Cycling Hungary

Craving some flat cycling in Europe? Think Hungary instead of Holland.

It may not be as well known as some of Europe’s other gems but there are certainly plenty of worthy sights and pleasant places to linger.

An evening fishermanHungary’s Lake Balaton is the largest lake in central Europe and offers plenty of beaches, attractions and nice views. Budapest is a great city break, with several Unesco World Heritage sights and spas. If you can make it to Tokaj, you can sample some of the world’s finest wines.

Our route took us into Hungary from Slovenia, coming into the town of Lenti. The border crossing was a formality. The guards barely gazed at our passports. From there we headed up the north side of Lake Balaton, largely on a paved cycle path, cut cross-country to Szekesfehervar and along the north side of Lake Velencei-to into Budapest. We followed the Danube out of Budapest and into Slovakia. The terrain wasn’t very challenging and many parts of the country are flat, although don’t hold it against us if you find a few rolling hills out there.

Lake Balaton bike pathROADS AND MAPS
Hungary’s roads were generally in good condition. Bicycles are technically banned on parts of the larger roads like Route 6 and Route 7 but none of the drivers, including a few police cars, seemed to mind when we cycled there anyway. Everyone gave us plenty of space. In many places you will find cycle paths.

Budapest Camping and Bike Shops
Velvart: Shoes, accessories and parts. On the corner of Vőrősmarty Ut. and Wesselényi Ut.
Turabolt: Next to Keleti Pályaudvar train station on Kerepesi Ut. Good selection of camping and hiking gear, including Thermarest and Petzl brands. Campstoves, jackets, clothes and sleeping bags. Ortlieb products.
Mountex: Recommended by several people. A few locations, including 61-63 Margit Krt.

We were given a 1:300 000 ADAC map, printed in 1996. It was still fairly accurate, despite being over a decade old. Only a ring road around Budapest, the M0, and one motorway around Lake Balaton were not shown. Some of the road numbers had changed but this wasn’t hard to figure out. We also used several maps available free from tourist bureaus: the Hungary Camping Map, the Budapest and Surrounds Bicycle Route Map and the Kerekparral Budapesten, a map of cycle routes and repair shops around Budapest.


Andrew resting at Biker CampGREAT CAMPGROUNDS
Aside from tourist sights, we were very impressed with campgrounds, which often had free wifi internet access, were much cheaper than in many other parts of Europe and always very clean. We mostly used campsites in Hungary instead of wild camping since they were affordable and also we tended to be in fairly touristy areas at high season, making it harder to find a quiet place for the tent.

As for money, we found Hungary a good budget destination. Campgrounds ran at 2,500-3,000 Huf total (about 10-12 euros) in the high season, although you should double that figure for Budapest. A large beer runs between 300-500 Huf in most bars, although in very touristy towns you may find beers closer to 700-800 Huf for a half litre. We never paid for internet access but in Budapest we saw it advertised at 350 Huf an hour.

Budapest bike shopThe one difficulty in Hungary was the language! It’s more challenging than in any other country we’ve visited to date and few people outside the cities speak English. Maybe it’s worth the effort to write a few key phrases down before you leave.

Comments

  1. Andrew Gills
    22nd June 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    I am currently cycling Hungary. I’ve been here a little over three weeks with a full week to go. I have ridden all the way around the country and can attest to it being a brilliant cycle touring destination. There’s castles, thermal baths, cheap but well appointed camp ground with free wifi, lots of delicious pastries, goulash, salami, lots of quiet country roads and cycle paths almost everywhere else.

    Yes, many cyclists just blat through Hungary on the Euro Velo 6 but this country deserves much more attention and time. From the Danube in the north to Lake Balaton in the middle. From the endless flat plains of the south-east to the northern hills. There’s enough here to keep cyclists occupied for a full month without getting bored.

    Sure, you can’t really wild camp here but don’t let that put you off. The camping grounds are often picturesque and situated on the best land in the region. Roll out of bed and swim in the Danube at Baja, walk across a bridge on the Tisza River in Szeged and find yourself in an energetic and youthful city, walk 200m from your tent in Eger and sip wine at the best wineries that the Valley of the Beautiful Women can offer, dip in the thermal baths at the countless camping grounds that are attached to these amazing facilities. The going rate for camping grounds is between 1800HUF (6 euros) to 3000HUF (10 euros), which includes thermal spas if the camping ground has them. So it’s not really money in the scheme of things.

    It’s rare for Hungarians to speak English but when they do, they speak it very well. But you shouldn’t have too much trouble if you brush up on a few German phrases (German is more widely spoken due to Hungary’s history and the many German tourists here), and smile and say ‘kuzenom’ (thank you) often. ‘Hello’ and ‘see you’ are used as greetings so there’s another two words. And beyond that, most Hungarians seem used to foreigners not understanding them so they are quite good at guessing what you want (and using calculators to show you how much something costs).

    The long and short is that I wanted to let everyone know Hungary is great and that the Traveling Two’s information is still up to date in June 2015.

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