Tips for traveling to Hungary with diabetes

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Traveling to Hungary as a diabetic? No problem!

Visiting Hungary with diabetes (or with a friend, spouse, or child who has diabetes) is easy. Hungary has good infrastructure and good medical facilities, and people are aware of diabetes there.

Welcome to Hungary sign at the Slovakian border. "Hungary" in the local language is "Magyarország".

Welcome to Hungary sign at the Slovakian border. “Hungary” in the local language is “Magyarország”.

In this guide to traveling to Hungary with diabetes, you’ll find:

jeremy-looking-at-map-budapest-hungary

Preparation + attitude

Travel in Hungary will be smooth and problem-free if you are properly prepared and have the right attitude. The trick to making your trip perfect is to focus on the mental, not the medical.

How to prepare for a trip to Hungary with diabetes

Preparation for a trip to Hungary as a diabetic means getting together your supplies and packing and carrying them properly.

The bus from Aggtelek to Budapest in the rain

three-wise-men-street-scene-miskolc-hungary

lake-balaton-and-sky-hungary

Get the right attitude about diabetes travel in Hungary

This is the most important section in this guide! Having the right attitude will get you through anything with diabetes.

When traveling in Hungary, planning a trip there, or even just considering one, internalize these true points:

hungary-flag-building

  1. Nothing bad will happen to your diabetes in Hungary. You won’t have to seek medical help, or have some serious blood sugar-related episode. Your blood sugar won’t be perfect but you’ll deal with it. Emergencies are always possible, of course, but so unlikely that you can forget about them. You are strong and resourceful. You’ll be fine in Hungary!
  2. You can eat what you want. Hungarian food (see below) includes a wide range of dishes, and choosing insulin doses for them all will be difficult if you’ve never had them before. Don’t let that scare you – make your best guess, eat the food that appeals to you, and check your blood sugar later.
  3. Diabetes can improve and enhance your travels. Diabetes focuses people who have it. It raises your awareness of your own body and moods. It keeps you eating regularly but not snacking between meals. Use the good health and discipline that diabetes promotes to enjoy Hungary that much more. With a clear head and a sense of responsibility, you’ll be able to concentrate more on the sights and experiences of Hungary and get more out of them.

If you had to boil all these points down into one single phrase, it is this:

Travel without fear.

Our guesthouse owners kept filling our glasses with homemade liquor.

Our guesthouse owners kept filling our glasses with homemade liquor. Diabetic challenge!

How to speak Hungarian – for T1Ds

Hungarian is not related to the languages of the countries around it. As mentioned above, it is extremely unlikely that you’ll have to communicate to anyone about diabetes if you don’t want to while in Hungary.

But if you do, most important people (pharmacists, medical personnel) will be familiar with the English word “diabetes”. If not, you can just show them an insulin pen or a blood sugar (BG) testing monitor.

toltoallomas-shop-aggtelek-hungary

I’ll meet you down at the Totol… at the Toltollam… the Totaltollymaa… um, the store.

There are Hungarian phrases though for diabetes. Impress your new Magyar friends with your pronunciation of these words:

If you are wearing a piece of jewelry or carrying a card that says you’re diabetic, the English phrase “DIABETES MELLITUS” will be fine, as will shorter variants like “DIABETES” or “DM”.

#bgnow 66 in front of Aggtelek cave

My route in Hungary

 

I traveled through Hungary (with diabetes) over seven days. I was backpacking – living cheap and with no set plan – with my non-diabetic travel partner. So we didn’t have a packaged tour itinerary, and no planned meals. We also tended to walk or bike everywhere rather than take tourist buses.

flag-top-szigliget-castle-hungary

We entered Hungary from Slovakia to the town of Miskolc. The next day we took a bus to Aggtelek near the Slovakian border to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site caves there. After a couple days we went to Budapest, the magnificent capital of Hungary. From there we visited an obscure town called Balatongyörök on the shores of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake, and rode bicycles to nearby Szigliget Castle. After that we took a series of trains into Slovenia.

Parliament Building on the Danube River, Budapest.

Parliament Building on the Danube River, Budapest.

My diabetes experiences in Hungary

My blood sugars over seven days in Hungary were not great, but not terrible. My average BG was higher than it had been in Slovakia, but better than it had been in the several countries before that.

I did experience my highest reading of my long trip so far – a 402 after an ill-timed pizza meal – but most of all was still showing improvement with my insulin doses and control.

red-green-leaves-moss-aggtelek-hungary

Blood sugar should be as good as you can make it, but if it gets out of hand, don’t worry. As long as you are conscious of it and trying to make adjustments, you’re winning diabetes. Your readings will eventually get better, even if you have to work a while at it.

I’d rather have high blood sugar while traveling than while sitting in my office back home.

Budapest at Christmastime.

Budapest at Christmastime.

My blood sugar stats from Hungary

Place for a quick meal. (Budapest train station)

Place for a quick meal. (Budapest train station)

Clearly the Hungarian dinners were higher in carbs than I was planning, making my average evening readings much higher than at other times.

On an optimistic note, the high evening BGs that followed dinner were taken care of with a corrective Humalog shot, so my BG wasn’t that high for more than a couple hours usually. I bet my A1C for my week in Hungary would have reflected a better number than my average actual reading.

When you’re in Hungary, check your blood sugar often. It’s probably the single most important thing you can do while traveling.

Part of an endless rice and liquor dinner in Hungary. BG was surprisingly ok afterwards.

Part of an endless rice and liquor dinner in Hungary. BG was surprisingly ok afterwards.

Hungarian food

Traveling in Hungary usually includes a wide range of foods, from the nice and local to the junky and train station-y. The reality of diabetes is that you’ll need to be prepared to eat all types of food, and guess the best you can. Check often, and adjust accordingly. Keep at it, even if it doesn’t seem to be working out at first. It will eventually!

The food you eat in Hungary will likely resemble what I found. Here is a sampling:

meat-fried-plate-dinner-balaton-hungary

Shot time at a Chinese restaurant in Hungary.

Shot time at a Chinese restaurant in Hungary.

california-coffee-company-budapest-hungary

Junk food dinner in Hungary.

Junk food dinner in Hungary.

Humalog shot at breakfast in Balatongyörök

instant-soup-section-hungary-supermarket

Humalog shot aboard a Hungarian train

Injecting insulin in public

If you inject in your arms, stomach, legs, eyeballs, wherever – you may do so in public if you can be discreet about it. Personally, I inject in my legs, and did so at many restaurants and in train and bus seats without going off to the bathroom. If you have good travel pants you won’t have to worry about permanent blood stains, and although not officially recommended, I never had any issues arising from through-material injections.

The same goes for blood sugar checking in public. It might gross some people out, so be as discreet as possible. You can always scamper off to the bathroom for a quick injection anyway. Just be sure the food will be there when you return to your table!

Bat in a cave, northern Hungary.

Bat in a cave, northern Hungary.

Rooms and accommodation in Hungary

With a website like booking.com (which I used throughout Hungary) you can easily choose a room in the location and price range you want, and with whatever amenities you want. (Breakfast included or free use of bicycles, for example.) Some of the places I stayed may be similar to what you find:

Breakfast detritus in Miskolc.

Breakfast detritus at Promenade Pension in Miskolc.

Sign for Katica Vendegház in Aggtelek

Elvis Guesthouse loft room with full kitchen, Budapest.

Elvis Guesthouse loft room with full kitchen, Budapest.

Villa Astoria in central Hungary.

Villa Astoria in central Hungary.

Masayo on her bike and a train

Have you been to Hungary?

70-130 is always looking to hear from diabetic travelers. If you have experience traveling in Hungary with diabetes, let me know your own thoughts and tips.

If you are planning a trip as a diabetic traveler to Hungary or have any questions, let me know that too.

You can go anywhere with diabetes!

Read more about my travels in Hungary

Come along on the adventure! Follow detailed travelogues about the wondrous sights, fascinating people, and varied diabetes experiences I encountered as a traveling T1D in Hungary:

Day 52: Humble Humenné To Happenin' Hungary
Day 53: Caver In The Morning, Liquor In The Evening
Day 54: Our Private Tour Of Aggtelek's Caves
Day 55: Making The Most Of A Day Off In Budapest
Day 56: Hopping Between Buda And Pest
Day 57: Life Beside Central Europe's Largest Lake
Day 58: Biking And Hiking Up To Szigliget Castle
Day 59: The Sunny Train From Hungary Into Slovenia

Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.

Next page: Tips for traveling to Slovenia with diabetes

“Tips for traveling safely to Slovenia with diabetes. Info about food, insulin, and services, from the Julian Alps to the Adriatic coast to the interior of Slovenia.”

About the author

Jeremy has traveled to over 40 countries, taken several road trips across the United States (and Canada), and lived on and off in Japan for several years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982 but doesn't let a little thing like that stop him from exploring the world.

Jeremy writes about his travels with diabetes on 70-130.com as a way of logging his excursions and of inspiring others who might be feeling hesitant to take their own big bite out of life.

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