When visiting a new place, the visitor information center is one of the most important places to collect up-to-date information, from where to eat or where the public toilet is, to recommended places to visits or special events. It’s the most convenient place to tourists. Therefore, when we arrived Budapest, we hoped to find one as soon as possible.
When we arrived the airport, it’s already late in the evening. Not only because we’re busy looking for minibus and arranging the trip to city center, but also because it didn’t take too long from passport control to getting the bus, we didn’t think of checking the information center in the airport (if there’s any).
When I thought of finding an information center, it’s already the second day after we finished the grocery shopping in the morning. The metro stop close to our apartment is one of the major stops, and we’re not far from the main train station either. However, we didn’t find anything that looks like an information center in metro or train station, and we could only rely on our pocket guide and the information we got in the metro station to decide one of the most important issue, the transportation. We eventually got a weekly travel card that can allow unlimited travel in metro, bus and tram. The funicular that takes people up and down the Buda hill is not included. The travel card costs around 3,000 Hungarian Forint (around 12 Euro) and is quite convenient. We gave up the Budapest card, which is designed specifically for tourists. Even though it allows one to visit most tourist attractions in a fixed price (around 5,000 Forint) and transportation is included, there’re only one-day or three-day options and we would have to get two cards for each person. It’s not necessarily costing less! Also, I don’t want to fall into the “trap” that makes me want to visit as many places in the list as possible, just to accomplish a “visit list”… With ICOM membership I also get discounts or free admission. So we decided to take our chance.
The first visitor information center we found is situated on top of the Buda Hill, right across the Matthias Church. The first thing I did when I entered the center was picking up as many brochures as possible. When I “calmed down” and looked around, I found a small stand at the corner. I went to take a look, and found the most impressive treasure I’ve ever seen in a tourist information center. On this small stand there’re more than fifty kinds of small cards for tourists to collect at their will. On the card there’s the basic information of an attraction, a shop or a restaurant. If one goes to these places with the card he will be able to enjoy a discount or free gift. The quality of the card is superb and can easily raise one’s attention and interests. I stood in front of the stand collecting the cards. I was so concentrated that I didn’t even notice that someone’s taking picture of me.
According to my pocket guide, we happened to arrive Budapest during the Bucsu Festival, which are celebrations to commemorate the departure of Soviet soldiers from Hungary. On the guide it’s written “22 and 23”, the third and the forth day of our arrival and there’re special events around the Chain Bridge. However, we looked around the Chain Bridge and found nothing… The lady in the center smilingly handed us a brochure and told us that the festival will be held in the weekend. We can check the brochure for detailed information. We felt so happy that we happened to choose the right time to be in the right place. There’s nothing better than participating the city festival during a trip.
However, that’s the end of the good impression we have towards the service… We asked the exact locations of the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the other art gallery. Though she didn’t forget to provide us with brochure and explained where they are, the information is not updated and she didn’t even know that the art gallery was relocated to another place some months ago. Also, the history museum that lies in the castle will be closed for the preparation of the festival… We didn’t know it until we went to the Buda hill again two days later specifically to visit these two places. The more funny thing is about a special initiative that various museums organized for the festival. Many museums were open on Saturday night until the next morning during the festival time. We didn’t know it until a friend mentioned it to us. And when we tried to call the so-called 24-hour tourist service hotline, the information given was wrong again!!! Obviously, we weren’t too happy with the services that were provided by the information center.
Even though, I still cannot deny the conveniences of such service. Now that I can think back, if there’s any place that I could provide feedback, I would probably write a long letter to complain… Between “nothing provided” and “wrong information given”, which is better anyway?