Savvy Hungary: Enjoy Budapest on a Budget
Travelling can be really expensive, especially if you travel to a different continent. But even if you are going from Australia to Europe or from the UK to the US, you don’t have to overspend. I’ve just come back from Budapest, Hungary and I’m going to share with you some tips that will help you save a great deal in this amazing, vibrant and affordable city. Here are some tips that will let you enjoy Budapest on a budget.
The key to budget travel to any city is finding an affordable place to stay. Now, a lot of my friends stay in hostels, but that’s really not my style. Don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy travelling all that much when I have to sleep with a bunch of other people in the room. But this doesn’t mean that I spend a lot on hotel rooms – there are always places like B&Bs or guesthouses that offer a good deal for a fraction of the price.
Budapest is not an overly expensive place to stay, but chain hotels can be pricy. What I recommend is finding a place in the Jewish quarter, somewhere near Blaha metro station. It’s a great neighbourhood to be because you can get cheap accommodation in a cool neighbourhood with vibrant nightlife, all within the walking distance from the city centre. I stayed in a guesthouse called Centrooms, which was very good for the price ($200 for a week for a single room). It’s in a great location, the staff is very friendly, and it’s clean and comfortable. What more can you want?
If you are travelling with kids or with friends, you can rent an apartment with Centrooms and save even more.
In any case, just go to Booking.com and look for Budapest guest houses and apartments, sorted by price, and you’ll find something. Just remember to check places on the map to make sure you won’t have to spend anything on public transport.
If you are not a shopaholic, then one of your main spends when staying in a big city is food. The key to saving on your meals is to avoid touristy places and eat where the locals eat. Most cities have very different prices for non-savvy tourists and locals and Budapest is no exception. Try to eat anywhere near Vaci utca, the fashionable shopping street in the centre of Budapest, and you’ll spend a fortune. Well, perhaps not too much if you are from the UK or the U.S., but way too much by Hungarian standards. I mean, why spend $40-$50 on a meal when you can get a delicious three-course meals for $15?
The Jewish quarter is ideal for dining and partying. It’s very close to the city centre, which means you can easily walk there. And the prices are so much better there. Kek Rozsa (Blue Rose) is a restaurant I liked a lot. They cook delicious traditional Hungarian meals, serve great wine, and are very affordable. Plus they are very close to the Dohany Street Synagogue, which is definitely worth a visit.
If you travel a lot, then you know how easy it is to spend a fortune on sightseeing. Well, not in Budapest. OK, if you decided to go to museums, there is no way of ditching the entrance fee, but you can save on a lot of other things.
The first bit of sightseeing you should do in Budapest is get yourself a bundle ticket for the green and pink Budapest sightseeing busses. The ticket costs 6,000 HUF (about $25) and is valid for 48 hours. The service operates on a hop-on hop-off basis, so you can even use the busses instead of public transport. Not only will you see all the essential sights, but you will also get a booklet with lots of sightseeing discount coupons including two free river cruises, discounts for the most popular bath and SPA places, a free goulash soup, and lots more.
If you like walking tours, then don’t forget to join the free Budapest walking tour. It’s a great opportunity to walk around historic Buda and Pest with an enthusiastic guide (not someone from an expensive tour who has swallowed a lemon). My guide was called Orsi and she was simply amazing. She’s a professional actress and a great story teller. You can find more about the free tour here. The tour doesn’t have a set price, but tips are more than appreciated.
And last but not least, remember that a great way to visit cathedrals and listen to the organ is to attend the mass and not to pay for the ticket! I actually prefer visiting churches this way because you see the church in action and see the people too.
I really hope that you will enjoy your trip to Budapest on a budget (I did)! And if you know of any other ways to save money in Hungary, please let me know in your comments.