The night before traveling to Budapest I couldn’t get to sleep.
My mind was in overdrive trying to make sure that I had packed everything, making sure that I was ready to face airport security, wondering what staying in a hostel would be like, hoping that I wouldn’t get lost, and just generally shitting my pants ….but with a touch of excitement thrown in for good measure.
This was going to be my first time traveling solo and only my second time in an airport.
The next morning, after only a few hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed and my housemate dropped me off at the nearest train station.
Two trains later, I arrived at Birmingham Airport with plenty of time to spare before my flight – almost 6 hours!
But I was ok with this.
It was only my third time flying, and my first time going solo, so I was glad for the extra time. I used it wisely by shopping for things that I couldn’t afford and watching YouTube videos of cats.
Just before going through security, I tried to make sure I was super prepared. I didn’t want to be taken into the ‘back room’.
I had already moved my electronic devices (phone, camera, and battery pack) to my pockets, my liquids were at the top of my luggage and were easily accessible, and I had already taken my shoes off and had them in my free hand ready whilst waiting at the back of the queue.
I sailed through security, and as stupid as it sounds, I felt very proud of myself.
As I walked through the metal detector, and the light turned green, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air as though I had just crossed the finish line in first place at the Olympics. But instead, I played it cool and went to collect my belongings from the conveyor belt, whilst secretly giving myself a little fist pump for a job well done.
After landing in Budapest at around 9 pm, I had to navigate myself to the hostel that I had pre-booked.
The easiest way would have been to get a shuttle bus or taxi directly to their front door, but that was not an option for me because I was on such a tight budget – unless, of course, I didn’t want to eat for the next 3 days!
I went to the Travel Information desk and a helpful Hungarian explained that I needed to take a bus and a tube. He provided me with a helpful transport map and pointed me in the direction of where I could buy the tickets, and off I trundled.
I approached the ticket desk and asked, “Please can I buy a bus and a train ticket?”
“That’ll be 700Ft,” he replied.
(Ft meaning Hungarian Forints, and 700Ft being equivalent to approx €2.25)
“Erm, do you not need to know where I’m going?”
“Nope, it’s a standard 350Ft for each journey, no matter where you are going.”
I thought that was extremely cheap. I could ride a bus or the tube from one side of the city, right across to the other side, and it would still only cost 350Ft (€1.15). The standard pricing also made calculating travel costs very simple.
Anyway, back to my story…
I got my tickets and went outside to locate the bus stop. I then followed the handy travel map to the tube station and just prayed that I was on the right one and that I was going in the right direction.
I was an obvious tourist with my large backpack and travel map, wandering around what felt like the back-end-of-beyond at 10.30pm.
At times, this was a little daunting, but I just reassured myself to stay vigilant and avoid any dark alleys.
After getting off the tube, I walked up the stairs from the underground platform.
At the top, I stopped to take in my first sights of Budapest.
For a few seconds, I felt as though I was in a movie.
I stood there looking up at the lights and impressive buildings around me, trying to take in as much as I could. I did a full 360-degree turn, feeling proud of myself that I had made it and I had achieved what I had set out to do.
For someone who has done so little traveling, it felt like a great achievement not getting lost or detained at the airport.
My first hostel experience
After following good old Google Maps, I found my way to my hostel, the Budapest Bubble, which is located in the center of the city, next to the National Museum.
I had never stayed in a hostel before, and although I had done some research online, I didn’t quite know what to expect on the other side of the front door.
I was greeted and shown in by Anna, the lady that runs the hostel. She was calm, friendly, and pleasant.
Rather than just checking me in and leaving me to it, she took the time to talk to me and to get to know a bit about me. This made me feel so much more relaxed because I didn’t feel like a customer, I felt like a friend.
After providing me with my door key, Anna proceeded to show me around the hostel and to where I would be sleeping.
It was a very small hostel, very similar to a house, and I was staying in an 8 bed (4 bunk beds) mixed dorm.
The common room and kitchen area even came complete with a half-naked Irish man, wearing just a pair of joggers and eating a bowl of cereal at 11pm, which became a pretty standard sight in this environment.
After unpacking and getting showered and changed, I got myself comfy on my bottom bunk bed and my new home for the next four nights.
Due to the lack of sleep the night before, I sleep like a log, and the next morning I woke up to a sunny day, excited to get outside to see what Budapest had to offer.
Anna gave me a tourist map of the city and kindly circled all the main attractions and told me when it’s best to visit each place. She also marked recommended restaurants, bars, food markets, and other places of interest.
Armed with my map, video camera, iPhone, selfie-stick, mandatory holiday sunglasses, and a bottle of water, I was ready to explore!
I spent the next three days wandering the city, taking in the sights and culture. Clocking up an average of 16km (10miles) per day and leaving no stone unturned.
I wanted to see everything that there was to see, from the trendy and chic streets to the parks and hill-top views of the city.
The weather was around 21°C (70F), which meant that after half-a-day in the sun my pasty white skin was well and truly burnt.
To me, the weather was hot, and on the second day I strutted out in a sundress.
However, to the locals, it was still winter (February) and they strutted out with big coats, hats, and scarfs – I was melting just looking at them.
Throughout my time at the Budapest Bubble Hostel, I met so many amazing people from all over the world – Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Sweden, and America, just to name a few. And throughout the week we all got to know each other a bit better and we became a multi-national dysfunctional family. All with our own little quirks, preferences, and personalities.
On the Thursday evening, we came together to have a family meal.
Each placing 1000Ft (€3.22) into a pot, we visited the local Aldi store and bought a selection of meat, veg, wine, and sauces – this was quite an entertaining expedition on its own.
Back at the hostel, lead chef Adam (from New York) took the helm and prepared a heap of rice, and co-ordinated the rest of the cooking.
I and the other members pitched in with chopping, cleaning, preparing, etc.
We placed a hot plate in the middle of the table and cooked a selection of vegetables and meat throughout the evening with people dipping in and out as they required.
There was a total of 10 people eating, and all had different dietary requirements and tastes, so in all honesty, I don’t know how we managed to pull it off so smoothly. But it was a great night and one that I will never forget.
As we were all sat eating, chatting, drinking, and generally being merry, it was hard to believe that just a few days ago we were all total strangers. It was even harder to believe that in less than a week we would all be in different countries and in different parts of the world as we continue with our travels.
P.S. Big shout-out to Clovis from Cambridgeshire in the UK. Thanks for bringing some British tea with you – now that’s a proper brew!
Time to move on
Saturday soon arrived and it was my turn to check-out and catch my bus to Vienna.
Part of me didn’t want to leave. I wanted to trap that moment in time when we were all together at our dinner party sharing our stories and experiences with one another. But I said my goodbyes and it was hugging all-round. I handed back my key and shut the door behind me.
As I was walking to catch my bus, I started to replay all the memories that I had collected over the past 5 days and I could not help but smile to myself.
I felt a surge of so many different emotions rush right through me and I was so grateful to have had such a wonderful experience.
My first taste of hostel life and traveling solo was more than I could have hoped for.
Here’s to the next adventure.
P.S. My next stop was Vienna. Click here to read my My Vienna Story – Traffic Lights and Smelly Socks