Expect to Spend: Budapest

Expect to Spend: Budapest - Budapest, Hungary

Though Budapest is not as cheap as it once was, it is by no means a bank-breaker. Many head to Eastern Europe expecting dirt cheap, but now that places like Budapest and Prague have become popular tourist destinations, these cities are slowly but surely becoming more expensive. While still a bargain compared to, say, Paris or London, Budapest falls definitively into the middle tier on the European city price index.

Hotel Rates

One thing to note: Budapest is in flux as far as currency is concerned. Though Hungary’s switch from the forint (its current currency) to the euro is still a few years out, Budapest hotels behave as if they're already in the euro-zone. You'll find that almost all hotels list their rates in euros, and several prefer the euro as payment type.

Average rates on either side of the river run between €45 and €65, with many steals and splurges on either end of that range. Inexpensive hostels can be found for as low as €33, while the snazzier properties will charge up to €120. The bottom line: there are accommodations for most budgets.

As always, a little advanced planning goes a long way when it comes to shopping for budget hotels. Beware of season highs and lows. The citywide celebration on May Day (May 1), for example, renders it virtually impossible to get even a pricey hotel at the last minute. Another event to watch out for is the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix in August (site in Hungarian). For visitors intending to stay in Budapest at either of these times, we suggest booking in advance and doing research to find the best rate. More than likely, you'll still pay over the average.

Meal Prices

Luckily, filling your stomach in Budapest isn't likely to empty your wallet. At the average restaurant, two people can enjoy a meal for around HUF5500. Of course, as in all cities, budget dining requires a little planning ahead. When the hunger pangs start to hit, migrate away from Belváros. Like most touristed areas, it totes prices that are at least twice as high as everywhere else in the city. Don't pay them.

If you subsist on cheap street food, you'll be out of luck in Budapest, where simultaneous walking and eating simply doesn't happen. But given the range of inexpensive sit-down restaurants strewn about Budapest, this is a help more than a setback, an excuse to make meals an event. Go for it: savor your meal, or better yet, spend an afternoon people watching over lunch in Liszt tér, where the fashion parade and constant action will make you forget you're not on the go.

As always, cheap eats are most often the local dishes. This is especially the case when it comes to salad. Crazy, we know, but since lettuce doesn't grow in Hungary the only lettuce to be had is the expensive "in the bag" kind (often imported from California). When dining out, this means local favorites (like cucumber salad) are the way to go. While a lettuce-less salad runs about HUF720, a salad with the imported green will most likely double in price.

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