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Hotel prices are unusually high in the Lake Balaton region, because many are transforming into health spas to attract tourism. Many local families rent out a room or two in summer as private rooms; I especially recommend private rooms as the lodging of choice in this area if you're not worried about communication issues. Most are clean and will give you the opportunity to get to know the local population. You can reserve a room through a local tourist office (addresses are listed under each town) or you can just look for the ever-present SZOBA KIADÓ (or ZIMMER FREI) signs (meaning vacancy) hanging on most front gates in the region. Note the language of the sign will be a clue as to which languages they speak. When you take a room without using a tourist agency as the intermediary, prices are generally negotiable. In the height of the season, you shouldn't have to pay more than 10,000 Ft for a double room within reasonable proximity of the lake.

Many budget travelers pitch their tents in lakeside campgrounds all around the lake. Campgrounds are generally quite inexpensive, and their locations are well marked on maps. All the campgrounds have working facilities, but are probably not as clean as many people are accustomed to.

Keszthely

The center of Keszthely's summer scene, just like that of every other settlement on Lake Balaton, is down by the water on the "strand." Keszthely's beachfront is dominated by several large hotels. Regardless of whether or not you're a guest, you can rent windsurfers, boats, and other water-related equipment from these hotels.

A good hotel bet is the 232-room Danubius Hotel Helikon (tel. 83/388-9600; www.danubiusgroup.com). The small but comfortable guest rooms offer balconies overlooking Lake Balaton and have all the necessary amenities. The resort also has an indoor swimming pool, sauna, massage parlor, and outdoor sun deck. Rates run from 17,000 Ft to 30,000 Ft for a double, including breakfast. Numerous special packages and off-season rates are available from its website.

Szigliget

Szoloskert Panzió (tel. 87/461-264) on Vadrózsa utca, might be the best option for a stay, given its close proximity to the beach, which is just 387m (1,270 ft) away. Situated on the hillside amid lush terraces of grapes, the pension is open only in summer. A double is 9,500 Ft and includes breakfast.

The Southern Shore

Siófok is wall to wall with mostly Hungarian tourists during the summer months. You will find a wide variety of lodging options including large hotels and resorts from the Gold Coast to the east of the center of town, and from the Silver Coast (Ezüstpart) to the west. Additional accommodations can be found on the city's website at www.siofokportal.com.

Pampering is always at the top of my list of things to do in a resort area. Shop around, you have plenty of choices, but one suggestion is the Hotel Azúr, Vitorlás u. 11 (tel. 84/501-400; www.hotelazur.hu), one of the more comfortable, plush, and welcoming hotel and wellness centers in town, however, competition has been springing up on a regular basis. It has 222 air-conditioned rooms, many with balconies. The pools are large, and it has a fitness room, sauna, massage club, Finnish saunas, beauty salon, and thermal pools. The whole complex is extremely tasteful. Rates are 104€-202€ for a double room depending on the time of the year. Breakfast and all taxes are included.

The Hotel Residence, Erkel Ferenc u. 49 (tel. 84/506-840; www.hotel-residence.hu) with its 56 rooms also has an extensive list of services, including massages, gyms, baths, and aromatherapy. It is located 150m (492 ft) from the beach. Rates fluctuate greatly throughout the year running 28,640 Ft-40,640 Ft for a double room with breakfast included. The hotel has a good-size indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a massage club, Finnish saunas, a beauty salon, and thermal pools.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.