Üdvözöljük a repülőtéren!

Ferihegyi nemzetközi repülőtér (Ferihegy International Airport), usually just Ferihegy (pronounced something along the lines of Ferry-hedge), is the international airport of Budapest, Hungary and the hub of the Hungarian national carrier Malév. It has two terminals a few kilometers apart, imaginatively entitled "Terminal 1" and "Terminal 2", but since all international flights now use Terminal 2 and there are no scheduled national flights, you are unlikely to ever see Terminal 1. This is a Good Thing, since Terminal 1 (opened May 7, 1950) was built by the Soviets and looks like it, while Terminal 2 (dated November 1, 1985) is spacious, well-lit, squeaky clean and in all entirely indistinguishable from a modern Western airport (which was, of course, the entire point of building it). Even passport control is already optimistically split into EU and non-EU queues. Terminal 2 is further split into terminal 2A, used exclusively by Malév, and 2B, used by everybody else, but this distinction is largely theoretical since the terminals are in the same building and about 5 mins on foot from each other.

Given the fact that it services not only the two million inhabitants of Budapest but the entire country of 10 million as well, Ferihegy feels simultaneously small and underutilized. (These are not adjectives one would use to describe, say, Budapest Keleti train station.) Terminals 2A and 2B are the ends of a single (long) corridor and virtually clones of each other, with the same tax-free shops and Sbarro restaurant in both, and just a small smattering of specialty shops and various executive lounges to differentiate them. The shop selections are poor and prices are no competition for the city itself, but you can find the requisite Unicum liquor, Tokaji wines, and canned goose liver if you require last-minute souvenirs. One welcome amenity for the computing traveler is that electric sockets are abundant, a fact directly responsible for the existence of this node. It's 8 PM on a Thursday a mere 4 days before Christmas as I write this and the place is deserted, sitting near in the middle of Terminal 2A I can count the number of fellow passengers I see on my fingers and I can clearly hear a kid humming "...and bring us a figgy pudding..." at the other end of the terminal. Then again, I suppose this is far preferable to all-too-usual other extreme.

The second most striking thing in Ferihegy is a seriously psychedelic piece of art suspended from the ceiling of Terminal 2A. A painting on a rotating drum surrounded by rotating prisms, the rotation and diffraction make the design ripple and even cause (simulated) interference patterns to appear for some of the geometric designs. Prolonged staring is both necessary to figure out how it works and liable to result in a severe headache.

Getting There (aside from "on an airplane", that is)

The best way of getting to and from airport is to take the Airport Minibus, a "shared taxi"-type operation that rounds up passangers going in the same direction and will take you to or from anywhere in Budapest for a flat fee of about 5 euros (1600 forint at time of writing, but inflation is high). Join the queue at the airport and you'll be on your way in 15 minutes; for the trip back, call the center (pref. with 24h advance notice) and they'll be there to pick you up.

The other common option is to take the Centrum Bus, which runs every half hour and, for 600 forints, will take you to central Erzsébét tér and let you fend your way from there. Or you could save a few more pengö and take bus 93 (again, at time of writing) to Kőbanya-Kispest, from where you can continue on to central Pest with the blue metro for a total cost of 180 forints. You probably do not want to take a normal taxi, as the time savings over the Airport Minibus are minimal and not only is the official fare close to 5000 Ft, but the odds of getting shafted are pretty high (although the Budapest taxi racket seems to have been cleaned up quite a bit as of late).

Future Plans

As the airport is quite new and obviously operating well under capacity, there are no major changes in the works. There are plans to extend one of the HÉV light rails all the way to the airport and evidently there is even construction under way to accomplish this, but given the financing difficulties of Budapest's subway much-delayed Line 4 I would not recommend holding your breath in anticipation.

This writeup has been brought to you by Bored Out of My Skull Productions.

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