Budapest is a budget traveler’s dream, with affordable accommodation and plenty of free things to see and do. With beautiful architecture, stunning outdoor spaces and delicious food and drink, a trip to the Hungarian capital can be enjoyed for next to nothing. Here are our pointers on how to make the most of the city on a shoestring.
Getting Into Budapest
Start saving money the moment you touch down in Budapest by choosing to take public transport into the city. From the airport, a bus and metro journey will take you straight into the centre – check out the BKK website for more information and timetables.
Public transport in Budapest is not expensive, from group passes to 24 hour travel card, there are a number of ticket options to help you make the most of your time in the city. Alternatively, the Budapest Card is a pass allowing you unlimited travel for either 24, 48 or 72 hours. It also offers free entrance to a number of museums as well as to the Lukas Thermal baths. If you’re planning an activity packed trip, it could be worth the money.
Tip: Keep an eye on the time at which your travel pass ends.
Choose to Walk
During the warmer weather Budapest is easy to explore by foot thanks to the proximity of its main attractions. If you’re on a tight budget, choosing to walk rather than take public transport will save you money and allow you to see more of the city as you go. Opt for the occasional single ticket and plan the rest of your trip by foot.
Explore Budapest’s Free Culture
A number of Budapest’s most iconic sights are totally free to visit. St Stephen’s Basilica, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes Square and the Chain Bridge can all be seen and experienced with no admission fees while the exterior of Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament Building are also free to admire.
Tip: A number of museums in the city offer free entrance on selected days throughout the year. Keep an eye on their websites to find out when these are.
Go on a Free Walking Tour
To get an insight into the history of the city and tick off a few major sights at the same time, free walking tours are a great chance to get a local’s view on Budapest. With a number of areas covered, from a comprehensive tour of Buda and Pest to a Communism Walk offering an overview of life in Hungary during the Communist era, it’s a great way to see the city and learn about its history, for free!
Parks & Recreation
If the weather allows, head outdoors. Budapest offers a number of great parks and green areas to explore. Make the trip into the Buda hills to take in panoramic views of the city from Normafa and the Elizabeth Lookout Tower; or stay in the centre and take a walk around Margaret Island or City Park for an escape to (relatively) natural surroundings. Pack a picnic for a budget meal in a beautiful setting.
Eat Like a Local
Opting for local specialties is a great way to experience Budapest’s culinary culture and stick well within your budget. Lángos, a fried bread traditionally topped with sour cream and cheese, is a must. Head to Retró Büfé Lángos at the entrance to the Arany Janos metro station for authentic, well priced fare.
Retró Büfé Lángos, Podmaniczky Frigyes tér 4, Budapest, Hungary +36 20 345 3525
Choose the Daily Menu
Eating and drinking in Budapest won’t break the bank, and there’s no reason not to enjoy the city’s many great restaurants for fear of going over budget. For an affordable lunch option, many restaurants offer a daily menu allowing patrons to enjoy 2 or 3 courses at a fixed price: these are often significantly cheaper than ordering from the main menu and no less delicious!
Shop at a Local Market
Food markets in Budapest are a great way to experience life as a local while picking up something cheap and tasty to eat. The Great Market Hall is the city’s most iconic and while it’s well worth a visit, heading to lesser frequented markets could allow for a more budget friendly experience. Lehel Ter Market can be found near Nyugati Train Station and a visit will see you rubbing shoulders with locals as they pick up their weekly groceries.
Lehel Market, Váci út 9, Budapest, Hungary +36 1 288 6898
Budapest offers plenty of great hotels which don’t need to cost the earth, but those on a budget could save money by going for alternative accommodation. If you are traveling alone staying in a hostel is a great way to spend less and meet fellow travelers. Look out for those which offer a kitchen area in which to cook, a great way to save money on eating out for every meal. Larger groups can split the cost of renting an apartment as an affordable option.