You May Never Be This Free Again- Budapest

Hungary was not a place I ever saw myself going to; I never thought anything of it and didn’t know much about it. However, when I got to Rome my friends and people I met in some of my classes were all talking about going to Budapest. So I did some research and asked around and came to find that it was actually a cool place and kind of underrated. I then turned to my new favorite hobby, looking up flights on Kayak, and found that flights there were a little out of my price range; still my friends and I would check in every once in a while to see if anything had changed.

Then, one fateful Friday morning while I was sleeping at my friends’ apartment in Barcelona, Rachel called me and asked me to make a game time decision: roundtrip flights to Budapest, $152 dollars, leaves Thursday night, March 27 and comes home Sunday morning, March 30. Being a little tired and still feeling the effects of my late night, I spontaneously said yes. We booked it immediately and I was heading back to bed when I received yet another phone call from Rachel asking if I wanted to stay in a Retox, a party hostel in Budapest. We read articles and reviews and although it sounded a little crazy, we figured, you only Budapest once so why not?

When March 27 came around I couldn’t believe that our spur-of-the-moment trip was actually here. After stuffing my book bag full of a weekend’s worth of clothing (I am now a pro packer) we headed to the airport. Coincidentally, this weekend was a very popular weekend for Budapest and we ran into several people from my study abroad program on the plane and in the city. After the chaos that is WizzAir we finally boarded the flight and headed to Budapest! We knew that from the way we booked this trip, we would definitely be coming home with quite a few interesting stories.

We arrived later than expected and headed to the parking lot to meet the transfer bus to take us to Wombats, the hostel (or should I say palace compared to other places we have stayed) where we stayed the first night. Deliriously tired, we saw our bus come speeding around the corner blasting house music and we immediately turned to one another slightly confused and a little nervous. We got in the bus and while we were waiting for two other people from our flight to get there we bonded with our driver, with whom we became instant friends.

He showed us pictures of his motorcycles and cars and his outfits that he races them in. We learned that he speaks about seven languages, has a sister that drives a BMW (or a BMV as he called it) and hates his job. He laughed at us as we tried to pronounce funny Hungarian words and taught us some of the basics we needed. Never judge a book by its cover because you never know who you could become instant friends with, even for a short period of time. He dropped us off at our hostel and we immediately went to bed.

We woke up early for yet another walking tour of another new city. First we went to the ATM and felt extremely rich as we took out 20,000 Forints- about 100 USD. We then did our ritualistic grocery store stop for some breakfast and realized that Budapest is extremely inexpensive compared to every other place we had visited; we got a big breakfast for about $1.50 USD. Heading over to our walking tour we ran into some fellow study abroad students from our program and we embarked on our three hour tour of a city I knew nothing about.

Rachel and I overlooking the beautiful city of Budapest
Rachel and I overlooking the beautiful city of Budapest
Chain Bridge
Chain Bridge

After our very informative tour we followed our guide to get some traditional Hungarian food and I quickly found out that it was going to be very hard being a vegetarian in a place that has an extremely heavy meat-based diet. As our guide was explaining the menu to us Rachel and I noticed a rather large, rather sweaty Hungarian man sticking his fingers in the food, eating it and then sticking his fingers back into the food. We told our friends and we all quickly decided to go else where.

We found the Hungarian version of Chipotle and decided we were in desperate need of a Mexican food fix and had burrito bowls. I then of course sniffed out, with my extremely accurate talent to find anything sweet, a bakery where I got my mandatory chocolate chip cookie and an unbelievable vanilla macaroon.

Satisfied with our lunch and dessert, we headed over to Retox, the party hostel, to check in. Walking over Rachel and I were a little nervous about what to expect because it seemed like a pretty crazy place from all of the reviews full of tales of drinking, partying, hooking up and no sleeping. So we walked up to the front of the building and braced ourselves as we entered. Upon first entering we saw a bar downstairs and I quickly noticed all of the interesting murals on the walls, however, I immediately felt welcomed by both the staff and the other guests we quickly met in the common room. They were all very friendly and the staff was very helpful with things to see and do. We also got a disclaimer that Retox is a party hostel in every sense of the word so we should be prepared for just about anything. A staff member gave us our electronic bracelets used to get into the hostel and into our room and told us they were “waterproof, drunk proof and sex proof” so we wouldn’t lose them. We were then led to our room, nicknamed the hunting lodge (perfect for a vegetarian, right?), which had walls covered with interesting drawings of all different animals.

DSC02897 DSC02896

Our Retox jewelry. I have yet to take off my orange bracelet.
Our Retox jewelry. I have yet to take off my orange bracelet.

We wanted to continue to explore so we made our way over to Hero’s Square. While we were making the long trek back to our Hostel from the square we saw several beer bike tours happening with loud music and a lot of people that looked like they were having a blast. Someone from the beer bike tour waved at me and as I waved back he hopped off of the bike while it was still in motion and handed me a beer. We then recognized each other and realized we were both guests at Retox and I quickly realized how much I would come to love Retox and its guests. As we sipped on our beer, we searched for a restaurant with mojitos and hummus- two things we had been craving all day. We enjoyed our dinner at a table for two outside and then headed back to Retox. We arrived just in time to leave on a pub crawl with everyone in our hostel. We also ran into two Canadian tourists that we had previously met on our walking tour and they joined us on our adventure.


We met even more people staying at Retox and instantly became somewhat like a dysfunctional family, full of different characters and a lot of love. There was a person from every walk of life and it was so fun meeting new people from all over the world. A lot of the guys from our hostel were convinced that Rachel and I would not make it to the last bar because things like this get a little crazy sometimes and after all we’re just little sorority girls. However, they underestimated us and we made it to the end. It wasn’t until the way home that we found out why it’s called a Pub Crawl. Along the way to each pub we continued to meet new people and decided that this was one of the most fun nights we have had since being abroad and that our decision to stay at Retox was the best one yet.

We slept in Saturday and finally struggled to get up as we were hurting just a little bit from the night before. Unfortunately, we had to check out of Retox because we had a seven a.m. bus to catch the next day and our other hostel was closer to the bus stop. However, that was not the last time we would see our Retox family. Once we got back to Wombats we took a much needed nap and then went to explore the markets of Budapest. It was especially sunny that day, which was very much welcomed coming from the rainy weather of Rome, so we threw on our tank tops and maxi skirts and walked towards the water. I enjoyed an amazing seafood falafel, some sour candy and finally a much-desired Pina colada overlooking the water as the sun went down at an outdoor restaurant. Although we didn’t want to move from our temporary paradise, we needed to walk home to take another nap in order to prepare for an amazing night at a Sparty.



After our nap we slipped into our bikinis for a Sparty. Budapest is known for their large heated public baths, something influenced by the Turkish, and on certain Saturday nights these baths become a giant party with dozens of people, drinks and music. Wasn’t it fate that one of these Saturday nights was when we were there? We were going to go with all of our friends from Retox, but were a tad late so we made our way over to the Lukacs baths to meet them.

The events that occurred over the next seven hours were absurd and the most fun I have ever experienced. Being reunited with our Retox friends made the  sparty that much more amazing, reassuring us yet again that Retox was the right decision.

The Sparty
The Sparty
and a more composed Lukacs bath
and a more composed Lukacs bath

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was all over and we sadly said our goodbyes to our new best friends and were sad to leave them and this amazing city. We got back to our hostel around 4:30-5 a.m., slept for about an hour and then attempted to find the bus stop where we were being picked up for the airport. I say attempted because we got lost several times and wound up missing it. Struggling extremely hard, we freaked out and went into a hotel where they thankfully called us a van service to take us to the airport.

After more struggles through security we just about crawled up to a counter at KFC and ordered a big bucket of french fries as the man working there laughed at us. I thoroughly enjoyed the said huge bucket of french fries and then proceeded to fall asleep on a couch in the terminal.

Impromptu nap time before my flight in the airport
Impromptu nap time before my flight in the airport

There was more chaos with WizzAir and I could not wait to get on the plane, take a quick cat nap and get home to my bed for some much-needed sleep. Multiple forms of transportation later I finally plopped down on my bed and slept for the next six hours. My fatigue and long-lasting headache were completely worth it.

This weekend was by far the best one I have had in Europe. Not only were the bars and the city amazing, but the people were what made this trip what it was. The best thing about traveling is meeting new people and learning about their lives. There are so many interesting people out there with their own stories and tales to tell and when you take a minute to realize that and open your heart to them, they can change you and your perspective and opinions. This weekend taught me not to judge a book by its cover, a hostel by its murals or a person by their tattoos. It is the people we meet, even if it is for such a short amount of time, that make things fun, interesting and even a little crazy. The worst thing about traveling is having to say goodbye, especially after only being able to know these people for such short periods of time. They come in and out of your life and impact you in different ways. You are the best of friends for a weekend and then, most likely, you will never see them again. My mind wanders sometimes as I think of what all of the people I have met are doing at this exact moment. Traveling opens your eyes and your heart to the best things in this world, and the best things in this world are the people that make it go round.

I hope to make it back to Budapest one day and stay in my favorite hostel again and meet a new batch of people. I never thought a city or a little hostel could make such an impression on me, but Budapest and Retox have left footprints on my heart- thank you.

My one and only Budapest
Retox <3

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” -Anais Nin

Published by Alexa Lardieri

I am a reporter and digital producer for the Civic section of U.S. News & World Report, where I write about breaking news. I came to U.S. News in 2016 as a researcher and writer for the Rankings and Reviews section and in 2017, joined the news team, where I helped launch America 2020. I have previously worked for as a reporter and social media specialist and was an editor for several outlets at my alma mater. I am a graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. You can follow me on Twitter (@arlardieri) and Facebook (/AlexaRLardieri) or connect with me on LinkedIn (/in/alexa-lardieri).

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