Hi! My name is Katya. This past fall I managed to get cheap plane tickets to Budapest. After I bought them, I wondered whether I’d be able to have a budget vacation and spend only €100.
Budapest is a good city for an experiment like this because the cost of doing things there is not that high, so I decided to take the risk. And now it’s time to tell Bright Side readers about the results.
Day 1: Just get us out of the airport!
Having studied tons of articles about Budapest before the trip, I was well aware of how to buy a ticket for any kind of transportation, including shuttle buses that would take us from the airport to the metro station that we needed. This video was the most helpful. We decided not to carry any cash with us and just pay by card everywhere. However, the ticket kiosk had other plans — it somehow locked itself and we couldn’t pay for our tickets for 20 minutes. We even tried to get some help from one of the airport’s employees, but we had to use gestures to speak to him, because he didn’t speak English. Here is a life hack: the card your using should be inserted and pulled out quickly. If you keep it inside for a longer period, the payments will automatically be canceled.
An important note! You can buy a single ticket, a ticket for 3 rides, a ticket for a week, and so on (more details here). But if you buy a Budapest travelcard, the cost of all public transportation will be included in it. The Budapest card has other advantages too: free entry to some museums and discounts for visiting the thermal baths, shows, observation decks, and other attractions. If you are planning to visit several museums and use public transportation, getting this card will save you money.
There were 3 of us on the trip to Budapest and we rented an apartment on Airbnb. It turned out to be much cheaper than a hostel. It also had a kitchen and a separate bathroom which is another big advantage over a hostel. We paid €120 for a 4-person apartment for 4 nights. This amount was divided into equal parts, which means that each of us paid €40 (€10 per night). The apartment looked exactly how it looked in the photos on the site — it was very compact, but comfortable. As we understood, 2-level studios are a normal thing in Budapest.
After we checked into the apartment, we went for a walk. On the first evening, we decided to walk to the Parliament building and have a nice dinner. We didn’t make a list of places to eat at beforehand which is why we chose the place for our first dinner according to the reviews on Google maps. We tried a classic goulash and a goulash with kidney beans that were brought to us in funny buckets (see the photo below). They contained so much soup that we could hardly move after finishing dinner.
After that, we went to look at the Parliament building. There were almost no tourists there at this time (around 8 p.m.) so we could enjoy the impressive views without seeing big crowds.
In the evening, we visited a local supermarket and bought several chocolate bars, croissants, and drinking water. The prices in the supermarket didn’t differ much from the prices in my hometown.
Money spent during the day:
- 24-hour Budapest travelcard — 1,650 forints / €5.20
- Goulash — 1,100 forints / €3.50
- KitKat bar — 179 forints / €0.50
- Water — 125 forints / 0.40
Day 2: Even the pedometer got tired.
In the morning, we had some sweets left over from yesterday. We also brought instant oatmeal with us — so we had breakfast in the apartment. After that, we had a plan to visit one of the most famous tourist places in Budapest — Fisherman’s Bastion. We figured out our route with the help of Google Maps and it showed that we needed to take 2 buses to get there. The whole trip took 30 minutes.
In fact, 20-30 minutes would be enough to get familiar with all the places of interest in this area. They don’t charge any money for entry to the observation decks and bridges during low-season (which is in the fall and winter) so we enjoyed all the views for free. They all show an astonishing view of the city. If we had gone there during high-season, we would have had to pay for it — we saw some turnstiles that look like they start their work in the spring.
There is a Starbucks located near Fisherman’s Bastion and we went there to have a snack and get some energy before visiting the next location. The prices at this particular Starbucks were higher than in others — and we intentionally visited other cafes from this chain on the way to the next destination to compare prices. Maybe it’s because it’s located in the touristic area.
We walked down from Fisherman’s Bastion to the central street and decided to stroll along it. Google showed that there would be a pretty famous park next to the Royal Castle, so we decided to go there. We walked by the entrance several times because it looked like an ordinary front door to a museum from the outside.
Here we are in the middle of our way and I’m “enthusiastically” measuring the distance we have left to cover.
After visiting the park, we decided to use the last 30 minutes that were left on our travelcards and went to Margaret Island by tram. We also stopped by a supermarket and bought some sweets and dried sausages. We had a snack on the island, sitting in the park, and enjoying the river view. The lunch was great.
We walked our way back on foot because we decided to not buy the travelcard for the next day. We had become pretty hungry after having spent about 2 hours in the park. It had also gotten dark and all the cafes we saw on the way either didn’t have a menu in English or didn’t accept cards. So, make sure to take some cash with you, even if you have plans to pay for everything with your card. Finally we ended up at a Chinese restaurant with affordable prices.
We had an Italian waitress and a Chinese waiter. Sometimes they didn’t understand our English and we communicated via Google Translator. My husband and I ordered one portion of soya sauce chicken with rice for both of us. That was a good decision because we hardly managed to finish what was on our plates. All the portions in Hungary are so huge. Make sure to start with one portion for 2 people when you visit this country.
Before going home, we visited Sugar! — one of the most famous pastry shops in Budapest. It sells a lot of packaged sweets and lollipops by weight, as well as macaroons and cakes.
The average price for a cake varies between 700 and1,300 forints (€2-4). Each of us bought one piece of cake for breakfast.
Money spent during the day:
- Coffee, croissant, and chocolate chip cookies at Starbucks — 3,180 forints / €10
- Waffles from a supermarket — 219 forints / €0.70
- Dried sausages — 219 forints / €0.70
- Dinner at the Chinese restaurant — 1,000 forints / €3.15
- A piece of cake from Sugar! — 890 forints / €2.80
Day 3: A lot of delicious food
In the morning we set off en route to Vajdahunyad Castle, that we found on Google maps. On our way to this place, we saw a coffee shop and got ourselves coffee to go, since we had already been feeling pretty hungry because of the 30-minute walk. In coffee shops that are located a little further from the center of the city, coffee costs about 350 forints (€1.10), and a sandwich costs about 500-600 forints (€1.60-1.90). If converted to the currency from my country, the prices are the same as in the coffee houses of my hometown.
You need to allot a couple of hours for getting familiar with the park around the castle. There are special maps of its territory that show exactly where you are located. There is also a place called Heroes’ Square at the entrance to the park.
Having walked in the park, we headed to For Sale Pub — one of the most popular places in Budapest. We had planned this part of the visit in advance.
Side note: You can create a water whirl with your own hands right in the middle of the street (see the picture below). And it’s free!
Across the street from For Sale Pub there is the Great Market Hall — one of the biggest markets in Budapest with street food, souvenirs, and local products. We stopped by there before visiting the pub, but decided to come back after dinner. Spoiler: we couldn’t do that because the market is only open until 6 p.m., and on some days it might close even earlier. Anyway, For Sale Pub met all of our expectations!
My husband and I ordered one portion for both of us and paid 4,390 forints (€14). It wasn’t the cheapest option but the menu said that one portion includes potatoes, salad, and 3 types of meat. The waiter asked politely whether we were making an order for 2 and nodded having gotten a positive answer. We were brought an enormous amount of food. Everything that you see in the picture below in our hands, including half the cabbage with the other vegetables is one portion split onto 2 plates.
Of course, we didn’t manage to finish the food on our plates and were actually pretty happy about it when we had a good breakfast with all the food we took with us the next morning. Another feature of this pub is the free peanuts that are brought to the table in a huge basket. It’s because of these that you stop feeling hungry before you get your order. You can even throw the shells right on the floor.
That’s the bill for 3 people: 2,490 forints for pasta, 660 forints for a glass of beer, 4,390 forints for my husband’s and my dish. Since we shared it, I wrote down 2,195 forints to add to my expenses.
We walked back home enjoying the views of the evening which consisted of views of the city of Budapest and the streets we accidentally found. On the way back we saw a cafe that offered ice cream in the shape of roses and I couldn’t resist.
Instead of the observation wheel, we walked up Gellert Hill, which has an amazing observation deck. The wheel actually looks so small from this vantage point, which means that it was not in vain that we saved 3,000 forints. Our feet were not feeling happy about so much walking, but we definitely burned the calories gained during our dinner at For Sale Pub.
Money spent during the day:
- Coffee + sandwich — 1,150 forints / €3.50
- Meal at For Sale Pub — 2,195 forints / €7
- Ice cream — 800 forints / €2.50
Day 4: Spa day!
On the fourth day, in the morning we went to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. These baths are considered to be the most popular, but there are also many others to choose from. By the way, you can visit the Lukács Thermal Bath for free if you buy the Budapest travelcard. We had compared different baths and decided to visit Széchenyi Thermal Baths because they were more popular, and they have more baths and more interesting decorations. This is what the Lukács Thermal Baths look like:
Entry to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths costs 5,200 forints per person (about €16). Towels and gowns are not included in the price. There are closed cabins inside where you can change your clothes and personal lockers, for keeping valuables, that are opened with the help of a magnetic bracelet.
There are lap pools and ordinary swimming pools outside. Wearing a swim cap in the lap pools is obligatory. People swim in them even in late autumn and winter. The water is very warm, but running from the swimming pool back to the deck chair is pretty cold.
There are more than 15 swimming pools with different temperatures, as well as many saunas. Here’s what one of the swimming pools inside looks like:
We spent about 7 hours in thermal baths and tried almost all of the saunas and swimming pools. Give yourself no less than 3 hours for this activity. In the middle of our swimming time, we got hungry and had lunch in the local canteen at pretty affordable prices.
After the baths, we bought a 24-hour Budapest travelcard for the current day and the next day so that we could get to the airport. That’s why this time we took a bus to get to the apartment to change our clothes.
Another thing on our to-do list during this trip was to ride a ferry. Paid water trips on ferries cost around €30 but, thanks to the reviews from other tourists on the net, we learned about the riverboats and ferries, which are considered public transport. As we had figured out, there is only one ferry, the D11 ferry, that commutes in the fall and winter. We studied the timetable, and headed to the ferry stop that we had chosen. These ferries are very beautiful inside and it’s hard to believe that you can ride them for free with a travelcard. They have bars and observation decks.
An important note! You should learn the ferry’s timetable in advance. I checked it on Google Maps: when pressing the icon for the boat in the app, Google shows the time the next ferry is going to arrive. The gap is pretty big, at least in the winter, so you need to plan your boat trip well in advance. We arrived at the station 7 minutes before the ferry arrived. It arrived 3 minutes earlier than the indicated time, and just picked us up and left. Had we arrived according to the timetable, we would’ve missed it.
Our trip finished at the ferry stop that is the closest to Szimpla Kert — one of the first and most legendary ruin-pubs in Budapest. These pubs were built in abandoned buildings because they were cheap. Today they have become part of the national heritage and look very impressive. Szimpla turned out to be huge (the right photo shows its mini-map and it only shows the first floor). Though there were no free places to sit at, we were able to walk through all the halls and look around.
In the evening we went to the supermarket and bought croissants for breakfast and an evening snack. We had to get going at around 11 a.m. in the morning, so we had enough time to have breakfast and pack our luggage before starting our trip to the airport the next morning.
Money spent during the day:
- Tickets to thermal baths — 5,200 forints / €16
- Travelcard — 1,650 forints / €5.20
- Lunch at the thermal baths — 1,836 forints / €5.80
- 2 croissants — 340 forints / €1.60
In total I spent €70 in 4 days. If we add €40 for renting the accommodation, we get a little more than €100. It would’ve been possible to not go beyond the budget of €100 if we reduced our expenses by not going to Starbucks. We could’ve bought a sandwich and a cappuccino from a supermarket, instead of a seasonal and more expensive drink with a topping and whipped cream. Anyway, €110 is a pretty good result taking into account that we were able to do everything we planned.
Are you the one who prefers to have a budget when you take trips or the one who’d rather not cut down on anything during your vacation? Tell us your preference in the comments!
Preview photo credit Christo / commons.wikimedia.org