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Hungary, in particular Budapest, has become increasingly popular for expats over the last few years. The capital city itself has been drawing in scores of emigrants with its fine balance of work opportunities, culture and a much lower cost of living than you would see in Western European capitals like Paris, London or Berlin. So whether you’re moving to Hungary for love or working as a digital nomad and looking for somewhere new to call home, here’s everything you need to know about moving to Hungary.
Picking a part of the country to live in will be your first item of business, though it’s likely you’ll want to stick to central Budapest, “Pest,” for at least the first few months as you get your bearings. The problem is, without knowing the language, this first step of the process can be a little limiting and hard to really know what you’re getting into.
There are a number of Facebook groups that will advertise rental properties, but it’s important to be vigilant. If it’s priced in euros then that’s your first warning sign; this is typically the Westerner price and likely more than the property is worth.
Try to get a sense of the market, which you can do through the English portion of Duna House, one of the biggest real estate agencies in the city. This will help you get a better understanding of what is a fair asking price for the size and location. Remember that the number of rooms isn’t solely bedrooms, but any additional enclosed space including a living room.
Through these channels, you should have no problem finding someone who speaks English, at least in the larger cities with a consistent student population. The most important thing, however, is once you’ve found a place you’re happy with, be sure to get a tenancy contract. This will be necessary when you’re registering as living in Hungary, but it’ll also protect you from unscrupulous landlords.
The next thing to do is get a local phone number, and if all you’re doing is getting a pay-as-you-go SIM card then it’ll be enough just go to Telekom (T-Mobile to the Brits), Vodafone or Telenor. Find a larger store in a mall or near a central square like Deák, and you’ll have no problem finding a store assistant that speaks English.
You’ll at least need some form of ID, so bring your passport or driver’s license. Additionally some companies may ask for proof of your address, so bring your tenancy agreement or any bills that you might have received there, so long as they’re in your name.
If your coming to Hungary without a job, then naturally this will be one of your first tasks. Luckily a number of big name multinational companies have offices here, so finding opportunities within your field of expertise should not be too difficult.
There are a selection of websites where you’ll find adverts for English-language work, as well as the primary portal for work in Hungary, Profession.hu. While this last choice doesn’t have an English option, you’ll still be able to find English-only work with a little help from the translate function in your browser.
Alternatively, there are a selection of agencies that can help find work with a range of specialisations. Failing that, joining any of the more popular expat Facebook groups could end up scoring you a job since headhunters and agencies often post jobs there too. LinkedIn is certainly a good option for multinational work as well.
If you’re planning on staying in Hungary for an extended period of time, you should certainly consider opening a bank account to save on extortionate conversion fees. This step should be considered mandatory if you’re planning on getting a job here.
Many banks, such as K&H, won’t allow you to open an account without a lakcímkártya, a card you’ll receive upon officially registering as living in Hungary. If you can’t wait until the drawn out process of registering is done, then try a bank like Raiffeisen, which is a little more relaxed about its regulations.
One thing to note is that banking isn’t free in Hungary. Typically there are various fees for using a bank account, which can range from a commission on transferring money or a monthly charge to even a fee whenever you withdraw money. Some accounts waive or reduce these costs with particular account types, usually whenever a regular amount of money is paid into the account each month.
Of course one of the most important things will be to get out and meet new people, and while you might get some of that from your new job, there are other ways of doing so. This is where Facebook will be most helpful, allowing you to discover events that are happening or for you to post on various groups to find people who are in the same situation.
In particular there is International Meeting Point, whose entire purpose is to help expats meet others, socialise, and make new friends. For those who are more adventurous, the city’s nightlife is very welcoming. Heading to any of the popular bars is bound to be fruitful.
Alternatively, there are websites that can help like Couchsurfing.com, where you’ll be able to discover regular meet-ups or browse the forums for those also looking for social connections. There’s also InterNations, which allows users to sign up to groups based on particular interests, to help expats find other like-minded individuals.
Finding a general practitioner in Hungary will be hard without some knowledge of Hungarian, even if you’re looking for an English-speaking doctor. You won’t actually be able to make use of such services until you receive your TAJ kártya, a national insurance card, which you can only get once you start working for a Hungarian company.
As a result, most expats sign up for private services like FirstMed, Swiss Clinic or Mediclinic. This will cost more, but the services are professional and cover a broad spectrum of health needs.
For Europeans moving to Hungary, it’s important to get a hold of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before moving here. This will at least entitle you to make use of emergency services (call 112) should you need them.
For less serious ailments, you can simply look for a pharmacy, or gyógyszertár. It’s not certain which pharmacists will be able to speak English, but there are a number of them throughout the city, so finding one that can help shouldn’t be too much of a bother.
If you’re a European that’s part of the Schengen zone, then there aren’t too many restrictions for living in Hungary. You’re allowed to stay within Hungary for 90 days, but if you intend to stay longer than that, you should ensure you’ve completed the process before this time is up.
This can be a frustrating process and you’ll need to be prepared to spend quite some time queuing up. If you have a job already, then the process will be easier, especially since many multinational companies will make the arrangements for you.
However, the key items you’ll need is your passport or national ID card, proof of an address, proof of income (or bank statements showing you’ve enough savings to keep yourself secure), passport photos and fee stamps worth 1,000 forints ($3.95/£2.79). The official site will explain everything in more detail, but be prepared for an example of Hungary’s love of bureaucracy.