally just a place to store luggage they turned it into a first rate breakfast location. I talked to the owners when I was in town and they promise to reopen no later than March. They are afraid of opening sooner, just to have to close again. The website: https://www.lockerbudapest.com/gallery

Posted by
23 posts

James, I'll be in Budapest for a few days next week. Do you have any other restaurant recommendations for lunch or dinner? I'd love to have some good Hungarian food and also avoid tourist traps.

Posted by
72 posts

I was at Kadarka earlier this month, having always wanting to visit based on James's recommendations. What a great place. There were several tables reserved at the time, so if you want to check it out, it may be wise to make a reservation.

James has shared a list of his favorite restaurants - you should be able to find via search.

My recommendation is Nagyi Kifőzdéje in the 2nd district (Buda), not far from Margit bridge. My Hungarian relatives eat there on occasion. It's a delightful place for lunch; it is just like walking into your Hungarian grandmother's kitchen. It's inexpensive and absolutely delicious.

Posted by
13426 posts

Chiristy

I am glad you enjoyed Kadarka. They are good friends and run a good business. I have to remind myself that as much as I enjoy the place, it is just a corner wine bar. Since I stay about 200 feet away, you can find me there most evenings when I am in town.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you so much Christy, and I'll check out the recommendations from the earlier thread. We're staying at the Intercontinental.

Posted by
13426 posts

Elizabeth

Avoiding tourist traps is fairly easy in Budapest; avoid Vaci utca (Vaci Street). Otherwise Budapest is at worst well blended between tourists and locals.

If you want to try something a little higher end, but supremely Hungarian and with zero tourists then try Kiraly 100. A bit of a local experience to get to as well.

Go behind your hotel to Vorosmarty ter. There you will find stairs leading down to the M1 Metro. Go down the stairs marked Mexikói. Stay on to the 5th stop which is confusingly called Vorosmarty utca. The M1 is more like an amusement park ride than a modern subway Not intimidating at all. Runs just a few feet below Andrassy ut.

But do know, no one on the Metro will be wearing a mask and there will be no social distancing. But that is true everywhere in the city.

Go up the stairs and walk up Andrassy ut, past the first street (Izabella utca), to the second street Rozsa utca. Turn right and the restaurant is at the corner of the second cross street (Kiraly utca). Maybe 5 min from the metro stop.

Or this is a long but beautiful walk up Andrassy from your hotel. Or call City Taxi.

Posted by
72 posts

James - one of these days, we'll both be in Budapest at the same time. ;)

Elizabeth - another restaurant to check out is Retek Bisztro. Here is the website: www.retekbisztro.hu It is super tiny so you definitely need reservations.

It will take about 6 minutes to walk from your hotel.

Posted by
13426 posts

Christy, I looked it up. I have a new place to add to my list. Thank you.

Posted by
13426 posts

COVID Testing for the trip back to the US.

I got a question from an individual going to Budapest soon. Thought the information would be useful for someone else.

There are a number of possibly more convenient locations, but my preference for all things medical is FirstMed. Its where I get things "fixed". https://firstmedcenters.com/ You can schedule on line.

You can call City Taxi and it might cost you 3 or 4 thousand forints. Or get to see some more of Budapest and take the tram. From the Opera House you walk up Andrassy ut (worth the time to see the architecture and shops) to the first major intersection called "The Okotogon" because of the shape of the intersection. Might take 7 or 8 minutes.

At the intersection look to your left and in the middle of the road you will see the 4/6 Tram line stop. Get on a tram that is running from right to left. Validate your ticket or know where your travel card is in case asked.

Ride the tram for six stops to Széna tér. There is sign on the ceiling of each car that shows the next stop so you cant miss it. They announce it too but Hungarian words can be a bit hard to understand. About a 10 minute trip past the Nyugati Train Station (by Eiffel), the most beautiful McDonalds you ever saw (LOL), the Comedy Theater (outstanding architecture), across Margrit Island Bridge with a stop half way, and into Buda.

Get off and with your back to the tram you will see the building that the clinic is in. Its about a block away across two streets, but you can see it and its a very unique building.

https://www.google.com/maps/@47.5078217,19.0282377,3a,75y,130.23h,84.62t/am=t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sJ93YrM_lN_higlsABrqJXQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?hl=en&authuser=0

The photo should open looking at the building (see the FirstMed logo above the door). Spin the photo 180 degrees and you can see the tram you just go off.

Clinic is on the 5th floor.

Now you are a short walk to the Buda Castle District. Maybe 5 or 6 minutes to the entry gate