Two cute guys who became my favorite business duo in the past years. When I am walking next to them I feel like a mother of two unruly children. These two pigeons run one of the coolest hostel in Budapest, although I am a local I did end up several times on their parties, where I not only got wasted but also met many creative people.
If you are hungry you talk to Arwin, if you are thirsty you talk to Alex. I talk to both of them, especially nowadays since they have just moved their hostel to a new location – Rákóczi tér which is definitely one of my favourite parts of the city. On a sunny Saturday afternoon we all sat in their new hostel on a very comfortable couch and talked about their beginnings in Budapest.
I am sorry.. I am seating, Arwin is laying down and messing around with girls on his messenger and Alex is walking around the room, playing his guitar.
When did you visit Budapest for the first time?
Arwin: I actually ended up in Budapest by accident. I was backpacking for one month in Europe and someone told me to visit Budapest as it’s a beautiful city. I came here and the original plan was to stay for a few days, but I stayed the whole summer and I volunteered in a hostel.
Alex: I came here for the first time in 2014. I did this three city trip: Paris, Vienna and Budapest. I kept hearing a lot of good things about Budapest and when I finally visited the city I was totally impressed. I visited a few more times and then finally decided to move here in 2016.
You both seem to have quite a steady life in the US.
How did it happen that you decided to leave everything behind and open up a hostel?
Arwin: yeah, I was a wrestling coach and a butcher in the US, but when I visited Budapest for the first time and volunteered in the hostel I was staying in, I realized that this is actually what I have always wanted to do – meet new people from all around the world. After coming back to the US, I decided to work really hard for a year, save up some money and sold all my belongings. I moved to Budapest in 2007, where shortly after I opened a hostel.
Alex: I was working in New York as an aircraft engineer. Everytime when I was crossing the bridge which was leading to my workplace, I had this constant feeling of rolling my motorcycle just so I wouldn’t have to go to work. Similarly to Arwin, I have always wanted to travel and meet new people from all around the world. I finally decided to move to Budapest in 2016, where I stayed in Arwin’s hostel. It turned out that he was about to move his hostel to a new location and we just had this conversation, that maybe we should team up and open up a new hostel together. So we moved from Ferenciek tere to Fővám tér, where we opened a Suite hostel.
Was it a difficult decision to leave everything behind and move to another continent and start a business as a non EU citizen?
Arwin: it is difficult because you are leaving that sense of familiarity behind. You have to fully commit to it otherwise it’s not going to work. That was the reason why I sold everything which I owned in the US, my car, furniture and I took that step forward and did not look back. You have to stick to your plan and follow it. When I moved to Budapest in 2007, it was not really difficult to open up a business, the barrier was the language, so I got a lawyer and he did the paperwork for me. You can open a company without having the residence permit, but you need to have enough cash in your account and afterwards you should arrange required documents.
Alex: I did not like my job, so I already knew I wanted some change. Being a hostel owner or any type of business owner, you need to have this inner drive, I mean you are the only one held accountable to yourself. You don’t have any deadlines (except when you need to do some paperwork for the tax department or pay bills on time), that gives you the freedom, but on the other hand you are always at work, as you are fully responsible for your business.
You have moved your hostel just recently to a new location - Rákóczi tér which is an up-and-coming neighbourhood.
What are the new things you can offer to your guests now?
Arwin: It seems that the city nightlife is shifting towards the 8th district and we are hitting it just in the right time. There are a lot of underground bars here and our new hostel, called Spicy has a great location too, just meters away from József körút. We now offer 4 big rooms, which two of them have a balcony overlooking a busy Rákóczi tér. We have new and comfortable bunk beds, lockers and very nice bathrooms. We are quite proud of our common area, which is spacious so people feel comfortable but still can interact with the other guests. We do have a fully equipped kitchen as well.
Alex: we are still taking our guests out, not only to the popular pub crawls, but also we do a lot of outdoor activities, like legendary grill parties – Arwin is a big foodie so he is always cooking. I am more like a party guy, so I like to hang out with our guests in the city, but also do some sports on Margaret Island when its warm.
What are the future plans for this hostel?
Arwin: we definitely want to expand, own more places hopefully in the same location and maybe open a bar downstairs so we can party with our guests, and don’t disturb the others who want to have an early night.
It takes a lot of courage to quit your job and start an entrepreneurship journey. Beginnings are never easy but when you have this inner drive and stick to your plan you will eventually succeed.
Staying in their hostel is going to be an unforgettable experience!