Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 6

We have arrived at the final destination – Budapest. Hopefully I didn’t lose you on the bus replacement service in part 5!

In this final installment of my review we will explore Budapest. I’ll finish with a quick budget of what I spent on the whole trip and answer the all important question – would I do it again with Tucan Travel?

Andrassy ut, Budapest

DAY 12 – BUDAPEST (AND AN EXTRA DAY)

Today was the last official day of the trip, so in the morning I said farewell to my roommate over breakfast.

Two of us then went out to explore Budapest. We headed for an information spot where we were told about a free walking tour that was just starting at 10.30am. We ran to catch it and managed to learn a lot about the history of the city. The tour also took us from Pest, over the Danube to Buda, finishing at Fisherman’s Bastion, all of which gave a brilliant whistlestop tour of the city.

Budapest

The view over the Danube, with the Elisabeth Bridge on the right and Parliament on the left

After it ended we walked back to our hotel and ate lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. I don’t recommend doing that much walking in one go, but we had definitely worked up an appetite!

After lunch we went to the House of Terror, a museum related to the fascist and communist regimes witnessed by Hungary and Budapest during the 20th century. The museum is stark and chilling, and presents one view of the atrocities that took place in very recent history. It was worth a visit to understand an aspect of everything that has happened, but I would say the earlier walking tour was more beneficial for understanding Hungarian history.

House of Terror, Budapest

House of Terror in Budapest. This photo was taken on my second day when the sun showed off the pattern in the roof

Although my tour was ending, the nature of Tucan Travel tours meant another one was just about to start, with my tour guide going round to Dubrovnik and back again. Our end day was their start day, and I was able to join the new group at their welcome meal, along with someone else from my trip. As I had nearly spent all my money I could only afford tomato pasta, but I thought instead I would treat myself and put everything on card, so I had steak, dessert, and wine as an end of trip celebration!

The following day was my final day on holiday. I walked down Andrássy út to Heroes’ Square, a beautiful square surrounded by statues next to City Park. It was here I spent all morning walking round, taking in the sights and sounds. I managed to find a food stall which sold langós, a fried dough covered in anything you want that was mentioned during my walking tour the day before. I got one covered in garlic and cheese, imagining it would be like cheesy garlic bread; I wish I had got just cheese – there was so much garlic! The good part was all the vampires stayed away from me!

Heroes' Square, Budapest

Some of the statues on Heroes Square

Top tip – check the opening times of museums. The museums in Budapest shut on Mondays which meant I couldn’t visit any I had wanted to.

Finally it was time for me to get my transfer to the airport and fly home. The end of a fantastic trip.




BUDGET

My pre-booked costs were:

  • Balkans Highlights trip – £1160 (with under 26 discount of 5%)
  • Airport transfer in Dubrovnik – £32
  • Airport Transfer in Budapest – £28
  • Pre-Tour Accommodation – £41
  • Post-Tour Accommodation – £45
  • Flight Manchester to Dubrovnik – £106
  • Flight Budapest to Manchester – £152
  • Two nights Accommodation at Manchester Airport – £70

Total = £1634

For Croatia I took 1300HRK with me and withdrew another 700HRK, spending a total of 1870HRK (£216 today), most of which was in the first few days of the trip.

Slovenia is part of the Euro and I took a pre-paid card with €290, plus €30 in cash. I exchanged 130HRK and was owed some Kuna from Croatia so I actually had €60 cash at the start of my two days in Slovenia. I barely spent any of it as everywhere seemed to accept my card.

Going into Hungary I exchanged €50 for 14950HUK (I felt so rich!), and when I left I only had 170HUF left (50p) which I couldn’t spend at the airport (believe me I tried). I did treat myself to dinner on my card, but Hungary was pretty cheap.

Total overall spend ~£1900 for two weeks.

TUCAN TRAVEL REVIEW

Overall I really enjoyed my first Tucan Travel trip. As a travel rookie having someone lead the tour took all the pressure off. Looking back now I realise I could have done a lot of it myself (and for my upcoming trip to Italy that is what I have done), but actually a holiday should be relaxing and having someone else take all the pressure of getting me from A to B was lovely!

Tucan Travel do say you need to be fit and able to carry your own bags, and I would definitely agree with that. One member of the group struggled with her bag, and when we were rushing to catch the metro in Budapest after our long travel day her lack of speed was very frustrating for everyone else. As you don’t have access to a ‘Tucan Coach’ there is a lot of walking involved so you need to be able to cope. I imagine other destinations outside of Europe would be even more challenging.

I also loved the small group size offered by Tucan Travel. There were enough people to have different conversations with, but not too many to slow the group down. The group I was with included friends travelling together as well as a family with teenage children, but primarily it was solo (female) travellers, so there were plenty of like minded adventurers.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Dubrovnik city walls
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • Ljubljana
  • Lake Bled

Lake Bled

TRIP LOWLIGHTS

  • First tuna eating experience
  • Split
  • Ljubljana to Budapest train (though it gave me a good story!)

WOULD I GO BACK? WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY?

I would love to go back to Ljubljana and explore more of Slovenia as a whole. I would also like to take more time exploring Budapest as I only really did the walking tour through the city. I feel the trip comprehensively covered Croatia so I wouldn’t rush back there, but it is a beautiful country!

If I did a similar trip again I would book my own transfers and look at other accommodation options before and after the tour, but I think tours are brilliant ways to see countries. You get instant company from the other tour members, you get guided between main locations, but you also get plenty of free time to do your own thing. There is always someone who would like to do what you’re doing, sometimes you just have to ask!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


I hope you have found this six part review useful. It is the longest thing I have written since my dissertation, but hopefully it covers the important aspects of the tour and the destinations.

I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below, and please share your stories if you have travelled with Tucan Travel or been to any of the places I visited.

One thought on “Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 6

  1. Kevin Penney says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your 2014 trip with Tucan. I have an idea to see a little more of Europe and your experiences are a useful example of what to expect of the local transport style. I have travelled with Tucan in both S. Amercia and Africassee and had the advantage of having the transport waiting for me rather than having to catch it. As I am now in my late 60s this does have its advantages. I am pleased to see you taking the opportunity to travel like so many I have done the bulk of mine in the past 14 years since I took early retirement and have to acknowledge the benefit of youth in chasing buses and trains. I guses the irony is that age provides the time and money which may be lacking in ones youth. I do hope you enjoy your future travels and see as much of our world as you can. Kevin

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