People often say that you will need too pay for rides in Romania but that’s simply not true. I hitchhiked over 20 lifts in Romania (cars and trucks) and was only asked for money once in the middle of nowhere near Zarnesti. I just said Nu Bani (no money) and offered a cigarette instead.
Romanian truck drivers are especially helpful and often speak Italian or Spanish.
To flag a car down you can either hold your thumb up or point at the ground while making eye-contact with the driver.
Most male drivers tend to drive a bit more recklessly then in other parts of the world, and two of my drivers managed to get lost too in the countryside.
Complimenting Palinka “the local home-made alcohol” is usually a good way to get off on the right foot with your driver. Speaking highly of your Hungarian friends is not recommended at all. Many Romanians will claim all of their neighbours (especially Bulgaria and Hungary) are not worth a visit and might even try persuade you not to cross the border. There no need to listen though, rivalry between neighbouring countries is common in Eastern Europe.
It’s a good idea to try learn some Romanian too (Multumesc meaning thank-you), since it’s a Latin language it’s not that difficult for anyone who knows Italian, French or Spanish too.
Hitchhiking in Transylvania can be like travelling back to the Medieval times or travelling through Middle Earth.
The roads meander through beautiful mountain routes. Many villages still have very traditional living with little electricity and Gypsy-carts for transport. Wild animals such as bears, wolves and boar populate the forests and great castles and forts are scattered around the province.
Hitchhiking around is relatively easy (see hitchhiking in Romania), payment might be expecting on a rare occasion since the locals do it, just say nu bani (no money) and the driver will understand.
It’s possible to hitchhike the gypsy horse-carts too but they are very slow.
Some villages are Hungarian speaking but most speak Romanian and often these villages are but a mile or two from each other.
The Hungarians usually speak Romanian too but the Romanians rarely speak Hungarian.
German is a little common too as some villages are of Germanic origin.
Going hiking in the Piatra Craiului Mountains National Park is the highlight of Transylvania. The best access point I found to be Zarnesti which is easy to hitchhike from Brasov.
There are small metal huts scattered along the mountain trails for trapped hikers and shepherds to rest in but I recommend packing a tent and definitely a sleeping bag, plenty of water too. It get’s very cold on the ridge and there’s also no water sources up there, make sure to print-out a map and don’t get lost.
Bear’s do roam wild here and the local Romanians will tell you stories about spotting them rummaging through bins and crossing the roads. Your chances of seeing one aren’t that high unless you might go tracking them and sneak up on one.
If you do meet one then don’t panic, try making noise or running downhill (I heard they don’t chase down hills).
At the end of the day a bear dosen’t want to meet humans, (they dislike our meat) so making noise as you walk around should suffice to keep them away.
Transylvania has a scattering of Castles and Forts all over the countryside and in most towns.
The most famous of them being Dracula’s Castle in Bran.
I hitchhiked there one day and wasn’t overly impressed.
Bran Castle is really quite small and packed full of eegits with selfie sticks.
If you do go however then make sure to check out the nearby Fort and cave in Rasnov.
The bigger towns like Brasov and Cluj have hostels for around 7 or 8 euro a night and couch-surfing is definitely possible.
When the smaller villages then camping is probably your best option but be wary of stray dogs. It’s a good idea to ask for permission to camp by someone’s land if your not in the woods, I doubt anyone would refuse you permission, Romanians like camping themselves. I guess a small B&B wouldn’t cost more then 15 euro though anyway.
I made a more detailed blog about my time spent studying in Budapest Here.
Free Walking Tour
Budapest is a large city so if you need some guidance take a walking tour. These tours are given daily, last about two and a half hours and the guides work only on tips. Link!
Chill on Margaret Island
A great place to spend the day relaxing with some friends during the summer months play football, Frisbee, go for a jog etc. I’m not sure if drinking is allowed on the island but I was never stopped whilst living in Budapest so I don’t think the locals really care, but obviously don’t litter.
There is another park nearby heroes square also but it’s not as busy. There is also some eagles on the island and deer (both caged).
Located on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge, the Great Market is housed in an ornate 19th century building. Covering three floors, the market is a vast array of sounds, smells, colours and tastes, should you decide to sample some of the local foods or palinka there is lots to offer. Upstairs is full of cheesy souvenir shops.
Wander the Jewish Quarter
Enjoy something different with a nice walk through the streets of the Jewish quarter
Explore Kerepesi Cemetery
The resting place of many Hungarian influential people, the cemetery is truly huge and you could get lost here for hours exploring.
Shoes on the Danube
Shoe sculptures by the River Danube, marking the spot where a group of Jews were shot before being pushed into the river. An emotional spot, highly recommended on trip advisor.
Climb Gellert Hill
A very rewarding walk with magnificent views at the top from the fortress, my favorite place to walk to in Budapest.
View the Hungarian Parliament
From outside is free, I believe tours of the inside can be arranged for EU citizens.
A square full of statues in honor of Hungarian heroes, worth a visit also there are museums, a bath and a zoo nearby here.
Walk the Chain Bridge
Stunning piece of architecture, enjoy a breath-taking walk across Budapest’s first Bridge.
Walk up the hill and visit the Fisherman’s Bastion, there is a stunning view of the Parliament from here.
A Budapest gem which is rarely visited by tourists, getting here requires more effort than the other sights but the amazing view on top of the lookout point is definitely worth it, Budapest’s highest point.
Capital : Budapest (The Paris of the East, A popular bag-packer destination for culture and night clubs on the cheap)
Population : Around 10 Million
Languages : Hungarian (Unique, spoken in parts of Transylvania also)
English (Mostly Students and Younger People),
German (Older People and especially near the Austria Border)
Difficulty : Great for Hitchhiking. Petrol Stations recommended for fastest travelling by the motorways.
Money : Hungarian Forint (300 to 1 Euro), Much cheaper then Western Europe however inflation is high here since joining the EU. Don’t exchange money at the airport or train stations but in the little exchange shops around the city.
I particularly enjoy hitchhiking in Hungary because it’s the first country other than Ireland I ever hitch-hiked in. I moved to Budapest in January 2013 to study engineering for six months on Erasmus (A European student exchange programme) and it’s where I found a new passion for travelling.
Up until then I always appreciated the idea of travelling but never saw it as something to base my life around, but the enchantingly beautiful and cheap city of Budapest could turn any “couch potato” into a “Wandering Aengus”.
Map showing the routes I hitchhiked in Hungary.
You will improve your chances of getting around Hungary tenfold by learning basic phrases such as “cheers” (egészségedre), “thanks” (köszönöm) and “good day” (jo napot).
Hungarians have great pride in their strangely unique language and love to hear tourists have a try at the pronunciation. Just by learning “egészségedre” you go from dumb tourist to centre of the party. When in the car with male drivers it is useful to compliment Hungarian women’s looks (they are indeed beautiful and Hungarian men are proud of this.)
To really get the conversation flowing mention that delicious Goulash Soup you ate earlier. Don’t praise Romania or mention it at all unless you want to kill the conversation. Hungarians are extremely proud and still feel an emotional connection with the part Hungarian speaking area of Romania called Transylvania.
There isn’t any hatred towards Germans following WW2 but Russians aren’t very popular, or Turks for that matter but violence is completely unlikely.
Overall hitchhiking in Hungary is straight forward, the country can be considered as part of Central Europe and the roads share more in common with Austria and the Czech Republic then more eastern neighbours such as Ukraine or Romania. It still maintains a bit of the Eastern comrade tradition though so don’t be surprised to be offered the local alcohol Palinka around 40 -60% when hitchhiking on countryside roads.