QUICK SUMMARY- COST OF LIVING IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
The Hungarian capital is one of the most popular European cities, and for a good reason - and I’m not just saying this as a biased Hungarian. Living in Budapest means unique architecture, beautiful sights, culture, fantastic nightlife, and an affordable high-end food scene - that’s Budapest.
I moved to Budapest with my family because the capital city had more and better-paying jobs than my hometown. In the six years I lived in Budapest, I mainly worked in the hospitality/events industry and served in most of the city’s high-end hotels and restaurants.
I had loads of fun living in Budapest, and working in hospitality allowed me to truly get to know the city inside out.
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Looking back, the average cost of living in Budapest is the most affordable I’ve experienced in Europe compared to Naples, Italy (where I spent significant time), and London (where I live now).
Hungary uses the Forint (HUF) for currency. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 309 HUF. For reference, 1 Euro = 368 HUF
What Is The Cost Of Living In Hungary?
|Total Monthly Expense||$1539|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- 1-bedroom in District XI, the Buda side||583|
|High Speed Internet||13|
|Cell Phone- 1-Year contract Unlimited with Vodafone||36|
|Total Housing Expense||716|
|Home Cooked Meals 19 times per week||236|
|Mid-Priced Restaurant 1 Time per Week||57|
|High-End Restaurant Splurge Lunch 1 Time per Week||109|
|Total Food Expense||400|
|Opera Night- 1 Time per Month||23|
|Aperitifs with Friends- 1 Time per Week||29|
|Night Out Dancing with Friends- 1 Time per Month||60|
|Thermal Spas 2 times per Month||26|
|Monthly Transportation Pass||31|
|Taxi 2 time Per Month District XI to VIII||14|
|Total Transportation Expense||45|
|Expat Health Insurance||100|
|Health Care Expense||100|
|Cleaning service 1 time per week||64|
|Weekly Manicure and 1 Massage per Month||59|
|Personal Care (Shampoo, etc.) & Household Items (Soap, etc.)||20|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||142|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to Forint (HUF)||309|
As the capital and the biggest city, Budapest is the most expensive city in Hungary. Yet, my monthly budget in Budapest is still only $1500, including all living expenses (housing, utilities, transportation, food, entertainment, etc.), non-essential extras like a cleaner, dry cleaning, and personal grooming. and some travel around the country.
How Does The Cost of Living In Hungary Compare To The US?
Look at the cost of living comparison below representing the Top 4 essential expenses in the US: housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average living costs in US cities.
Essential Living Costs
Total Average Per Month
Save 50% on Major Monthly Expenses
Even when comparing the most expensive city in Hungary (Budapest) to a medium-cost city in the US (Portland), the low monthly costs of living in Budapest saves a single person almost $15,000 a year.
It's easy to see why Budapest has become a popular location for digital nomads and expat retirees looking to reduce their monthly living expenses.
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN Budapest, Hungary COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
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What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $1500 Per Month?
Vaci Street is the main pedestrian thoroughfares. It's bustling with tourists, but it's worth taking a coffee break to people watching at least once.
Imagine you’re living in a thrilling city in the heart of Europe. Your mornings start with a beautiful tram ride around Budapest, passing by the Danube river with a view to the Buda Castle, maybe Vig Theatre, and the Parliament.
In the afternoon, stop at a local market for a quick shopping run. Afterward, lace up your sneakers for a refreshing run or a bike ride on Margaret Island. After a quick shower in your apartment, you’re getting ready for the evening.
Evenings are the best, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Friday or Tuesday night; you’ll find the right buzz at any time. A delicious Hungarian dinner followed by some cocktails or a glass of wine on one of the standing boat places, then a ride home with a taxi. You’re recharged, but there is still more waiting for you next week. Or the next night, who knows.
What makes Budapest memorable is all the hidden treasures waiting for you to discover.
What Does An Apartment Cost In Budapest?
If you are looking to live in a bustling city, Budapest's city center is always buzzing.
The average cost of an apartment is between 120.000 HUF (~400 USD) to 190.000 HUF (~650 USD) in rent per month for a flat between 35-55 m2. The lower price range of apartments is liveable but in poor condition or in a less desirable area.
Here is an example of apartments on the higher-end of that price range. The flat is in District XI, which is on the Buda side of the Danube river. It’s a one-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen, and a bathroom with shower, in a lovely neighborhood, in an excellent location, close to public transport and shops, and recently refurbished to a fashionable urban style.
If you are an expat family or need a bit more space, the average rental cost for two-bedroom apartments with similar quality and in district XI is around $800.
Total Rental Costs Including Utilities
I pay 180.000 HUF / $600 in monthly rent for fully furnished accommodations. Price does not include utilities.
The average cost of utilities per month for a one-bedroom apartment:
- Gas: 8000 HUF (~27 USD)
- Electricity: 5500 HUF (~18.5 USD)
- Water: 3500 HUF (~12 USD)
- Internet: 4000 HUF (~13.5 USD)
- Local government tax: 9000 HUF (~30 USD)
INSIDER TIP : Upfront Accommodation Costs- Getting a flat is relatively easy, money talks, landlords might ask you to pay 1-3 months deposit and 1-month rent in advance. Don’t go with anyone who doesn’t offer a tenancy contract- common knowledge, but worth mentioning.
Agency Fees, Real Estate Commission, and Other Additional Charges- The owner pays fees to real estate agents for help renting the apartment. Tenants shouldn't pay anything. If a landlord asks you to pay any additional fees, consider it a red flag that you might be getting charged a "Foreigner Tax."
The only fee you might be charged is a deposit to hold the flat. Request documentation and a receipt for everything- I'm sorry to say, but Hungary can be occasionally sketchy. I'm not saying be negative, only to be vigilant.
What Is the Best Places For Expats To Live?
I love living in beautiful civilian homes with super high ceilings where you’ll find all sorts of architectural surprises: open galleries with sleeping opportunities or, if the inside of the property is high enough, a stand-up gallery for an office or home library.
These downtown apartments are located mainly in the city center Districts: V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX. These are all lovely and safe districts apart from district VIII, an up-and-coming area with a central location and a mix of new buildings and dodgy areas.
Other good districts are (area and facility-wise) district I, II, XI, XII, XIII, and XIV. These recommendations come from personal experience, but there are hidden gems all over the city. Like any major city, the central locations are in higher demand and there are expensive streets in popular locations where prices seem overinflated. But, if you are moving from the US or a more expensive European country, you'll find real estate prices to be comparatively affordable wherever you look.
INSIDER TIP : Apartment Hunting Tips From A Local- Best place to start the search is on Hungary's most popular real estate website.
Unfortunately, the website does not provide English translations. See the my screenshot from their website with some translations, to help your search.
Zip codes- A little trick when searching for flats; the postcode is a four-digit number, and the two middle numbers indicate the district, e.g., 1021 would be district 2, 1195 district 19, 1119 district 11, etc.
Unfurnished Apartments- Furniture varies on the owner. In my experience, you won't save much money on rent looking for an unfurnished flat.
What Is Your Food Budget In Budapest?
Hungary's Markets aren't just for groceries. You can find delicious authentic Hungarian meals for cheap.
I eat three meals a day and (maybe fruit snacks in between). I'll homecook 1-2 meals. Breakfast is kept simple: cereals, porridge, eggs or perhaps a pancake.
With no dietary restrictions and typical purchases of meat, fish, organic fruit, vegetables, and twice-weekly dining out and food delivery - a $400 food budget still accommodates my eating habits.
Grocery Shopping and Food Prices At Markets
See my grocery shopping in the picture? All that food cost me 11.837 HUF (~40 USD). It's mainly meat and some snacks. I bought 7kg of various pork and chicken products - enough to last me the whole month.
I also love seafood, so my diet includes lots of fish and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables from the local markets. If you a budding chef, the city's markets make home-cooking the tasty and most cost-effective meals. On top of the low food costs, Hungarian wines are renowned for their bold flavors and affordable prices. A bottle of wine (mid-range) would only cost ~$5-$8.
INSIDER TIP : Markets in Budapest- One of the things I LOVE about Budapest is the quality of food and selection when shopping at farmers' markets. You will find organic produce, high-quality meats, and authentic Hungarian spices sold in locally-owned stalls. Here are some favorites loved by residents and visitors alike:
Central Market Hall- This market is a prime example of the unique ambiance of a European indoor market. While drawing more than its fair share of tourists, experiencing the bustle of this massive market h is still worth your time.
For more local and less crowded markets try Hold Utca Market Hall (District V), Lehel Piac (District XIII) or the Fény Utca Market Hall (District II).
How Much Does Eating Out In Budapest Cost?
The affordable living costs in Budapest opens up an array of social options for expats. You have the financial flexibility to go out and enjoy one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Eating and going out is not a luxury here. You could enjoy a meal in a nice restaurant or aperitivo in one of the cool bars 3-4 times a week, and 2-3 deliveries if you’re not in a mood for messing up the kitchen - at least that’s what I’d done while living there.
For a meal out in a local restaurant, you could pay anywhere from 10 USD/person (with a main meal plus a side and a glass of wine included) to 50-70 USD/person depending on how fancy you like it.
Snack $2- Langos with sour cream and cheese. Think of a fluffy pizza crust, then deep fry it till golden and delicious. Langos can be made sweet or savory. These Hungarian treats can be found on street stands everywhere in Budapest.
Budget Meal $6- Goulash with homemade dumplings. The quintessential Hungarian dish made with beef and dumplings. Goulash can be found as street food snacks all the way to high-end restaurant meals.
Splurge Meal $25- Veal cutlet three-course lunch. Splurge on a bit of luxury with a meal at Gundel Étterem. Order lunch to enjoy upscale dining for less.
How Much Money Do You Spend For Entertainment?
A late-night cruise with dinner, drinks, and dancing on the Danube for $30.
Entertainment and Sports
The wallet-friendly cost of living in Budapest allows you lots of entertainment option. Expats looking for an active social life will find going out doesn’t cost a fortune and you'll get more bang for your buck.
How Much Does Transportation Cost?
Budapest is high walkable. Sidewalks are wide and safe. The city center will have more traffic and subsequently poorer air quality than in the outer districts, but it’s still great for getting around on foot.
Public transport is well established and cheap, full-price monthly travel pass costs 9500 HUF (~32 USD), and student or pensioner passes are 3450 HUF (~12 USD). You can use the metro, trolleybus (electric bus), HÉV, buses, or tram.
INSIDER TIP : My Favorite Local Transport Option- With stunning architecture everywhere you look, and a scenic river cutting through Budapest's heart, my daily commute by tram is basically a free sightseeing tour of one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Tramlines 4 and 6 cross several bridges with breathtaking riverbank views.
Other than public transportation, you can reasonably rent a bike, car, or take taxis. Bike rental starts from 200 HUF/hr (0.7 USD), and car rental from 20 USD/day.
Taxi Cost In Budapest
If you opt for taxis, note that there is no Lyft or Uber in Hungary due to a taxi drivers’ strike a few years back when they banned all outsider cab companies. The best and most well-known cab company is Fotaxi, they are reliable, and prices are ok, too, but always make sure the meter is on before you start your journey.
In Budapest, there is a uniform fee structure for all taxis: the pick-up rate 700 HUF, the per-kilometer you'll pay 300 HUF, and waiting time is 75 HUF per minute.
One international airport, Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) serves Budapest. Hungary is also home to low-cost airline Wizz Air.
You can reach 10-20 other countries from Budapest for a $20 airline ticket.
Other Costs When Moving To Budapest
My $1500 budget includes all essential living expenses and affordable luxuries like:
How Much Does Hungarian Healthcare cost?
If you are an American moving to Hungary Health Insurance for expats is always a hot topic. The Hungarian health care system is interesting. While doctors are highly skilled, the equipment in government hospitals is insufficient and outdated compared.
private health insurance
The expat community usually opts for private healthcare coverage. With expat health insurance, you get better medical services or emergency treatment. Access to private hospitals or clinics offers a different level of medical care with a lot shorter waiting times.
There are a lot of different insurance companies with many options for an expat living in Hungary. Estimated cost for decent health insurance is ~$100 per month.
Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?
Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:
- Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
- Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than the US.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Hungary?
You are considered a tax resident in Hungary if:
- your only permanent address is in Hungary, or
- your center of vital interests is in Hungary and you do not have a permanent home or has a number of permanent homes in one or more countries as well as Hungary, or
- you spend at least 183 days in Hungary in a calendar year and you do not have a permanent home or a number of permanent homes in one or more countries as well as Hungary, and the center of vital interests cannot be determined.
Hungary has a double taxation treaty with the US.
If you are considered a Hungarian tax resident, then your personal income tax (PIT) is assessed on:
- Income from Hungarian sourced, even if it is paid from abroad
- Income sourced outside of Hungary , whether or not money was electronically transferred or brought into the country in cash.
To avoid any complications, penalties, and fines, speak with a tax advisor for details.
What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget?
If you stay longer than 183 days, many countries will consider you a tax resident. Being an expat may help you save money on your taxes. Talk to a tax professional to see how tax residency applies to you. I partnered with a firm specializing in expat taxes to secure a special deal for Nomadic FIRE readers.
Use the promotion code "Nomadic25Consultation" for $25 off a tax consultation to get you started.
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What Are The Visa Requirements For Hungary?
Hungary does not require a visa for US citizens visiting for up to 90 out of 180 days. Hungary is in the Schengen agreement. Foreigners looking to visit strictly for vacation or tourism can enter Hungary as part of the Schengen Visa. Schengen is expressly for tourism and is not ideal for retirees or digital nomads looking for long-term options.
Citizens of other countries can check here to determine what visa is required to enter Hungary.
What About A Hungary Retirement Visa?
Hungary does not have a retirement, pensioner, or passive income visa. Expatriates and retirees looking for long-term residence permit will need to look at other EU countries like Spain, Italy, Croatia, or Bulgaria for long-term residence options. Unless you plan to work for a Hungarian company, start a business, or study here, the country is only suitable for short-term stays.
Tips From The Budapest Expatriate Community
Some additional tips for foreigners starting expat life in Budapest:
- Use the expat community as a resource. Find some local expat clubs and groups on Facebook. People will be happy to help.
- Locals are friendly people. Mix in when you can, especially when you are out in the city center (more chance that they speak English, although many know English in general)
- If you are only in Budapest for a short time, come in the summer. Life is busier, the weather is better, and there are many more things to do and see (lots are even free).
- You will save significantly on rental costs by signing a one-year contract for an apartment vs. renting on Airbnb.
- Beware of the pickpockets on public transport (this applies to any big city, to be honest) - you wouldn’t believe how resourceful they can be.
- Research all the things you can do for free - there are a lot of them!
- Try local markets' food stalls - they may look oldie but are still goodie!
- It’s a weird one but here goes: fix your teeth while living there; Hungarian dentists are fantastic and dental care is cheap! I used to work for and highly recommend Vital Europe.
- Discovering Hungary- Budapest is an ideal home base to tour the country. Exploring lovely beautiful cities and small towns like Eger, Visegrad, Esztergom, or Siofok at Lake Balaton can be done as a quick day trip or a relaxing weekend getaway.
Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy.
Final Thoughts: Life in Budapest
I loved living here! Budapest has so much to offer, and on $1500 per month, you can truly enjoy a comfortable and exciting lifestyle. Budapest is a hot spot for any expat who’d like to relocate to Europe, enjoy a high quality of life while saving money at the same time.
Resources for Working and Living Abroad
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Get Your US Expat Tax Questions Answered
US Expat taxes are the most complex in the world. However, living abroad comes with potential tax advantages, but mistakes are very easy to make. It is no wonder many expats are frustrated.
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Travel Tools and Resources
Skyscanner- My favorite airline search tool to find all the cheapest flights in one place.
Airport Pick-Up Service- Arrive at your destination stress-free with a private car cheaper than most taxis.
Loctote- My favorite day pack. Secure your belongings while walking around town.
First Time Moving Abroad? Check Out My Advice For New Expats
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.
Are you a travel blogger with information you can share on living in another country? Contact me and let's talk about collaborating on a guest post.
EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Timi
Timi is a blogger, Londoner, self-confessed travel junkie, and lover of all good things. She helps you to travel like a local so you can live the real experience and learn something new and unique everywhere around the globe. Learn more.