The Basics

budapest

Where: Budapest, Hungary

Currency: Hungarian Forint (Approx 365 to the £ which gets very confusing)

Language: Hungarian but English is fairly widely spoken especially by people working in tourism

Climate: The high season of June to September is hot, hot, hot but in the winter (November to February) wrap up warm and prepare for snow

What To Do

Thermal Baths: Relaxing the famous spas is a common pastime for the locals of Budapest. With the city sitting on a network of over 125 thermal springs, there are loads of different bath houses to choose from but the most popular with tourists are Szechenyi and the smaller Gellert. Both are incredibly intricately decorated with dozens of pools often* complete with a slightly round Eastern European man tutting at you which really adds to the authenticity of the experience. (*Cannot promise this addition).

Look Out Over Pest: The amazing pictures you see of Budapest from above are usually taken from one of Buda’s many hills and lookout points, one of the most popular of these being the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle District. You can take the funicular (which I’m still convinced is just a fancy name for a cable car) to the top or, if you’re feeling thrifty, or just plain healthy, the walk is well worth it.

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Escape Rooms: You can visit an escape room in almost every city in Europe nowadays but the biggest and best are reserved for their original home in Budapest. Locked prides itself on being the most realistic game in the city but there are literally countless options from fiendishly tricky mental challenges to lifelike horror scenarios.

Buda Castle: Buda Castle is, surprisingly enough, the crowning glory of the Castle District. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you’ve already climbed the dreaded hill for a look at the view. Many different guided tours are available and the castle houses many national museums but you can walk around the grounds for free!

Ruin Bars: Budapest is famous for it’s quirky nightlife and this is centred around the world renowned ruin bars. Szimpla Kert is one of the oldest and most popular of these. It’s a maze of bizarre decorations and hidden nooks and crannies and is sure to capture your attention for hours.

Eat Goulash: An Eastern European staple, goulash is a beef stew often served in a bread bowl. You can find it at pretty much any food serving establishment, and goes pretty well with a refreshing Hungarian beer (apparently).

Hungarian Parliament Building: Whether you choose to view it from afar or up close, you can’t miss the Hungarian Parliament Building. Literally, it would be fairly hard to miss. You can even take a look inside if you visit when parliament isn’t in session.

Sziget Festival: For a week at the end of August, a small island in the middle of the Danube becomes a music Mecca with people all over the world flocking to Budapest for Sziget festival. A celebration of music and art, the event attracts some of the world’s biggest music stars along with independent local artists to create what it calls the “Island of Freedom”. 

sziget

Getting Around

  • Budapest is served by an integrated system of trams, metros and suburban trains run by BKK.
  • The cheapest option is to get a travel card for the duration of your trip. This will allow you to use all of the BKK transport. There is also an option to buy a group travel card for up to 5 people which works out fairly cheaply.
  • To get to the city from Budapest Ference Liszt Airport, take the public bus 200E to the nearest metro station, Kobanya Kispest. From here you can get a metro to the city centre and onward to your final destination.

Where To Stay

Budget

  • Budapest is a really popular destination for young so there are countless hostels available in the centre of the city. Due to nature of the city, there are plenty of party hostels around, such as Carpe Noctem, where solo travellers can pick up some new friends. Don’t worry if that isn’t your style though as it’s easy to find somewhere a lot more relaxed such as the 7×24 Central Hostel. Rates across the city start from as low as £8 a night for a bed in a shared dorm and £20 a night for a double private.
  • If you’re travelling in a group, AirBnB offers some amazing apartments for rent in Budapest. Because of its Eastern European location, you can find some amazing properties for a fraction of the UK or US price.
  • Because accommodation is relatively cheap here you may find that your budget stretches to a hotel. For around £60 you can get yourself a double room at the Mirage Fashion Hotel or Brody House, both just a few minutes walk from popular landmarks.

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Splurge

  • Boscolo Budapest: Stunningly beautiful inside and out, the luxurious 5 star Boscolo Budapest houses a spa as well as several restaurants. It is also the most marble that I’ve ever seen in one place. With rooms starting from £100 a night, it’s pricey for Budapest but fairly reasonable in comparison to other similar hotels around the world.
  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Budapest: Not quite The Grand Budapest Hotel from the film but the Iberostar manages to make the name proud. Combining classic architecture with modern design, the hotel is in a prime location, with many rooms boasting great views of Liberty Square.

Top Tips

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  • If you see yourself visiting multiple paid attractions then a Budapest Card would definitely save you money. The cards are available for 1,2 or 3 days and get you unlimited public transport as well as entry into 12 museums and spas.
  • When planning your trip, remember that, in Budapest, museums are closed on Mondays.
  • Be sure to prepare for the weather. Budapest can get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer and you’ll be spending a lot of time outside. Not bringing the right things to deal with the conditions could seriously ruin your trip.
  • If you’re planning on visiting Sziget festival, buy your tickets in advance. They get more and more expensive as the event gets closer. Same when booking accommodation if you choose not to camp on the island.

Have you been to Budapest? What would you suggest?

Katie x

So you’ve been away from home for a little bit now, your year in halls has got you feeling like you can conquer anything, but have you really been as independent as you’d like to think? How many times has someone had to help you when you’ve locked yourself out of your room? How many times did your messy pre drinks miraculously disappear by morning? And if you were lucky enough to have lived in catered halls, are you really ready for a life of providing for yourself? Not to worry you though. If I can make it on my own, then you definitely can. Here are my top tips for surviving your first year in your own student house.

Be organised

It helps to get the boring paperwork out of the way early so you can start actually enjoying your new home. Make sure you have looked over and signed your tenancy agreement, paid your first month’s rent and set up a standing order. You will also need to make an appointment to collect your keys from your estate agent. To do this, you’ll need proof of your right to rent in UK so make sure you have your passport handy. If you drive at uni it’s also worth checking if you need a permit to park on your street. In Newcastle at least, most of Jesmond requires a permit which you can acquire here.

Set up utilities

Your landlord or estate agent should have let the utility companies know that new tenants are moving in but you will still need to create an account with these companies to pay your bills. Make sure you find out who provides your gas and electricity and come up with a system to split the bills when they arrive. One option is for you to create a bank account which you all pay in to. Alternatively, one person could pay the bills and then everyone repay them, or you could use a service such as Glide to arrange a package for you. Make sure you know where your meters are as you’ll need them throughout the year.


Inventory and Deposit

You will be provided with an inventory for the house which you will be required to complete and return to your agent. It’s really important to note down anything wrong with the property (and keep a copy) as this will be used as reference at the end of your contract to determine any damage you may have caused and the return of your deposit. This deposit should be held under the Deposit Protection Scheme so you should have been provided with details of this. If not, be sure to contact your agent as this is vital in ensuring you are treated fairly come the end of the year.

Devise a cleaning rota

As annoying as it was to have Brenda the cleaning lady screaming at us at 7am after a night out, having the bins magically empty themselves once a weeks was pretty handy. Now with no Brenda and a hell of a lot of mess, it’s best to establish a cleaning rota early to avoid any fights that can stem from people not pulling their weight. Chances are you won’t stick to it after week two, but hey, you tried.

Introduce yourselves to the neighbours

Even the most considerate students can be known to make a little bit of noise but locals really appreciate the effort of new students introducing themselves and you’ll often reap the benefits through the year. One of my elderly neighbours threw countless dinner parties with guests who hadn’t figured out her dislike of white wine and, long story short, the “lovely girl across the street” acquired a fairly steady stream of vino. I’m not guaranteeing such fortune but you never know what you’ll get from a little politeness.

Don’t let house issues ruin friendships

For the first time you’ve been allowed to choose who you want to live with but that doesn’t mean petty arguments and personality clashes won’t appear. There will be an overly messy one (sorry, that’s me), there will be an obsessive clean freak, there will be people who were given different levels of responsibility at home so will respond to the new situation in different ways. Try to be as considerate as possible and do your best to address the problems other people bring up and hopefully they will do the same for you. If all else fails, then distance these issues from your friendship as that’s way more important than some literal spilt milk.

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you enjoy your years as a student as much as I have! Any other tips? Comment below!

Katie x


This post is in partnership with Easiliving. Looking for a student house in Newcastle? Take a look at their extensive range online now.

Now I love a festival, probably more than most people. The music, the food, the friends, the laughing at others who completely disregard normal standards of behaviour. But what’s the best way to improve a festival? Turn it into a holiday! So with festival season in full swing, here are 6 of the best festivals around the world that are worth the camping and greasy hair.

Glastonbury, Great Britain

Based on the premise of community and sustainability, Britain’s biggest festival still has the power to compete on the global festival scene. With 1000 acres of ridiculously well designed farm, you can find everything from chart topping acts to dance lessons to pottery classes. Glastonbury is definitely more than just the music and with an incredibly varied program, you can truly find something for all ages and tastes. Don’t miss a late night party in the infamous Shangri La and be sure to fully explore the sight to discover hidden treasures such as the samba bus and the forgotten forest. You’ll have to be on the ball to get tickets though as it’s known to sell out within minutes. Good luck!

Coachella, USA

Located in the California desert, Coachella is a festival Mecca where it’s almost against the law to be without a flower headband and glitter. Spread across two weekends in April, you definitely won’t need to pack your wellies as you brush shoulders with countless celebrities as the rest of us scroll through the endless Instagram posts, filled with envy. Combining the hottest music stars with up and coming acts and art installations, Coachella is perfect for those who want to kick back and relax whilst experiencing the buzz of one of the world’s biggest festivals.

Tomorrowland, Belgium

Every year thousands of people from all over the world descend on the small town of Boom in Belgium for a celebration of electronic music that’s like nothing else you can imagine. The world’s best DJs provide the entertainment at Tomorowland, along with incredible sets and stages, until the early hours of the morning. Whilst it’s very likely that you won’t sleep all weekend, it is definitely an experience not to be missed.

Fuji Rock, Japan

Set in the stunning Japanese mountains, there’s always something new to be found at Fuji Rock. With remote, quirky stages hidden around the site, you may need to hike or take a gondola to reach some of the entertainment. They hit a perfect balance of huge westerns acts and eastern favourites to give an authentic experience where you can get a taste of Japanese culture whilst still being able to find something to sing along to.

Sziget, Hungary

Sziget, in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, takes over a whole island in the middle of the Danube for a full week of music, art, performance and fun. The self-named “island of freedom” also features a beach for those who like to sweat off a hangover and is an easy train ride back into the city. With music only starting at 3pm, the morning gives you plenty of time to explore the quirky city. I’d highly recommend a trip to the world famous bath houses, both for the cultural experience and availability of adequate cleaning facilities. You’ll really need it.

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Rock in Rio, Brazil

A city famous for carnival is sure to put on a pretty special festival, and Rock in Rio does just that.It claims to be the world’s biggest music festival after branching out to include locations in Las Vegas and Lisbon. Unlike many festivals, the actual headliners continue into the early hours of the morning, for those who really fancy seeing Rod Stewart at 2am (no, really), but they are supported by a wide variety of DJs and dance acts if that’s more your style.

What’s your favourite festival? Let me know below!

Katie x

The Basics

IAmsterdam

Where: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Currency: Euro

Language: Dutch but English is widely spoken

Climate: Cold season is November to March with high season June to September with very little extreme weather

What to Do

  • Museums: Amsterdam is famous for its museums and with over 60 to choose from, you’ll be able to find something for everyone. The Van Gogh museum houses an impressive collection of works you will have seen in a school text book whilst the Sex Museum provides an option for those with, err, less refined taste. The museum square is also home to one of the famous I Amsterdam signs and a huge paddling pool to cool off in.
  • VondelparkGrab a picnic and head to this beautiful park if the weather is good. It’ll probably be packed and you’ll soon find out little clothing Europeans wear but it’s a great place to people watch.
  • Anne Frank’s House: Visit the actual house where the Frank family hid during World War 2 and learn about their experience. There’s even a real Oscar statue in there. I’m not sure why, but there is.
  • Rent Bikes: Many locals use bikes to get around but if you want a more relaxing ride, stick to quite streets and parks to get a real feel for the city.

Amsterdam

  • Coffee Shops and The Red Light District: Whilst this stereotypical side of Amsterdam isn’t really my thing, it is a unique experience to walk through the district. Brace yourself, and don’t expect to meet the love of your life down there.
  • Canal Cruise: There are so many different options if you fancy getting on the water. From large, packed cruises to private boats, there’s something for every price range and it really lets you see Amsterdam from a different perspective.
  • Artis Zoo: I can’t resist a zoo and I’ve been to quite a few in my time but this one did not disappoint. There’s even a planetarium and aquarium on the grounds.

Amsterdam

Where to Stay

Budget

  • There are a wide range of city centre hostels available in Amsterdam but be sure to book early as the best ones are known to fill up fast. Shelter City has been voted Amsterdam’s favourite hostel whilst Bob’s Youth Hostel promises to bring the party with a bar boasting the cheapest beer in A-dam.
  • Because of the city’s great transport links, airport hotels are a good option for those looking to avoid packed dorms. The cheapest option is the Ibis Budget which offers basic rooms for as little as €60 a night. Be sure to buy a travel pass though as you’ll need to get into town.

AMSTERDAM

Splurge

  • Lloyd Hotel: This unique hotel is about a 15 minute tram ride out of the city but it’s perfect for those who want to be surprised. The rooms at Lloyd Hotel range from 1 to 5 stars, with the most luxurious boasting a bed big enough to fit 7. That sounds like there’ll be plenty of covers to steal. It also a cultural embassy but I honestly have no idea what that means.
  • The Toren: TripAdvisor’s number one hotel in Amsterdam, The Toren is a small, trendy hotel in Amsterdam’s heart. Be warned that the decor could be described as excessive but the service is second to none.

Top Tips

  • If you’re staying out of the city or plan on travelling around a lot, buy a multi-day unlimited travel pass. It’s cheaper and eliminates the need to waste time buying a ticket on every tram. Simply scan in and out on every mode of transport and you’ll successfully avoid the judging glares of agitated locals.
  • For the museums and Anne Frank’s house, buy tickets online and get there early. The queues can be HUGE and you really don’t want to be wasting your day waiting around.

Amsterdam

 

  • If you’re looking for a chilled night out or a few drinks in a nice bar, avoid the red light district. As much as it’s great to see for a few minutes, at night it can turn into a seedy, Magaluf style party town which really ruins your quiet drinks.
  • If you’re planning on heading to a lot of the attractions then look at buying an I Amsterdam card which can save you money on multiple attraction tickets.

Hope you’ve found this guide helpful and that you have the best time in Amsterdam! I know I did!

Katie x

Everyone loves a fancy meal and a graduation dinner is the perfect excuse to dress up and splash out (especially if your parents are paying). But after living on such a budget for three years, it can be hard to know where to eat outside of Eat4Less and Wetherspoons. Don’t fret though as here are a few great options for the big day.

Silk Room

The Silk Room restaurant is a graduation staple, and every year they put together a special graduation menu, offering 3 courses for under £30. Although the choice is limited (think meat, fish or vegetarian), it’s great value for money considering the quality of the restaurant. Silk Room also houses a champagne bar so there really is no better place for a celebration.

The Botanist

botanist
The Botanist is a go-to for any occasion and graduation dinner is no different. Whilst the food here is good quality and reasonably priced, it is eclipsed by the true stars of the show, the extensive cocktail menu and stunning views of the city. Request a table by the window or head up to the rooftop terrace to add some real atmosphere to your night (although it may be ruined because every person on your course will probably be in here).

Viva Brazil

Viva Brazil is my personal favourite and is great for families that are looking for something a little different. Take your seat and wait for the servers to bring 14 different cuts of barbecued meat to your table. Whilst they do have a vegetarian option, I would definitely only recommend this place to meat lovers (unless you want to pay £15 for some salad and bread). They even offer 2 for 1 cocktails before 8pm if you fancy a drink with dinner.

Pleased To Meet You

Another cocktail bar with an often overlooked food menu, PTMY has a huge range of gin based drinks as well as a swanky new restaurant area. Head down early to catch the 2 for £10 cocktail happy hour then stay to sample their classic British cuisine.

Longhorns

longhorns

Instagram: @longhornsbbq

Whilst Longhorns may not scream “special occasion”, it’s a great option if you’re looking to stay in Jesmond for the evening. Whilst it may not be luxurious, the atmosphere is great and you really can’t beat piles of barbecued meat on a tray. If you’re there between Thursday and Sunday, head downstairs to the secret speakeasy and grab a drink or two from their highly talented cocktail artists.

Wherever you chose to go, or if you’re just going to get a takeaway, have a great graduation and congratulations on your degree!

Katie x


This post is in partnership with Easiliving. If you’re looking for somewhere to live after graduation, they after a great range of affordable professional lets.