Budapest

Smoking sections, redefined

more than a year ago
That old quip about anything east of Vienna being Europe's smoking section is a thing of a past. Smoking has been banned in Hungary's restaurants, cafes and bars. In the pub-crawl streets of Budapest's 7th district particularly, there are sometimes more smokers on the pavement than inside at the bar. You practically have to go to the pub for a breath of fresh air.

Hungary has gone one slightly strange step further than most, in the name of the nation's wellbeing. Tobacco sales have been nationalised, IE placed in the hands of the government. A chain of Nemzeti Dohánybolt (National Tobacco Stores) has opened up around Hungary, meaning you can no longer get your cancer sticks at convenience stores and the like.

You'll recognise these stores by the brown, red and green logos and the frosted glass exteriors. There will sometimes be confused tourists lurking around outside them, wondering if it's a 'tabac' or a sex shop and if they should go inside. The Nemzeti Dohánybolt can also sell beer, wine and spirits 24 hours a day, which the ABC convenience stores can no longer do. Convenient for who exactly, you might wonder.

(Interesting to note, an unintentional side effect of the opaque store frontage has been a series of smash and grab raids inside the shops. So the ultra cautious smoking traveller might want to put their valuables somewhere discreet before going inside a Nemzeti Dohánybolt. But heck, since when has smoking been 'cautious'?)

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