Having spent time living in such beautiful cities as Belgrade, Kraków, Gdansk, Brasov and Bucharest I’ve been able to develop quite an accurate picture at how much it costs to live in each place and how much I need to enjoy a comfortable, yet affordable, lifestyle.
Budapest has been one of my favorite cities to live in so far and it’s a great home base for digital nomads and long-term travelers.
It’s located in the heart of Europe, so you can easily reach many other cities by train or bus in just a few hours, and it’s a major airport hub for Western Europe as well.
Along with being well-connected, Budapest is also a very affordable, cheap place to live and spend time exploring.
It’s definitely one of the cheapest cities in Europe to travel to and living in Budapest, especially on a Western budget, is very enjoyable.
Getting to Budapest
No matter where you are in Europe you’re only a few train rides or bus rides away from Hungary’s beautiful capital city.
You can easily reach Budapest by bus or train from Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Bucharest, Munich and just about every other major city in Central or Eastern Europe.
From Western Europe there are countless flights available and, if you’re traveling light, you can get an amazing flight deal using WizzAir or a similar low cost carrier. For example, I was able to fly round trip from Budapest to Rome for less than €40 in total.
There are many different train connections available from the countries surrounding Hungary. Usually it’s cheaper and faster to take the bus from any of the nearby capital cities that are within a few hours away will cost anywhere between €10-€20 one way.
Getting Around Budapest
Once you reach Budapest it’s incredibly easy to get around.
If you can afford it I recommend taking Uber if you’re traveling any distances that you can’t easily walk.
It’s cheaper than taking a taxi and much faster than taking the metro, tram or bus.
Uber is a very popular service in Budapest and you’ll never have to wait more than 5 to 10 minutes for a car to pick you up.
Regardless of where you’re traveling you can definitely make it across the city center, or to various areas throughout the city, for between 1000 and 2000 HUF, with most shorter rides costing only around 500 HUF.
Budapest is a very walkable city, especially the Pest side, and if you are staying in the city center you won’t have to use public transportation to get anywhere very often.
The Pest side of the city is extremely flat and very easy to navigate.
There aren’t any winding streets or hidden alleys for you to get lost in and it seems that every inner side street intersects with a larger, busy thoroughfare.
To walk from one end of the city center to the other end would only take about 35 to 45 minutes, but in the city center itself you’ll be able to find restaurants, grocery stores, cafés and countless bars all within a 5 to 10 minute walk of your accommodation.
It’s possible to find apartments in the city center for anywhere between $500 to $1000 per month.
Of course there are plenty of places that exceed this budget range but I found that this specific price point offers the most options with the best value.
In this price range you’ll be able to book an entire apartment in the city center in a nice, even upscale, neighborhood.
For example, my apartment cost only $500 per month and is located in the heart of the hip Jewish neighborhood. In under 10 minutes I can reach the very city center/touristy area and it would take only 25 minutes to reach Buda Castle.
Close my apartment are more than 100 restaurants, cafés and bars and there are also five major grocery stores, along with a handful of fresh markets, all within a 5 to 10 minute walk.
In the $500-$1000 price range you can expect a modern and spacious apartment with updated amenities, high quality furniture and fast Internet.
If you’re working online you’ll also be able to find apartments with a desk, or dedicated workspace, that will enable you to work more efficiently and comfortably get things done rather than having to head to a noisy, crowded café.
Many of the apartments in Budapest are situated around a courtyard, but if you look hard enough you can definitely find some options with a street facing balcony and even free parking if you’re traveling with a car.
Food, Eating and Restaurants in Budapest
Other than Serbia and Ukraine, I don’t think I’ve ever traveled anywhere else that has cheaper food than in Budapest.
There are so many options and so much competition that restaurants are forced to offer lower, more competitive prices in order to get more customers.
This works in the favor of travelers and visitors to Budapest and it’s almost pointless to do your own groceries and cook at home when you can eat out for so little.
I love cities that have so many options with low prices since preparing meals and grocery shopping is a time intensive process and that time could be spent doing productive, more useful activities.
It’s also fun to explore different neighborhoods and look for new, interesting places to try out.
There is a wide range of cuisines available in Budapest and regardless of your eating habits you can definitely find something suitable to your preferences, diet and tastes.
If you are feeling lazy and you don’t feel like visiting a sit down restaurant you should expect to spend between $2.50 and $10 on some quick and easy street food.
This can include kebab, burritos, soup, delicious sandwiches, sausage on a bun, pizza, and just about any other quick street food that you can imagine.
A bigger meal, including a drink, at a laid-back, smaller, more local eatery will run you anywhere between $5 and $15.
There are some fancier options in this price range where you’ll be able to enjoy comfortable indoor seating, a wider range menu options and drinks, and better quality food.
Many of these same restaurants and eateries will offer a daily lunch menu for an affordable fixed-price, typically around five dollars, so a late lunch at one of these places is a good idea if you want to save money and eat a lighter dinner.
Once you reach the $15 to $20 and above price range your options are pretty much unlimited.
For a nice night out at a fancy steak restaurant that includes appetizers, a main course, drinks and dessert, you should expect to spend around $50 to $75 in total for two people.
If you’re on a budget however, Budapest is full of great options when it comes to affordable/cheap eats and for between $200-$300 per month you can eat out for every meal and not have to sacrifice any time cooking, cleaning dishes or shopping for groceries.
Speaking of groceries, you have the option to choose between both fresh markets and dedicated supermarkets.
Along with the Great Market Hall there are a combination of both fresh markets with stalls and storefronts that have turned into locally supplied, tiny market shops.
If you’re looking for fresh fruits or vegetables these markets are the cheapest place to buy them and tend to have a much wider selection than what you would find in a supermarket.
Much of the produce in these markets is also local and organic so it’s perfect if you are trying to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
There aren’t as many delis in Budapest as I would have liked but the prices and quality of meat from the supermarkets are quite good.
In the city center there are two styles of supermarkets – smaller ones where you’ll be able to buy quick items and choose from a smaller selection of food items and then there are the bigger mega market stores that have anything you could possibly want to buy.
These are some of the costs you can expect when buying things at the local market or supermarket:
- Fully roasted chicken – $4
- A loaf of bread – $.75
- 1 kg of apples – $1.25
- 0.5 L Coca Cola – $.60
- 1 kg of potatoes – $1
- 500 g of spaghetti – $.80
- Medium-sized can of premade spaghetti sauce – $2
- 1 kg of onions – $1.50
- 500 mL of mid range Olive oil – $4
- 500 g of mid range ground coffee – $3.50
- 1 L of organic milk – $2.10
- 1.5 L of water – $.35
- 500 g of mozzarella cheese – $3.50
- 500 g of salami – $2.50
- 500 mL local can of beer – $.80
- 10 pack of toilet paper – $3.50
And there you have it.
These are some of the prices you can expect when you’re visiting Budapest for either a short or long-term stay.
As I mentioned earlier, Budapest is one of the best cities for digital nomads and long-term travelers because of the low costs of accommodation, its proximity to nearby cities and the affordability of cooking at home or eating out.
Before visiting I definitely recommend checking out my in depth post on some of the best things to do in Budapest during your stay.
If you have any questions about the city or you need some more help planning your trip feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.