Hungary Backpacking Guide

Welcome to Hungary, a hidden gem of Central Europe waiting to be explored! With its rich history, culture, and beautiful landscapes, Hungary offers backpackers an unforgettable experience without breaking the bank. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to backpack Hungary on a budget, from itinerary suggestions to transportation tips and must-do activities.

What to Expect: A simple Overview

Here’s a simple overview of what to expect when backpacking through Hungary:

Rich History and Culture: Rich cultural heritage shaped by centuries of history, from its medieval castles and Baroque architecture to its folk traditions and artistic expressions. Expect to encounter a blend of old-world charm and modern influences as you explore the country’s cities, towns, and rural landscapes.

Hostel choices are limited: Budapest is home to many luxury as well as party hostels. Around the country, your choice will be much less. You can find plenty of guest houses and b&b’s though, too.

Beautiful Landscapes: From the rolling hills of the countryside to the picturesque shores of Lake Balaton, Hungary’s landscapes are as diverse as they are beautiful. Expect to be enchanted by the natural beauty of the Hungarian countryside, whether you’re hiking in national parks, cycling along scenic trails, or relaxing by tranquil lakes.

It is cheap: Backpacking in Hungary is relatively affordable compared to other European destinations. Expect to find budget-friendly accommodations, inexpensive dining options, and affordable transportation throughout the country, making it an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers.

Transport is easy: Hungary has a well-developed transportation network, making it easy to travel between cities and regions. Expect to rely on trains, buses, and trams for getting around, with options for renting bikes and cars for exploring more remote areas at your own pace.

Events and popular Festivals: Hungary is home to an interesting cultural scene, with numerous events and festivals held throughout the year. Few examples? Here you go:

  1. Sziget Festival in Budapest
  2. Hungarian National Gallop
  3. Budapest Wine Festival
  4. Szeged Open-Air Festival
  5. Fishermen’s Soup Festival (Halászléfőző Fesztivál)
  6. Tokaj Harvest Festival
  7. Debrecen Flower Carnival

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Okay, how much does it cost to travel around Hungary? It is certainly more affordable than other countries in Europe (looking at those countries in the North…). Here are some travel costs for Hungary and what you can expect to pay.

Suggested Budget per Person

Low: €30 – €50 per day

Middle: €70 – €120 per day

High: €150+ per day

Detailed Costs


Low: Hostel dorms range from €10 to €20 per night.

Middle: Mid-range hotels or guesthouses typically cost between €40 and €80 per night.

High: Luxury hotels or upscale accommodations start at €100 and can go much higher, especially in popular tourist areas.


Low: Local eateries offer dishes from €5 to €15. Street food and market stalls provide affordable options for quick meals, around €3 to €8 per item.

Middle: A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost €15 to €30.

High: Fine dining experiences begin at €40 and can increase significantly based on the restaurant’s reputation and location.

Tips for Enjoying Cheap Food in Hungary:

Street Food: Look out for street vendors selling traditional Hungarian snacks like lángos (fried dough) or kürtőskalács (chimney cake) for a tasty and budget-friendly treat.

Market Halls: Visit local market halls such as Budapest’s Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) to sample a variety of Hungarian delicacies at affordable prices.

Daily Menu: Many restaurants offer a “napi menü” (daily menu) during lunchtime, which includes a soup, main course, and drink for a fixed price, usually between €5 and €10.

By following these tips and suggestions, travelers can enjoy delicious Hungarian cuisine without breaking the bank.

Things to See and Do

Absolute Top Cities

Explore Budapest’s Ruin Bars: Dive into Budapest’s unique nightlife scene by visiting its famous ruin bars. These eclectic bars are set in abandoned buildings and courtyards, offering a quirky atmosphere and affordable drinks. Don’t miss Szimpla Kert, one of the city’s oldest and most iconic ruin pubs.

Soak in Thermal Baths: Relax and rejuvenate at Budapest’s thermal baths, a beloved Hungarian tradition. While some baths can be pricey, options like the Széchenyi Thermal Bath offer affordable entry fees for budget travelers. Spend a day soaking in the thermal pools, saunas, and steam rooms for a blissful experience.

Take a Danube River Cruise: Experience Budapest from a different perspective with a budget-friendly Danube River cruise. Enjoy stunning views of the city’s landmarks, including the Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and Chain Bridge, while cruising along the picturesque river.

Discover the Danube Bend: Escape the city and explore the scenic beauty of the Danube Bend, a picturesque region located north of Budapest. Visit historic towns like Visegrád, Esztergom, and Szentendre, each offering its own unique charm, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities.

Relax by Lake Balaton: Spend a day relaxing by the shores of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake. Enjoy sunbathing on sandy beaches, swimming in crystal-clear waters, and indulging in water sports like sailing, kayaking, and windsurfing—all without breaking the bank.

Discover the History of Eger: Step back in time in the historic town of Eger, famous for its medieval castle, charming Old Town, and thermal baths.

Marvel at the Architecture of Szeged: Discover the architectural gems of Szeged, a lively university town known for its Art Nouveau buildings and thermal baths. Explore the city’s landmarks, such as the Votive Church and the Szeged Synagogue, and soak in the atmosphere of its busy streets and squares.

Soak in the Thermal Baths of Hévíz: Indulge in relaxation and wellness at the thermal baths of Hévíz, home to Europe’s largest thermal lake. Enjoy a soothing soak in the mineral-rich waters, surrounded by lush greenery and tranquil landscapes, for a rejuvenating experience.

Explore the Historic Town of Szentendre: Take a day trip to the picturesque town of Szentendre, located along the Danube River near Budapest. Explore its charming streets lined with colorful houses, visit art galleries and museums, and sample Hungarian specialties at local cafes and restaurants.

Historical Landmarks

Buda Castle (Budapest): Perched atop Castle Hill overlooking the Danube River, Buda Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a symbol of Budapest’s rich history. Explore the castle complex, visit the Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest History Museum, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Fisherman’s Bastion (Budapest): This fairy-tale-like terrace offers stunning views of Budapest’s skyline and the Danube River. Built in the late 19th century, Fisherman’s Bastion features seven turreted towers representing the seven Magyar tribes that founded Hungary.

Matthias Church (Budapest): Adjacent to Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church is one of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks. Admire its stunning Gothic architecture, colorful tiled roof, and intricately carved interior, including the tomb of King Matthias.

Eger Castle (Eger): Located in the charming town of Eger, this historic castle played a key role in defending Hungary against the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Explore the castle’s ramparts, visit the Eger Castle Museum, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Esztergom Basilica (Esztergom): As Hungary’s largest church and one of the tallest buildings in the country, Esztergom Basilica is an impressive architectural masterpiece. Admire its neoclassical façade, climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views, and explore the interior adorned with stunning frescoes and sculptures.

Pécs Cathedral (Pécs): This Roman Catholic cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, is a prominent landmark in the city of Pécs. Marvel at its Romanesque and Gothic architecture, visit the crypt housing the relics of Christian martyrs, and admire the ornate interior decorations.

Hollókő: This picturesque village, located in northern Hungary, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its well-preserved traditional Hungarian architecture. Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets, visit the 13th-century castle, and experience rural Hungarian life.

Pannonhalma Archabbey: Situated atop a hill overlooking the town of Pannonhalma, this Benedictine monastery is one of Hungary’s oldest and most important religious sites. Tour the abbey complex, visit the stunning basilica, and explore the beautifully landscaped gardens.

Castle of Diósgyőr (Miskolc): Nestled in the Bükk Mountains, the Castle of Diósgyőr is a medieval fortress dating back to the 12th century. Explore its well-preserved walls, towers, and courtyards, and enjoy panoramic views of Miskolc and the surrounding countryside.

Natural Wonders

UNESCO-listed Tokaj Wine Region: Go on a wine-tasting journey in the Tokaj wine region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrated for its sweet Tokaji wines. Tour historic vineyards, sample exquisite wines at family-owned wineries, and learn about the region’s winemaking traditions.

Hike in the Bükk National Park: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails of the Bükk National Park. Trek through ancient forests, climb limestone peaks, and discover hidden caves and rock formations amidst breathtaking landscapes.

Experience the Serenity of Hortobágy National Park: This national park is Hungary’s largest protected area. Explore vast grasslands, spot diverse bird species, and witness traditional Hungarian shepherding practices in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Cultural Experiences

Discover Local Art and Culture: Get to know Hungarian art and culture by visiting free museums, galleries, and cultural events. Explore contemporary art at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, attend a free concert or performance at Müpa Budapest, or stroll through Budapest’s hipster street art scene.

Sample Hungarian Cuisine: Indulge in traditional Hungarian dishes without breaking the bank by visiting local markets and street food stalls. Taste specialties like lángos (fried dough), goulash soup, and chimney cake (kürtőskalács) for an authentic culinary experience.

Itinerary Ideas

Budapest (3-4 days): Start your Hungarian adventure in Budapest, the dynamic capital city known for its stunning architecture, thermal baths, and partially crazy nightlife. Spend a few days exploring iconic landmarks like the Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and Fisherman’s Bastion. Don’t miss a relaxing soak in one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths, such as Széchenyi or Gellért.

Eger (1-2 days): Head northeast to Eger, a charming town famous for its historic castle, Baroque architecture, and thermal baths. Wander through the cobblestone streets, visit the Eger Castle, and sample local wines at one of the region’s renowned wineries.

Lake Balaton (2-3 days): Escape the city and unwind at Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake. Relax on sandy beaches, go swimming or sailing, and explore picturesque villages along the lake’s shore. Tihany Peninsula and Badacsony are must-visit destinations for stunning views and outdoor activities.

Debrecen (1-2 days): Continue east to Debrecen, Hungary’s second-largest city known for its historical landmarks. Explore the Great Forest Park, visit the iconic Protestant Great Church, and experience local traditions at the Debrecen Flower Carnival (held in August).

Where to stay on a Budget in Hungary

Few Hostels we love

Hungary offers a diverse range of budget-friendly accommodation options, including hostels that cater to backpackers and budget travelers. Around the country you won’t find too many hostels. Some of them even close in off-seaon. It is a good idea to prebook and plan ahead since hostels are sold out easily.

Here are a few hostels in Hungary we enjoyed:

1. Maverick City Hostel (Budapest):

Situated in the Jewish Quarter, Maverick City Hostel provides budget travelers with stylish accommodations and a welcoming atmosphere.

2. Wombats Hostel Budapest (Budapest):

Located in the heart of Budapest’s historic district, Wombats Hostel offers comfortable dormitory rooms and private suites at affordable rates. With its lively social atmosphere, free city tours, and onsite bar, it’s the perfect base for exploring the city on a budget.

3. The Groove Hostel (Eger):

The Groove Hostel provides budget travelers with clean and cozy accommodations in a central location. Guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast, bicycle rentals, and helpful staff who can offer tips on exploring the surrounding area.

4. Sunny Lake Hostel (Balatonfüred):

For travelers seeking budget-friendly accommodation near Lake Balaton, Sunny Lake Hostel is an excellent choice. With its laid-back atmosphere, communal kitchen, and outdoor terrace with lake views, it’s the ideal spot for backpackers looking to relax and unwind.

5. The Spot Hostel (Debrecen):

Located in Debrecen’s city center, The Spot Hostel offers affordable dormitory beds and private rooms with modern amenities. Guests can take advantage of the hostel’s communal kitchen, cozy lounge area, and helpful staff who can provide insider tips on exploring the city.

6. The Kiwi Hostel (Szentendre):

A cute, little hostel with friendly atmosphere, outdoor garden, and proximity to local attractions. It’s a great option for backpackers looking to experience the beauty of the Hungarian countryside.

How to get around Hungary

Public Transport: Hungary has an efficient and affordable public transportation system, including buses, trams, and trains. Budapest as the capital has an extensive network of public transportation, while smaller towns may rely more on buses. Consider purchasing a Budapest Card for unlimited access to public transport and discounts on attractions.

Train Travel: Hungary’s rail network connects major cities and towns, offering a convenient way to travel between destinations. Opt for second-class tickets to save money, and book in advance for the best deals. Keep in mind that seat reservations may be required for certain routes.

Bike Rental: Embrace the eco-friendly way of exploring Hungary by renting a bike. Budapest and other cities have bike-sharing programs, and cycling is a fantastic way to explore scenic routes and rural areas around Lake Balaton.

Car Rental: While public transportation is sufficient for exploring Budapest, renting a car is a big advantage, in my opinion! It will be much easier for you exploring rural areas and smaller towns. As in any European country, Car rental services are available at major airports and cities, with international and local companies. For Budapest you really do not need a car. Do not even get started. Avoid driving within the city center where parking can be limited and expensive.

Best Time to visit Hungary

The best time to visit Hungary depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to enjoy. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons and their pros and cons:

Spring (March to May):

  • Pros: Mild temperatures, blooming flowers, and fewer crowds make spring an ideal time for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
  • Cons: Unpredictable weather with occasional rain showers.

Summer (June to August):

  • Pros: Warm weather, longer daylight hours, and a “summery” atmosphere with outdoor festivals and events.
  • Cons: Crowded tourist attractions, especially in Budapest and popular tourist destinations around Lake Balaton. Higher prices for accommodation and activities.

Fall (September to November):

  • Pros: Mild temperatures, fewer tourists, and beautiful autumn foliage, especially in rural areas.
  • Cons: Shorter daylight hours, occasional rain, and some attractions may have reduced operating hours.

Winter (December to February):

  • Pros: Festive atmosphere with Christmas markets, lower prices for accommodation and flights, and fewer tourists.
  • Cons: Cold temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and some outdoor attractions may be closed or have limited access.

A quick note about prices: As usual within Europe, prices in Hungary vary based on season and location.

Accommodation: Higher in summer, lower in spring and fall. This is obvious. Also, many hostels and smaller hotels closed during off-season.

Activities: Entrance fees for attractions and activities may remain consistent throughout the year, but some places offer discounted rates or special promotions during the off-peak seasons to attract visitors.

Transportation: Public transportation fares in Hungary, including buses, trams, and trains, typically remain the same regardless of the season. However, rental car prices may fluctuate based on demand, with higher rates during peak travel periods. It’s always a good idea to compare prices from different rental companies and book in advance to secure the best deals. Last minutes deals are not a thing in high-season!

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

Safety Tips

Overall, Hungary is a safe country to visit. Budapest as a tourist destination has a smaller pick-pocketing problem. Stay vigilant in crowded areas like markets and public transportation hubs, where pickpockets may operate.

Cultural Norms

Tipping is a thing in Hungary: You can leave a tip of around 10% in restaurants and cafes, as tipping is customary in Hungary and reflects appreciation for good service.

Greetings: Begin interactions with locals by greeting them with a polite “szia” (hello) or “jó napot” (good day) to show respect and friendliness.

Remove your shoes: When entering homes or places of worship, remove your shoes as a sign of respect for the space.

Things Not to Do

We did not experience anything that we would recommend “Not To Do”. We will keep this guide updated.

Resources and Planning

Official Train Company: MÁV-Start – Hungary’s national railway company, providing information on train schedules, routes, and ticket bookings.

Public Transportation: BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Központ) – The official website for public transportation in Budapest, offering information on buses, trams, metro lines, and ticket prices.

Find all our favorite websites and apps for travel planning here.


Backpacking Hungary on a budget is an enriching and rewarding experience, offering a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With affordable accommodation options, efficient transportation, and a wealth of free and low-cost activities, Hungary invites any budget-conscious travelers to explore its treasures and create unforgettable memories.