UNFORTUNATELY, SZIGET FESTIVAL BUDAPEST 2020 HAS BEEN CANCELED.
Every year, Budapest in Hungary hosts the Sziget festival. Sziget festival 2019 was the first festival I ever attended solo and I had a blast! Below, I'll tell you all about the Sziget festival, what Sziget was like and why I'll be attending again in 2021.
This is a long post so if you want, you can skip to the sections that interest you by using the table of contents below.
- What is Sziget festival Budapest all about?
- The performance venues
- 1. Sziget Main Stage
- 2. Mastercard Stage by A38
- 3. Bacardi Arena
- 4. Samsung Colosseum
- 5. Ibis presents Europe stage
- 6. Petofi Radio – Telekom Volt Festival Stage
- 7. TicketSwap Musicbox
- 8. Lightstage
- 9. Sláger FM Greatest Hits Stage
- 10. YouTube Music Tribute Stage
- 11. Global Village tent and outdoor stage
- 12. One Love stage and workshops
- 13. House of Hungarian Music – classical, opera, and jazz stage
- 14. Cinema Hungary and Tedx Salon
- 15. Theatre and Dance Tent presented by Elle
- 16. WOW Hungary Sziget Beach and Garden
- 17. Magic Mirror
- 18. G-spot
- 19. The Giant Street Theatre
- 20. Cirque du Sziget
- Other Sziget activities
- 1. The Beat Stop
- 2. The traveling funfair
- 3. The bungee jump
- 4. Youtube ferris wheel
- 5. Brand stands
- 6. Hungarikum Village
- 7. Luminarium – Daedalum
- 8. Before I Die
- 9. The Artzone
- 10. Walkabouts
- 11. WAMP designer fair
- 12. Sport TV and Sportzone
- 13. Green Sziget Center
- 14. Party bars
- 15. E.on Oasis
- 16. Chess Tent
- 17. EU Meeting Point
- 18. NGO Island
- 19. Tent without Borders
- 20. Sziget Portal
- 21. Fulldome
- 22. Instax garden
- 23. Love Chapel
- 24. XS Land
- 25. Living statues
- 26. Tiny Bauhaus
- 27. Museum Quarter
- 28. I Ching Labyrinth
- 29. Wishing tree
- 30. Ibis Open Studio
- The VIP area
- Sziget food and drinks
- The toilets
- The Sziget app
- Other Sziget services
- Is Sziget festival safe?
- The focus on sustainability
- Should you go all 7 days?
- What it's like to attend Sziget solo
- Sziget festival map
- Sziget festival lineup 2020
- Where to buy Sziget festival tickets
- Work at Sziget festival
- Sziget festival accommodation
- How to get to Sziget festival
- What to pack for Sziget
- What not to pack for Sziget
- Paying at Sziget
- Sziget festival aftermovie
- Don't forget travel insurance
What is Sziget festival Budapest all about?
Since the Sziget festival (“Sziget” meaning “island” in Hungarian) first took place in 1993, the festival has grown exponentially year on year and now it hosts hundreds of acts and brings in thousands of people from all over the world. Literally. I joined some Sziget festival Facebook groups and there are even people from New Zealand who are going.
The Sziget music festival markets itself as being more than just your average music festival. Love, freedom, and the power of diversity are at the core of everything you will find here and while the music is important, these values take center stage.
In addition to music, the Sziget festival programmation embraces all forms of art, and throughout the festival, you will come across art exhibitions, makeshift museums, circuses, theaters, and more. Essentially, Sziget aims to cater to every taste, and this can be seen in the Sziget festival line-up – which I will talk about in more detail below.
Finally, to top it all off, Sziget gives as good as it gets. Every year, the festival pairs up with a charity it wants to support. In 2019, it chose Superar, an NGO that brings the power of music to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Sziget is also trying to be an eco-friendly festival, although it still has a way to go on that front.
In 2019, around 530,000 people from more than 100 different countries attended Sziget over the course of 7 days.
Sziget usually takes place in August. In 2020, the Sziget festival dates are from August 5 until August 11 included.
Sziget festival 2020 location
So where is Sziget festival?
The Budapest Sziget Festival takes place on Óbudai-sziget (“Old Buda Island”) in the middle of the Danube River, just outside the heart of the Hungarian capital Budapest. For seven days, it unofficially changes names and becomes the Island of Freedom.
If you’ve never been to Budapest you might want to combine your festival experience with a trip to the city. You can use my 4-day Budapest itinerary while you're there.
Combining a city trip with the festival is super easy as there is loads of public transport that will take you from the city center to the Sziget festival island and back. See below for more info on that.
The performance venues
The Sziget festival program is spread out over many different stages and other areas. Let's have a look.
1. Sziget Main Stage
The Main Stage is Sziget's largest stage where you can see all the big names perform. In 2019, those included Ed Sheeran, The 1975, Martin Garrix, Macklemore The National, Post Malone, Florence + The Machine, and Foo Fighters.
For the first time this year, the Main Stage also featured short performances and speeches as part of the “Love Revolution Special”. Their aim is to give a voice to different causes and problematics.
The Main Stage is an outdoor stage with plenty of space in front of it to hold as good as all festival-goers, with two massive screens to the sides and bars as well as exit and entryways all around.
There is no artificial shade created around the mainstage so if you wanted to see something early in the day and didn't want to stand in the blistering sun (it was around 30°C for most of the festival in 2019), you had to look for some shade either right in front of the stage, which blocked the sun or further away under a tree, for example.
What this stage did have were two massive water sprayers that sprinkled soft water drops all around. That felt nice in the 30°C but on the other hand, I felt like a lot of water was wasted here that could have been used in a better way – for example, to keep a bit of the dust down that became omnipresent throughout the week.
2. Mastercard Stage by A38
The Mastercard Stage is probably the second biggest stage, right behind the Main Stage and located in a big tent with open sides. It offers all kinds of musical performances from 5 p.m. until well after midnight.
Some of the stars that performed at the 2019 Sziget festival were Kodaline, Welshly Arms, Grace Carter, James Blake, Masego, and Alma.
3. Bacardi Arena
The Bacardi Arena is a party tent that doesn't become active until 10 p.m. This is where you go for all things electro, from techno to minimal, trance, and house. On the program were a mix of beginning DJs and well-known names.
In 2019, some of the DJs performing here were De La Swing, Justin Mylo, Coone, Carnage, and Jax Jones.
4. Samsung Colosseum
The Samsung Colosseum was another area for fans of electronic music. Consisting of an outdoor circular area, it had DJs from noon until 3-4 a.m. Some of the names here in 2019 were Blawan, Mark Reeve, Marco Bailey, and B.Traits.
5. Ibis presents Europe stage
While this stage's name may suggest otherwise, the outdoor Ibis stage presents upcoming artists from all over the world – not just Europe – from early afternoon until right before midnight.
Some of the names that performed here in 2019 were Hippocampe Fou, Naaz, Lord Esperanca, Carnival Youth, and La Maschera.
6. Petofi Radio – Telekom Volt Festival Stage
Apparently, the outdoor Volt Stage used to only schedule Hungarian bands but this year, it had a mix of Hungarian and international artists. You could see them perform from late afternoon until the evening when a DJ would take over.
Some of the names that performed here in 2019 were Charlie Winston, Gili Yalo, RedRed, and Cosha.
7. TicketSwap Musicbox
The TicketSwap Musicbox is a small and intimate outdoor stage that's active during the evenings. It's a good spot to discover some new singer-songwriters.
The Lightstage is part of a chillout zone at the entrance of the Alternativa camping and open to all Szitizens. It had promising European artists in the afternoons and a DJ set at night.
9. Sláger FM Greatest Hits Stage
This tent is where you go for some 80s, 90s, and 2000s music not just from DJs but from Hungarian and international bands as well. The Hungarian artists performing here seemed to be pretty popular butI didn't know their songs and had no idea what they were singing :)
10. YouTube Music Tribute Stage
The outdoor YouTube Music Tribute Stage schedules two different tribute band every night, followed by a DJ set. This is where you go for music by bands you never managed to see live, like Abba, Queen, and AC/DC.
11. Global Village tent and outdoor stage
The Global Village consisted of more than just one stage. Outdoors, there was a daily circus act and campfire singing session whereas the tent showcases music that's typically linked to cultural minorities. In general, this is a stage that gets you dancing and jumping.
12. One Love stage and workshops
The One Love area also had more to offer than just performances. There was a workshop area where you could learn some very basic capoeira, samba, salsa, and other things throughout the day and then there was the big stage where you could see bands but also dance to DJs and see some dance performances.
I spent a lot of time at One Love as they programmed afro, reggae, and Latin music – all styles I like. The vibe here was always chill and thanks to its central location, it was my go-to stage for when there wasn't anything in particular I wanted to see.
13. House of Hungarian Music – classical, opera, and jazz stage
The House of Hungarian Music is a covered outdoor stage with a wooden floor so you can both sit and dance, depending on what act is on. Performances here ran from 4 p.m. until around 1 p.m. and included a choir, a symphonic orchestra, a brass band and more.
I saw some very cool things here. It was classical, opera and jazz music but always brought in an interesting way.
14. Cinema Hungary and Tedx Salon
The Cinema Hungary and Tedx Salon was located inside a tent and I have to admit I never went in for a look as I wasn't in the mood for movies or the talks that were being held.
15. Theatre and Dance Tent presented by Elle
I did spend a lot of time at the Theatre and Dance Tent, which actually consisted of both an indoor stage (in the tent) and an outdoor stage. This area is dedicated to contemporary dance and but a lot of the performances also held theatrical and acrobatic elements.
16. WOW Hungary Sziget Beach and Garden
While I thought the Sziget Beach and Garden area was super cool – with lots of places to just sit and chill – I actually only went there once as it was quite a walk from the rest of the festival area. Here you could crash at the beach, enjoy a drink, play modern board games, take some workshops and listen to loungy tunes.
17. Magic Mirror
The Magic Mirror tent aims to be a space where everyone feels safe and welcome. It promotes openness and acceptance through acts that portray queer culture in various ways. There were talks, stand-up comedy, acrobatic performances, parties, and more.
I saw one hell of a cabaret here as well as some comedy.
The G-spot is a large colorful tower that acts as a viewpoint, DJ stage, bar, and lounge area. I walked past it a few times but had the impression this was the only “stage” that wasn't that successful as I never saw many people here. It was also a bit oddly located at a path behind the mainstage area.
19. The Giant Street Theatre
The Giant Street Theatre only had one show that was performed again every night and it was a must-see. The stage looked like the top of a rocky mountain and was occupied by Les Commandos Percu who combined spectacular drumming with a light and fireworks show.
20. Cirque du Sziget
I loved the Circus stages at Sziget! There's an outdoor circus stage and then there's also a big circus tent. At both, you can see circus acts all-day-long.
This place together with the Theatre and Dance tent really made Sziget a success for me. I don't know if I would have kept entertained for 7 days if the festival would only have had musical performances but I'll come back for these two stages without a doubt.
The outdoor stage featured smaller and shorter circus acts while the tent offered hour-long productions with lots of attributes and more people on stage.
If everyone in the front sat down, you practically always had a good view at the outdoor stage but I do have to say that in the tent, it was quite important to get a seat in the middle part. Doors for the tent usually opened about 10 minutes before the show started but you'd have to come and queue at least half an hour beforehand to get a good spot.
I didn't know this and so I watched my first show at the tent from one of the sides and it just wasn't that great. You could see everything regardless of where you sat but all of the shows I saw there were really performed facing forward and so if you were sitting on the side, you didn't get the full experience.
Another tip I want to give for getting a good spot is to check both entrances. This year, there was a clear entrance at the front of the tent but there was also one a bit tucked away near the back. Oftentimes, when there was already a queue at the front entrance, there were no or almost no people at the back one.
Other Sziget activities
The cool thing about Sziget festival is that there are at least as many side-activities as there are performances. It's impossible to list all of them but I've done my best to mention the main ones below.
1. The Beat Stop
At The Beat Stop tent you could try a bunch of musical instruments. Some people just gave it a first go but others were clearly musicians themselves and at one point there was a cool little jam session with a guitarist and a drummer.
2. The traveling funfair
Oh to feel like a kid again! At the funfair, you could play all kinds of old school games, rent some juggle material, watch musicians and see a puppeteer perform.
3. The bungee jump
Kind of self-explanatory: you can bungee jump at Sziget. If I'd ever do this (I won't) I wouldn't do it at a festival but lots of people seemed interested.
There was this other fairground thing too, where you took a seat and were kind of thrown in the air. No idea what that is called though :-)
4. Youtube ferris wheel
If you wanted to get literally high without doing anything as crazy as a bungee jump, you could also go for a ride on the Ferris wheel overlooking the main stage.
5. Brand stands
Lots of big brands like H&M and Levi had their own stand or area at Sziget festival. H&M had a bunch of selfie spots, Deichmann had a pop-up store where you could customize your shoes, and you could get your makeup done at NYX.
At the YouTube Music Lounge you could play around with their app and participate in all kinds of music-related activities while the Levi Tailor Shop was the place to get your denim personalize.
And those are just a few of the brands that had special stands set up.
6. Hungarikum Village
At the Hungarikum Village, you could learn all about Hungarian culture by playing folk games, learning folk dances, watching performances, and more.
7. Luminarium – Daedalum
The Daedalum is a maze of domes that visitors can explore and experience by finding their way through it. I'm afraid I haven't tried this attraction.
8. Before I Die
Before I Die consisted of a wall on which people could write one thing they wanted to do before they die. There was also a booth somewhere that you could go into to record yourself saying what you wanted to do before you die and those recordings were displayed next to the wall.
The idea behind this interactive work of art is to encourage people to share their fears and dreams in the common space.
9. The Artzone
The Artzone was a large area with galleries, art installations, a design store, and lots of workshops. I was surprised by how popular the workshops were. Some of them even had people queueing to get in.
You could try your hand at woodwork, still life painting, and stenciling or create a bag from old posters – just to name a few things.
While most of the things to do and see at Sziget happened at one fixed place, there were also a bunch of walkabouts – like street artists – who made their way around the festival grounds and often surprised people with their quirkiness.
There were the people seemingly riding big dodos, the man on his moving piano, the giants, and the massive wooden camel.
So much fun to see!
11. WAMP designer fair
Sziget doesn't have your typical festival market selling cheap sunglasses and woven bracelets. There are a few stands like that, but the actual market is made up of Hungarian designers selling cool jewelry, t-shirts, bags, and other often handmade things.
12. Sport TV and Sportzone
Dancing isn't the only sport you can practice at Sziget festival. At the Sportzone, you can borrow workout tools, attend street workout classes, and play beach volleyball, streetball, petanque, badminton, and table tennis.
There's also table football, a dart station, a rowing machine, an adventure park, and you can go climbing, play billiards, or ride a stationary bike. It's crazy!
13. Green Sziget Center
The Green Sziget Center hosts daily talks on anything that has to do with sustainability. Go, listen, and discuss.
14. Party bars
A lot of (Hungarian drink) brands had their own outdoor bars at Sziget and some were quite big. They would have DJs playing in between performances and especially at night so even if none of the “famous” DJs tickled your fancy, you had plenty of places to get your groove on.
15. E.on Oasis
A chillout zone where you can charge your phone and use the free WiFi.
16. Chess Tent
At the Chess Tent, you could simply play chess but also tame chess lessons, watch game demonstrations and listen to game analysis. There was even a tournament.
17. EU Meeting Point
The EU Meeting Point was the place to learn about and discuss all things related to the EU. Different organizations had stands there and you could go ask questions or discuss EU-related matters that are important to you.
18. NGO Island
At the NGO Island, you could meet with members of a whole bunch of NGOs that all aim to make the world a better place. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, a few talks were also organized.
19. Tent without Borders
The Tent without Borders had a daily program of talks and workshops on topics such as human rights, migration, diversity, and helping those who have less. I honestly didn't pay this tent much attention and now that I'm looking at its program again to write this article, I'm a bit sorry I didn't.
Something to keep in mind for next year!
20. Sziget Portal
The Sziget Portal was actually a part of the Tent without Borders and allowed you to literally talk to someone standing in front of another portal somewhere else in the world. From the website, it seemed as you could do this all day long but then at the festival, I had the impression that you had to go at certain times to talk about specific subjects.
I didn't try this.
The Fulldome was a big white dome which had a 3D-animation projected on it on the inside. You'd lie down on comfortable beanie bags while watching it. It wasn't mega spectacular but still good fun to do and while the line to get always looked long, the “show” itself only lasts for 15 minutes or so and a lot of people can enter so I didn't have to wait that long to get in.
22. Instax garden
This is exactly what it sounds like: a photo spot where you can get a funky Instax photo taken.
23. Love Chapel
At the Love Chapel, you could get “Sziget Married”. Basically, you do the whole vow thing just for fun.
24. XS Land
XS Land offers games, sports, and other activities for physically disabled people.
25. Living statues
This one is kind of self-explanatory as well :) There were a few living statues posing on one of the walkways at Sziget.
26. Tiny Bauhaus
Bauhaus! If you follow me, you know I went to Germany for the 100th celebration of the Bauhaus movement and so it was a nice surprise to see they had a virtual reality stand at Sziget. As 2019 was a special year for Bauhaus, I'm guessing this stand will be replaced by something else in 2020.
27. Museum Quarter
With your Sziget wristband, you can get 50% off at a lot of museums in Budapest until the end of August. The same applies if you have the special Sziget version of the Budapest Citypass (more about that later). So to get you in the mood, some of these museums came to present themselves at the festival with interesting programs and games.
28. I Ching Labyrinth
This Labyrinth was located right by the Theatre and Dance Tent yet I didn't try it as someone told me they did it once and it took two hours because it's interactive and you can't really decide for yourself how fast you go (and get back out again). I might try it next year though, as I'm still a bit curious about it.
29. Wishing tree
People could hang little notes on a wishing tree near the mainstage. Some of them were funny, others were clearly from people who wanted to hook up with just about anyone and still others were moving, like this one person who wished she'd be able to travel and do the job of her dreams.
Obviously, that one touched me :-)
30. Ibis Open Studio
The Ibis Open Studio is a chillout zone with a bar where you can dance, play music, create your own album cover and meet with other people who are passionate about music.
The VIP area
This year, the VIP area was sponsored by Mercedes Benz. I have to research for 2020 if there's any way to get in if you're not invited by a company or something like that as I'm not sure how it worked.
I could get in as I had Sziget press accreditation so I can share what it was like. Basically, the VIP area is a heightened area with good views of the main stage and its own drink and food stands. It has a lot of chairs and proper tables as well as some more loungy seating options.
I went there to catch some shows happening on the mainstage and also to go to the toilet, as the toilets here were constantly kept clean.
The VIP area also had its own DJ at night but I didn't have the impression that was super successful.
Sziget food and drinks
The food at Sziget was a massive surprise to me. Not because it was that good or bad, but because it was so expensive. I'm talking prices you'd pay at a Belgian festival which even Belgians would find expensive.
The good thing is that aside from alcohol and things in glass bottles or containers, you're allowed to bring any food or drinks that you want to the festival site. As the press center had air conditioning, I brought a pasta salad with me for dinner on several days.
The first night, I tried to eat a somewhat healthy and got a chicken skewer with some salad and a coke (not healthy, I know). That set me back €20 which I thought was a bit exaggerated given that the salad really was just salad and the skewer had just as much onion on it as it had chicken.
There were a few vegan food stands that looked good but again, everything I saw was around €10 for a vegan burger or a vegan wrap. That's a lot of money when you know that you can have a proper meal at a restaurant in Budapest for €10.
I'll try the vegan food next year to see if it's worth it. Aside from the chicken skewer, I had chicken wings once (€10 for a few wings, some fries and a drink – that wasn't too bad) and pizza multiple times, as well as a warm Greek salad for around €8.
Not exactly healthy, but the pizza slices were actually good, made on the spot, and only cost a little over €3. They were the perfect middle-of-the-night snack.
I took a photo of a drinks price list to give you an idea of beverage prices as aside from that one coke, I only drank water and one energy drink a day that I brought from the city.
There are freshwater spots around the festival grounds and they're marked on a map in your Sziget passport (a booklet full of information) but I only ever really spotted one, so I'm guessing it wouldn't hurt to spot a few more. I refilled my bottle at the press area as the water from the taps by the toilets didn't taste good.
You can find both regular toilets and portable toilets at Sziget. I only used the regular toilets (not the ones at the VIP area) a few times and they were always clean. They're the same toilets as the one in the VIP area with the difference that you have to get your toilet paper before you go in and they're not constantly cleaned.
I didn't use the portable toilets and won't be trying them next year either :D
The Sziget app
The Sziget app is amazing. I hadn't expected it to be but it was super useful. You could browse the entire Sziget festival schedule in there both by day and by venue and click on the names of the artists to get more information but also to listen to song clips.
That way, you could make a selection of the artists and activities that looked interesting by favoriting them. The app would then send you a notification 15 minutes before something you wanted to see would start. Brilliant!
Now I wouldn't be me if I didn't make my own program in a Google Doc, but I used the app a lot as well that week. It had a “discover” section that would open the Sziget line up per day at exactly the time it was when you checked. Handy!
Other Sziget services
Sziget offers its Szitizens a bunch of (paid) services to choose from to make your stay at the festival more comfortable, such as the rental of a portable charger you can just swap in for a new one when yours is empty, and guarded Sziget festival lockers.
And then there are also the add-on activities like a pre-party, tours and pub crawls in the city center, and daily boat parties.
Is Sziget festival safe?
I think when looking at safety, there are two things at play: how safe you personally feel and what safety issues could occur because of lack of security measures taken by the organization.
For what concerns the former, I felt super safe at Sziget. I had worried a bit about this as I was, after all, going all by myself. I'd spend 7 days between people who were drinking and who knows what else and would have to go back to my Airbnb alone at night.
None of these things were an issue. Nobody at the festival ever bothered me. I didn't see any fights or other forms of aggression and even didn't notice any extremely drunk. I'm sure they were there, but probably not at the places where I hung out.
In this regards, Sziget was the chillest festival I've ever attended and I truly hope that they keep it the size it is now because I think the fact that people have plenty of space to move around, adds to the good vibe.
What I also noticed that people who lost their wallets and phones actually got them back because others had returned them to the Sziget Lost and Found stand. Again, I'm pretty sure other people lost things that they didn't get back but going off the things I saw happen in the groups I was in, there were quite a few honest people at the festival.
The only thing that did raise my eyebrows was the security check at the Sziget entrance. Like I said, you're allowed to bring all kinds of drinks and food but no alcohol. I had a big refillable but non-transparent bottle with water with me and not once did they check what was in it. Could've been wine, could've been hard drugs.
The bag searches weren't thorough at all. Sometimes the volunteers merely had a look inside, sometimes they did feel around a bit but I could have easily hidden a knife somewhere.
My thought is that nothing serious has ever happened at Sziget and given the relaxed vibe at the festival, I also don't think the organization had expected any issues.
The shallow bag check may have allowed for a bit of a safety threat, it did mean that you got onto the festival site pretty quickly as it only took a few seconds per person.
The focus on sustainability
Sziget festival tries to become a sustainable festival. I say “tries” because it still has a long way to go.
Things they got right
1. Reusable cups
When buying drinks from the tap, you had to pay 450 HUF (about 1.5 USD or 1.4 EUR) for a reusable cup. You could exchange it for another one when you got a new drink or exchange it for a drink token to use later but if you left your cup behind, you lost that money.
You rarely saw these cups laying around, so this definitely worked to reduce waste at the festival.
2. Sustainable Sziget festival merchandise
Some of the Sziget festival merch you could buy was produced in an organic, plastic-free way but I had the impression this was only the case for a part of all the merchandise for sale and not for everything.
3. Freshwater points
There were several freshwater spots at the festival site where you could refill your water bottle. I feel like there could have been more though as I only spotted one by accident and it had a line of people waiting to fill their bottle.
I refilled mine at the press area.
Commercial stands at the festival were given advice on how to save energy and their electricity use was measured to see if they actually implemented this advice.
Also monitored was the riverbank of the Danube to make sure no waste got in the water.
Lastly, the festival will produce a public sustainability report to be able to track and monitor its progress.
5. Composting lab
Waste from the festival went to a composting lab of which the resulting compost was then used to recultivate Óbuda Island.
6. Recycling bins
Aside from regular bins, there were plenty of recycling bins for things like plastic waste and PET bottles. This is a step in the right direction but I feel like all the waste spots should have had these kinds of bins (not all did).
The EcoCamping offered those staying there a canvas bag, a flask, a cigarette stub collector, and a trash bag. It had toilets that saved 85% water in comparison with regular toilets as well as upcycled furniture, a solar-powered reception and energy facilities, and biodegradable items for those ordering drinks and food.
Again, this is a step in the right direction but the festival could also decide to make all campsites greener. It would make the prices go up, which could pose a problem for some festival-goers.
8. Only reusable straws upon request
No straws were given at any of the bars. If you really wanted one, you could ask for a reusable straw but I don't think I saw anyone doing that.
9. Pocket ashtrays
Sziget festival handed out pocket ashtrays to smokers to prevent all of the ashes from going on the ground. I don't smoke and haven't spent time with any smokers so I have no idea how effective this has been.
10. Green dining block
There was a food area where all the vendors sold meals made with ingredients produced with lower CO2 emissions such as fruits and vegetables, versus red meat, for example. A graph also showed Szitizens which kind of food caused how much CO2 to be produced but in the end, it was up to everyone to choose what they ate.
11. Camping recycling program
All camping equipment left behind at the end of the festival – such as tents, sleeping mats, and sleeping bags – is collected and given to charity organizations.
Things they could improve
I'm no expert on sustainability but aside from the few things I already touched upon above, I think Sziget festival could also improve the following.
1. Enough with the massive sprinklers
As I mentioned before, there were two massive water sprinklers by the main stage that were spraying water basically all day long. Refreshing, yes, but a massive waste of water too and they really weren't necessary.
If they were going to use massive quantities of water, I'd suggest they do so to keep the dust down because at the end of the festival you were basically walking through a cloud of dust and you even felt it affecting your breathing.
2. Beer on tap
So. Many. Beer. Cans. They may have handed out reusable cups for most drinks ordered at the bar but that wasn't the case for beer. So many Dreher beer cans were sold and some of those cans ended up empty on the ground and the tent floors.
I realize tapping beer takes longer than handing over a car but quick-tap systems do exist nowadays and would solve this waste problem.
3. No PET at all
While the regular bars sold soft drinks in reusable cups, there were still a lot of stands selling PET bottles. The festival could oblige vendors to participate in the reusable cup system and deny them from selling PET bottles altogether.
4. Produce all merchandise in an eco-friendly way
This one is kind of self-explanatory :-)
Should you go all 7 days?
Before I left for Sziget I was wondering what the hell I thought I was doing. Seven full days at a festival? I could have never guessed it would go by that fast and I'd “get through it” so easily.
As you probably guessed from all the things I've listed above, there is so much to see and so at Sziget that it's almost impossible to try everything while still seeing the shows you really want to see.
So if you have the time, I highly recommend you go for the full 7 days even if it's only once. That way, you truly get to experience the festival and all it has to offer.
And regardless of how long you decide to go, I also recommend you make a program before arriving with the bands you really want to see and the other activities you really want to do as the many options can get overwhelming and you'll lose a lot of time figuring out where to go next if you have to compare all your options on the spot.
What it's like to attend Sziget solo
Sziget was the first festival I attended solo. As it was 7 days in a country I don't speak the language of, you might understand I was a bit nervous. So how did it go?
First of all, there is a Facebook group of – in 2019 – 3,000 people who attended the festival solo or wanted to connect with others while there. From that group, multiple Whatsapp chat groups were formed by people around shared interests, demographics and whatnot.
If you wanted to meet up with people, you could do so from the moment you arrived at the festival site.
However, I quickly noticed that those who seemed to be most active in the groups were going to different shows than what I wanted to see and as the festival is so big, it also seemed to take people quite a bit of time to find each other.
In all honesty, I couldn't be bothered. After a few shows, I realized I was fine just enjoying the things I wanted to do by myself. I did meet up with a few people when they happened to be around and I also talked to a few strangers.
Now, I know I may be different in this because I'm used to traveling solo and also because I don't drink alcohol and thus wasn't looking for people to drink with like some people in the chat groups were.
If you want to find people to hang out with at Sziget, you will, but you can also perfectly enjoy yourself solo.
Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss some kindred spirits sometimes. Watching a circus act by yourself is fine but getting your groove is more fun with people you know and there are some things I didn't do – like play games at the funfair – because I felt a bit silly doing them by myself.
It might also be worth mentioning that I'm rather timid when it comes to starting conversations with strangers. One day, it took me an hour to finally say something to someone who was clearly also waiting for the next show to start all by himself.
It may seem silly, but socializing doesn't come natural to everyone :-)
All that being said, I'm still super happy that I decided to go even though everyone I knew had other things planned or didn't have the money. I really do want to back next year and if the same situation would occur, I'll go back by myself. I might just try to be a bit more social this time :-)
Sziget festival map
Below is a Sziget festival plan of all the stages and activity areas as well as a map of all the service areas.
Sziget festival lineup 2020
The lineup for 2020 is yet to be announced. I'll share more information here as it's released.
In 2019, some of the big names attending were Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, Florence and the Machine, Post Malone, Twenty One Pilots, Martin Garrix, The 1975, and The National.
As you can already see from the Sziget headliners, Sziget offers a fantastic mix of genres, from indie to hip-hop, to house. The rest of the lineup in 2019 was equally diverse, featuring names such as James Blake, Chvrches, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Tove Lo, Masego, Jain and so many more.
The beauty of a seven-day festival is that you can pick three or four artists you want to see each day and spend the rest of the day exploring, chilling, eating, and mingling. There’s no pressure to cram everything into one day and there’s certainly no shortage of artists to see.
Where to buy Sziget festival tickets
Where to get your Sziget festival tickets
Make sure to always buy Sziget tickets from official vendors. That way, you know you'll get in without any trouble – or at least there won't be trouble because of your Sziget festival ticket :-)
The best place is the official Sziget festival website. It's also possible (and legal) to buy tickets from people who won't be using theirs through TicketSwap.
Sziget festival ticket price
So how much are Sziget tickets? Well, it depends on how many days you want to come to the festival. As well as having a lineup that caters to everyone, they also have ticket options to suit all needs. If you’re hardcore and want the full Sziget experience, you can buy a Sziget 7-day pass for €339.
If that’s too much to cough up all at once, there are options to pay in installments over 3, 4, or 5 months, but you will end up paying more overall for these options. Then again, I think the Sziget prices are very affordable in comparison with what you pay for festivals big festivals in Belgium, for example.
Alternatively, you can opt for a Sziget 5-day pass for €299 or 3-day pass for €219. If you’re really short on time or just have a specific act in mind that you want to see, the Sziget ticket price for a single day is €79.
Sziget day tickets are also a great option if you want to get a first taste of the festival but want to spend more time in the city center or if you're passing through Budapest as part of a longer trip.
If you bought a Sziget early bird ticket, you could have gotten a Szitizen Prime ticket, which offers you a goodie bag with some branded merchandise in it along with your ticket.
Your ticket includes basic camping, but it is a little complicated so I have dedicated a section on camping at Sziget and other accommodation options below.
Work at Sziget festival
If you'd rather not pay for your ticket and still want to attend in some way, it's possible to become a Sziget festival volunteer. The application process for that will be disclosed on the official website.
Sziget festival accommodation
The Sziget festival camping
Your festival ticket is also your Sziget camping ticket and allows you to camp on Sziget Island but it does not guarantee you a space. This means if you rock up last minute, you might struggle to find somewhere to put your tent. There are two ways to guarantee yourself a good camping spot.
The first way is to purchase one of two kinds of moving-in passes. The first kind lets you move in three days before the festival starts (Sunday instead of Wednesday) and costs €50, the other kind that lets you move in one day before (Tuesday) for €25.
The second way to get a good camping spot is to upgrade your camping. There are several options for this, including buying a pre-pitched tent for €95, opting for Sziget VIP camping, which comes with a pool and extra services for €189, and even booking a wooden hut to stay in rather than slumming it in a tent. Be warned, however, that a wooden hut for four people costs €700.
If you really want to splash out, you can always try glamping instead of camping. It will cost you a lot more than putting up a tent but it will seriously improve your festival experience. You can choose between hotel rooms in containers, specially designed pods, bellepads (luxury tents) and more.
Staying in the city center
If you're not a fan of camping, like me, staying in the city center is also an option as there is plenty of accommodation near Sziget festival Budapest. Just make sure to book something as soon as you know that you're going because places fill up fast.
I booked an Airbnb for the 2019 edition. Getting an apartment seemed to get me the most bang for my buck but if you're really on a budget, staying at a hostel or getting an Airbnb room instead of a whole place will be cheaper. If you want a bit more luxury, you can also look for hotels near Sziget festival Budapest.
If you'd like to try Airbnb but don't have an account yet, you can sign up through my link to get a discount on your first stay. This doesn't cost you anything extra and it will give me some credit to use for my next booking.
If you already have an account and found this post helpful, please consider booking your next Airbnb through my link. I'll earn a small commission while the price for you stays exactly the same. Income like this helps me travel independently and create new content.
I'd also recommend searching on Booking.com as there you can find hotel rooms but also apartments and hostels. Their filter options make it easy to find something to fit your needs and their handy map makes it easy to see how far away from the festival site you'd be staying.
How to get to Sziget festival
Getting to Budapest
The cheapest way to travel to Budapest from abroad is probably by bus. There are direct buses to Hungary from lots of European countries, including France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Poland, Italy and more.
Check out Flixbus for a complete map of their services in and out of Hungary. Flixbus offers long-distance bus travel at low prices.
If you're coming from Belgium or the Netherlands, Maximaltrips organizes a return bus trip specifically to Sziget.
The easiest way to travel to Budapest for most of us, is to fly there. Flights from all over the world fly into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. If you are flying from Europe, budget airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air, and Norwegian Air all have cheap, regular flights and there are plenty of direct flights with more reputed airlines as well.
If you are coming from the US, you may need to make a layover in a larger European capital, such as London, Paris or Amsterdam, before continuing your journey to Budapest.
If you're not a fan of flying, travel to Budapest by train. The city is well-connected and trains come in frequently from popular cities such as Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Bratislava, Prague, Hamburg, and Berlin.
Trains are comfortable and often have sleeper berths for those who want to travel overnight.
From Budapest to Sziget
Getting to Sziget is pretty easy once you’re in Budapest. There is a shuttle set up from Budapest airport to Sziget specifically to transport festival-goers. More information about this shuttle for the 2020 edition will be released by the festival organizers nearer the time.
From the Nyugati Pályaudvar train station, take the tram 4-6 to Margit Híd-Budai Hídfő. Then hop on the HEV (commuter train) to Filatorigát, the Sziget stop. Once you’re there, just follow the crowd.
From Keleti Pályaudvar or Déli Pályaudvar, go to Batthyányi Tér and then change onto the HEV to Filatorigát.
You can also get to the festival by boat – it is on an island after all. My Airbnb was just a few minutes walking from the boat terminal and I took the boat to the festival site and back multiple times. It wasn't exactly faster but it was more relaxed than crossing the bridge to take the train and then walking some more to get to the festival site.
More details regarding boat transfers for 2020 are to be released closer to the time so watch this space.
If you’re planning on visiting Budapest before, during, or after the festival you may want to invest in a Budapest Citypass. This card gives you unlimited travel on public transport, so you can use it to get to the festival once you’ve finished sight-seeing. It also grants you free entry into a dozen museums and gives you some sweet restaurant discounts.
Get your Budapest CityCard here.
Good to know
During Sziget, you can get a special Budapest Citypass which is available for 3, 5, and 13 days. It's cheaper than the regular Budapest Citypass and has all the same benefits plus some extras such as free use of the extra Sziget boat service to the island and a shuttle from Budapest airport to Sziget festival.
I received a 13-day CityCard from the Sziget press department and found it super handy because I didn't need to worry about getting transportation tickets.
It is possible to also get a 7- or 15-day TravelCard for just the public transportation which is a good and much cheaper option if you're planning to go to Sziget by metro/tram/train and don't need all the benefits of the CityCard. However, keep in mind that this TravelCard is not valid on the extra Sziget boat service. You'll need to buy separate tickets for that one.
It was worth it for me having the special Sziget Budapest CityCard as my Airbnb was located just a few minutes from the boat terminal whereas I had to cross the bridge if I wanted to take the train.
What to pack for Sziget
As I stayed in the city, the below recommendations are for things you'll need while attending the festival but they don't include camping gear.
- swimwear – there's a beach at Sziget!
- old sneakers
- waterproof shoes
- comfi trousers
- tops and t-shirts
- a sweatshirt or two – it can get chilly at night
- a rain jacket
- paper tissues
- lip balm
- a reusable water bottle – there are water stations at the festival grounds
- wet wipes
- a credit card – Sziget is a cashless festival
- your smartphone and charger
- a power bank
- ear plugs
- painkillers and bandages
- Strepsils – you'll be screaming for all those great bands :-)
- bug spray
- snacks – you can bring your own food and drinks, just no alcohol
What not to pack for Sziget
Sziget is a liberal festival but there are some obvious things you are not allowed to bring. Drugs and alcohol are forbidden but you can buy alcohol at the festival site – you’ll just need to pay a bit more for it.
You’re also not allowed to bring fireworks (duh), glass, cutting tools, general dangerous items, and blades longer than 8cm.
This hopefully all makes sense. What might come as more of a surprise is the festival’s ban on umbrellas. This is presumably so you don’t poke someone’s eye out in the crowd. Just bring a raincoat instead.
Finally, don’t bring a gas cooker or heater. You’re not allowed to cook at the festival for safety reasons but there are loads of places to buy food on-site.
Paying at Sziget
Sziget operates a cashless payment system, so you won’t need to worry about stuffing notes in your bra and socks. Instead, you’ll get a handy wristband that you can top up through an app on your phone.
Simply charge it up with the amount you think you’ll spend while you’re there. If you need more, just top it up again. Any remaining funds on your wristband are returned to you at the end of the festival.
If you don’t like the idea of wearing your money around your wrist, you can also pay using a contactless Mastercard card. I always used my contactless TransferWise card but I think you could also use a regular credit card.
Sziget festival aftermovie
Are you in the mood yet? Or still deciding? Then maybe last year's aftermovie might help your mind.
Don't forget travel insurance
Festivals are great fun but with the many people, lots of dancing, and inavoidable fatigue, something can always happen. You twist your ankle, lose your phone, or maybe your luggage never makes it and you need to go shopping for a new festival outfit. In all of these cases, travel insurance can help.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately too.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out World Nomads. They cover a wide range of activities for people from 140 countries.
PIN FOR LATER
I received a press ticket to attend Sziget festival so I could share my experience at the festival here on the blog.