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Budapest: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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The Hungarian capital of Budapest has become more and more popular with tourists in recent years. Gorgeously situated along the banks of the mighty Danube River, the city has an incredible array of architecture, history, and activities to explore. Also famous for its nightlife, affordability, and water-loving culture, Budapest should be on every traveler's list.  

But before setting off to Budapest, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to Budapest, including:

  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the wifi?
  • How long can you stay?

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting Budapest:

The buildings and boats of Budapest as seen from the waters of the Danube River

Did you know… Hungary became part of the European Union in 2004, but the official currency used is the Hungarian Forint. However, some shops and restaurants, especially in the tourist areas, will accept Euros but change will typically be given in Forints.

1) Budapest Affordability

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The currency in Budapest is the Hungarian Forint, or HUF. Currently, the exchange rate is 1 USD = 358 HUF.

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

A tourist wearing a backpack raises her hands for a photo while exploring Budapest

Accommodation

  • Average hotel price: The current average price for a 3-star hotel in Budapest is $65 per night, while a 4-star hotel costs $112/night.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: One night in a luxury 5-star hotel will cost around $288 on average. Some of the top hotels, such as the Matlid Palace or Four Seasons, can cost upwards of $400 per night during peak tourist season.
  • If you're on a budget: There are plenty of good hostels to choose from in Budapest. A bed in a mixed dorm costs around $12, while private ensuite rooms can be found for less than $50.

Food

Food is very reasonable in Budapest. There are plenty of affordable options and also some great higher-end restaurants for a special night out.

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs around $44.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay less than $10.
  • A bottle of beer costs around between $2.50 and $3.50, while a cappuccino is around $2.

Transportation

Budapest is an easy city to get around. For starters, it is very walkable, but it also boasts an efficient public transit system as well as other convenient modes of transportation.

  • The city’s public transportation network (BKK) consists of the metro, trams, buses, and boats. Single tickets start at $1, and 24-hour travel cards are just $7. Another option is to buy a Budapest Card, which includes unlimited public transit rides as well as free or discounted admission to museums, thermal baths, and cultural events. A 24-hour card is $28, and there are other options available on the BKK website.
  • Taxi rates start at $3 and cost $1.79/mile. There is no Uber in Budapest. However, Bolt operates a similar ride-hailing service.
  • Electric scooters from Lime are a popular way to get around the city. Base fees for a scooter rental are around $1 plus $0.15 per minute.

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two yellow trams pass eachother while crossing a green bridge in Budapest

2) Culture And Etiquette In Budapest

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in Budapest.

  • DON’T lose your ticket: public transit tickets need to be validated upon boarding and kept on your person until the journey is over. Ticket inspections are common, and riders are fined on the spot if they fail to show a validated ticket.
  • DO wear a swim cap in swimming pools: visitors to swimming pools must wear a swim cap at all times. Most pools will sell them on-site if you don’t have one.
  • DON’T hail a taxi on the street: visitors should use a taxi-hailing app or call the cab company directly to arrange a ride. Hailing taxis on the street has caused many tourists to be ripped off by unlicensed drivers.
  • DO learn a few words: Hungarian is notoriously difficult to learn, but putting in the effort to learn a few phrases like please (kérem) and thank you (köszönöm) will go a long way while visiting.
  • DO leave a tip: It is customary to tip around 10% for service at restaurants.
The Hungarian House Of Parliament reflects into the waters of the Danube

3) Top Attractions in Budapest

  • Hungary’s House of Parliament: Budapest is full of stunning architecture, but the Parliament building on the banks of the Danube takes the cake. Tourists can visit the iconic building on a guided tour which takes about 45 minutes.
  • Thermal Baths: Budapest is littered with thermal spas where visitors can soak in the mineral-rich healing waters alongside locals. The Széchenyi Baths are the most popular with tourists, but there are other options throughout the city.
  • Tram 2: This scenic tram ride along the river banks is part of Budapest’s public transit system. It is an affordable way to see some of the best sites the city has to offer.
Swimmers enjoy the thermal baths in Budapest

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Budapest is a safe city for most tourists to visit. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe and healthy:

  • Beware of pickpockets and tourist scams: Visitors should take common-sense precautions with valuables when out in public. One common scam is targeted toward male tourists who are invited into a bar by women only to be left with a large bill.  
  • Take a taxi at night: Certain districts outside the Grand Boulevard can be unsafe at night, so if you are staying out late, take a taxi back to your accommodation.
  • LGBTQ+ should be extra cautious: While there is an active LGBTQ+ community in Budapest, the government has recently passed several oppressive laws. Budapest Pride maintains a database of friendly venues in the city and is a great resource.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your Budapest trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
Chain bridge in budapest looking down length of bridge with city in background

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine. Don't let yourself leave Budapest without trying at least one of the following:

Food

  • Goulash – Hungary’s most famous dish is a stew made with beef, carrot, and potatoes
  • Lángos – The perfect Hungarian street food of fried dough topped with sour cream or cheese
  • Chicken Paprikash – Chicken stewed in a paprika-spiked cream sauce, served with noodles or dumplings
  • Somlói Galuska – Hungary’s favorite cake layered with chocolate cream, walnuts, rum, and whipped cream

Traditional Hungarian food is heavy on meat, so it is not the most vegetarian and vegan-friendly. However, with any big city, visitors will be able to find plant-based options.

Drink

  • Pálinka – the national drink of Hungary is a strong fruit-flavored brandy
  • Unicum – an herb-based liquor rumored to cure sickness
  • Beer – there are plenty of local brews to choose from, including Soproni, Arany, and Borsodi

Many neglected pre-war buildings have been converted into trendy “ruin bars” that are well worth a visit.

A popular ruins bar in Budapest

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in Budapest for January 2023 were 50.85mbps download and 15.44mbps upload.

Budapest Aerial View at Sunset

7) How Long Can I Stay?

Americans traveling to Budapest do not need a visa for stays less than 90 days. They should, however, have 6 months of validity available on their passport. For anyone wishing to stay long-term, Hungary offers one of the easiest-to-obtain digital nomad visas.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.