Capital : Budapest (The Paris of the East, A popular Bagpacker 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 Hitch-hiking once outside cities and quite safe. 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.
Just to get this off my chest before I begin writing about the roads of Hungary I want to say,
I Love Hungary! and I Love Budapest!.
The country has a special place in my heart because it was where I first ever hitch-hiked abroad. I moved there 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”.
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.
I have detailed my three big journeys through Hungary to give you a better understanding of the countries roads and what to expect.
Journey 1) Budapest to Ljubijana (Slovenia) via Lake Balaton
Journey 2) Bratislava (Slovakia) to Oradea (Romania) via Budapest
Journey 3) Arad (Romania) to Vienna (Austria) via Budapest