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.
Hungary’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.
ROADS 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.
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.
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.
The 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.