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Business Travel Guide: Budapest, Hungary

by Ryan James



Hungary was ruled by the Turks for two centuries, and then taken by the Austrians to become another jewel in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Germans dominated the society prior to WWII and then their Russian rescuers made Hungary part of the Soviet Union. It was not until 1989 that Hungary and its capital Budapest were finally able to throw off all of the chains that bound them to become a free nation. This freedom and the country's location as the hub of Central Europe put it a prime position for international businesses to establish offices. When Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, its opportunities for business expansion strengthened considerably.

Budapest, the capital with a population of almost two million, is attracting investors from around the globe who have their sights on construction and production opportunities around the country. Budapest is also home to the Central European University, the school of higher education created by George Soros, which offers an MBA degree that is earned here, but is accredited in both Hungary and the U.S. Budapest also has an extensive and well-established American Chamber of Commerce (www.amcham.hu).


Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: Forint

Although Hungary is part of the European Union, the Hungarian forint is the only universally accepted currency. Many hotels and restaurants will list their rates or prices in Euro; however, Hungary has not officially adopted the Euro yet. For cash, your best option is to use an ATM card. There are a number of bank machines throughout the city and they are available 24 hours a day. This is the most convenient way of getting cash and getting the best exchange rate at the same time. Traveler's cheques are difficult to impossible to use and are best avoided. Only two banks will cash traveler's cheques and not even at all of the branches. If you need to exchange currencies, look for the numerous currency exchange booths incorporated into store fronts, usually associated with an Arány Pók clothing store. These are licensed and you will receive a better rate than at a bank, but not as good as an ATM.

Many hotels will also accept different currencies for payment or exchange, but the rates will be much lower than any other source. Forint bills come in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, and 20,000. Any bill from 1,000 and higher should have a copper or silver stripe on the left side of the face on the bill. Keep small denominations for services such as taxi rides or tipping. Many establishments will complain or even refuse to accept a 20,000 note if the total owed is not near that amount.

Transportation:

Budapest is served by two airports, both named Ferihegy. Ferihegy 2 is the major international airport, while Ferihegy 1 is used only by the budget airlines. Ferihegy 2 is approximately twenty miles from the city center. There are no flights within Hungary.

Ferihegy Airport Authority has contracted with Zona Taxis as the official taxi service. Rates are set based on the district you are traveling to regardless of the number of passengers. The Airport Authority also manages a shuttle service. The fee of 4,390 Ft per person is for a round trip ticket to and from anywhere in the city.

Budapest has three train stations: Nyugati, Keleti, and Deli. If you are meeting someone or taking the train out of Budapest, make sure you know which station to be at. Some trains require a seat reservation and the ticket agent does not offer this information, so ask to be safe.

There are a number of unsafe rogue services. Never take a taxi that has not been requested by phone; they will ask for your name. A legal taxi driver will ask for the name provided. The driver must verify the name you gave before he is allowed to whisk you off. They must give a paper receipt upon request; it is the law. After you are settled in, public transportation is excellent and a great cultural experience. District numbers and exact street names are very important. Many street names change from one district to another; many streets have the same name, but in different districts.

Information:

Budapest English-language publications are available at many hotels and kiosks. These include The Budapest Business Journal, The Budapest Sun and The Budapest Times. Other publications such as the International Herald Tribune and Wall Street Journal are less frequently available, but hotels serving business travelers will work diligently to fill your needs. For up-to-date cultural and lifestyle events, pick up a free and widely distributed Funzine magazine. Each issue includes some sample useful phrases in Hungarian.

Almost all hotel television services offer CNN International and BBC news in English, while others have access to satellite services with a wider offering.

For books in English, look for the chain stores Alexandra or Libri, but the independent Booksellers, a single shop, has the largest selection of contemporary books.


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Where to Stay

Hilton Budapest West End
VI. Váci út 1-3
+36-1-288-5500
www1.hilton.com

Hilton Budapest West End

The luxuriously appointed Hilton West End is attached to the West End Shopping Plaza and adjacent to the Nyugati train station. Rooms are decorated in cool, yet calming colors of beiges, light grays and forest greens. Junior suites offer a separate living room. Working at the roomy desk with an ergonomic chair and Internet access makes your time productive and comfortable. For relaxing, curl up in the lounge chair, a footrest is attached. Become refreshed and relaxed in the marble bathrooms with walk-in showers. Truly focusing on the business traveler, the executive level's elite lounge serves breakfast, provides snacks and drinks throughout the day, and international papers are available. Hold small meetings here or choose from ten different conference rooms for those larger meetings. Also on the executive floor is a dedicated business services desk where multi-lingual staff is ready to assist your every need from photocopying to video conferencing.

Hotel Zara
V. Só utca 6
+36-1-577-0700

Hotel Zara

This 74-room hotel is excellently located in downtown Budapest off the pedestrian Váci út, near the Danube. The au courant lobby has custom designed Murano glass lighting fixtures, décor from Thailand and carpets from Hungarian designers continuing into the large meeting room that adjoins it. Equipped with a projection system, motorized screen, and advanced lighting control, all tools are on hand to conduct a meeting. Only having five rooms to a corridor allows for privacy, plus you may choose between a smoking or non-smoking floor. Rooms are tastefully decorated in a pleasant mix of pale pink and chocolate brown, most have queen-sized beds but bathrooms only have showers. Free broadband Internet access is available for laptops and if they know your preference, they will have your favorite newspaper ready for you. In the morning, enjoy the generous breakfast buffet selection included in the rates.

Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest
V. Erzsébet tér 7-8.
+36-1-429-3777
www.kempinski-budapest.com


Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest

Regarded as one of Hungary's leading business, conference and suite hotel, Kempinski has several conference rooms designed to accommodate between fifteen and 250 guests and is an ideal location for meetings or symposiums. On the conference level, the business center offers translators, fax services and secretarial staff. With three restaurants in the hotel, all catering needs can be easily arranged. They offer a business suite comprised of a bedroom, small sitting room and a separate meeting room for up to eight people with a large table, data port, white board, television and VCR. Privacy is never interrupted due to the suite having a guest bathroom and all rooms can be closed off from the others. All rooms have high speed Internet and WiFi connections.

Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest
VI. Andrássy út 111
+36-1-4622-118
www.mamaison.com/andrassy

Andrassy Hotel

You can mix business with comfort when staying at this Hungarian hotel. Originally built in 1937 in the Bauhaus style as an orphanage, the hotel is located just off of Andrássy út in an exclusive Embassy area. The 70 rooms and suites were completely redecorated in late 2007, each now having a calming minimalist, but Zen-like feel. Tones of deep green, warm tans and gray are the backdrop to the freshly designed blond furniture. All rooms are equipped with free WiFi and plasma televisions. Suites are beyond spacious. A separate living room with plush sofas and a fireplace can be closed off from the large bedroom, each room having separate climate control. If you need to meet with colleagues, the hotel's high tech meeting room is available.

Novotel Budapest Danube
II. Bem Rakpart 33-34
+36-1-458-4900
www.accorhotels.com


Novotel Budapest Danube

Located on the Buda side of the Danube, this modernized Novotel is the first in Hungary retrofitted to the chain's upgraded standards. It is ideally situated between the Chain and Margaret Bridges. Any amenities the professional traveler could need are available. With 174 rooms, be sure to request a river view room for the splendid views of the Parliament building. Each room is designed with youthful, yet retro styled colors and ergonomic multifunctional furniture with twenty-four hour room service. Copy, printing, translator services and Internet connections are at your command making your time productive. With three meeting rooms at your disposal, they can be configured to accommodate small to medium sized meetings. They will also provide audio-visual equipment, WiFi or Internet connections. With a restaurant and banquet room, catering for your meetings or hosting your functions can easily be arranged. After hours, take advantage of the fitness center and sauna.


Where to Dine

Bagolyvár (Owl Castle)
XIV. Állatkerti út 2
+36-1-468-3110
16/20
$$

 
 

Sample the delights of home-style Hungarian cooking while feeling nurtured at the same time. Though housed in a replica of a Transylvanian manor home with an oversized dining area, this restaurant's claim to fame is the 'motherly' atmosphere where the goal is to recreate a cozy family dining experience. With that in mind, only women staff handles all of the duties from cooking to serving. The only male presence is the one playing the cimbalom to serenade diners in a traditional way. The menu is limited to a dozen choices, but is supplemented by daily specials. Sweet and spicy ribs are accompanied by cabbage salad wrapped in corn tortilla type wrappers. The service is impeccable with the ladies filling all of your needs with great attention. Entrées are from old traditional recipes made from the freshest ingredients, and though it can get noisy, you will feel as though you are part of a large family gathering.


Cotton Club
VI. Jókai utca 26
+36-1-354-0886

17/20
$$$

 
 

What may seem an unlikely choice for Budapest, this upscale dining experience is sure to impress your Hungarian business associates with a taste of American culture thrown in. Hidden away in the lower floor of the hotel by the same name, the owners have taken great pains in recreating the 1920s and 30s eras in the décor as well as the music of those eras. By having period furniture and lighting specifically recreated, you will feel like you have stepped back in time, while the chanteuse accompanies the band playing hit songs of times past starting at 8:30 p.m. Offering an international cuisine, highly recommended are the crispy duck legs served with red cabbage and potato doughnuts. The attentive waiters take superb care of the diners without hovering. While the dining area is all non-smoking, there is a well ventilated cigar room with a service bar next door.


Hemingway
XI. Kosztolányi Dezso tér 2
+36-1-381-0522

19/20
$$

 
 

Situated on the Buda side, this dining venue offers contemporary international cuisine; a perfect setting for entertaining clients or a relaxing dining experience when alone. The outdoor patio seating overlooks a small lake with a fountain and a park beyond. Inside, the large and airy room most of the tables sit on a platform. Comfy stuffed chairs placed in various corners invite you to carry on with business or relax after enjoying a sumptuous meal. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Patrick Stewart, and Glenn Close are among the American star diners here and have menus named after them. Try the Glenn Close pasta: spinach linguine topped with garlic, red peppers, cream sauce, and a touch of anise or Mangalica pork, a species indigenous to Hungary, delectable with a brown tomato sauce over mounds of freshly mashed potatoes, but save room for the white chocolate mousse for dessert.


Marquis de Salade
VI. Hajós utca 43
+36-1-302-4086

19/20
$$

 
 

Boasting a variety of dishes from exotic cuisines from countries including Russia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, this restaurant is always a crowd pleaser. Beyond the intimate restaurant as you enter; the real treat is at the lower level, where you will find stunning Azerbaijani carpets in wine reds and oranges decorating the whitewashed walls and ceiling. The rustic hewn tables with battered metal candlesticks add visual flavor to the lavishly delicious meals. For an even cozier feel, request seating in one of the cave like rooms, but be warned, seating is on overstuffed pillows giving an Arabian nights feel. The salad sampler of six taste treats will awaken your appetite for entrees such as the Adajab sandal, a mouthwatering lamb stew cooked in clay pot with eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes. Vegetarians will not be left wanting for imaginative choices either. Do take note that they do not accept credit cards.


Mátyás Pince
V. Március 15 tér 7-8
+36-1-266-8008

18/20
$$$

Matyas Pince
Established in 1904, more than your taste buds will be stimulated at this restaurant. The walls are beautifully decorated with murals of the myths and legends surrounding the reign of King Mátyás. The frescoes and stained glass windows were registered as national monuments in 1973. Every night, but Monday, the dining area is serenaded by the Lakatos gypsy musical group, a famous dynasty of musicians. Hungarians are especially proud of their rich history, so when entertaining business associates, they will be pleased knowing others want to envelop themselves as well. Those with a hearty and adventurous appetite will be more than satiated with the King Mátyás's favorite menu of duck leg, beef sirloin on a skewer, goose liver draped in bacon, sausage, potatoes with onion, steamed cabbage and letcho. For the faint of appetite diner, do not despair; the extensive menu has a wide range of choices to suit anyone.


Off the Clock

Budapest Segway Tours
VI. Lázár utca 16
+36-1-269-3843
www.citysegwaytours.com

Budapest Segway Tours

When you want to let your adventurous spirit run free, this tour is a real treat. The segway is a vertical motorized self-balancing transporter. Helmets are required and provided and a 30 minute practice session in a safe area will make you feel like a pro. Be ready to be the center of attention as you glide through the city with your guide and passersby stop and smile. A sample of some of the famous places you will see are St. Stephen's Basilica, the Hungarian Opera House and then down the famous Andrássy út, the Champs-Elysées of Budapest. Continuing through Vörösmarty Square, explore Vaci út, the pedestrian street on the way to the Vigadó and Danube Promenades, the Chain Bridge, and Roosevelt Square. Tours last 2 ½ to 3 hours. From April to October, there is a tour at 6:30 p.m. Reserve online. Special company tours can be arranged.

Go Local Underguide
VII. Damjanich utca 42
+36-1-788-7343
www.underguide.com

Check out local spots like this Synagogue

You have precious time to indulge in exploring the city, so don't waste it trying to ferret out the hotspots. When you have a Go Local guide, you are in the hands of experts on all facets of the city. Regardless of how specialized your interests, whether you want to see historic sites, the best jazz pubs or the influence of Italian art in Budapest, this tour group excels in making your tour individualized for you or your group. Make your reservation online at least 24 hours in advance. The name may sound ominous, but their specialty is showing you what other tour companies may miss with their mass group tours. Although they usually offer four or eight hour tours, but if time is short, they will make special arrangements for two hours.

Levendula Day Spa
V. Báthory utca 6
+36-1-374-0862

Levendula Day Spa

Hungarian women have benefited from the thermal baths for centuries, but only recently could they avail themselves of the pleasures of a day spa. Whether you anticipate needing some deserved indulgence or just to refresh your outlook, this salon will exceed all of your expectations. Opened in 2005, it has a Zen-like atmosphere combined with the uses of aromatics in the therapy treatments. With over 100 services to choose from, we recommend the Orient essences massage, which starts with a ginger exfoliation followed by heated and moistened aromatic spice bundles to soothe muscles. Or try the Aromatic Stone massage, where heated stones are scented with aromas and then placed on key energy points followed by a massage. The salon offerings include a wide variety of massages; facials and skin care therapies as well as manicures and pedicures. To guarantee an appointment, e-mail bathory@lspa.hu weeks ahead of your arrival.

Masculin
XIII. Pozsonyi ut 12
+36-1-786-4642
www.masculin.hu

Masculin

Business men need be on top of their game. Whether you need pampering to be refreshed for meetings or relaxation afterward, this exclusive and well appointed gentlemen's salon is an indulgence you deserve. You may choose from a menu of services that include manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. Perhaps a Dermalife treatment for whole body cleansing and detoxification is what you need to stimulate the immune system. From the minute you enter, you can feel the stress melting away in this masculine sanctuary. The décor captivates your imagination and enhances the anticipation of what is to follow. Starting with a Nespresso or tea, allows you a few special moments to unwind before your first treatment begins. With the business man in mind, they are open until 9 p.m. during the week and weekends from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register for free on their website and book your appointments conveniently online.

State Opera House
VI. Andrássy út 22
+36-1-332-7914
www.opera.hu
www.jegymester.hu

Opera House
Hungary is renowned for its musical heritage associated with such famous names as Franz Liszt, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. The State Opera House, a spectacular building designed by the famous architect Miklós Ybl, was opened by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1884. A performance of either an opera or ballet will be a memorable experience or perhaps take a tour. For other classical music choices, the Jegy Mester (Ticket Maestro) site above has listings for many venues. For some cool jazz or blues head to either Fat Mo's Music Club at V. Nyári Pál u. 11 or for a Danube view reserve a table at the Columbus boat docked across from the Intercontinental Hotel. If you like your music hip, young, and loud want to take a taxi to the A38 Hajo XI. Pázmány Péter sétány, where the Hungarian 20- and 30-something crowd likes to party and dance until dawn.

Going to Hungary? Check our Guide.

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