Remember all those Eurotrips you saw in movies, and dreamed of experiencing ever since? Never-ending parties, cheap alcohol, drinking games, kissing strangers, lifelong friends (with names you don’t remember), nudity (lots of it), unchecked gregariousness and everything else? Well, that pretty much sums up my experience at Retox, a place that became home in a week’s time. By now, many of you know, I spend my birthday in a new country every year. This year, my quest was special – I was turning 25. Although scary in one way, it also felt like a cause for celebration. A cursory search for the best party hostels in the world, and one name seemed to feature heavily – RETOX PARTY HOSTEL!
A peek at a couple of reviews, and pictures, and my decision was already made. I was going to turn 25, and not remember most of it. Retox Party Hostel is part of the notorious Budapest Party Hostels clan! Budapest is (famously) one of the cheapest cities in Europe to drink in [Read: Budapest, the Cheapest City for Alcoholic Drinks]. Naturally, the city is renowned for its party scene, with Budapest Party Hostels, at the forefront of all that debauchery!
My initiation to Budapest was smoother than I’d have imagined! I arrived at the airport after a nasty little 6 hour layover in Zurich. Six hours is right on point for being the worst time slot for a layover, because it’s too long to spend in the airport, and too short to get out and get back in! I spent most of my time munching on disgusting airport sandwiches, fulfilling the stereotype of a brown-guy window-shopping at Duty Free, and frequenting the airport’s many smoking lounges. At Budapest Airport, I stepped off the carousel a little apprehensive, because though I had directions to the hostel, I had no local currency and no local sim-card for GPS.
Expert Tip: The local currency in Budapest is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Exchange rates at the airports as expected are abysmal. Thanks to a tip-off from my hostel, I only changed enough for public transport to the city, where you can change your currency for a much better rate!
Right outside the airport, you can take a bus to Kobanya Kispest, which is the closest metro stop. A couple of changes, and a tram later, I was safely at my hostel – the directions from the hostel were so specific, that I didn’t have to ask around once to find my way 😀
Retox Party Hostel – The House Rules
I showed up at the hostel early in the evening, around 5ish. The moment I stepped into the colorful labyrinth that opens into the infamous Retox Bar downstairs, I knew my life was about to change for ever! My friend Spaz greeted me, checked me in, and explained the house rules. I was only half-listening, because my attention was more focused on a bunch of his mates in the background, engaged in a game which I later discovered to be ‘strawpedos’. The hostel takes care to set expectations straight even before you pay. Retox Party Hostel is practically no holds barred:
- late/loud nights – ✅
- drunk roomies – ✅
- dorm-room sex – ✅
- calls for shots for anything & everything inconsequential (even something as plain as waking up first) – ✅
- pointless masculine (and in Retox’s case, even feminine) one up-manship – ✅
- squeaky beds – ✅
- dudes/dudettes passed out in their own (or worse still, somebody else’s puke) – ✅
Technically speaking, the only four rules at Retox are:
- zero drug tolerance (no kidding! Hungary is super-strict with drug control)
- no outside drinks in the bar downstairs
- smoke-free zone upstairs on account of fire dept. regulations
- don’t be an asshole
I agreed to all of the above and signed a form (no kidding!) stating this! HA! I then decided to take a shower to wash off the airport grime, and contemplate on what is easily the most bizarre set of rules ever explained to me.
Rooms & Common Areas
The decor at Retox Party Hostel is incredibly bold and witty! I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here, but just to add some context, allow me to explain the Retox cult – something I believe strongly binds its people together. This is a hostel frequented, and loved by that peculiar subset of people which often gets labelled as ‘hippies’ in mainstream media/culture. To quote one of the beautiful people that lives and works here, Retox seems to attract a line of misfits. People who can’t seem to relate to mainstream life. People that celebrate their quirkiness, borderline alcoholism and are very comfortable in their sexuality. Most importantly, this is a place that loves and accepts you for what you are, with minimal judgement.
This is plentiful evident in its vivid decor and room names. One particular room, called the ‘Love Dungeon’ is dominated by a very detailed, (and imaginative) piece of graffiti. It details a well made vagina, and an army of little mystical men and women, guiding a gigantic cock right into it! Every room is assigned a ‘dorm-buddy’, who is introduced to you in the form of innovative (and suggestive) language.
Bunk beds are basic, and expect bodies, clothes, shoes and luggage to be strewn all over! Having said that, the rooms and bathrooms are ridiculously clean, given the shit that goes down in this place. Big thumbs-up to the cleaning team for this! I’m very liberal and tolerant with living conditions, but the one thing I can’t stand is dirty bathrooms, and Retox exceeds expectations on this front. The common room-cum-kitchen is basic, but once again, vibrantly lit up with graphic and detailed graffiti. There’s also a life-size city-map, and a legends board, which details all past and current members of the intimate Retox family! All rooms and common areas are on the first level, with the famous bar occupying the downstairs section.
Staff & Events
My time at Retox and in Budapest for that matter, was made unforgettable by the brilliant crop of people here! I’m not the most social person in the world, even at my gregarious best (as I discovered on this trip), but since the moment I stepped foot inside Retox Party Hostel, I was made to feel at home every breathing moment. Not once did this happen in the form of a “is everything comfortable for you?”
All of my buddies at the hostel, starting with Cosmo, who gave me the best of pre-arrival tips and even offered to knock my price down when he learned it was my birthday, have become friends for life. Also a big shout-out to Spaz, Loaf, Beagle and Yoyo – all of whom are some of the most socially intelligent people I’ve met and ensured I had the time of my life.
The highlight at Retox Party Hostel, despite all this madness, is easily their well-thought out weekly events. Sure, there’s always a bunch of twats readily available for a game of flip-pong, strawpedos, power-hour, or any dumb game that involves thoughtless drinking; but they save the main-event for the nights. No doubts about that! Come dusk, Retox mysteriously begins to attract miscreants like moths to a flame! By nightfall, the bar downstairs is a full-house of majestic, beer-guzzling, debaucherous creatures. Some of the graphic events that take place at Retox on a weekly basis:
i) Alcoholympics – this is a trademark Retox Party Hostel event, and widely known to every self-proclaimed alcoholic in town! What makes it so special? Frankly, nothing – there’s no mysterious, miraculous drinking-game you’ve never heard; but the sheer volume of alcohol involved, and the unbelievable energy of the event really makes it worth a watch.
ii) Jager Train – another flagship event, happens every Sunday, where the good folks line up about a hundred odd Jager bombs, which get dropped simultaneously, before everybody consumes them and loses track of what happens next!
There’s also incredible events like the Budapest Boat Party, the Sparty, the legendary Budapest pub-crawl and open mic-nights that fill up the calendar for the rest of the week, but I’m going to do a separate post on all of those.
If alcohol isn’t your only agenda, and you feel somewhat aghast by how blatantly I’ve endorsed drinking in this post, the hostel also arranges for more mainstream activities like free walking tours, caving, visits to shooting ranges, hop-on-hop-off bus tours, etc. Just like everything else, the information is blatantly (and creatively) written on the walls of the facility – all you need do is ask 😉
Atmosphere & Co-Travellers
Retox in itself is an atmosphere. There’s nothing physically extraordinary about this place. What makes it super-popular amongst the more hardcore of the backpacker bunch is its incredible vibe. Retox has inadvertently stumbled upon the key to human interaction – emotion; and they have succeeded superbly in invoking positive emotion amongst its patrons every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment.
This is a hostel frequented by stag parties, hen-parties, bachelor-crews, solo-travellers, but most popularly, by misfits, who more or less find a place and a people they can relate to. I am not going to sugar-coat this – Retox Party Hostel isn’t a place for everybody; it isn’t even a place for the ‘elite’, but if your objective is to drink, mingle with some of the most free-spirited and open-minded people you’ll ever meet and forge friendships that owe a lot to alcohol, sex and mostly inappropriate humor, then this is a place you can easily call home!
One of the most popular reviews on Retox’s TA page is titled ‘Re-born at Retox’. I’m not going to claim this person read my mind! I don’t even feel reborn at Retox; but in my time here, I did feel like I belonged. Back home, I often get labelled a ‘hippie’. Sometimes, I feel out of place. The number of times I’ve casually been told I’m more European than Indian is ridiculous! There was a time when this offended me in some small way, deep down inside; but now I feel at home with it.
Perhaps my identity is not tied to my nationality. Maybe it isn’t even tied to the place I now live in or will live in at any point in the future. Perhaps it is tied to a more intimate entity – maybe it’s tied to the wonderful family that calls or has called places like Retox, home. I know I can’t live this life on a daily basis – not because it isn’t sustainable (well, that too – I do have a liver, after all), but I know that this is a part of the world that I can always come back to and feel at home in, for the rest of my life 🙂
Thank you for an unforgettable (the pun in this should NOT be lost) birthday, you weirdos at Retox! I know I’m coming back again to get weird with you beautiful people! I take your leave now, by mooching off a super video, that really captures the Retox vibe (this is what happens when a travel blogger travels without a decent camera).