Victor Orban is possibly the most controversial leader in the EU. Once a liberal opponent of communism he is has transformed his country into what he calls “an illiberal democracy” that is anti-immigrant, and some say anti-democratic. Determined to see the back of him, a cross party coalition have come together to beat him in parliamentary elections in 2022. Our tour takes place just weeks before the polls.

DATES25 February – 2 March, 2022

Budapest, Szeged

Led by Nick Thorpe

DURATION5 nights
All AccommodationMeals and Water
Local TransportationExpert Guide
COSTCost: £3500.00
Single supplement: £400.00

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Our five day tour takes us south to the recently constructed fence with Serbia designed to keep out the waves of immigrants that once crossed Hungary’s borders. We meet the large numbers of supporters in the towns and countryside swept up by Orban’s brand of nationalism. His party, Fidesz is accused of riding roughshod over basic democratic rights – but appears unchallenged at the polls.

Abroad Orban envisages a shake up of the EU with less power in Brussels. There is room too, he says, for an illiberal state on the continent. Brussels in turn has sought to sanction Hungary for its breach of its values. It is far from clear who will prevail.

For an insight into some of the most critical issues dividing Europe at the moment, it is a tour not to be missed. The tour expert is veteran BBC correspondent, Nick Thorpe, who has lived and worked in Hungary since the mid-1980s.

COVID-19: We won’t go to a country unless it is safe to do so- we remain guided by the UK Foreign Office travel advice.  For this reason some dates may change depending on the situation on the ground.

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Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.

Day 1

Friday 25th February: Budapest

Meet in Palazzo Zichy Hotel in Budapest. Introduction by Nick Thorpe, BBC Central Europe Correspondent who will be leading our tour. We then leave for dinner. Introduction to Orban and Fidesz, and its transformation.
Day 2-3

Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th February: Szeged

Depart for Szeged and the southern border and the location of the recently constructed fence. Our aim here is to look at the growth of support for Fidesz and how the immigration crisis of 2015 was key to that. Visit to Röszke – one of the main bottlenecks of the 2015 migrant crisis, still home to one of Hungary’s 2 Transit Zones, where small numbers of asylum-seekers are allowed into the country, then kept in detention while their applications are assessed. In neighbouring Asotthalom, a village of 3,000 inhabitants, we meet a leader who bitterly opposed migrants. He was the first to propose building a border fence. Immigration became an obvious touch-stone for ordinary Hungarians.

Fidesz’s support goes wider than that. Orban Fidesz makes sure all EU subsidies are paid on time (he took part in tractor protests under the Socialist government over late and inefficient payments.) We meet the mayor of a village close to the point where the Hungarian, Serbian and Romanian borders meet. He has rebuilt his village economy, including a restaurant, cafe, and solar energy, despite opposing central government.

Meeting with a senior member of Fidesz in the region and discussions over dinner.

We spend 2 days in Szeged where we we stay at the Tiszavirag Hotel, the best hotel in the region.

Day 4-5

Monday 28th February - Tuesday 1st March: Budapest

We meet a variety of speakers between Monday and Wednesday. We will be visiting the parliament as well as meeting with think tanks and diplomats.

Meetings have been arranged with a series of senior politicians and analysts. Please contact us for further details..


Day 5

Wednesday, 2nd March: Tours Ends

Final Day – Breakfast and departure for airport

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What’s Included

All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time). Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent. We can advise you on reservations if you need any help.

Following the news

Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
This tour starts in and ends in Budapest. We also travel to Szeged.

Group size

As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 12 people. Frequently we travel with 8 – 10 people. Limited spaces are available.


UK passport holders do not need a visa. Hungary is a party to the Schengen Agreement. U.S. citizens may enter Hungary for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Other passport holders may require a visa. It is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements.


The weather gets colder in October and temperatures drop from to an average of 12 degrees Celsius towards the end of the month.

A warm jacket is essential.


There are no specific dress requirements. However, we suggest taking layers as the weather is variable. Rain showers are not uncommon too so please ensure you pack a rain jacket.

Comfortable shoes are essential especially for Szeged.

Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: You will need some smarter attire for one or two meetings.

FCO Website – Travel Advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.

Medical Requirements

Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit

We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.



Electricity & Plugs

Plugs are 2 pin European and 220v.

Internet Access

Wifi is available in all hotels, as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.

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Nick Thorpe

Nick Thorpe is a writer and award-winning BBC journalist, specialising in eastern Europe, born in England in 1960.

He studied Modern Languages at the Universities of Reading (UK), Dakar (Senegal) and Freiburg (Germany), graduating in 1982.

He has lived in Budapest since 1986. He reported on the fall of Communism throughout eastern Europe and the break-up of Yugoslavia for the BBC, Observer, Guardian and Independent newspapers, including the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

He has been Central Europe Correspondent for the BBC since 1996.

With BBC colleagues, he won a Peabody award for his coverage of the Refugee crisis in 2015.

He is the author of 3 books and many essays, including:
The Danube – A Journey Upriver from the Black Sea to the Black Forest (Yale University Press, 2013)
1989 – The Unfinished Revolution – Power and Powerlessness in Eastern Europe (Reportage Press 2009, Endeavour Press 2015).
A Jar of Wild Flowers – essays in honour of John Berger (Zed Books, November 2016)
The Road Before Me Weeps – Refugees on the Route to Europe
Scolar Kiado Budapest, April 2018/ to be published by Yale University Press, April 2019.

He has directed 10 films:
The Fairy Island (documentary, 1993)
Vigilance (feature, 1997)
The Vineleaf and the Rose (documentary, 2001)
The Travels of a Gadjo in Romanistan, seven 52 minute documentaries on Roma communities in 9 European countries (Duna TV, 2015).

Selected links:

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“Nick Thorpe was an excellent leader of the group. He was friendly, engaging, and because he was the BBC’s International Correspondent for Central Europe, and lives in Budapest, he certainly knew his way around both the country and the political scene.” CB, Hungary 2018

“Really excellent as usual.” AR, Hungary 2018

“Nick Thorpe was outstanding. Not only was he fluent in Hungarian, knowledgeable about the issues and culture, but gracious in his approach to all of us political tourists, not all of whom shared the same views or enjoyed the same efficiency of getting place to place. He could ask tough questions diplomatically yet not be put off without his points being addressed. An impressive expert all the way around.” ME, Hungary 2018

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Why Hungary is important now

Orban is riding high, politically unchallenged either by a viable opposition or from within Fidesz, and he’s looking forward to the May 2019 European elections with relish. He hopes to either reshape the EPP in his own image, or split the EPP to lead a new anti-immigrant block, which would claim to return to the Christian Democrat roots of parties like the CDU and especially the CSU. Bavaria (with a similar population to Hungary) has often been his lodestar. In his own rhetoric, he has now dropped his ‘illiberal’ terminology, and prefers to present himself as a Christian Democrat – a term he always shied away from until now.

On a European level, post-Brexit, his strategy is to replace and improve on the position of successive former British governments: to push for a wider, shallower union. Shallower, because he is a champion of maximum national sovereignty; wider, because he wants the EU to expand into the Balkans. The Visegrad-4 platform is central to his endeavours, because it means Hungary can box well above her weight, as an ideological leader of 63 million people, rather than of 10 million.

The geo-strategic importance for Hungary of Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia etc joining (2025?), would be to push Hungary deeper into the geographic centre of the EU, away from the dangerous periphery. But his project is threatened from several sides. If the British, at the last minute, were not to leave; if Merkel reasserts control of the CDU, and Seehofer’s star wanes in the CSU after the autumn Bavarian elections; if moderate voices in the EPP, in Germany and beyond, prevail; if Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz places European unity ahead of anti-migrant schemes, and/or tempts Slovakia, the Czechs and Slovenes away from Orban, into his own camp, and thus weakens the V-4; if tensions flare between the new nationalist powers, for whatever reason. Even the continued rise of the AfD in Germany would be bad for Hungary (and Slovakia), by ending German goodwill towards eastern Europe, in terms of EU structural and cohesion funds. Despite so many clouds, Orban sails into this autumn under a blue sky.