Yes! This is a blog about my travel experiences to the Sziget 2016 festival on the Obudai Island in Budapest Hungary. Not something you would expect on my website, since I mostly write technical pieces. But I wanted to share my experience with other people who are interested in going to Sziget Festival
We traveled by car at night from the Netherlands through Germany, Austria all the way to Hungary. Be sure to purchase vignettes for Austria and Hungary if you travel by car. We arrived Sunday in the afternoon at approx. 13:00 o clock, is it smart to arrive early? Yes because you are the first among others, already can start building a party but you’ll have to wait before the island opens. Then you’ll have the perfect chance to find a quiet and shady spot to pitch your tent.
Coming in early?:
Coming early gives you the opportunity to explore the full island before anything has started yet. The downside is that arriving early feels the same like the Olympic Games in Brazil, nothing is finished everything is still in the process of building and fixing things.
We pitched our tent on Camping Bridge which isn’t far from the main entrance. This is very convenient if you don’t want to haul your stuff halfway over the island, also it’s quite some distance from the main stage, A38, Colosseum and Europe stage, so the noise of people and music is a bit less than average but you should bring some good and multiple earplugs anyway.
Upon buying your tickets you have a few options like: Camping Upgrade, Pre-party, moving in x days earlier, buying a parking ticket, renting a locker with 230v power
The camping upgrade is worth the money if you want to have a fresh and guaranteed shower in the morning. At 8 o clock there are no queues and there is hot water, so if you like to stay clean like me, showering is definitely worth the money. Each camping also advertises with Wi-Fi, but don’t expect much of it. If you are addicted to Facebook, Instagram, twitter or snapchat, buy a local sim card or up your plan with a ‘foreign mobile bundle’. Camping security is good in general, people ask you to show your wristbands, people are patrolling over the area by foot or bike and everything is kept very clean, including toilets and showers.
On the special camping’s you’ll also find pre-pitched tents which are for rent. Again this is convenient when traveling light if you travel by plain, bus or train. But consider you are side by side with your snoring neighbors and the Quechua 2 seconds for 2 persons is actually a 1 person tent. To stuff your gear and have some space, you’ll need a bigger tent then that.
A locker with 230v power might come in handy if you are not carrying an old Nokia (which still lasts for a week on a single charge) be sure to bring a power socket so you can share the 230v power outlet with more than one device.
Moving in some days earlier, I already explained has some advantages. This extends the Sziget experience and allows you to visit Budapest on the day’s that the festival isn’t in effect.
Not far from the island near when you are standing in front of the main entrance bridge, you’ll have a look back over your shoulder and you’ll see a big chimney rising out among other buildings. Walk over there to find a huge supermarket called “Auchan” where you can buy food, drinks, supplies and camping gear such as camping chairs and airbeds, if you can spare the money or are traveling light this is the place to be. Beer is as cheap as 200 forint for Stella, Heineken or Becks, but be aware it is not allowed to bring alcohol to the island, just like any glass jars or bottles. You can try smuggling it in, but if they’ll find it you have to drink it up right away or throw it away.
Food and Drinks:
Food and drinks are good and cheap if you are used to the prices of other festivals like PinkPop, RockWerchter, PukkelPop or Rock am Ring, a beer (0.5 liter that is!) sells for approx. 2,2 euro and it’s called “Dreher Classic” which you can get canned or tapped. They also have a second beer called “Dreher Hidegkomlos” which is more fruity and hoppy kind of beer which I can definitely recommend.
Cocktails which seem pre-made (like mojito) sell for approx. 5 euro’s which is still affordable, and come in al sizes up to a bucket of 5 liters for the big spenders.
Food wise you can eat almost anything but be aware of products with meat and fish (like salmon) wait a little bit until the festival is in full effect and there is enough food in circulation so you’ll know for sure it’s fresh and hasn’t been lying around for a day. I cannot stress enough that you need to choose your food wisely. For instance, we’ve wanted to buy a box of pasta which was lying in one of those big paella dishes. The person scooped some pasta in the box and then went off with it, presumably to the microwave. We have experienced that before with some Thai food 2 days earlier, and the day after that I felt sick in my stomach. So we preferred not to eat food which needed to be reheated in the microwave. Something I definitely can recommend are the burgers from “Zing & Co”
The general mood of people is relaxed an friendly. Everybody is in a good mood and you can have some good fun on the festival.
About bringing camera’s to the venue, I saw some people walking around with DSLR, I’m not sure security is really tight about it if you are not a professional photographer, but I think with all the system camera’s and swappable lenses nowadays, they are not going to stop you if you bring an advanced camera. Beware though that valuable items should be kept somewhere safe.
The City pass can be bought upfront through the web shop of the Sziget Festival or at the top-up points on the festival site itself. The city pass offers some great advantages (if you are intended to use them):
- Discount on hop on, hop off transportation
- Discount on visiting bath houses, including free entrance for 1 bath house
- Free usage of public transport, including bus, train, metro and tram
- Available for 13 days, and 2 days
We’ve bought a City pass for 13 days thinking it would be really convenient to travel everywhere any time, but to be honest we used the City pass only once, the day we visited Budapest. So basically we’ve payed 33 euro’s for one day of public transport. Next time I’d say a 2 day’s City pass would suffice.
We had bought ourselves a ticket for the pre-party which was held on Tuesday evening, the day before the festival started. We were a bit surprised about the location of the pre-party since it was of the island, and on a boat (the A38 boat) which is situated 10 kilometers from Obudai Island. To attend the pre-party you needed to buy an additional ticket which costs: 12,50 euro. We’ve bought it if only to support a Dutch band we really like called “Bombay”, the pre-party isn’t really worth it in my opinion. There are already some parties on the island by bars that are already finished building up, although they don’t have parties till early in the morning, it is enough to pass time until the festival starts. The pre-party however wasn’t really crowded, is mostly visited by Dutch people and is organized by Festival Travel, which has nothing to do with Sziget organisation itself.
-Aaaah yes!!! The music, the most important part of any festival, looking back at this year’s edition it was a very varied line up with numerous bands and performers. The most disappointing of all, and also confirmed at other festivals such as PukkelPop in Belgium was Rihanna. Yes such a gigantic name draws attention and sells tickets, but when it comes to performance and value for money, you are stuck with a singer which not only comes too late on the stage (between approx.. 20 to 45 minutes) but also doesn’t finish one song completely, does not sing live (at least no more than one or two consecutive songs), has no band, and actually no show. Compare this to a band like Muse, or Die Antwoord and you are still swooning about those performances. What I kind of like about the Sziget Festival is that it isn’t packed with bands throughout the day. In comparison to other festivals, Sziget start their main program around 4:45 pm when the first bands hit the stages, and all mainstream band’s, singers or other acts have their last performance around 11:45 pm and 1:00 am.
Will we go back?:
First I was thinking no, because we planned Sziget basically as our summer holiday, and we were 10 days abroad in Hungary and liked the combination of visiting one the world’s largest festivals with a city trip to Budapest. Also the fact that we don’t know other people that would want to visit this kind of festival’s for such a long period of time, makes it harder for us to go back there. Going alone is fine, but having some company, amusing yourself makes a big difference in festival experience.
But, perhaps there will be a chance we go back, most important thing for me personally is the music. I don’t really care about anything that happens on the festival besides the music. I know there is an insane amount of things to do on Sziget, but I mostly care for seeing bands and enjoying their performances. Be sure to check Sziget next year since it will be its 25th anniversary, and I think they are going to celebrate this big time.
So far my story of visiting Sziget as a first timer, I’ll leave you behind with some photos and videos I’ve made during the festival.
My personal top 5 of the festival where:
3. Oscar and the Wolf
5. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
AfroJack – Opening:
Editors – Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors
Muse – Mercy
Bloc Party – Song In Clay
Sum 41 – In Too Deep
Sia – Cheap Thrills
MO – Kamikaze
Oscar and the Wolf – Joaquim
M83 – Steve McQueen
And finally, Dj Hardwell closing moments with Fireworks: