Sunday, March 4, 2007

Budapest, Friday March 2, 2007

$1= 191 Hungarian Forints (ft)

As we come in for a landing in Budapest, it's raining, but the countryside is oh so fertile and green. We exit the plane, again on the tarmac and are bussed to the terminal. Inside, it's only a matter of minutes to go through passport control, complete with the requisite post communist desk officials who are so disinterested in their jobs they would rather talk to each other than process us. Still, it's fairly quick and we do get our passports stamped.

The ATM machine is easy to find and I make a classic blunder in currency conversion and barely take out enough money to cover the cab ride and the rest of the day. Sure, it's easy to get more but why pay unneeded bank fees for extra transactions? Outside the terminal is a airport controlled taxi service where I buy a voucher with the name of the hotel on it. This means it's a fixed rate of 4200 ft to our destination (price determined by "zone/ distance from airport. Since we had no luggage to wait for, I think we are in the taxi within 20 minutes of landing.
The taxi driver is the long lost cousin of Mario Andretti and has us cringing and closing our eyes. Still, I wonder why it is that I almost never wear a seat belt in foreign taxis? Is it because they are rarely available in most of Asia, or am I afraid of "insulting" the driver? Nah, it's probably just an unrealistic assumption they know what they're doing and a refusal to accept that anything could go wrong.
The inside of the taxi has a sign in 4 languages reminding passengers the "tip is not included in price".

Hotel Victoria
We chose this hotel based on reviews and the fact that it has a fantastic view from every single room. There are only 3 rooms per floor and 9 floors, so it's small.

The plusses: Our room is on the 8th floor and we have a corner room. This means we have two huge windows, giving us a panorama view from the Chain Bridge to Parliament (see photos below). The room itself is good sized, and pretty much looks exactly like the photos on the website (not quite as "nice" but still fine). Beds are decent, firm, but not plush and come with warm duvets. The bathroom is small, shower only, but has good water pressure. The tv has 12 or so channels, in English, 4 news and MTV, but we're not here to watch tv.

The minuses: The location, while close to the castle, is not exactly in the hub of things, so there aren't as many restaurant choices and transportation options. Our closest Metro stop is about 8 blocks away and is temporarily closed while we are here (more on that later). There are no amenities in the bathroom other than soap. There's no internet access, except ridiculously expensive WiFi, though they may offer it free soon.

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