The group chat; where adventures are often suggested, but usually not followed through. Like a festival abroad, the organisation would surely be too much for the mere group chat to handle? As it turns out, adventures like this can actually materialise, with a little persistence.
What started out as a throwaway comment about going to Sziget Festival in Budapest in December 2015 turned into a fully-fledged trip in the summer of 2016. Some of us had never even been to a festival in the UK before, let alone signing up for a 7 day affair in a foreign country yet, but sometimes you just have to wing it (and bring along the mum of the group – she’ll make sure everyone’s still in one piece at the end and still have a great time!). 7 days of non-stop festival antics were intense but the ‘Island of Freedom’ is too tempting to resist so I’m heading back this year; here is a list of 5 things you should know if you want to too.
1. Your type of ticket
There are a couple of different tickets that you can get and as with most festivals, getting in there early is key. Unless you’ve planned to go quite spontaneously nearer early August, your best bet is to grab yourself some early-bird tickets before New Year’s Eve. Choose from a 7-day pass, a 5-day pass or day tickets.
Pro-tip: Go for the 7-day pass if you want the full experience – just expect to be really tired at the end and in need of a relaxing soak in one of Budapest’s famous baths!
2. Your accommodation
One of the first things you probably want to start thinking about once you’ve decided that you are going is where you’re going to stay. With a wide selection of options, the difficulty in your choice lies with choosing what best fits your group. If you like your creature comforts (e.g. clean, with no chance of possible disease), then an Airbnb is a great option. At £10 a night for 10 nights to live in our own little apartment with reliable wifi, a kitchen and a washing machine instead of a tent on the island, we found it pretty good value. Other options you can explore are hotels, hostels or camping on the island.
Pro-tip: Be safe about booking online and make sure you are doing it through a reliable, well-established source.
3. Your journey
Travelling from abroad, you need to book your method of transport as soon as you get your ticket. Options range from taking a plane to taking a train, or if you’re a sucker for pain, then you can take a long coach ride through Europe! Also factor in getting to and from the airport or station, both at home and in Budapest.
Pro-tip: Get a Citypass – for €39, you can travel freely within the city limits on any form of public transport, with further perks such as discounts listed on the Citypass’s page.
4. Your money
Hungarians have their own currency called the Hungarian Forint. It can take a bit of getting used to, especially as they have a note for 10,000 Ft. However, don’t be fooled by the big numbers and use it like monopoly money. If you don’t particularly fancy carrying a load of cash, you can get a bank account with your nearest Metro Bank and use their card in Europe without worrying about non-sterling cash fees on your card.
Pro-tip: Don’t change all of your money into Hungarian Forint at the airport or station, or even before you fly. There are places on every corner in the city where the exchange rate is cheaper and better value.
5. Your experience
There is more to the festival than the music and there is more to the city than the festival. There are comedy shows, circus performances, art installations and so much more. From parties to TED Talks to yoga sessions, and incredible food. Outside of the island, there’s a city bursting with history and culture. Peaceful baths, ruin pubs, a vibrant nightlife until the early hours of the morning or museums and breathtaking views.
Pro-tip: If you get a Citypass, use the perks included with it to get the fullest experience of the city that you can – it even comes with a free trip to the spa baths!
Being in the final stages of preparation for my trip to Sziget’s 25th anniversary this year, I can safely say it’s a festival not to miss. Don’t be put off by it being abroad; Sziget is as good a place to start as any!