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Everyone is told to go to a thermal bath in Budapest. Often the experience is confusing. You’re in a new environment, no one seems to be able to speak English properly and there seems to be all these unspoken rules to follow. After my most recent visit to the Géllert Baths, I’ve compiled 9 tips to make your visit effortless so you don’t have to be wandering around lost and confused (like I did).
But first, which bath should you go to?
If you only have time to visit one of the baths while in Budapest, I would recommend Széchenyi. It’s the biggest thermal bath in the city and provides a complete bath-experience. The only time I would suggest Géllert is in the middle of winter. You don’t want to be wandering around too much in the freezing cold in your swim suit!
While most of the following tips are focused on Széchenyi and Géllert, you can apply these to all the thermal baths in Budapest.
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9 Tips to Make Your Thermal Bath Visit Effortless
Bring your flip flops
There is nothing worse than walking around barefoot across cold tiles. There is no shame in walking around in them and leaving them by the side of the pool. Littered throughout the baths, are piles of shoes. In the heat of summer, the pavements outside are going to be excruciatingly hot so you’ll be happy to have them.
Bring your own towel
When I went to Géllert, I didn’t bring my own towel. I was planning on doing something afterwards and didn’t want to carry a wet towel around. But if I were just heading home afterwards, I would definitely have brought my own towel. I did that when I went to Széchenyi and it was a lot easier.
Otherwise, you can rent one at Géllert for 600 HUF and a deposit of 4000 HUF. You get your 4000 HUF returned to you when you return the towel. If you’re renting a towel, be sure to bring money with you to the counter after you get changed. Or, even better, locate the rental desk before you get changed so you don’t need to walk back and forth with your money. The rental fee at Széchenyi is 750 HUF + deposit 4200 HUF.
Bring a swim cap
If you want to do any swimming, you’re required to wear a swim cap. If you try to enter the waters without one you’ll be barked at by a lifeguard. You can buy them for 200 HUF at Géllert Bath at the info desk. You don’t need a swim cap if you’re sticking to just the thermal baths. At Széchenyi, the lifeguard let us sit in the water without a swim cap though. The cool water was welcomed relief from the heat of the day.
Bring a water bottle
I get extremely thirsty sitting in the hot pools and usually crave a sip of water. Having a water bottle handy is good. The baths also have water fountains throughout with thermal water for drinking. While I’ve never tasted it myself, I’ve seen plenty of other people do it.
Enter through the right door
This is a problem I only encountered at Géllert. The cashier said to enter on the second door on the left, except all the entrances were on the right. So I picked at random one which turned out to be completely wrong. The right entrance is the middle door, right in front of the swimming pool. It is the second door on the right. The cashier mixed up her left and right and then I got lost inside the maze of Géllert. I had no such issue at Széchenyi – the entrances were clearly marked for each gender.
Including the price of admission is a locker (or if you pay a little more, a cabin). You’re handed a bracelet that looks like a watch. You press the “face” of the watch against the locker which locks and unlocks it. You can use it multiple times to get in and out of your locker in case you forget something. At Géllert, they also use it if you rent a towel to keep track. If you forget your locker number, there are machines that can tell you which one is yours.
Don’t be afraid to show a little skin
You’ll find in the change room there are no actual change rooms. People just change out in the open. Don’t be afraid to show a little skin. No one is looking. No one is judging. However, if this is a problem, you can rent out a cabin which is a private change room where you can also lock your stuff while you’re enjoying the baths. Both Széchenyi and Géllert require swim suits to be worn at all times though so don’t show too much skin! No clothing optional areas (anymore).
Be prepared to spend a couple hours
To achieve ultimate relaxation, its best to spend a couple of hours here moving from pool to pool. The best thing to do is to start with something on the cooler side and work your way up to the hot pools. Then alternate between the hot and cooler pools to give your body a rest. For pools that are on the hotter side, they have a suggested time frame posted and it is best to stay within it. At Széchenyi there is always a game or two of chess going on that you can use to pass the time.
There are plenty of pools that are a bit hidden to get to so take some time to explore the different rooms and pools. Géllert is home to twelve pools including six thermal pools with temperatures from 35°C to 40°C, a swimming pool and a wave pool outside. Széchenyi comprises of 15 pools of varying sizes and temperatures. Outside, there are 3 pools: a swimming pool, a thermal sitting pool (with 38°C water temperature), and a slight cooler pool (32-34°C) which has a whirlpool, and massaging waterfalls. Inside, there are 12 thermal baths of varying temperatures and varying medicinal ingredients.
May your visit to the thermal baths be restful and relaxing! Enjoy 🙂
Where to Stay
Heading to Budapest and looking for a place to stay? Because I lived there or stayed with friends, I haven’t stayed in these places myself, but I have recommended visiting friends and family these places and no complaints so far. Here are my top picks for where to stay:
Wombats City Hostel Budapest (1061 Budapest, Kiraly u. 20., Hungary) – This is a budget friendly option right in the centre of the city. Easy walking distance to a variety of attractions in Pest. I’ve also stayed in their other locations in Vienna and Berlin and enjoyed my time in both.
Nova Apartments (Akacfa utca 26, Budapest 1072, Hungary) – I lived across from these apartments for about a year and would get visitors to book here for convenience. Turns out, they all enjoyed the experience and found the location convenient to many sights and attractions. The apartments are spacious and come with a kitchen.
What are your tips to make the most of your visit to the thermal baths in Budapest or elsewhere?