Sunday, March 18, 2007
Unexpected Adventures Reward The Budget Traveller
Getting to the Balaton Airport on 1110 Forint
By Meredith Degyansky
A cheap flight from Hungary to London may be a challenge to encounter. However, with the aid of budget airliner, Ryanair, a one-way ticket can cost a mere 5000 forint. The catch is that there are only two flights departing from the Balaton airport each day, one to London and one to Frankfurt. Meaning one must be punctual when arriving to the airport. This can be challenging because Balaton is approximately 186 km southwest of Budapest. But have no fear, I have discovered a cheap, efficient, well perhaps not so efficient, but cheap way to get to the Balaton airport from Budapest.
A train departs from Deli Palyaudvar in Budapest and arrives at a small Hungarian town called Balatonszentgorgy. The ticket only costs 860 forint. One negative factor may be that you must depart at 3:45 am in order to get to the airport by the 11:00 am flight departures. Despite stopping for what feels like every 100 meters, the train will get you to Balatonszentgorgy on time after four hours of lovely views of Hungary’s countryside. If traveling by car or on a train of normal speeds the trip would take about two and a half hours, but for 860 forint, it is bearable.
After arriving to the station in Balatonszentgorgy, which is still 12 km away from the Balaton airport, it is necessary to transfer to a small two-car caboose train for no additional charge. The train ride is approximately ten minutes long. Seats offer plenty of legroom so long as you put your bag on your lap. The cars also come equipped with a public water closet, just be certain to bring your own toilet paper. The caboose drops you off in Keszthely where you will have to board a bus to take you to the airport, the final destination. The bus comes every 15 minutes and it only costs 218 forint. You can pay the driver when boarding the bus; no reservations are necessary. The bus winds through the narrow roads of Keszthely with a few stops along the way. In a matter of minutes, you arrive at your destination.
The bus drops you off directly in front of a sign that reads, “Balaton Airport 1500m”, with a convenient arrow to point you on your way. As you walk on the tiny gravel road, make note of the old Russian bunkers surrounding you. The airport location used to serve as a mock battleground for Russian soldiers stationed there. This told to me by an old Hungarian communist who happened to walk beside me.
There are conveniently located signs every 500m to inform the distance left to the airport, reassuring when you have been splatting through mud puddles for awhile and have seen no sign of an airplane. Finally, you arrive at the airport and do all other procedures as usual. The actual flight is comfortable, reliable, and safe, giving Ryanair thumbs up.
The total time of the trip from Budapest to the Balaton airport is approximately five and a half hours and costs 1078 forint. I must include that unless you are a Hungarian speaker, you should befriend someone who is on the way. If it were not for the friendly British/Hungarian man that read the signs for me, spoke to the ticket controllers for me, and basically held my hand through the process, I would still be in Balatonszentgorgy. If all this seems daunting, you can take the airport fly bus shuttle from Deli Palyaudvar to the Balaton airport. It departs at 6:00 am and arrives at 8:50 am and it costs about 3000 forint. I think I will do that next time.