03.09.2014 - 05.09.2014 27 °C
Trains: Keleti station is the main international train station. If you are wanting to book onward tickets to destinations outside Hungary, you need to go to the international ticket office beside Platform 6.
There you go to a machine where there are three buttons: one for information only; one for departure in the next 2 hour; and one for later departures. Seems complicated at first but the system works well and they deal with urgent departures more quickly than the others.
We had planned to take the daily 9.40am departure from Keleti to Cluj in Romania, only to be told this was not running (don't know why - she seemed to say something about rail works, but no info on how long they would go on for) and the timetable published was 'wrong. We were very pleased therefore that we had opted to go to Keleti a day early to book... especially as the new departure times for Cluj were either 6.23am or 14h something from Budapest West station (which is actually in 6th District of town and fairly central too).
When we got to that station at 6am, the train number and platform was correct but there was no information on connecting service to Romania. We just had to trust to the Hungarian system and it did eventually get us to Cluj, though we were suddenly asked to change trains after a couple of hours.
Metro/Underground: Tickets easy to buy for 350Fl from machines or from ticket office windows in some stations. Some older lines are colour-coded with even the trains having the colour of the line they serve. The newer or modernised stations have none of this (nor the beautiful white tiling of the original stations) and could be Waterloo or Westminster on the Jubilee Line in London rather than Budapest.
If you take a tram there are usually machines at the tram stops too, though these don't always give change and don't have the English translation version that are in central Metro stations.
Public toilets: Beware. There are hardly any in Budapest. Don't even feel relieved when you see a signpost saying Toilets 60m away: they are nearly always closed or the access is barred or they have been demolished. The only public toilets we found were at the Indoor Market near the Danube. It costs 150Fl to get in and although you pay a lady cash (and are supposed to receive a ticket for this) you will need exact change.
Baths: We chose to visit the outdoor swimming pools on the Margarite Island rather than the hammam style baths like Gellert. Not much English spoken at thee baths and quite complex system for getting in (tell them you want 'sport swimming') and we couldn't work out the locker system so took all our stuff with us into the poolside. Once inside, it's a fantastic place with enormous Olympic size pool, a 25m pool and two toddlers paddling pools. Thank Hungary's first ever Olympic champion (in 1896) for these pools which were built in 1930.
Goulash: It's a bit touristy but we loved the For Sale Pub right opposite the Indoor Market. Very cheap goulash (one serve is enough for two) and there are literally thousands of messages left by other travellers pinned to the walls. Add yours as your feet scrunch on the straw laid on the floor. Quirky but brilliant.
Danube: Don't miss the Danube at night as well as at dusk, dawn or any other time of day. Most beautiful riverside I have ever seen.
Coffee: fantastic speciality coffee houses. We liked best Fekete on Muzeum street.
Tea: And wonderful tea houses: try 1000Tea on the horribly touristy Vaci street (the tea house is a real haven from the hawkers) or the quality of tea at Red Lion Tea House in the 6th District.