Pub Crawls in Budapest: Worth it?

There are lots to love about a Pub Crawl. If you’re in Budapest, a city known for its nightlife: you don’t want to miss out on an epic experience. 

Last July, pre-COVID era, I was backpacking through Europe and staying in a hostel in Budapest. Popular Backpacker wisdom is to never spend on pub crawls. People had told me this constantly, why pay between 15-30 Euros just to be taken to 7 pubs you could Google and find out yourself?

But the pub crawl experience is something else altogether, and I went and signed up for it, along with what seemed like half of the entire hostel. And I am so glad I did. I had one of the best nights and met incredible people worldwide that I’m in touch with even today!

How it all went down

We started out with almost a hundred people. I didn’t expect such a large crowd, and my first thought was how the few handfuls of tour guides would control everyone. We walked to the first ruin bar, where we all received a free welcome shot. 

The ruin bars are in a neighborhood called District VII, which is an old Jewish one. Since World War II, these buildings have been around and barely renovated to become a hipster bar with completely random vintage furniture. One of the pubs we visited actually had upside-down bikes hanging from the ceiling (Fogasház). 

The welcome shots that you receive are not the best alcohol; they’re cheap hard alcohol that will ensure you make the ‘ew’ face. But there’s something very college-party about the entire night. While it’s awkward in the beginning, people start loosening up as they get drinks into them. 

The beer is exceptionally cheap in Budapest, so that means you can drink throughout the night as you shift from one ruin bar to another. In the first few bars we visited, the first one hour we spent had complimentary drinks while they were chargeable later on. 

If you’re wondering: since we’re getting so many drinks, does it cover up the cost of the entire pub crawl ticket? 

Well, it doesn’t really. Even though you’re getting free shots at each one of the 7-8 places, drinks are really cheap anyway. And you’re paying for the experience of going out with so many people in an organized setting.

What you get out of it

You’re guaranteed to make a lot of friends through the night. Most people come to these pub crawls for the same reason as you: to meet new people from different countries and make friends. That’s why everyone is so friendly and open to conversation. 

I met all kinds of people: college kids, a group of guys having a bachelor party, as well as a couple on their 25th wedding anniversary!

If you show up at a ruin bar alone outside of an organized tour, chances are that you won’t have the same experience. 

I was worried at the beginning that I might get left behind in one of the bars, but that’s not really possible. With around a hundred people in varying levels of intoxication all being herded out of a bar, at least five people will tell you that it’s time to head to the next pub. You also have the guides: it’s their job to keep an eye on you. 

The guides also stick around to help with converting your money from Euros to Hungarian Forints. They also try to organize drinking games, but it’s up to you if you want to participate in those or just hang out with your newly acquired friends. 

After the whole affair is over, you’ll be taken back to the hostel. You’ll likely want to eat something, however. I highly recommend the Doner stalls nearby – it is precisely the kind of cheap and satisfying meal you want when you’re drunk at 4 AM.

Should you skip it?

If you have friends in Budapest: there’s no reason to attend an organized Pub Crawl. They will likely know all about the underground ruin bar scene and be able to take you out to experience that nightlife. You’ll also have quieter quality time to spend with your friends instead of being in a loud crowd of a hundred foreigners! 

I definitely would recommend it as a unique experience. Having said that, however, I do think it’s a one-time thing. Next time I go to Budapest, I’ll visit the ruin bars on my own!

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