We arrived in Budapest at 12:05 am. Not the best time to arrive anywhere, but especially not in a city you’ve never been to and that doesn’t have mass transit running outside of the city center after 11 pm.
I’d read about the possibility of taking a night bus from the airport to a bus terminal then another bus to a stop that I thought might be near our hotel but the name of which I couldn’t begin to figure out how to pronounce. At the last minute, I decided the best thing might be to get a taxi from a reputable taxi company.
Turns out, the FöTaxi company has a deal with the airport. They’ve got a booth set up just outside the arrivals door that houses a dispatcher and they offer flat rates to the different zones of the city center. You just have to tell them the name of the street and what district it’s in. Easy. Especially since the Budapest zip codes tell you what district the address is in.
Only, I didn’t know how to pronounce the street name and it was the one address I had that didn’t have a zip code and I hadn’t written the district.
I took a stab at reading the street name which looks like this: Eötvös utca. “Ee-usht-vush oot-sa?”
“What?” the dispatcher asked.
I shoved a piece of paper at him with the address.
“Um. The fifth or sixth? Maybe the seventh?” Quite the problem, since the districts are arranged in a spiral: the seventh might be closer to the airport than the fifth. But shouldn’t he have a computer he could plug it into that told him where it was and in which district?
I pulled out the hotel confirmation thinking that it would surely have the zip code on it. Only it didn’t. I did know that the hotel was near the Oktagon metro stop.
“It’s near Oktagon.”
“Yes, near Oktagon,” he mocked me. I'd later find out that Oktagon, while a Metro stop is also a neighborhood bordering two districts. “It’s ok. It’s ok.” He must’ve figured it out because he handed me a slip of a receipt with a number on it and the price of the ride in both Hungarian Forints and euros. “Three meters across the street. Ten minutes.”
I looked at the signs all around telling me that my FöTaxi should be right at the curb, not to take a ride from any other cabs anywhere else, that they were not trustworthy.
I walked up to the FöTaxi girl and told her they guy said my taxi should be across the street. “No, no. All taxis here.”
And then the dispatcher came over, looked at the ticket and pointed us at the guy waiting outside his white taxi across the street. I could hear him thinking “stupid tourists” as he did so.
The cabdriver took our bags, opened the car door and asked where we were going.
He asked to see the ticket. The ticket that everything I’d read about said to not give over, that holding onto it ensured I’d be charged the price printed on it.
“Ay-it-ush ootsa. Not what you said.”
As we pulled out of the airport I said, “Can I have that?”
“Is for me,” was his reply.
He got us safely and soundly to our hotel, took our 4800 forints and handed over a company card with the phone number and a discounted fare back to the airport printed on it.
“How do you say ‘thank you’ in Hungarian?” I asked.
“Koooor-si-nuum. And this street?”
“Ay-it-ush ootsa. Not mooshy mooshy,” he smirked and pulled away.
I am massacring languages all over the continent.