The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Budapest on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Budapest on a Budget

This is your Budapest travel guide.

Budapest is a city where history bleeds through its baroque facades and thermal baths offer an escape to Roman times. From navigating the labyrinthine Castle District to sipping cocktails in a hidden courtyard bar, this Budapest travel guide equips you to experience the city like a local, all without breaking the bank. 

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Budapest is a budget-friendly city compared to other European capitals. Here’s a breakdown of the average daily costs you can expect, depending on your travel style:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low: €35-€50
  • Mid-range: €50-€100
  • High: €100+

Detailed Costs


  • Low: Hostels or budget guesthouses: €15-€30 per night
  • Mid-range: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs: €40-€80 per night
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments: €100+ per night

Check out our guide to the best hostels in Budapest.

Public Transportation:

  • Metro ticket: €1.50
  • 24-hour pass: €11.50
  • 72-hour pass: €16.50

Entrance Fees:

  • Low (mostly free): Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Margaret Island, Gellért Hill…
  • Mid-range: Hungarian National Gallery (€10), Széchenyi Baths (€20), Buda Castle Labyrinth (€12)
  • High: Dohány Street Synagogue (€18), House of Terror (€14), Hungarian Parliament Building tour (€18)


  • Low: Langos (Hungarian fried flatbread) – €3-€5
  • Mid-range: Local Hungarian restaurants – €10-€15 per main course
  • High: Fine-dining restaurants – €20+ per main course


  • Low: €5-€7 per bowl
  • Mid-range: €8-€12 per bowl
  • High: €15+ per bowl in high-end restaurants


  • Low: Takeaway coffee – €1-€2
  • Mid-range: Coffee in a cafe – €2-€3
  • High: Specialty coffee – €4+

Beer & Wine:

  • Low: Local beer at a bar – €2-€3
  • Mid-range: Craft beer or imported wine at a restaurant – €4-€6
  • High: Premium craft beers or special vintage wines – €6+

Explore Budapest: Things to See & Do

Budapest offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and thermal baths, providing endless opportunities for exploration. Here’s a glimpse into some of the city’s must-see attractions and experiences:

Must Do

Marvel at Architectural Wonders:

  • Hungarian Parliament Building: A stunning neo-Gothic masterpiece overlooking the Danube River.
  • Buda Castle: A sprawling world-renowned complex offering panoramic views and housing historical museums.
  • Matthias Church: A captivating church showcasing intricate Gothic and Baroque architecture.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion: A neo-romanesque lookout point offering breathtaking city views.
  • Szechenyi Chain Bridge: An iconic suspension bridge connecting Buda and Pest.
  • Hungarian State Opera: an architectural masterpiece and cultural treasure.
  • Andrássy Avenue: A boulevard filled with Neo-Renaissance palaces, cafes, and green spaces.

Immerse Yourself in History:

  • Hungarian National Museum: Explore Hungary’s rich history and cultural heritage.
  • Dohány Street Synagogue: The largest synagogue in Europe, showcasing stunning Moorish and Romanesque architecture.
  • House of Terror: A museum dedicated to the victims of Fascism and Communism in Hungary.
  • Memento Park: A collection of communist-era statues offering a glimpse into Hungary’s past.
  • Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker: Discover a fascinating relic of the Cold War, exploring a hospital carved into the rock beneath Buda Castle, originally built as an air-raid shelter and later converted into a nuclear bunker.

Relax and Rejuvenate:

  • Central Market Hall: Browse through a vast selection of Hungarian food, souvenirs, and handicrafts.
    Kazinczy Street: Explore a lively pedestrian street lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops.
  • Szechenyi Baths: Experience the largest thermal bath complex in Europe, featuring various pools, saunas, and steam rooms.
  • Gellért Baths: Another renowned thermal bath complex housed in an Art Nouveau building.

Explore Beyond the City Center:

  • Margaret Island: A tranquil island offering green spaces, gardens, and historical attractions.
    Vajdahunyad Castle: A romantic castle featuring architectural styles from various Hungarian periods.

Free things to do in Budapest

  • Castle District: Explore the Buda Castle area with its cobbled streets, historical landmarks, and stunning views.
  • Jewish Quarter: Discover synagogues, ruin pubs, and unique street art in this historic district.
  • Pest Inner City: Explore the city center with its grand boulevards, bustling squares, and architectural gems.
  • Witness the Changing of the Guard: Watch the ceremonial changing of the guard ceremony at the Hungarian Parliament Building (free to observe from outside).
  • Enjoy Panoramic Views: Hike up Gellért Hill or Buda Castle Hill for breathtaking cityscapes.
  • Take a Free Walking Tour: Gain insights into Budapest’s history and culture with a free walking tour offered by various companies.


  • Hungarian National Gallery: Housing a vast collection of Hungarian art from the medieval period to the present day.
  • Ludwig Museum: Showcasing contemporary international art exhibitions.
  • House of Terror: Thought-provoking exploration of Hungary’s 20th-century history.
  • Hungarian National Museum: Free permanent exhibition showcasing Hungary’s rich history and cultural heritage.
  • Dohány Street Synagogue: Offers a paid tour of the synagogue and its exhibitions, with discounts for students and seniors.
  • Pinball Museum: A unique and interactive museum showcasing pinball machines from different eras.

Remember, many museums offer free entry on specific days or discounted rates for students and seniors. It’s always recommended to check the official websites for the latest information on opening hours, ticket prices, and special offers.

Nightlife in Budapest

Budapest is home to an exciting nightlife feature: ruin bars. These aren’t your typical watering holes. They’re cool, quirky establishments housed in formerly abandoned buildings from the post-communist era that have been creatively transformed. Think exposed brick walls, mismatched furniture, and eclectic decorations.

  • Cheap and Cheerful: Compared to traditional bars and clubs, ruin bars generally offer more affordable drink prices.
  • Pro-Tip: While ruin bars are generally budget-friendly, be mindful of drink prices at tourist hotspots. Venture beyond the main tourist areas to discover hidden gems with even better deals.
  • Some ruin bars we like: Szimpla Kert, Csendes Létterem, Garden Kobuci.
Budapest Thermal Springs

Where to stay on a Budget

While Budapest is generally a budget-friendly city, some areas are naturally more expensive than others. The city center, particularly around Pest’s main attractions like the Danube River and Hungarian Parliament Building, tends to have higher accommodation costs. However, there are plenty of affordable neighborhoods to explore outside the city center. Here are a few top picks:

1. District VII (Erzsébetváros): Despite its central location, District VII offers a surprisingly affordable selection of hostels, guesthouses, and budget-friendly apartments. This lively district boasts a youthful vibe with a mix of trendy bars, ruin pubs, and local eateries. It’s a great choice for travelers seeking a central location and a taste of Budapest’s nightlife scene. However, be prepared for potential noise, especially on weekends.

2. District VIII ( Józsefváros): Located next to District VII, Józsefváros offers a similar budget-friendly vibe with a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. This up-and-coming district is known for its eclectic mix of architecture, from grand boulevards to hidden courtyards. You’ll find a good selection of cafes, restaurants, and quirky bars, making it a great choice for exploring Budapest’s off-the-beaten-path side.

3. District IX (Ferencváros): Situated on the eastern bank of the Danube, Ferencváros is a charming and historic neighborhood known for its Art Nouveau architecture and laid-back atmosphere. While slightly farther from the main tourist attractions, it offers excellent value for money with a good selection of affordable guesthouses and apartments. The neighborhood boasts several green spaces, including Ferencvárosi Market Hall, a great place to experience local Hungarian culture and cuisine.

4. District XIII (Újlipótváros): Across the Margaret Bridge from Buda, Újlipótváros is a residential area with a peaceful and local vibe. While it lacks the tourist crowds of the city center, it offers a glimpse into everyday Hungarian life. You’ll find a mix of affordable guesthouses and apartments, making it a perfect choice for travelers seeking a quiet and authentic Budapest experience. Keep in mind that public transportation is essential for exploring the city center from this district.

Reminder: we have an article on the best hostels in Budapest.

Eating and Drinking on a Budget

Fueling your Budapest adventure doesn’t have to drain your travel budget. This city is packed with delicious and affordable options, allowing you to experience the Hungarian cuisine without breaking the bank. Here’s your ultimate guide to eating cheap in Budapest:

Hydration Hacks:

  • Tap the Treasure: Budapest boasts excellent tap water quality, so ditch the bottled water and refill your reusable bottle throughout the day.
  • Beware Tourist Traps: Skip the overpriced bottled water stands in tourist areas. Stick to tap water and save those euros for other adventures!

Affordable Eats

Restaurant Gems:

  • “Menü” Magic: Many local restaurants offer budget-friendly “menüs,” fixed-price lunch sets typically featuring a soup, main course, and sometimes even dessert. Look for restaurants displaying “menü” signs for a delicious and affordable Hungarian culinary experience.
  • “Önkiszolgáló” Eateries: Embrace the “önellátó” (self-service) or “önkiszolgáló” (self-serving) restaurants. These cafeteria-style eateries allow you to choose from various dishes and pay by weight, offering flexible and cost-effective portions.

Market Marvels:

  • Central Market Hall (Nagycsarnok): Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of this iconic market. Explore countless stalls overflowing with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, Hungarian pastries, and tempting ready-to-eat delights. Sample local specialties like “lángos” (deep-fried flatbread) or grab a paprika-infused sausage for a quick and delicious bite.
  • Fővám Tér Market: Expand your culinary horizons at the Fővám Tér Market. This market offers a wider selection of international food stalls alongside Hungarian staples. From Asian noodles to traditional Hungarian goulash, you’ll find dishes to satisfy any craving.
  • Lehel Market (Lehe tér): Escape the crowds and head to Buda’s Lehel Market. This market focuses on fresh, seasonal produce and artisanal products, perfect for picking up high-quality ingredients for a homemade meal or a picnic in the city park.

Street Food Savvy:

  • Lángos Love: Embrace the iconic “lángos,” a deep-fried flatbread perfect for satisfying your savory or sweet cravings. Choose from classic toppings like sour cream and cheese, or explore options like garlic sauce, chopped vegetables, or even Nutella for a sweet treat.
  • Kolbász Chronicles: Hungary is a haven for sausage lovers. Explore various “kolbász” varieties, often grilled and served in a bread roll (“kolbászos szendvics”). Sample different flavors and spice levels to discover your favorite.
  • Gulyás Glory: Experience the heart of Hungarian cuisine with a hearty bowl of “gulyás” (goulash). This flavorful stew, made with beef, vegetables, and paprika, is a warm and satisfying meal. Look for “gulyásleves” if you prefer a lighter soup version.

Grocery Gems:

  • Lidl Lowdown: Embrace budget-friendly grocery shopping at Lidl, a popular discount supermarket chain offering a good selection of staples and fresh produce without burning a hole in your wallet.
  • Aldi Adventures: Explore another discount option with Aldi, offering affordable staples and fresh produce to keep your meals delicious and wallet-happy.
  • Tesco: Variety at Value: For a wider variety of Hungarian and international brands, head to Tesco. While prices may vary, you’ll still find plenty of affordable options to fuel your Budapest adventures.

Bonus Tip: Cafes aren’t just for coffee! Many Budapest cafes offer affordable breakfast and snack options. Look for “pékség” (bakeries) selling fresh pastries and sandwiches. They often offer take-away options, making them even more budget-friendly compared to sit-down cafe options.

Remember, venturing outside tourist areas often leads to better deals. Embrace local markets, explore hidden “étterem” (restaurants), and don’t be afraid to experiment with different street food options. With a little planning and exploration, you can feast your way through Budapest without feeling the pinch in your pocket.

How to get around

Navigating Budapest on a budget becomes a breeze with its extensive and affordable public transportation network. This guide equips you with the knowledge to explore the city like a pro, saving those precious euros for delicious Hungarian meals and captivating experiences.

Getting Around Budapest

  • Metro (M1, M2, M3, M4): This efficient network connects major districts with ease. Hop on the yellow, blue, green, or purple lines, knowing that one ticket grants access to all.
  • Bus (buses, trolleybuses): Budapest boasts a comprehensive bus network, covering areas the metro doesn’t reach. Look for the blue and yellow buses, or the trolleybuses with their distinctive overhead wires, for wider exploration. Night buses also operate, ensuring late-night adventures are possible.
  • Tram: Explore the city at a leisurely pace and enjoy scenic views, especially along the Danube River, with the iconic yellow trams.

Ticketing Tactics: 

  • Single Tickets (BKK jeggy): Valid for 60 minutes after validation, these single tickets allow for transfers, but only for one metro/tram ride or a single bus journey across the city.
  • Day Passes (24-hour Travelcard): Conquer your sightseeing goals with unlimited travel for 24 hours from validation. Perfect for days packed with exploring museums, thermal baths, and historical landmarks.
  • Budapest Card: Combine your travel needs with discounted entry to attractions and thermal baths! Choose from 24, 48, or 72-hour Budapest Cards, offering unlimited public transportation and a range of discounts to maximize your savings.

Travel Tips for Thrifty Travelers:

  • Be Prepared: Purchase your tickets in advance from machines at metro stations, newsstands, or BKK customer points. Avoid street vendors, as their tickets might be invalid.
  • Validate, Don’t Hesitate: Always validate your ticket upon boarding using the yellow validators onboard trams, buses, and metros. This activates your ticket and avoids potential fines.
  • Think Long Term: Consider multi-day passes like the 72-hour Travelcard or Budapest Card for longer stays or frequent journeys. They offer significant savings compared to single tickets.
  • Embrace the Walk: Budapest’s historic center is relatively compact, making walking a viable option. Explore at your own pace, discover hidden alleyways, and soak in the city’s atmosphere.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Budapest

Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD):

  • Metro M3: Your fastest and most affordable option! Take the M3 line directly to Deák Ferenc tér station in the city center, reaching your destination in about 20 minutes. Single tickets apply.
  • Bus 100E: This comfortable and affordable option takes around 40 minutes to reach Deák Ferenc tér. Single tickets are valid, making it a budget-friendly choice.
  • Taxi: While not the cheapest, taxis are readily available at the airport. Expect fares around 2500-3500 HUF (Hungarian Forint) to the city center depending on traffic. Consider ride-sharing apps like Uber or Bolt for potentially cheaper fares.

Budapest Budaörs Airport (BHD):

  • Bus 200E: This bus connects the airport to the Kőbánya-Kispest metro station (M3 line) in about 40 minutes. Single tickets apply, making it a budget-conscious choice.
  • Taxi: Taxis are available at the airport, with fares to the city center costing around 5000-6000 HUF due to the airport’s further location. Consider ride-sharing apps like Uber or Bolt for potentially cheaper fares.

Budapest Tram

Best Time to Visit Budapest

Choosing the ideal time for your Budapest trip depends on your priorities. Here’s a breakdown of the city’s seasons, highlighting the pros and cons of each, to help you make an informed decision:

  • High Season (June-August):

Pros: Long sunny days, cool outdoor festivals and events, lively atmosphere.
Cons: Crowded tourist attractions, higher accommodation prices, potentially hot and humid weather.

  • Shoulder Season (April-May & September-October):

Pros: Pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, good deals on flights and accommodation.
Cons: Some outdoor attractions may have shorter hours, possibility of occasional rain showers.

  • Low Season (November-March):

Pros: Lowest accommodation prices, unique winter experiences like Christmas markets, fewer crowds.
Cons: Colder weather, some attractions may have limited hours, shorter daylight hours.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals

Planning a trip to Budapest is an exciting adventure, but it’s essential to be aware of events that might impact your budget. Here’s a list of yearly national holidays and festivals that can influence prices, particularly for hotels, hostels, and tourist attractions:

  • Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix (July/August): This major sporting event attracts racing enthusiasts, leading to increased accommodation costs and potentially higher prices for other tourist services like tours and restaurants.
  • March 15th: National Day (commemorates the 1848 Revolution): During this national celebration, expect larger crowds and potentially higher hotel and flight prices. Many cultural institutions might also have altered opening hours.
  • August 20th: St. Stephen’s Day (celebrates Hungary’s founding): This national holiday often leads to increased demand for travel and accommodations, potentially resulting in higher prices for hotels, hostels, and tours.
  • October 23rd: Republic Day (commemorates the 1956 Revolution): Similar to other national holidays, expect larger crowds and potential price hikes for travel and tourist activities.
  • Sziget Festival (August): This week-long music festival attracts a massive crowd, leading to significant price increases for hotels, hostels, and even basic necessities like food due to higher demand. Be sure to book your accommodation well in advance and expect crowded tourist attractions.
  •  Budapest Wine Festival (September): This celebration of Hungarian wines might lead to moderate price increases for hotels and restaurants, especially those located near Buda Castle.
  • Easter Weekend (March/April): Similar to other major holidays, Easter weekend might see slightly higher prices for travel and accommodations.
  • Christmas Markets: Budapest’s Christmas markets are a major draw in December, leading to higher prices and larger crowds.
  • Weekend Breaks: Budapest is a popular weekend getaway destination, so expect higher prices on weekends throughout the year.
  • Weather: While Budapest experiences all four seasons, winters can be cold and snowy.

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

Planning a backpacking trip to Budapest requires preparation and awareness to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here’s a guide to essential items and safety tips to keep in mind.

Safety Tips

  • Be Mindful of Pickpockets: As in any major city, be vigilant against pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas like public transportation and tourist attractions. Keep your valuables secure and avoid displaying them openly.
  • Beware of Taxi Scams: Use reputable taxi companies and negotiate fares beforehand to avoid inflated prices. Consider using ride-sharing apps for transparent pricing and convenience.

Common Scams

  • Fake Money Exchange: Always exchange your currency at licensed vendors and avoid individuals offering seemingly advantageous exchange rates, as they might involve counterfeit bills.
  • Friendship Bracelet Scam: Individuals might approach you by offering “friendship bracelets” and then become overly aggressive when requesting payment. Politely decline and move on.
  • Jumper Cables Scam: Individuals might approach you claiming their car needs jumper cables and attempt to distract you while an accomplice steals your belongings. Be cautious and avoid such situations.

Things Not to Do

  • Drinking Alcohol in Public: While Hungary has a relaxed attitude towards alcohol consumption, avoid drinking excessively or in public places to avoid unwanted attention or potential fines.
  • Eating on Public Transportation: Public transportation authorities discourage eating and drinking on board, so respect these regulations and avoid fines.
  • Littering: Budapest takes pride in its cleanliness. Dispose of trash responsibly in designated bins and avoid littering to respect the city’s environment.

By following these tips and packing essentials, you can ensure a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable backpacking adventure in Budapest. Remember, staying informed and exercising common sense goes a long way in navigating any new city.

Resources and Planning

Exploring Budapest doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some resources and tips to help you stretch your travel budget:

Budget-Friendly Passes:

  • Budapest Card: This all-inclusive pass combines unlimited public transportation with free entry to select museums and thermal baths, and discounts on others. Ideal for frequent travelers who plan to visit many attractions.
  • Budapest Welcome Card: Offers free public transportation for 24, 48, or 72 hours, along with discounts on certain attractions and activities. Consider your planned itinerary to see if it aligns with your needs.

Budget-Friendly Tips:

  • Free Activities: Budapest boasts numerous free activities, including wandering through charming neighborhoods, witnessing the changing of the guard ceremony, or enjoying panoramic views from Buda Castle Hill.
  • Street Food: Savor delicious and affordable Hungarian street food like langos (deep-fried flatbread), kürtőskalács (chimney cakes), and kolbász (Hungarian sausages).
  • Cook Your Own Meals: Stock up on groceries at local markets or budget-friendly supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi to save on dining costs.
  • Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours: Gain insights into Budapest’s history and culture with a free walking tour offered by various companies.
  • Consider Alternative Accommodation: Explore options beyond centrally located hotels. Hostels, guesthouses, and apartments in less touristy areas can offer significant savings.
  • Utilize Public Transportation: Budapest’s public transportation system is efficient and affordable. Purchase multi-day travel cards for extended stays or use the BudapestGO app for convenient ticket purchases and real-time information.
  • Seek Student Discounts: If you’re a student, carry your student ID to take advantage of discounts on attractions, transportation, and cultural events.

By following these tips and utilizing available resources, you can experience the best of Budapest without compromising your budget. Remember, planning and being mindful of your spending habits can go a long way in ensuring a cost-effective and memorable trip.

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