One of the most popular reasons that travelers love Budapest is its reputation like a budget-friendly place to visit. Although it has become more costly over the years, much traffic still find will still be cheaper than other European capitals.
Here are a few top tips to make your money stretch further in Budapest.
Budget airlines fly into Budapest's main airport
Unlike many major cities in Europe that have separate far-flung airports for low-cost airlines, Budapest has only one airport. Whether you fly in on a flagship airline or on a low-cost carrier, you'll arrive at the same place. Low-cost airline WIZZ Air is really a Hungarian company and has its base at Budapest airport.
Take public transport from the airport to central Budapest
Although Budapest's airport is technically in the city, it is from the center, so you'll need to get a transfer into town. Fortunately, there's inexpensive public transport to help you get to in which you want to go. A one-way ticket for bus 100E to the city costs 900 HUF (about US$3), and will get you to Deák Ferenc tér, where metro lines 1, 2 and 3 congregate, or you can get off at Kalvin tér for metro line 4. Both stops put you in the heart of downtown Pest.
Forget an excursion bus: see the city from public transportation
Want to go on a sightseeing bus tour for any fraction from the price? Just visit Budapest's public transport. Tram line 2 running north to south across the Danube is among the most beautiful tram routes, and you'll begin to see the entire riverbanks of the Danube along the Pest side with stunning views of Castle Hill and the Hungarian Parliament along the way.
If you want to visit the riverbanks from the Danube on the Buda side, take trams 19 or 41. You can also ride up Andrássy Avenue – a Unesco-listed boulevard – above ground on bus 105, that will take you up to Heroes' Square and back along the Danube. A single bus ticket costs just 350 HUF (about US$1).
Central Budapest has lots of hostels
Budapest has lots of great hostels, making a dorm or perhaps an inexpensive private room in the city center an easy find. Dorms can cost as low as US$8 a night, but when you are planning on obtaining a good night's sleep, avoid the ones marketed as “party hostels.”
The VIII, IX and XI districts also have low-cost accommodations
Budapest also offers low-cost hotels that are not hostels, which have a tendency to get cheaper the further away from the middle you decide to go. If you are seeking a vibrant budget-friendly neighborhood that's close to the center, try the artsy VIII District – staying within the ring from the Grand Boulevard (Nagyk”orút) to prevent areas that may be seedy during the night – or even the IX District in Pest or the XI District in Buda.
Stay with locals: couch surf or find a homestay
To possess a more personal – and less expensive – experience of Budapest, opt for a homestay or perhaps a room in an apartment rather than renting out somewhere entirely or getting a hotel room. You can find private rooms on Airbnb with local hosts (check the ratings and reviews carefully) and homestays on Homestay.com and often on Booking.com. Couch surfing is yet another option. Within the Budapest “Official” Couchsurfing group, you can request hosting or advice from local group members.
Sail the Danube on trains and buses in summer
If you arrived at Budapest in the summer, you must sail the Danube. Budapest's most well-known sites – including Buda Castle, Hungarian Parliament and the bridges, to name a few – are best seen from the water. But you don't have to book an expensive Danube cruise: just obtain the boat operated by BKK, Budapest's local transport authority. A trip on one of those boats costs 750 HUF (just over US$2). Boat services operate in summer only, so check on the BKK website for departure times.
Pick the less-touristy, no-frills thermal baths
Budapest is famous for its historic thermal baths, but when you won't want to pay US$20, try the lesser-known bathhouses. The Dandár Baths in the XI District are no-frills and economical – tickets cost 2800 HUF (just under US$10). However, you can still visit the big-name baths on a tight budget: time your visit to the Lukács Baths after 5pm when tickets cost 2600 HUF instead of 3500 HUF.
Visit Budapest during spring or fall
Budapest isn't just cheaper off-season, but spring and fall are also the most beautiful times during the year to see the city. The fruit trees color the town with their blossoms early in the year, and fall turns Budapest an attractive shade of rust.
Aside in the natural splendor, these shoulder seasons will also be friendly on your wallet. If you're searching to save cash, steer clear of the summer, especially August, that is peak season so when accommodation prices can skyrocket, especially if you're coming throughout the Sziget Festival or the Formula 1 Grand Prix. December, when the Christmas markets are in full swing, is yet another popular month that may push prices up.
Get lunch at local markets or order the daily menu in restaurants
If you need to eat on a budget, try the food courts in the market halls, such as the one in Nagycsarnok, that are less expensive than eating at sit-down restaurants. If you wish to make a meal yourself, the marketplace stalls are a great place to get supplies for a picnic. But if you'll still wish to head to a cafe or restaurant, it can be done on the cheap by taking care of lunch menus. It is simple to obtain a two- or three-course lunch menu (ebéd menü) for US$10 -15, even in more tourist-oriented downtown restaurants.
Get a Budapest Card to reduce trains and buses and museum entry
If you are going to use trains and buses and you're likely to visit the city's top tourist attractions, such as the Hungarian National Museum, Ludwig Museum, Memento Park, and also the Museum of proper Arts, look into the Budapest Card. The Budapest Card includes free trains and buses, free admission to 20 museums and also the Lukács Baths, a cave tour and discounts for restaurants and tours. A 24-hour card costs US$25, or you can get 48 all night US$37 or 72 hours for US$49. Perform the math as you come up with your trip itinerary to ascertain if the Budapest Card could save you money.
European students and seniors get discounts in Budapest
Citizens of the European Economic Area can display their ID to obtain discounts at sites like the Hungarian Parliament. Reduced museum entry is available for EEA citizens aged between 62 and 70 (over 70s enter free), as well as for visitors under 26. If you're in the EU and over 65, you can also ride public transportation free of charge.
Daily costs in Budapest
Bed inside a hostel dorm: 2600 -8100 HUF
Basic accommodation for 2: 11,000 -32,500 HUF
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from 14,500 HUF
Public transport ticket every day and night: 1650 HUF
Coffee: 400 -1200 HUF
Sandwich: 2000 -6000 HUF
Dinner for 2: 8000 -25,000 HUF
Beer/pint in the bar: 600 -1200 HUF