I was like Simba in the ravine on my first day at Sziget, there were people coming at me from everywhere. I couldn’t quite get my head around the Sziget payment system and I definitely hadn’t had as much to drink as some of the people I saw strewn around the site.
As I got to know the festival and people had obviously got over the excitement of arriving at Sziget, I got in the swing of things. I want to help you avoid that initial WTF? stage and get straight in there to the good vibes and great feelings I ended up getting from the festival.
1. Dress for warm, cold and rain
The temperature suddenly drops in the evening and you’re going to want something warm, no matter what the weather was like in the day. During the week I was at Sziget it rained (torrentially), was scorching hot, freezing cold and at time just ‘nice’. Pretty much like being in England actually.
2. Don’t stress about money
The price of things is confusing, yes. My advice would be just to hand your Sziget payment card over and be done with it. If you think too much into all those zeros you will literally blow your own mind. All the drinks are around the same price – cheap. If you want super cheap go local (beer and unicum), and stick with pizza for the best satiation for your forint.
3. Take trainers or CAT boots
Even when it was raining it was too hot for wellies. I ended up wearing trainers every day, despite taking an array of planned flip flops for a few reasons:
- Too many people in an enclosed space is not good for your toes.
- Some areas were really muddy.
- You’re standing around a lot.
- It was cold at night.
- They’re comfy and protective.
4. You can smuggle in booze
Apart from the first day they seemed pretty chill on the door, although they did have a quick glance in my bag to show willing. You can definitely smuggle in a hipflask or two, or try one of my many other ways to smuggle booze into a festival. So long as you didn’t have crates of the stuff they didn’t seem to mind.
5. You can pre drink right up to the gate
The route from the tram to the entrance gate was littered with people knocking back drinks. Although from what I heard and what I suspect, not many Brits were involved. For us, the drink inside was so cheap it wasn’t worth it. For the Hungarians however, the drinks were four-fold the prices they were used to.
6. You don’t have to camp
Yes, camping is fun and you’re definitely deeper in on the festival action, but there’s so much cheap accommodation in Budapest you really don’t have to put yourself through this. Trust me, I love camping, but I really don’t think I could’ve done the 8 nights at Sziget. With the whole spectrum of weather to deal with, the 415,000 people and the crammed in feral tents… no thanks.
I got an apartment with my friend in Buda. It was £10 each per night and door to door from the festival it was 30-40 minutes.
Some of our friends pitched a tent at the Sziget site, which they said was still 40 minutes from the main stage. The crafty fellas also got a cheapo apartment in town though, so depending on how their night went, they could choose where to sleep.
7. The food is brilliant
You don’t have to worry about taking camping equipment to cook, or anything like that. The food at Sziget was plentiful and cheap, for Brits coming from the pound anyway. It might be nice to have a few cereal bars and dried fruit, but you can easily get into Budapest for cheap supplies. The nearest supermarket would be about 20 minutes on the tram, or there’s one on site too.
Top tip: don’t try and eat between 6-8pm from the festival stalls, it all gets a bit crazy at feeding time. Tell your stomach it can wait another few hours.
8. Everyone is really friendly
As I said, at first I was overwhelmed by the people but I soon got to realise it was a really friendly festival. People are here from all over the world – usually with their patriotic flag across their back – and everyone just wants to have fun.
Chat to people, be nice, make friends, don’t get angry with pushing people at the main stage and you’ll have a great old time.
9. Don’t just stay at the main stage
Around 75% of my Sziget was spent at the main stage but it was actually when we went about off-piste that we had the most fun. We wanted to see a lot of the headliners, that’s cool, but the main stage was just so, so busy you couldn’t enjoy being in with the crowd.
When we went to the Stonehenge Stage, the Irish Stage or the Village Stage we had a great time dancing around to whatever it was they were playing up there. I’d definitely recommend you get out more.
10. Take a look around in the day
This is something I would’ve liked to do more of. And I guess is one of the few benefits of camping. There’s a whole schedule of cool stuff going on in the day time. Unfortunately the earliest I ever managed to make it in was about 4pm for the bands. If I went again I’d definitely try to make the most out of this.
11. Time your visit to the Sky Bar well
The Sziget Sky Bar goes 50m above the ground, giving awesome views to be enjoyed with a cocktail of your choice. If you want to give it a go, you need to time it well. Thankfully for us we just caught the end of the Outkast set, but the people behind us would’ve gone up there to see, nothing.
12. Buy the Sziget-Budapest Citypass
With all the tram travel I did, and the Budapest activities during and after the festival I definitely would’ve saved money by getting this. You can buy the pass for 2 or 13 days and it covers all transport, discounted spa and beach entrance, free shuttles passes, free boat passes and other discounts throughout Budapest too. It starts from 12euros.
13. Learn some Hungarian
Just knowing a few words seemed to work wonders with the bar staff. They’ve got a tough job behind the bar trying to work out what all the different nationalities want from them. Showing some sort of effort to communicate in their language was appreciated, or at least the probable mispronunciation made them smile.
- Two beers – két sört
- Two wines – két bor
- Please – kérem
- Thank you – köszönöm
- Cheers – Egészségedre!
- Goodbye – búcsú