An expat guide to living in Budapest

We recently decided to move to Budapest and enjoy the key location of the city, especially because we want to do more road trips across Europe. We learned a lot about living in Budapest and as with every European city, there are important things to be considered before moving here. In all honesty, Budapest is a fantastic place and we like it during winter, so we very much expect to be madly in love with it once Spring comes.

There are many things you need to know about living in Budapest and we will try and tell you about it all so you can better prepare for your move. In this guide, we will include prices in Budapest, information on Budapest currency, population and apartments. We will also outline some potential “hidden costs” which we didn’t know about when we first arrived.
Remember that living in Budapest is totally different than visiting the city. If you are looking for accommodation information you should check where to stay in Budapest.

Budapest Currency

The currency in Budapest and in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint written as “Ft” or HUF. Some international shops and real estate agencies might show you prices in Euro for your ease. Even though it’s not 100% accurate, an easy to remember rule is that 1000 HUF is rough, the equivalent of £3.

In Budapest and in Hungary you can use banknotes 1000 HUF, 2000 HUF, 5000 HUF, 10,000 HUF, 20,000 HUF. You can also pay by coin ranging from 5 HUF to 200 HUF. Please remember that although most places accept international cards, it’s good to have some cash on you. If you need to buy tickets for public transport, the 20,000 HUF note might be too big so if you can, break the note at a shop, before you travel.

There are many ATMs around Budapest, some of which dispenses EURO alongside the local currency.

Budapest Currency

Budapest Population

Budapest is home to approximately 1.7 million people. The Budapest area is 525.2 km², larger than Bucharest, Vienna or Prague. The life expectancy of Budapest residents is on average 75.7 years. There are roughly 52% females and 48% males.

In the recent years, there has been a growing number of expat communities in Budapest. Depending on your country of origin, you will very likely find expats from your own country to meet.

Living in Budapest

Living in Budapest is not the same as living in Bristol for example. You have to appreciate that we were used to a completely different system and it was quite interesting to learn, for example, the differences between the tenancy agreements in the two countries.

As an international married couple, we have the advantage that between the two of us, we speak several languages. G speaks Hungarian (yay) which means that it was much easier for us to communicate with agents, arrange viewings and translate contracts. However, having said that, everyone spoke English, especially during flat viewings. They addressed me in English and spoke in English for the whole duration of the conversation so I don’t feel left out. That was extremely nice and highly appreciated.

Living in Budapest is pretty great. For us, as digital nomads, the city seems to tick most boxes. We like the food, the restaurants, the prices and the cityscape. We also like the shops, the walking opportunities and the atmosphere.

There is, however, something we don’t like about Budapest. Unfortunately, there is a large number of smokers in the city. This is the only thing we wish the government would ban from public space, the same as the did in the UK. Hey, maybe we should start a petition.

Liberty Bridge Budapest

How to find a flat in Budapest

Finding a flat in Budapest wasn’t as easy as we thought. We honestly imagined we will find a wide range of apartments for a low price. We spent just under a month running around trying to find the perfect flat which ticks all the boxes. We learned that the best and easiest way to find a flat is to find several agents who will help you find what you need. You don’t have to pay the agent, the agent gets their commission from the owner. Because of this, however, most owners are only willing to rent long term. So, expect to sign a contract for one year. If you are lucky, you might find owners willing to sign for 6 months.

We searched on a combination of places: Ingatlan is a Hungarian real estate website. The site is in Hungarian but with a bit of help from Google translate you should be ok. Most estate agents speak English anyway, so don’t be afraid to call the numbers. Another great resource is Alberlet. This is, in fact, where we found our apartment. Occasionally, the property is rented by the owner directly in which case, they might not speak good English.

Bridge in Budapest

Another option is to join a few Facebook Groups for expats where you can find daily rental offers. Search for “rent in Budapest” and you will find a handful of really good groups. Join them and check them daily. The cool thing about this approach is that you can message the estate agent/owner directly and communicate in writing. Make a list of all your requirements and send it to them. They will send you recommendations.

It was a bit harder for us to find a place because we wanted a spacious flat with 2 bedrooms, one which we could use as an office. Ideally, we wanted a newly renovated, extremely quiet flat with new furniture and appliances, located in the heart of the city, and preferably at a low cost. After almost a month of hunting for the elusive flat, we almost gave up, when, our magical flat appeared.

In conclusion, rent an Airbnb when you arrive (here is £25 off to get you started) and start searching. Use your time in the Airbnb to hunt for flat and visit as many as you can in your prefered district.

Beautiful Budapest Bridge

Cost of living in Budapest

We are now getting to the important stuff: money! Budapest has a reputation for being an amazing city for digital nomads. Whilst this is true, don’t be fooled, because, by all means, Budapest is not cheap… unless you know where to look.

A two bedroom apartment in a central location and good condition starts around £650. The better the location, the newer the appliances and the larger space, the more you can expect to pay. We are paying a little more, but as already mentioned, we had a list of funky requirements. But hey, we work from home, so our space needs to be nice.

In the advertisements, normally all the costs are clearly stated. One unusual cost which we haven’t come across before is called the “common cost”. Depending on the building, it’s roughly around £45. This covers the bin collection and recycling, the cleaning and the electricity in the common areas. The newer or more luxurious blocks usually have higher common costs. For example, we went to see a flat in the beautiful Avenue Gardens on Andrassy Street and the common cost was around £130. This included, however, access to a 24/7 concierge service, spa, pool and gym.

When you view the flat, make sure to double check all the costs involved.

Buda Side Budapest

On top of the rent and common cost, you usually get electricity, gas and water. These are separate bills given to you by the landlord or the agency. Expect around £100 and £150 per month, especially if you work from home.

When you move in, you usually need to put down two months deposit and one month rent in advance. This is pretty standard. Make sure you check everything when you move in and make any amendments to the contract if needed. Take pictures and keep them safe for when you check out, to ensure you get all your deposit back.

Budapest has a wealth of local markets, small shops and large supermarkets. If you own a car, you can drive to the outskirts and do your shopping in hypermarkets. Alternatively, pretty much all districts have their own market (piac in Hungarian). That’s a good way to support the local communities and get cheaper, fresher produce. Since we are plant-based and trying to purchase organic, whole foods, our food bill is a little higher.
We usually shop in the market for 3 days in advance and our costs are around £45 for the two of us.

Where to stay in Budapest

Let’s talk about eating out in Budapest. There are so many restaurants and bars in this city, you probably won’t get bored anytime soon. Avoid main touristy places as a set “traditional” menu is almost £15 per person. That’s nonsense. We have a regular vegan restaurant in Budapest we go to and spend just £10 for a three-course meal for two people. That’s £5 per person for a delicious soup, main and a cake. All vegan, so go check “Vegan City” in Budapest.

Bars are also cheap, with beers costing roughly £2. Of course, if you buy them from the supermarket, prices become even lower. We love buying Hungarian sparkling wine which costs around £3 per bottle. A good bottle of wine starts from as little £4.

There are lots of bakeries scattered all around Budapest, so you can certainly buy fresh bread every day. There are large varieties of bread. You can find almost anything ranging from the usual sliced white bread to the special wholegrain loaves. There are also lots of Hungarian treats, like the awesome “Budapest langos”, pastries and cakes. A slice of vegan cake in the city centre will cost around £3. The more central you go, the higher prices.

Vegan Langos Budapest

Clothes and shoes cost roughly the same in Hungary than in pretty much any other capital city in Europe. As with most cities, there are a few expensive streets lined with large international shops and boutiques.

The Internet is super fast and great in Budapest. Expect to pay around £20 – £30 for a monthly rolling contract or less if you sign for 12 months.

You need to consider health insurance for you and your family which start from £25 a month. If you are an EU citizen, make sure you order your free EHIC card. With this card, you are covered for emergency treatment. Make sure you carry it with you at all times. An alternative is to pay as you go for private medical treatments. I needed a knee MRI back in November and I paid around £120. Doctor consultation was around £40 per session and blood tests were £45. So not too bad, considering it was all private with no insurance.

Why You Need To Enjoy The Danube River Cruise In Budapest

Infrastructure in Budapest

Infrastructure in Budapest is great and you most certainly don’t need a car in the city. In fact, it’s really not convenient to own a car in the city as you have to pay for the car park, which is around £60 – £120 per month, depending on your location.

If you decide to buy a car in Hungary, the full insurance and related costs (road tax) shouldn’t be more than £200 per year.

Buses, trains, trams and subways are all reliable and run on time. I found that some of the Budapest undergrounds are in desperate need of rehabilitation. Although they look outdated, they are generally safe.

We prefer to walk. It’s a good way to save some money, exercise and stay fit. Thus far, we walked everywhere and it was great. Ok, fine! We drove to Ikea once, but only because it’s 30 minutes out of the city by car.

You can also take cabs if you need to go out and want to drink. Tram 4/6 runs 24/7 and covers most of the central Budapest which is good to know if you plan a late night out and need to rely on public transport to get home. Just note that there are checks even during the night, so best to have your ticket on you at all times.

Do you have any questions about living in Budapest? Please leave a comment and ask us anything in the comments section below.

by You Could Travel

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