Where to stay in Hungary
There is a wide choice of hotels in Hungary, ranging from barely acceptable to luxury establishments. Some date from the communist era, but a growing number have been built to modern standards since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Budapest has by far the widest choice of options, with several elegant 5-star international standard hotels, as well as many comfortable mid-range and boutique options. Elsewhere, there is generally a decent choice of places to stay throughout the country, with plenty of bed and breakfast style accommodation available at pensions in more rural areas.
The Hungary Card (www.hungarycard.hu) provides discounts from 10 to 20% on, among other things, selected accommodation, including hotels, guest houses and youth hostels. The card is available from the Tourinform service (tel: (1) 438 8080; www.tourinform.hu) throughout Hungary.
The Hungarian National Tourist Office (www.gotohungary.co.uk), which issues a brochure with listings of hotels, guesthouses and hostels, can be contacted for further information.
Grading: There is the Hotelstars Union grading system from 1 to 5 stars.
Bed and breakfast
Normally called pensions or panziók, these are available almost everywhere in the country, even in small villages, and they sometimes resemble small, mid-range hotels. Paying-guest accommodation is an inexpensive and excellent way of getting to know the Hungarian people. Rooms should be reserved well in advance wherever possible.
Most campsites are open from May to September and cater to those bringing their own equipment. Caravans are permitted in all sites that have power points. There are four categories of site, rated as 1, 2, 3 and 4, according to the amenities provided. Campsites can be booked through the Magyar Camping and Caravanning Club. An interactive map of Hungary’s campsites is available from the Hungarian Campsites Organisation (www.camping.hu).
Backpacker hostels: Hostels provide simple accommodation for backpackers, usually in rooms with four or more beds. Over the summer holidays (usually from 1 July to 20 August), there are also cheap rooms available in university dormitories. Budapest has a decent number of backpacker hostels, often converted apartments that have dormitory beds, communal kitchens and cooking and washing facilities. Some have private rooms at a slightly higher tariff. Although sometimes cramped, hostels tend to be well-located for city clubs and sightseeing and invariably are the least expensive option.
Youth hostels: There are a handful of youth hostels in Budapest and other cities in Hungary, as well as at Lake Balaton. These are open 24 hours a day throughout the year and bookings may be made through Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com). Membership of Hostelling International is not required, although it does entitle a small discount. Group bookings are possible and, although mostly self-catering, breakfast is usually available.
Homestay accommodation: Accommodation in a private house can often be arranged. Standards vary, but rooms are generally in good condition, cheaper than guest houses, and include use of a communal kitchen. Homestay accommodation is popular in resort areas such as Lake Balaton, and is usually arranged through travel agents.
Self-Catering accommodation: Fully equipped bungalows can be rented at a large number of resorts: there are hundreds lining the shores of Lake Balaton. These can be rented in advance online or by contacting the nearest local tourist office.