My final case of inter-cultural contact in Hungary was with a little old man whose home I had rented out a room in for a single night. He spoke grateful goodbyes in a typical old man sort of way and I bowed in appreciation. Our languages were indecipherable to each other an his Hungarian goodbye chatter followed me out the door. His final gesture was a big wave followed by an even bigger “See ya!” in perfect English.
I laughed. Goodbye Hungary and good riddance. When paying for a place to stay, Hungary is far too expensive of a country for the vagabond. On to cheaper pastures, or so I hope.
On to Serbia.
I paid $5 to get from Szeged, Hungary to Subotica, Serbia by bus. I asked around for the price of this ticket prior to getting on the bus. In situations where you pay a driver or a conductor on the bus, a traveler who is mindful of expenses should try to find out the price in advance. I found out that the cost of this ticket should have been around 1,000 Hungarian Forints, or a little less than five US Dollars.
I stepped up into the bus with a long line of Hungarians behind me and handed the driver two one thousand Forint bills. One for me and one for Chaya. The driver wanted more money. I could not understand what the frick he was saying and he understood none of my English. But after making several incomprehensible noises at each other for a few moments it became clear that he wanted a total of 2,300 Forints. This would be around 1,150 a ticket. 1,150 is around 1,000. I paid it without much protest. Perhaps I was taken for a buck, perhaps the price was different than what I was told, perhaps this relatively small amount of money was not worth thinking about.
In travel, sometimes it is better to pay out a questionable dollar than risk your sanity debating whether or not you are being screwed. Prices change, informants can be wrong, or the bus driver could be cheating you. In most cases, you will never know. If the price of something is within the bounds of what I think it should cost, I have found it less taxing to absolutely prove beyond doubt that I am not being cheated. But if the price is more than a dollar than what it should be, I will fight it out until the bitter end.
$1 is sometimes not worth the struggle, but $2 is big money.
The price of accommodation in Hungary is astounding. In a country where a huge loaf of freshly baked bread sells for under a dollar and you can eat well on only a few dollars a day, $20 to $60 a night for accommodation in a a low end hostel or hotel seems outrageous. Perhaps inconsistently high priced hotels is a testament to a thick cultural cohesiveness. Perhaps hotels are only for tourists and Hungarians with excessive amounts of money, and the rest of the population stays with family members and friends when they travel.
But perhaps Hungarians have far more money than they let on.
On to the next country.
This is a rundown of the prices that I paid to travel in Hungary for one week in January of 2009. All prices are listed in dollars to make this information a little easier to process.
Depiction of travel in Hungary:
Flight in to Budapest, Budapest to Szeged by bus, Szeged to Serbian border by bus.
Transport from airport to city- $3.00 (bus to subway to city center)
Express bus from Budapest to Szeged on Serbian/ Romanian border (2 hours)- $11.50
Loaf of bread- $1
Liter of milk- $1
Gyro/ Kebab/ Falafel pita sandwich- $2- $2.50
Subway ride in Budapest- $1.25
Bus ride in Budapest- $1.25
Bag of carrots- $1
Two tomatoes- under $1
10 eggs- $1.25
Cheap cheese- $6/ kilo
Bottle of beer from grocery store- $1 or more
Temporary stay two bedroom apartment in Budapest- $26/ night
Private room in a Hungarian home in Szeged- $40
Dorm bed in Budapest- more than $20
Bus from Szeged, Hungary to Subotica, Serbia- $5