A Travellerspoint blog

Budapest

Practical tips

sunny 27 °C
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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.

Posted by UnwindRoad 02:36 Archived in Hungary Tagged bridges trains danube metro tea swimming coffee underground goulash Comments (0)

Bratislava

Practical tips

rain 16 °C
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Don't be caught out like we were on arriving by train in Bratislava and suddenly realising: -

- we didn't speak the language anymore
- we didn't know where the centre of town was from the train station
- we didn't even know what currency they use there

They use the Euro, by the way, and our first move in the pouring rain was to buy a map of town for about 3euros, giving us an idea of where the station was in relation to town. That also bought us goodwill from the shop lady who directed us to the right bus stop. (By the way, older people might tend to speak German more easily than English - younger people the opposite, in case you are asking for help).

Buses 93 and X13 go into town from the train station. As you leave the station look in front and to the right for the bus shelters.

You can buy a ticket for 70c from the yellow machines at the bus shelters. But beware if you are later trying to buy tickets: you cannot pay the driver and not every bus stop has a machine so you may need to walk to the nearest tram stop to find the yellow ticket machine.

The old town and the Danube are the top tourist draws.

Don't leave without finding out a bit of local history. There are different views on what happened nearly 100 years ago, but this place was predominantly German and Hungarian then - it was previously called Pressburg (so you'll see that word around a lot) and the Americans had a hand in things back then too so Woodrow Wilson is a local hero and the town almost became known as Wilsonov after WW1.

The Danube is beautiful here, though not blue still for our visit in heavy rain. Check out the War of the Worlds looking restaurant towering over the river at the main bridge crossing.

Hotel: we stayed at Film Hotel and loved it. Long climb upstairs to the Marlon Brando room but we loved the film theme to everything and would recommend it as a reasonably priced place just 10 mins walk from the old city.

The Film Hotel is also on a nice street for evening pub meals with typical Slovakian food, probably half the price of dinner down in the touristy old town.

Tea: don't miss Cajovy Dom for a real feel of the orient; and for coffee we liked Stur Cafe best (2 branches in town), though there may be a good place on the outskirts near Ikea, but we didn't have time to try.

Posted by UnwindRoad 08:27 Archived in Slovakia Tagged hotel train tea transport station public coffee Comments (0)

Vienna

Practical tips

rain 18 °C
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Travel - train: Most international trains currently come into the West Bahnhof, while the HauptBahnhof (or central station) is the place to get the train to Bratislava.

The Hauptbahnhof must be the most deserted central station I have ever seen since I was in Managua in 1986, though they are clearly working on the place and the billboards all speak of an October 2014 opening. Whether they they redirect some of the international routes here and make it a real central station I don't know, but as of early September 2014, this is just for some local trains or the trip to Bratislava.

(By the way, if like us you get a tram D to Hauptbahnhof, it leaves you by a back door where you can buy tickets only from a machine and you might think at first there is nowhere to buy a cup of coffee or pastry for lunch) - you need to go right along the platforms to the main entrance and out again before you find a bakery where you can buy yourself a snack.

Travel - trams and underground (S-Bahn and U-Bahn). 2.20 euros for a single ticket on either. Easy to buy tickets at machines in U-Bahn stations. For trams you can buy in some of the modern trams too but the older types you need to buy in advance and they sell them at any Tabak-Traffik store, dotted all round town.

If you plan to make more than 3 journeys on any one day it is worth getting a day card rather single tickets.

Tourist Info is right by the palaces and in front of the film museum. Very friendly and helpful with good English speakers

The Third Man fan? Don't miss the big wheel, which looks like it came straight off the film set; there is apparently a Third Man tour, though we didn't find it; and there is a showing of the Third Man every afternoon at one of the arty cinemas in town.

Hotel: we stayed at the Vienna Inn Apartments on LeopoldGasse. About 5 minutes walk to SchottenRing U-Bahn station and 15 minutes walk to the centre of town. Very reasonably priced for Vienna; basic but comfortabke. Friendly staff. Only gripe was a slightly greasy fridge. But good to have the facilities to make a meal.

Cafes: For old cafes try Cafe Sperl and read about its history, especially in the build up to WW2, when soldiers and artists both used the place.

For modern speciality coffee we loved Caffe Couture and Kaffee Modul

For tea (but no cake with it) try Jaeger Tee near the Opera.

Posted by UnwindRoad 09:55 Archived in Austria Tagged trains travel hotel man cafes tram third Comments (0)

Luxembourg

Practical tips

sunny 25 °C
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Bus: 2 euros get you anywhere on the Luxembourg bus network for 2 hours, so you can change buses as often as you like or stay on the same one if you feel like it. Great for getting about between Luxembourg's different parts of town

Geography: The train station is some way from the old town across two of the city's iconic bridges. The old city is up above the Grund, which you get to via only a few paths or roads from town. Then there's Limpertsberg, a more residential part of town; and finally the Kirchberg part which is mainly for EU officials, but does also have the city's fantastic 50m olympic pool.

Cafe des Artistes down in the Grund for laid back friendly evenings, and twice a week they have all night sessions. Piano players and singalong most nights.

Cinematheque is the national resource for film-lovers. Over 25,000 films in their archive and one film a night costing about 3 euros each to see, and less if you're a student. Fantastic building in itself specially if you're a fan of old film posters or projectors etc.

We stayed in Hotel Chatelet about 10 mins walk to the train station and about 10-15 minutes walk to the old town centre. Reasonable price for what is an expensive city.

Coffee: Try either Golden Bean in rue Chimay or The Coffee Lounge in rue de la poste

Tea: Try Tee Geshwender for nice chats to tea lovers and to sample, but if you want an afternoon tea and cake experience go to Namur bakery - supplying to Luxembourg's court for years, and fabulous outside and in.

Posted by UnwindRoad 10:04 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged hotel tea buses coffee tips cinema practical Comments (0)

Paris

Practical tips for travellers

rain

Metro - always cheaper to get a 'carnet' or tickets. Look for your destination on the map and find the end of the line (not like London where lines are all Northbound, Southbound, Westbound etc).

Distances between metro stations are really small. Anything up to 3 stops and we usually walk. It's nicer to see things above ground anyway.

But the white and blue tiles are worth seeing in some of the older stations and the Metropolitain entraces are iconic if you can find any.

Cinema: Buy a Pariscope (50c) to see what's on. Fantastic range in hundreds of small cinemas around town. If languages are not your forte, look for v.o. (original version) rather than v.f (French version - dubbed).

Arrondissements: most Parisians talk of places being in the 5th, 1st, 18th etc. Start to get familiar with what's in whuch and you'll relax into the Parisian-speak more easily.

August: lots of places are closed, especially small shops and many coffee shops etc.

Bonjour! - many officials like you to begin any query with 'Bonjour'. Don't begin your question to that nice gendarme with 'Do you know where the Eiffel Tower is?' Always begin: 'Bonjour! Where is the Eiffel Tower?'. He or she will only reply once he has said Bonjour himself, and some wait for you to do so!

Handy shopping tips for visiting anglophiles: Shakespear & Co for EN language books; been an institution for decades. Monoprix for basics of anything from food to thermos flask or cheap clothes.

Posted by UnwindRoad 02:27 Archived in France Tagged paris Comments (0)

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