1 - Only a small fraction of Budapest residents eat out, because downtown restaurants are expensive in comparison to local salaries. As a result, most restaurants, particularly the pricier trendy/fine dining establishments, have meaningful foreign crowds (tourists and expats). More locals and lower prices can be found at the étkezde/kisvendéglő, these cheap, diner-type places.
2 - In Hungary it's customary to eat breakfast within the warmth of the family home. However, this tradition has been eroded by increasing number of foreigners and tourists. These days in Budapest you can find several options for a croque-monsieur to start your day, both in casual, no-frills cafés and trendier venues too.
3 - Most restaurants in Budapest don't employ hosts to greet and seat people, meaning that guests are free to pick and choose a table they like.
4 - Prix fixe lunches are available in many restaurants (on weekdays) at a reasonable price, usually ranging between €5-7. Before choosing à la carte, it's worth inquiring about a set meal.
5 - In Hungary, dinner is usually eaten between 7 and 9 PM, and it's the biggest meal of the day. For the best experience and most locals, try booking a table for 8 PM.
6 - Free water and free refills are unknown concepts in Budapest (and in greater Hungary). In restaurants you should specifically ask your server for tap water (to which the likely reaction is annoyance), otherwise they will serve you and charge for bottled water.
7 - Please mentally prepare yourself for potentially disappointing customer service in Budapest. Waitstaff with an attitude is a general Eastern European phenomenon and, while things have somewhat improved, Hungary is a severe case.
8 - As for tipping, 10% is the standard and expected in Hungarian restaurants and bars, with up to 20% for exceptional service. Please note that lately some places have begun to add an automatic service charge (in the range of 10-15%) to the bill, and the waitstuff may or may not draws your attention to that.
9 - Despite being part of the EU, Hungary hasn't yet switched to the euro currency, instead using the Hungarian forint. Although some stores and restaurants do accept euros too, you shouldn't be counting on it. Given how weak the Hungarian currency is, most prices run into the thousands, ten thousands, so make sure to double-check the digits on your bill before paying.
10 - A word to the wise: as many cafés, restaurants, and bars are cash-only establishments, it’s generally a good idea to carry money with you.
11 - Indeed there is a thermal bathing culture in Hungary, as you can read in any guide book about Budapest. Ever since the Romans brought in bathing customs to the city, which was further boosted by the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th century, locals like to indulge themselves in the mineral rich hot springs gushing from the earth beneath. You can’t go wrong with any of the baths operating in the city. Tourists tend to be found in greater numbers at Széchenyi, Gellért, and Rudas. One will find more locals and lower prices at Lukács, Király, or Veli Bej. And for a real local experience, visit Dandár baths. For more details, see an overview of Budapest's main thermal baths.
12 - The nationalization of residential buildings in Hungary began during communism in 1952. After the fall of the system in 1989, people had the option to buy (back) their homes from the state at highly favorable prices. As a result, most people today own their apartments in Hungary, in fact, the proportion of privately owned apartments is above 90%.
13 - The inside of Budapest's large pre-war buildings isn't usually quite as impressive as you might imagine. During communism they were haphazardly parceled up by the state in order to accommodate people who were moved in to Budapest from the countryside. Dysfunctional layouts bedevil residents to this day.
14 - During summer months Budapest can feel deserted on the weekends. This is because the local population moves out en masse to Lake Balaton, a popular summer destination 1-2 hours’ drive from Budapest.
15 - Public water fountains in Budapest are few and far between. However, thanks to a creative idea by a group of locals of turning ordinary hydrants into drinking fountains without compromising their original function, you'll have plenty of opportunities in the summer months to quench your thirst as you roam the city.
16 - Some Budapest buildings bear a stone plaque on their ground floor facades with the "Műemlék" (monument) inscription. These landmark plaques are generally found on houses and other buildings of architectural or historical significance. Although they are written in Hungarian, it's worth taking a closer look as one can usually make out the construction date and the architecture style from the wording. The buildings in the Castle District in Buda are teeming with such landmarks.
17 - In the name of the local population in Budapest I kindly invite visitors to please be respectful of our city. The increasing prevalence of stag-party tourism has begun to affect us. It isn't pleasant to have to listen to “beer-bikes” blasting music as they cross through residential streets, nor to experience loud and rowdy visitors who leave behind empty bottles and trash. We love having visitors and a good time but please remember this is our home and treat it with the care you show your own.