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Moving to Budapest

Straddling the Danube River, Budapest easily has one of the most beautiful settings in Europe and, combined with its wonderful architecture, greenery and breathtaking river views, the city is often touted as one of the prettiest on the continent.

Capital of Hungary, the city is bisected by the river, which formerly divided it into two distinct cities: Buda and Pest. Long since united, Buda and Pest are still opposites, both in look and feel: Buda on the western bank is hilly, residential and pretty, while Pest on the eastern bank is flatter, industrial and edgy.

The city has successfully shed its socialist past and nowadays attracts tourists and expats in their droves with a cosmopolitan spirit and exciting business opportunities. Foreign companies have bolstered the economy by establishing regional headquarters and shared service centres in the city, and a thriving international community now exists.

Although it accounts for most of the industry in Hungary, Budapest is more than just a political, cultural and commercial hub. Time Magazine, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, and the New York Times Magazine have all named Budapest as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and it therefore generates significant tourism. Alongside the exquisite architecture and UNESCO world heritage sites, Budapest offers residents a range of things to see and do, including world-class shopping opportunities and some of the best nightlife in Europe. 

Choosing which side of Budapest to live on is a matter of preference: bustling, urban, and exotic Pest, or stately, comfortable and considerably quieter Buda. In general, accommodation in Budapest is easy for expats to find and is considerably cheaper than housing in high-profile expat destinations. In fact, the cost of living in Budapest, as a whole, is much lower than in many Western European cities.

While easily one of the most walkable cities in Europe, Budapest also has an excellent transport network, which makes living without a car easy and stress-free. The metro is primarily a Pest operation, with two lines covering wide north-south and east-west arcs and a third, smaller line connecting the centre with the City Park (Városliget). Buda is dominated by a complex tram and bus system.

In terms of culture shock, expats can expect to hear the charming, if baffling, sound of Hungarian chatter throughout the city. English is increasingly spoken as well, though proficiency tends to be best closer to the city centre in the lower-numbered districts.

Expats and English speakers currently flood the streets of Budapest and many services exist for them. Nevertheless, foreigners hoping to get the most out of Budapest will need to understand the city’s unique position as a Europe-in-miniature and appreciate all of the little quirks that go along with it.

Weather in Budapest

The climate in Budapest is continental, but its weather can also be highly unpredictable. From December to early March, winter brings icy temperatures that can easily drop as low as 5°F (-15°C) and tend to rise no higher than 50°F (10°C).

Near the end of March, spring begins to approach, characterised by light showers and lots of sunshine. However, cold spells have been known to occur even in spring. 

Summer begins in June and is usually hot with moderate humidity and evening showers or thunderstorms. Heatwaves with highs of up to 95°F (35°C) are common and are punctuated by shorter cool periods with highs of around 68°F (20°C). Temperatures drop as autumn approaches in September and October, while November is typically a very wet month.

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Budapest

Throughout the daunting yet exciting process of moving abroad, it can be all too easy to get wrapped up in a rose-tinted vision of one’s new home, or bogged down by perceived negatives.

More often than not, the truth of living in a particular city lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, with each city having its high points, low points and in-betweens. 

Here are a few of our pros and cons of moving to Budapest.


Accommodation in Budapest

+ PRO: Lots of options

The Danube River divides Budapest into two main areas: Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east bank. Buda is mostly a residential area while Pest is more built up and industrialised. Accommodation styles and prices are heavily influenced by which side of the river the property is located. On top of this, having a river view will of course drive the price of an apartment up.

Because there are such diverse factors affecting prices, expats have the freedom to pick and choose which aspects are most important to them. For example, giving up on a river view is one easy way to widen the range of choices within a budget.

- CON: Utilities are expensive

Maintenance and utility fees, especially heating costs during winter, can be exceedingly expensive. Utilities are charged on top of the monthly rent so expats will need to make sure they include this extra cost in their budget when planning.


Cost of living in Budapest

+ PRO: Low cost of living

Thanks to Hungary's low cost of living, Budapest is one of the cheapest European cities to live in. Certainly those moving from some of the more expensive parts of Europe, such as London or Paris, will notice their money going much further in Budapest.

- CON: Low salaries

On the flipside, salaries in Hungary are often low. So while it’s possible to live cheaply, expats used to higher earnings should be wary of overspending. Negotiating with prospective employers for the highest possible salary package is key.


Transport in Budapest

+ PRO: Getting around is easy

Transportation in Budapest, and Hungary in general, is not only highly reliable but also affordable – even gasoline for one's own vehicle is inexpensive which makes travelling a breeze. 

+ PRO: Easy travel to neighbouring European countries

Budapest's location in the centre of Europe makes it easy to travel to other European countries, especially neighbouring Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania and Croatia. It’s not even necessary to hop on a plane – Hungary is a small country with good rail and road connections to all of its neighbours.


Lifestyle in Budapest

+ PRO: Budapest’s beautiful landscape

Packed with historic buildings with architecture ranging from Gothic and Baroque to modern, Budapest is certainly easy on the eye. Thanks to the city’s UNESCO Heritage Site status, high-rises are generally not allowed to be built, which makes for an unmarred skyline.

+ PRO: Fantastic sightseeing opportunities

When it comes to tourist attractions, Budapest has no shortage of options and it showcases an abundance of places to see and things to do. There are plenty of opportunities for enriching cultural experiences, from viewing historical monuments dating back to the Roman Empire to visiting renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

+ PRO: Exuberant nightlife and entertainment

The lifestyle in Budapest can be surprisingly exciting and fun. The city showcases some excellent nightlife and entertainment including fantastic yearly festivals, top-notch productions at the State Opera House, spa parties in the Széchenyi during summer, and rejuvenating thermal baths to soothe the mind and body, to name a few. The city’s infamous ‘ruin bars’ in the Jewish Quarter are also not to be missed.

- CON: Language gap

Hungarian is a difficult language to learn, and most of the city's signboards are printed in Hungarian. Though there’s a high English proficiency in Budapest, communication may prove to be a challenge in other parts of the country. Foreigners are encouraged to try and become familiar with at least some of the common phrases in Hungarian that will assist day-to-day interaction with locals. 


Doing business in Budapest

+ PRO: Financial centre of Hungary

Budapest’s economy is continually growing and is considered one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. Business opportunities abound in the city’s strong industries, namely finance, media, technology, fashion and tourism.

- CON: Lots of paperwork

A relic of Hungary’s Soviet past, sometimes getting official administrative paperwork done in Budapest can be a frustratingly bureaucratic process with reams of red tape.


Healthcare in Budapest

+ PRO: High quality care at a low cost

The healthcare system in Hungary is on par with Western countries and affords quality medical care at less expensive rates compared to some other European countries. This has made Budapest a growing medical tourism destination.    


Education in Budapest

+ PRO: A variety of great international schools to choose from

There are many well-equipped international schools based in and around Budapest. Unlike most schools in Hungary, these international schools teach in English. By following British, American or International Baccalaureate curricula, international schools can provide children with an uninterrupted schooling experience.

- CON: Expensive private and international school fees

Although public schooling in Budapest is free and of a high quality, expats are dissuaded both by classes being in Hungarian and by the highly traditional approaches to teaching often employed in public schools. Consequently, most expats enrol their children in expensive private or international schools. 

Working in Budapest

Budapest has a large population with some highly skilled citizens in the city. Despite this, there is demand for more skilled labour, and suitably-qualified job-seeking expats have a good chance of securing work in the city.

EU and EEA nationals only need a valid passport to work legally in Budapest. Conversely, non-EU and EEA nationals will need to secure a job before going through the tedious process of acquiring a visa and work permit.


Job market in Budapest

Hungary's working hours are one of the world's longest, and the pay tends not to measure up to other European countries. As a result, Hungary as a whole, and specifically Budapest, are suffering a brain drain due to some of its citizens leaving for better prospects in countries such as the UK or Germany.

At this stage some of the top sectors open in Budapest for job-seeking expats include the information technology industry, education, teaching English, finance and construction. 


Finding a job in Budapest

Many expats secure a job before making their move to the country as this helps to facilitate the visa process. Jobs can be found through online job portals and social networking sites such as LinkedIn. If already in Budapest, expats can also check out job listings in local newspapers.

One of the most common ways to find work in Budapest, and perhaps the most straightforward, is to work for a multinational company and make a transfer.


Work culture in Budapest 

Although English is spoken with increasing popularity by business people, Hungarian is more commonly spoken. Bridging the communication gap can be challenging. To minimise this, it is important that expats pursuing a job in Budapest take the time to learn at least basic Hungarian to ease the adjustment.

Being punctual and dressing neatly are both important aspects of work conduct. Expats can also benefit from observing and copying the conduct of their coworkers.

Accommodation in Budapest

As the main area for expats in Hungary, Budapest has a wide range of housing available. Accommodation in Budapest is, for the most part, more affordable than in many other European capital cities.

Budapest is divided by the Danube River into two areas, Buda and Pest, each of which offers a distinct atmosphere and array of accommodation options.

Pest is more of a business area and many companies locate their headquarters in this section of the city. Pest is also filled with lively cafés and vibey nightlife hangouts and, as such, is a popular residential area for young, single people keen on the vibrant social scene. Expats choosing to live in the Pest part of the city will find a number of apartments available for rent.

Buda, on the opposite bank of the river, is more suburban and tends to be occupied by families who prefer the larger houses, some of which come complete with gardens. One negative factor about choosing to live in Buda is that the commute to work can be problematic, largely due to traffic jams and slightly substandard road quality. Expats working in Pest who are intent on living in Buda are advised to look for property close to public transport routes or metro stations as this will effectively reduce their daily commute.


Types of accommodation in Budapest

Apartments

Apartments are the most popular type of accommodation in Budapest, especially on the bustling east side of the Danube. Apartments in Budapest vary considerably in price, largely depending on their size, location and condition. Expats in Budapest should note that although apartments in older buildings boast high ceilings and attractive design, they are usually more expensive than their modern counterparts.

Houses

Houses are far more common in the laid-back suburban areas of Budapest. They are inevitably more expensive than most apartments, but they do offer a lot more space and occasionally even a garden. Houses may be best suited for families moving to Budapest, as they are normally close to schools, parks and playgrounds.


Finding accommodation in Budapest

Expats should not have much difficulty finding accommodation in Budapest. There are plenty of online classifieds and websites offering a wide range of properties. There are also listings in local newspapers, and expats should make sure to pick one up to avoid potentially missing out on a great deal, though they may need to enlist the help of a local to translate Hungarian ads.

Expats looking for accommodation in Budapest who don’t have the time to browse the market themselves can always make use of a local real-estate agent. Doing so will incur a realtor fee of the equivalent of between one and three months’ rent, but it can be worth it in the long run, especially if expats are experiencing trouble with the language barrier.


Renting accommodation in Budapest

Expats looking to rent accommodation in Budapest will enjoy a good quality-to-price ratio. Unlike many other European capitals, rentals are relatively uncommon for locals in Budapest and the demand from expats largely drives the rental market.

Leases

Some landlords in Budapest are perfectly happy to forgo a written contract in favour of a verbal agreement with the tenant. While this is considerably quicker and easier than a written contract, verbal agreements do not offer the same degree of security and can be susceptible to sudden changes by the landlord. Once a lease agreement has been drawn up, expats should make sure to go over their contract in detail before signing or moving in to ensure that they understand the terms and conditions of the rental.

Deposits

Tenants will have to put down a security deposit before moving in. The required deposit before moving in is set and agreed upon by both parties, but usually amounts to between one and three months of rent.

Utilities

The rent paid to the landlord does not include monthly fees for utilities and, in the case of apartment rentals, monthly levies. These are for the tenant's own expense.

Areas and suburbs in Budapest

The best places to live in Budapest

Budapest is divided into 23 districts. Buda, the area west of the Danube, contains six districts; Pest, on the east bank, encompasses 16 districts; and there is also one district between the two on Csepel Island in the middle of the river. On the Buda side are also a number of suburbs that some expats, particularly those with children, choose to live in.

The districts are numbered in a clockwise direction from the centre of the city outwards, with the downtown districts having low numbers and the suburban districts having higher numbers. Of Buda’s six districts, the most popular ones for expats are districts 11 and 22. On the Pest side, districts 5, 6, 7 and 13 are favoured by expats.


Suburban life in Buda

BudaDistrict 11

District 11 (Újbuda) is an affluent hilly residential area southwest of the city centre. The Sashegy and Sasad areas in this district are the most popular. District 11 straddles Gellért Hill and provides one of the most spectacular panoramic views of Budapest. Outdoorsy expats who love hiking are likely to enjoy living in this area.

District 22

Also known as the ‘town of wine and champagne’, District 22 (Budafok-Tétény) is home to several of Hungary’s major wine producers. The district allows spectacular views of the city and offers numerous restaurants and shopping centres, including the Campona Mall. There are also plenty of transportation options in District 22. Property prices have risen in this district in recent years, with demand highest in the upper parts of Rózsavölgy. The area is popular with artists and musicians.


City living in Pest

PestDistrict 5

Budapest's District 5 (Belváros) is as central as it gets. Apartments are the favoured choice of accommodation here. Belváros is close to restaurants, bars, pubs and shopping centres, as well as the main banking and financial district, and even Hungary’s parliament buildings. District 5 also plays host to other popular attractions like St Stephen's Basilica and the Soviet War Memorial – so during the high tourist season, this district can be busy. Because of its central location, accommodation in Belváros tends to be more expensive and generally smaller than in other areas.

District 6

District 6 (Terézváros) is great for expats who enjoy cultural entertainment. It is close to the Liszt School of Music and the Budapest Opera House. Public transportation in this district is a breeze and there are a number of shopping and nightlife options within easy walking distance of one another. However, Terézváros also has its downside; a number of small alleyways in the area are home to many potentially seedy pubs and bars and noise levels can be irritating.

District 7

Historically, District 7 (Erzsébetváros) was home to Budapest’s Jewish population. Currently, there are still a number of beautiful synagogues in the area as well as the city’s medical and veterinary universities. District 7 is a hip and trendy area and young expats are sure to enjoy the neighbourhood's bars, design shops and speciality cafés.

District 13

District 13 (Angyalföld and Újlipótváros) is a clean and well-kept area in downtown Budapest. The city has spent a lot of money improving the area and setting up a paved pathway alongside the river. The area has a number of malls and shopping centres and is conveniently close to the business district; however, all the international schools are located on the opposite side of the river, which can pose a problem for families with kids.

Healthcare in Budapest

Healthcare in Budapest, like that of greater Hungary, is highly effective, reputable and usually affordable. These aspects have begun to attract medical tourists to the country, especially for dental care and elective procedures.

Expats in Budapest that are employed by a local company can make use of Hungary’s public healthcare system, which covers most medical costs.

Many expats make use of the numerous private hospitals and clinics in Budapest, as this guarantees high-quality medical services and personnel who speak English.

Below are some of the most reputable hospitals and clinics in Budapest.


Private hospitals and clinics in Budapest

Rózsakert Medical Center

Address: Gábor Áron u. 74-78, 1026
Website: www.rmc.hu

Dr Rose Medical Center   

Address: Széchenyi István tér 7, 1051
Website: www.drrose.hu

Buda Health Center

Address: Nagy Jenő u. 8, 1126
Website: www.en.bhc.hu

FirstMed

Address: Hattyú u. 14, 1015
Website: www.firstmedcenters.com

Education and Schools in Budapest

Expats certainly won’t have to worry about a shortage of quality education in Budapest. Hungarians value education highly, sometimes even placing excessive stress on parents and children. Both local and international schools in Budapest therefore provide a high standard of education.


Public schools in Budapest  

Public schools in Budapest are funded by the government and can be attended at no cost, although parents will need to pay for books, stationery and other equipment.

If space permits, local schools will allow expats to enrol, but this can be a difficult environment for a non-Hungarian speaking child. However, if the move to Hungary is permanent, expats may find public schools an ideal way for their children to immerse themselves in the notoriously difficult Hungarian language as early as possible.


Bilingual schools in Budapest

There are many schools in Budapest that offer bilingual education.

Public schools offering bilingual programmes include the Chinese-Hungarian School, Lemhenyi Dezso English-Hungarian Bilingual Primary School, and the Serbian Kindergarten, Primary School, High School and Students' Home.

Many international schools also offer bilingual teaching. The SEK Budapest International School, for example, is run privately. Although rather pricey to attend, it has the unique distinction of being an officially trilingual school where students are taught in Spanish, English and Hungarian.


Religious schools in Budapest

Budapest has public as well as private religious schools. Public religious schools in Hungary tend to be better equipped than regular public schools, and they usually have more comprehensive facilities. This is because public religious schools are funded by both the government and the church. As a result, these schools can fill up quickly so parents should apply early to avoid disappointment.

Private religious schools include international schools such as Greater Grace Christian Academy and the International Christian School of Budapest. Like other international schools, fees at these schools can be painfully high. However, parents who want their children to be taught in a religious environment but aren't willing to send them to a non-English school might find this to be worth the extra cost.


International schools in Budapest

Most expats in Budapest choose international schools for continuity of syllabus and language, as well as for cultural diversity and ease of making friends.

There are often waiting lists for international schools in Budapest, so expats are advised to contact schools as soon as possible to apply for a place and find out if there are entrance or assessment exams. Some schools may ask for reference letters from previous schools, as well as past grade reports. Children may also be requested to come in for an interview.

Expat parents relocating for work purposes should try to negotiate an education allowance as part of their relocation package to help bear the high fees of international schools.


Special-needs education in Budapest

Expat parents of children with special needs need not fret, as Budapest schools (be they mainstream or specialised schools, depending on the severity of the disabilities) are well set up to cater for any disabilities or behavioural issues. Children with special needs are assessed by an education rehabilitation committee. The committee can either recommend that the student is placed in a specialised class or institution, or propose integration into mainstream education. According to the Act on Equal Opportunities, parents have the right to be involved in any decisions that are made.

Presently in Hungary, children with special needs are integrated into the education system in the following ways: an inclusive mainstream class, a special class in a mainstream school or in a special school. Children with special educational needs may start elementary school at the age of 8 at the latest.


Tutoring in Budapest

Many expat and local parents in Hungary opt to have their children tutored. Tutoring is helpful in cases where children need assistance in specific subject areas such as maths, science or Hungarian; studying for important entrance exams; or for learners with learning difficulties. An excellent tutoring company in Budapest is Tutoroo, where parents can browse and find the perfect fit for their child's needs.

Pre-school and childcare in Budapest

For expats whose children are pre-schoolers, there are numerous kindergartens and nursery schools in Budapest, especially in the 2nd and 12th districts. 

Below is a list of international kindergartens in Budapest that are popular with expat parents.


Pre-schools and kindergartens in Budapest

Apple Tree Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational
Teaching language: English
Ages: 1.5 to 6 years
Website: www.appletree-kindergarten.hu

The English Garden

Gender: Co-educational
Teaching language: English
Ages: 4 months to 7 years
Website: www.englishgarden.hu

Happy Kids Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational
Teaching language: English
Ages: 1.5 to 7 years
Website: www.happykids.hu

Planet Kids Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational
Teaching language: English
Ages: 2 to 5 years
Website: www.planet-kids.hu

Plum Pudding Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational
Teaching language: English
Ages: 1 to 5 years
Website: www.plumpudding.hu

Under the Rainbow Pre-school and Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational 
Teaching language: English
Ages: 1.5 to 7 years
Website: www.undertherainbow.hu

International Schools in Budapest

There are a number of international schools in Budapest. These schools offer a high standard of education, but are expensive, and there are often waiting lists, so expats moving to Budapest should plan well in advance. The majority of these schools offer the International Baccalaureate, British or American curriculum.

Below is a list of the most popular international schools in Budapest.


International schools in Budapest

American International School of Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aisb.hu

The British International School Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.nordangliaeducation.com

Britannica International School Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and IGCSE
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.britannicaschool.hu 

English School Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.englishschool.hu

Greater Grace International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Christian/Independent
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ggis.hu

International School of Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and Hungarian National Curriculum
Ages: 5 to 14
Website: www.isb.hu

REAL School Budapest

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum:  English National Curriculum 
Ages: 6 to 13
Website: www.realschool.eu

Lifestyle in Budapest

Budapest is a beautiful and inspiring city fast regaining its status as a creative hub in the heart of Europe. With incredible architecture and a rich cultural heritage, Hungary’s capital deserves its reputation as the 'Paris of Central Europe'. The picturesque setting on both sides of the Danube, the nine connecting bridges and the villas and public buildings all make Budapest easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.


Shopping in Budapest

For the shopaholic who wants a bit of everything, the malls in Budapest have a lot to offer. Some of the most popular include the WestEnd City Center, Corvin Plaza and the Mammut Shopping and Entertainment Centre, where a combination of familiar international brands and local shops can be found.

While there are many international brands in Budapest, young Hungarian designers offer an exciting shopping alternative. Király Street is known as Budapest's 'Design Street'. Here, expats can visit local fashion boutiques and browse the numerous home design shops full of locally made furniture. 


Nightlife in Budapest

Hungarian wine is highly underrated and, aside from the well-known Tokaji, the country boasts a number of great wines. Expats can head to the city’s numerous wine bars to sample various wines in beautiful surroundings, such as the area around the famous St Stephen's Basilica.

Expats in Budapest should be sure to try out the city’s infamous 'ruin' bars. Built in abandoned buildings in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, these bars have taken a largely minimalist approach to decor and setting and have become a defining symbol of Budapest culture. Each bar has its own distinct personality, with an eclectic mix of art and design, and diverse music and decor.


Eating out in Budapest

Expats looking to eat out in Budapest should banish all images of grey and unappetising goulash, as the city has an amazing array of restaurants catering to both local and international tastes. Downtown offers the most variety, where expats can find almost anything.

Those looking for global flavours will be spoilt for choice, as the city offers a variety of international restaurants, including Mexican, Italian, Chinese and American. Those looking for something local can sample authentic Hungarian cuisine, which is famed for its stews and pastries. 

Drinking coffee is a serious business in Budapest and, as such, there are many great coffee houses where expats can watch the world go by while savouring the finest blends. Downtown Budapest houses many coffee shops and cafés that are always full of locals, students and entrepreneurs, and can be a perfect place to sit and enjoy some coffee.

See and Do in Budapest

Frequently heralded as the most beautiful city in Europe, Budapest has plenty to offer expats and locals alike throughout the year. As the city has such a rich and complex history, much of what expats can see and do in Budapest is bound to fascinate those eager to learn more about its past.

The scenery of Budapest in itself can be considered an attraction, and expats can enjoy roaming the city on foot to soak up its sights and sounds. Whether keen to learn about the city's communist past or explore its cultural heritage, expats in Budapest will be spoilt for choice.

Below are some of the best attractions in Budapest for expats to explore.


Recommended attractions in Budapest

The Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building is perhaps the most famous and most striking building in Budapest. Located on the Pest side of the river, stunning views of the building can be enjoyed from the opposite bank. Expats who book in advance can join one of the frequent tours, where they can see the inner workings of the Hungarian parliament and inspect the crown jewels of the first king of Hungary. 

Heroes’ Square

Expats can take the world's second-oldest underground line to Heroes’ Square where they can view statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian leaders. This is an ideal trip for art lovers, as Heroes' Square is ensconced between the Museum of Fine Art on one side and the Hall of Arts on the other.

St Stephen’s Basilica

This impressive basilica is over a century old and is, along with the Hungarian Parliament Building, the tallest building in Budapest. Here visitors can view the revered Holy Right (St Stephen's mummified right hand). At certain times of year, the basilica's dome can be accessed, which offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city.

Hungarian State Opera House

This historic opera house is halfway along the tree-lined Andrassy Avenue. One of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe, the Hungarian State Opera House is also known for its excellent acoustics, so it's well worth attending any of the various performances staged here. 

Citadella

A climb up to the Citadella on top of Gellért Hill allows expats the opportunity to see the magnificent Liberation Monument and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Budapest.

The Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter, in the 7th district, houses delectable eateries and pubs. A walk along Falk Miksa Street offers expats a chance to browse numerous art galleries and antique stores. The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street is not to be missed, as it is the second-largest synagogue in the world and is an extraordinarily beautiful building.

Memento Park

For a trip back in time, expats can visit the communist statues in Memento Park. These eerie figures of Lenin, Marx, Engels and others are frozen reminders of Hungary’s Soviet past.

Hungarian National Museum

Expats keen on brushing up on and discovering the depth and colour of Hungary’s vast history should make sure to visit the National Museum. The museum itself is a token of historical interest, as it was founded in 1802 and played a pivotal role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

What's On in Budapest

There is certainly no shortage of festivals and celebrations for expats to enjoy in Budapest throughout the year. Events and festivals are also a great opportunity for expats to make friends and mingle with locals.

Here are some of the most popular events in Hungary's bustling capital city.


Annual events in Budapest

Gluttonous Thursday (February or March)

Also known as Torkos Csütörtökthis ever-popular festival marks the last days before fasting begins for Lent. During Gluttonous Thursday hungry residents can enjoy half-price dishes and drinks from all participating restaurants. Those with an appetite should book a table well in advance, as indulgence abounds and most restaurants will be full.

Budapest Spring Festival (March)

This internationally renowned cultural festival takes over Budapest for two weeks at the end of every March. Events and activities during the Budapest Spring Festival include jazz, opera and orchestral performances, not to mention dancing events, a chess festival and a designated day of puppetry for the children.

Pálinka Festival (May)

Pálinka is a traditional fruit brandy and is something that all expats in Budapest should sample at least once. The Pálinka festival at the end of May provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Apart from the drink, expats are sure to enjoy the charming celebrations dedicated to Hungary's favourite spirit. Every year a particular blend is chosen as the Pálinka of the Year and many distillers gather to showcase their wares and make a toast or two. There are also live music performances and plenty of street food stalls to line festival-goers' stomachs.

Craft Beer Festival (June) 

Craft beer enthusiasts will love this Budapest festival, which celebrates the intricacy and variation of their favourite beverage. Expats attending the event should be sure to sample ‘Korty’, a Hungarian speciality beer that is rarely available on tap. Known locally as Főzdefeszt, the festival also attracts a variety of street food stalls, so expats will be able to complement their brews with a tasty meal.

Statehood Celebrations (August)

The anniversary of Hungary's statehood is celebrated with a literal bang on 20 August each year as a huge fireworks display takes place over the Danube River. This gorgeous display can be viewed from all over the city, but is best seen from alongside the river, from Gellért Hill near the Citadel, or even from the river itself, as special fireworks cruises are offered. The celebrations begin on 19 August (the day before the fireworks) with music concerts and food stalls galore. The festivities include magnificent processions and a breathtaking air show during the daytime before the fireworks begin after dark.

Sweet Days Chocolate Festival (September)

Every September, Budapest caters for those with a sweet tooth with this festival of all things chocolate. Sweet Days involves a variety of chocolate companies presenting their range of products, as well as activities for the kids and chocolate-making courses for adults.

Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival (October)

Previously known as the Budapest Autumn Festival, Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival is Hungary’s biggest arts festival by far. It includes exhibitions, concerts, performances and workshops held throughout the city for most of October. The face of contemporary art in Hungary for over 20 years, this celebration is not to be missed.

Frequently Asked Questions about Budapest

There is so much to consider when planning a move to Budapest, and expats are sure to wonder about many aspects of life in their new city. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about expat life in Budapest.

Is Budapest safe?

Crime rates in Budapest, and across Hungary, are relatively low. Expats should avoid leaving valuables unattended as petty crime, although rare, does occur in tourist areas. Tourist scams have also been known to occur, in which taxis and restaurants overcharge for their services.

What’s the public transport like in Budapest?

Budapest is famed for its cheap and extensive public transport system consisting of buses, trains, trams, trolley-buses and a metro system. Alternatively, expats looking to enjoy the city on two wheels will be pleased to know that Budapest is a largely flat and cycle-friendly city. 

Is it expensive to live in Budapest?

Budapest, with its cheap public transport, healthcare and groceries, is considered to be more affordable than many cities in Europe. On the other hand, salaries in Budapest are lower than in other European cities, while utilities are comparatively expensive. Of course, like in any city, an individual's cost of living in Budapest will depend on lifestyle. 

What’s the healthcare like in Budapest? 

Healthcare in Budapest is of a high standard. Expats working for a Hungarian company will be registered with the Health Insurance Fund, ensuring free access to public healthcare. Although public health doctors are excellent, the public health sector is understaffed, which leads to long waiting times for care. Otherwise, expats can opt to use one of Budapest’s relatively affordable and well-respected private facilities.

Getting Around in Budapest

Budapest has an extensive transport system consisting of buses, trolley-buses, trams, a metro system and taxis. It is therefore quite easy for expats to get around in Budapest, which is split by the Danube River into two areas, Buda and Pest. There are numerous landmarks in the city, which expats can use to orient themselves, including the Royal Castle and the various bridges crossing the Danube.


Public transport in Budapest

Public transport in Budapest is managed by the Budapest Transport Limited Company (BKV). Their website provides useful information on ticketing, schedules and routes for all of the city’s public transport. Different modes of transport are assigned different colours: trams are yellow, trolley-buses are red, buses are blue and trains are green.

Ticketing system

Tickets for public transport in Budapest are valid for all means of public transport, including the metro, buses, trams, trolley-buses and trains. There are different ticket options available, from single to multiple-journey tickets, which often work out more cost effective. Discounts apply to certain passenger groups, such as pensioners and students. Tickets can be purchased at ticket kiosks at metro and train stations, newspaper stands and ticket-vending machines.

Trains

Budapest’s suburban railway lines (HÉV) connect central Budapest with several suburbs. Regular public transport tickets are only available on trains within the city limits; those planning to travel to the outskirts of Budapest are advised to purchase a supplementary ticket at the train station.

Metro

Budapest has four metro lines that collectively span most of the city. All of the lines meet at Deák Tér station in central Pest. The metro operates daily from 5am until around 11pm.

Buses

Budapest has an extensive bus network connecting the city’s suburbs with several metro and train stations as well as the city centre. Buses in Budapest are a particularly popular form of transport and there are also several night bus routes.

Trams

Budapest has over 25 tram lines. While these are a slower means of getting around Budapest than alternative public transport options, they do offer a more scenic trip around the city. Some tram lines operate throughout the night.

Trolley-buses

There are trolley-bus routes operating in northeast and central Pest. Trolley-buses look much like normal buses but are powered by electrical lines. Trolley-buses in Budapest are all numbered, starting from 70 and offer passengers a scenic and eco-friendly journey.


Taxis in Budapest

There are a number of taxi companies operating in the city. Taxis offer a fast and reasonably cheap way of getting around Budapest. Not all taxi drivers will be able to speak English, so it’s a good idea for expats to have their destination written down in Hungarian to show the driver and avoid any confusion. Although taxis can be hailed on the street, it often works out cheaper to call ahead and order a taxi in advance.

Hungarian legislature has suspended ridesharing apps such as Uber. However, app-based transport services such as Fotaxi, City Taxi and the Taxify operate in Budapest. As these services follow Hungarian regulation, fares are the same as traditional taxi services.


Driving in Budapest

Traffic in Budapest is often heavy and parking can be a problem. It’s not always easy for expats driving in Budapest to find their way around the city, and it may take some time to become orientated and familiar with the road system. With the extensive and effective public transport system, expats living in Budapest may find it altogether unnecessary to even own a car.

Cars in Hungary drive on the right-hand side of the road. Hungary has zero tolerance when it comes to drinking and driving, and road blocks and checks by traffic police are fairly common.


Cycling in Budapest

Cycling, both as a form of recreation and as a form of personal transport, is becoming more popular in Budapest. There are many scenic routes and beautiful hilly areas, mostly in Buda, that can be explored by bicycle, including a cycle-friendly route running alongside the Danube River. Pest is mostly flat, which makes urban cycling an easy and convenient way of getting from place to place.

Budapest also has a successful bike-share system in place, and the city has nearly 125 miles (200km) of bike lanes and cycle paths. 

Bicycles can be transported on selected trains (those marked with a bicycle icon on the timetable) for an extra fee.


Walking in Budapest

Budapest is ideal for exploring on foot, with many of its most famous attractions within easy walking distance of one another. However, for longer distances expats may need to use another mode of transport.

Pedestrians should note that many sidewalks are shared with cyclists. If a pedestrian is obstructing a cyclist's path, the cyclist will usually alert them by ringing their bicycle bell. Cars are usually respectful of pedestrians, but caution should nonetheless be taken around cars.

Most who visit Budapest find it a safe environment for walking around, even after dark, but expats should nevertheless remain on the lookout for pickpockets and always keep their valuables out of sight.