Budapest is one of Europe's best cities to visit on a budget. Known affectionately by many nicknames: the Pearl of the Danube, the Heart of Europe, the City of Baths, or the Paris of the East, Budapest has been delighting visitors for centuries with its incredible architecture, majestic castles, and healing thermal baths.
To this day, the beautiful Hungarian capital is a must-visit for budget and luxury travelers alike. To make the most of your trip without breaking the bank, read our top tips for visiting Budapest on a budget below.
Budapest on a budget: Know before you go
Budapest is a very easy city to get around
Some parts are very walkable and the metro system is very easy to use. I recommend getting a 24-hour, 72-hour, or 7-day travel card (which can be used on busses, trams, and the metro). You can purchase them at most metro stations. Definitely easier than keeping track of a bunch of single-use tickets!
Cash is king
The currency in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint. I recommend always having forints on hand, especially small bills and change (you don’t want to use a 20,000 Ft note on a 500 Ft coffee).
Take the airport bus
It is incredibly cheap, has a lot of departure times, and the pick-up/drop-off locations are easy to find. You can purchase a ticket from the ticket machine at the bus stop, or at most metro stations.
Free and cheap things to do in Budapest
Visit the thermal baths
Budapest is known as the city of baths for a reason! Because the city sits above various thermal springs, locals have been soaking in the mineral-rich waters for centuries. Built in 1913, Szechenyi Baths is the most visited in the city, but the city has several baths and hot springs that can all cure what ails you.
Explore the parks
Margaret Island is a great place to relax, have a picnic, and explore the gardens and ruins. Városliget is home to Budapest’s most beautiful castle (in my opinion), and is the perfect place for a stroll before heading to Szécheny Thermal Baths.
Escape the city
If you have the time, taking the short trip to Szentendre is a must-do. Szentendre is a gorgeous town that is a short (and very cheap) ride on the HÉV suburban rail line away. If you're looking for a more scenic route take a river cruise on the Danube.
Taste your way through Great Market Hall
Sure, it's a bit of a tourist trap. But as Budapest's oldest and largest indoor market, the stunningly beautiful Great Market Hall, also known as Central Market Hall, is a must-visit in Budapest. Inside, you'll find everything from souvenirs and local handicrafts to produce, spices, cheeses, meats, desserts, and more.
Drink at a ruin bar
In recent years, Budapest’s trendiest bars have sprung up in the most unlikely of places – abandoned buildings. The trend started in the city’s Jewish Quarter with grungy, dilapidated buildings that were abandoned in the decades after World War 2. Today, Budapest's ruin bars can be found throughout the city filled with artists, hipsters, tourists, and everyone in between.
Where to stay on a budget in Budapest
Hostel One’s Budapest outpost is a welcoming adults-only accommodation that offers the community vibe you expect from a classic European hostel. After a long day of sightseeing, meet fellow travelers over a happy hour drink at the on-site bar or during the free nightly dinner.
Maverick City Lodge + Maverick Hostel & En Suites
Maverick Lodges has multiple locations in Budapest and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Maverick City Lodge, a luxurious hostel (yup, that’s a thing) is probably the most popular. Though Maverick Hostel & Ensuites Lodge, located in a former mansion, is an equally charming stay.
Flow Hostel is a chic, trendy hostel that’s conveniently located near Budapest’s Great Market Hall. Both colorful and cozy, Flow is loved for its clean rooms and comfy sleeping bunks which include privacy curtains, lockers, and reading lights.
Cheap flights to Budapest
Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Budapest. On average, our members spent $526 on their tickets to Budapest and saved over $479 per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received in the past.
Dallas (DFW) to Budapest (BUD)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $557
Average Price: $895
Philadelphia (PHL) to Budapest (BUD)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $600
Average Price: $1,250
San Francisco (SFO) to Budapest (BUD)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $498
Average Price: $800
Best cheap eats in Budapest
Luckily, food in Budapest is budget-friendly, especially if you're eating local food such as goulash, langos, or the deliciously sweet Kürtőskalács (chimney cake).
Bors Gastro Bar
You may not score a seat at this place but that just goes to show how locally beloved it is. The food at Bors is straightforward and akin to street food. Think grilled baguette sandwiches, ice cream, coffee, and delicious soups.
Gulyás Tunkoló Büfé
Gulyás Tunkoló Büfé is a great spot for delicious local Hungarian food in the Jewish quarter. They specialize is hearty goulash and stews in massive portions, served with a piece of fresh bread. The kind of meal that will fill you up without emptying your wallet.
This spot is more about convenience than seeking out a local hall in the wall. This small local chain serves budget-friendly hummus, pita, salads, and more in a fast-casual setting. Great if you need a quick, cheap, reliable meal on the go. Several locations are near Budapest’s major attractions.
Start planning your trip to Budapest
Whether you're visiting Budapest for the rich history, unrivaled nightlife, or plentiful hot springs, your visit doesn't need to cost you a fortune.
So when you're ready to finally take a trip and experience the Pearl of the Danube, be sure to save this budget travel guide, and sign up to receive cheap flight deals today!
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.