Budapest on a budget: 8 travel hacks to save on your trip
If you are planning a trip to Budapest on a budget, you might not be sure that you will be able to stay on budget as you travel across eastern Europe. From free walking tours to using affordable bus or train ticket opportunities to get around, there are many ways that money-saving tips will help you make the most of your time in Budapest. You don't need to save up thousands of dollars to visit Budapest, and this guide will help you to have a great time without breaking the bank.
Typically, Eastern Europe is a much more affordable travel option than its Western Europe counterparts like Paris, Rome, and London. Budapest, while still an economical destination, isn't as cheap as it used to be due to a drastic increase in tourism over the years. But that definitely doesn't mean you should give this impressive city a pass. With a little planning, you can see all the main sights, like Buda's Old Town, Fisherman's Bastion, Central Market Hall, and the Chain Bridge, without a significant impact on your budget.
Although not technically one of the best money-saving tips for your trip, we do recommend that you unburden yourself from your excess luggage by heading to a Bounce bag storage in Budapest. Dropping off unneeded suitcases and backpacks will make traveling around so much easier. As a result, you'll be able to walk further in a day and avoid expensive taxi rides and pricey meals that you eat just for the seat in the restaurant.
Cheap places to stay in Budapest
Staying in affordable accommodations can make the most of traveling when you want to save money. These lovely hotels will save you money and make sure that you don't have to break the bank while you are visiting Budapest. This guide to the best neighborhoods in Budapest will help you decide if you want to stay in the Jewish Quarter or have a preference for Buda over Pest or vice versa.
Fortuna Boat Hotel
This location offers hotel rooms that start at $40 a night, and you will have an amazing time when you stay here. With excellent views of the Danube, comfortable rooms that are floating on the water make for a memorable experience that you likely won't get when you stay at a regular hotel. This is one of the best places to stay in Budapest, and you will not feel like you are saving money when you opt to stay here.
Meininger Budapest Great Market Hall
This amazing hotel location starts at only $25 a night. You will be cozy and comfortable, and you won't feel like you are sacrificing anything to save money. The Great/Central Market Hall area is also in a really nice part of the city, and you will be close to public transport as well as lots of great places to visit, like the State Opera and St. Stephan's Basilica, which are two of the most popular things to do in this area.
This budget-friendly hotel starts at $40 a night, and you will be near all of the things that you will want to do when you're in the city. Hotel Budapest is close to public transport, Buda Castle, and various ruin bars as well. You will not have to struggle to save money and stay in comfort when you choose this hotel for your trip to Budapest on a budget.
Cheap things to do In Budapest
There are various really fun things that you can do in Budapest on a budget, and you might find that some of the things that do cost money are more affordable than you expected. You can tour some of the best attractions in the city and still save money on your trip.
The entire area surrounding Buda Castle is a great place to visit, and you can opt for an official walking tour of the highlights for around $10. But if you don't want to spend a penny, the courtyards and the outdoor areas of the castle are open to visitors for free. One of the best things to do here is simply take in the Danube, Chain Bridge, and Parliament Building views, which are also totally free. Do keep in mind that if you don't want to walk up the hill yourself, a trip on the funicular, which is an experience in and of itself, will cost roughly $3.50.
Visit the Thermal Baths
This part of the world can lay claim to many impressive and well-known thermal baths. You should consider the Széchenyi Thermal Bath as the best option to visit during your time in Budapest. The thermal baths are about 9,400 HUF, which translates to about US$26. Now this might seem high, but you can spend the full day here if you want, so it's really not that bad. It should be worth it for the health benefits alone.
Ride Tram 2
For an exciting way to see the city for the very reasonable price of 350 HUF ($1), board Tram 2 at either end of the route to get the most out of this activity. The tram travels from Jászai Mari Square and Közvágóhíd and passes numerous iconic attractions, like the Chain Bridge, Hungarian Parliament Building, Central Market Hall, and much more. Plus, most of the track is on the east side of the Danube, so at the very least, you can expect impressive water views.
Cheap places to eat in Budapest
Eating on a budget when you are traveling can seem impossible, but that is not actually the case. Sure, if you pick a fancy place along the Danube River for your meal, you might have to spend more than you want to. However, you can easily dine in places that don't cost an arm and a leg, and you will enjoy a more authentic experience at the same time. Street food in Budapest is always an affordable choice, as are the many casual eateries scattered around the city.
Head here for authentic food, no reservations, and family-friendly service. You will need about $10-$20 to eat a huge and filling meal here. You will likely also never have to wait in line, which is really nice if you are hungry and don't want to have to stand around. This location is near the city center, which makes it a great option if you are worried about saving on transport costs and want to have a great meal while you are wandering the city.
This location near the Danube River offers you access to tasty Chinese food for a great price. You will get a huge amount of food for about $10 or less. You can easily take this food back with you to your hotel or Airbnb too, and use the leftovers as a break from cooking your own meals while you are in Budapest. Many people just take their food and sit down nearby to enjoy it, but you could use this as a simple dinner plan on your way back to your accommodations as well.
For truly authentic Hungarian food, there is no better place to grab a meal than this lovely little restaurant. They don't speak English, but they are friendly and will help you to get a filling platter of food for a great price. You can count on needing to have local cash with you, but you will spend the equivalent of about $10 for an unforgettable lunch or dinner here. This location is near the Palace District as well, which makes it a great option for those who are heading out to sightsee around the city.
Cheap bars in Budapest
If you have scrimped and saved money on cheap flights and by bringing your own food to locations that you are seeing during your stay, you probably want to make sure that you have enough cash on hand to enjoy at least one night in a bar.
Ruin bars are one of the best ways to have fun in this city while you save money. There are many of these lovely locations that offer you the chance to party and have fun without needing to bring along a ton of cash.
This is the most famous of the ruin bars in the city, and you will want to head here during your trip to take part in this really fun nighttime scene. These makeshift bars don't usually serve food, but you should be able to try out local alcohol and take in the fun atmosphere that feels almost like a prohibition-era bar. Drinks will be about $5 or so, and you can stay as long as you want.
Another really fun ruin bar, this great location is known for being eccentric and lively. You will have fun looking at the silly things hanging on the walls and the outlandish decor, and the pricing of this location is similar to the cost of a night out at Szimpla Kert. Easily reached by public transport, take the time to wander around this area before or after your bar visit.
Akácfa Beer Bar (Akácfa Söröző)
This spot is more like a beer hall than a ruin bar, but it is still an out-of-the-way location that is known mostly to younger folks in the city. Head here for very affordable beer, for specials each night, and to have a lot of fun. This is also a great spot to visit if you want to head away from the Danube River and see the more central parts of the city for yourself.
Bonus budget tips for Budapest
Use public transport
You can save a lot of money in Budapest if you get a monthly train ticket for your stay. This will cost you about 9 500 HUF, and it is worth it since you will be able to travel all over the city on this form of public transport. You can head up and down the Danube River with your train ticket pass and see anything and everything that you want. No matter your travel dates or the tourist attractions that you want to see, having a train pass is a great idea.
Visit during shoulder season
Budget travelers are also wise to visit Budapest during the shoulder season. Consider planning your trip for September or October, or you can aim for early November. You can also plan to visit between Easter into early June. You will find that the local culture is still present even during periods when there are fewer people in the city, and you might even find that places like hostels will offer what seems close to free accommodation during these parts of the travel season.
Avoid using euros
Don't count on using euros when you are in Budapest on a budget. While they are in the EU, they do not use the euro. You will be given your change in Forints anyway, and restaurants also almost never take a card, so head to the ATM before you sit down to eat. It's best to convert only what you think you'll need into Hungarian currency. That way, you don't take another hit when you convert your money back to your home currency. You should also avoid changing money over at Budapest Airport unless you have to, as they don't always offer the best rate.
Check for Cheap Flights
Make sure that you look into flight deals before you start planning any of the other details of your trip. Having your flights locked down will help make sure that you know what your overall budget will be for your trip. This helps you to be sure that you will have enough money for all the things that you want to do when you arrive in Budapest.
From free walking tours to visits to the Jewish Quarter, there are so many ways that you can enjoy Budapest on a tight budget. In reality, there are countless free things to do in the city, so you'll barely have to reach for your wallet when you're exploring around. Major cities like Budapest can be enjoyed even when you need to save money, and you will love that you can use this guide to make the most of a tight budget without feeling like you're missing out on anything.