Living in Budapest
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A comprehensive guide about living well in Budapest
As an expat destination, Budapest is becoming more and more popular. This is not only due to the quality of living in Budapest but also to the diverse culture and new job opportunities there. Read our guide to learn more about the culture, language, apartment search, healthcare and more.
Life in Budapest
- People in Budapest often speak not only Hungarian but also English and German.
- The cost of living in Budapest is, on the whole, a lot lower than in many Western European countries.
- Rental prices in Budapest vary greatly depending on the area of the city you choose to live in.
- Hungary has a very well-developed healthcare system.
- There are a lot of schools in Budapest with experience in catering to expat children.
Diversity and the Local Language
Budapest is a beautiful, historic city which offers plenty of insight into Hungary’s past. Living in Budapest lets you enjoy a unique atmosphere in this European capital. However, you should make sure to come prepared. First and foremost, many people living in Budapest speak English or German which makes it easy for visitors in Budapest to get around. However, as an expat, you should make sure that you learn at least some basic Hungarian. Hungarians are very proud of their language and culture. If you visit some less touristy parts of the city, you might meet locals who completely refuse to abandon their language, even if they understand English. If you want to fully immerse yourself into the culture, learning Hungarian is essential.
Multiculturalism and a rich diversity define life in Budapest. During your expat assignment you will meet people of every race, age group, social group, etc. That being said, not every local is as excited about this fact as the many expats who live here. The Roma population in particular is often the target of severe discrimination.
The Cost of Living
Generally speaking, Hungary is a lot cheaper than many Western European countries. Expats who have previously lived in cities with a particularly high cost of living will notice the difference right away. But don’t get too excited. Budapest, being the capital of the country, is a lot more expensive than smaller towns or rural areas. Moreover, in relation to local salaries the cost of living in Budapest is rather high. Whether you will lead a comfortable life in Budapest or if you will live in a tiny room somewhere on the outskirts of the city ultimately depends on your salary and how high your living standards are.
Finding Your Space: The Apartment Search
The cost of living in Budapest is also something you need to keep in mind when organizing your apartment search there. First of all, the rental prices largely depend on the area in which you choose to live. The first, second, fifth, and twelfth districts are the most expensive ones, for instance. Have a closer look at our article on moving to Budapest for an overview of the most popular districts in the city. Once you have an idea of where you would like to settle down, you can begin looking for an apartment.
It always makes sense to start with a thorough research online. Here are some of the websites you can use for that purpose:
- Budapestdreams.com: On top of general city information, this website presents a database of hotels and apartments in the city. This site is particularly useful for expats on a short-term assignment.
- Alberlet.hu: This page offers rentals of different sizes and price ranges.
- Roommatesbudapest.com: This website contains available rooms and apartments in Budapest.
- Apartmentsofbudapest.com: This website offers a range of different apartments of varying size and price in the different districts of Budapest.
But do not rely on the internet alone. Newspapers, housing agencies, and personal contacts in Budapest are also great tools for finding an apartment. Real estate agencies can be useful if your life in Budapest starts on short notice. Many expats don’t have the time to go from door to door, check apartment ads in the paper, and contact landlords. Realtors can help you find a place for living in Budapest if you are willing to pay a fee which usually amounts to between one and three months’ rent. If you have a little more time, you can look at the private property market and save yourself the agency’s fee. However, you should bring a translator along if you choose this option or brush up on your language skills before embarking on the housing search in Hungary.
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Budapest: Property, Health, and Education
Putting Down Roots: Buying Property in Budapest
Some expats living in Budapest might prefer to buy their own apartment or house, instead of renting one. Luckily, this is not a problem, as Hungary allows foreigners to own real estate as long as they apply for a purchase permit from the Administrative Authority Office. It is worth noting that if you are buying property as a second home, you need to have been a resident in Hungary for at least five years. Buying property makes a lot of sense for those who intend to stay in Budapest long-term and for those who bring their family. In recent years, new residential buildings have been constructed and many downtown apartments have undergone a thorough renovation. Families will find beautiful homes, often with a garden, in the Buda Hills and in the outskirts of the city.
What is important is that you hire a real estate expert to help you find the house or apartment which is right for you and who can handle the paper work. Property management and real estate companies often take care of these things, offering a lot of different services to home owners. They are also the ones to turn to if you decide to move again and rent out the home you have previously purchased.
Varying Standards: The Healthcare System
Hungary has a very well-developed universal healthcare system, which covers children (up to the age of 16), parents, pensioners, church employees, and disabled people free of charge. Through payments to the HIF, foreign nationals receive the same treatment as Hungarian nationals with EU citizens being reimbursed of their costs depending on whether a reciprocal health agreement exists with their home country. Since the implementation of this universal healthcare system, the life expectancy has been on the rise and the infant mortality rate has dropped significantly. Between 2000 and 2010, the total mortality rate in Hungary dropped by an astounding 18%. The biggest killers in Hungary are non-communicable diseases with incidence of contagion from communicable disease being relatively low. The government has been endeavoring to reduce mortality caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, however, by introducing measures such as increasing tax on unhealthy food, alcohol and tobacco, as well as introducing a smoking ban on indoor public places, and restricting the sale of cigarettes to privately owned tobacco shops of which there are only 6,000. According to government officials, as of 2014 more than 200,000 people had quit smoking in Hungary in only one year.
However, not everything about the Hungarian healthcare system is currently perfect. In 2015, Hungary came 29th out of 34 countries based on their level of spending per capita on healthcare. Whilst the healthcare infrastructure is well-equipped with ambulance stations all over the country; air ambulance services; hospitals; and health centers, Hungary still has one of the lowest life expectancies in all of Europe. There are also huge regional variances: Western Transdanubia is one of the healthiest regions while the Southern Hungarian Plain has the highest rate of strokes and heart diseases.
As is always the case when moving abroad, it makes sense to check which medical services are covered by Hungary’s universal healthcare system and which aren’t. Some expats decide to opt out of the public healthcare system and choose private coverage instead.
Whether you choose to go for private or public healthcare, what is important to keep in mind is that public health insurance does not cover services provided by private healthcare centers or hospitals. So make sure to find out if your insurance covers the medical services you require before you get stuck with the costs.
The nationwide emergency number is 112; for just ambulance and emergency medical services you can call 104. Make sure to memorize it or save it in your phone. Should you witness an accident or be in need of support yourself, dial this number and you will receive the help you need.
Hospitals in Budapest
Hospital treatments are usually arranged through a referral from a doctor (except in the case of an emergency). Even if you have proper health insurance, you might be asked to pay a small fee. The good news is that there are many hospitals all over Hungary offering high-quality services. Here are some exemplary options expats in Budapest can avail of:
- Buda Health Center
- FirstMed Centers
- Health Guard Hungary (II., III., XI. and XII. District)
- International Medical Services
- Kelen Hospital
- Medicover Eiffel Clinic
- Rozsakert Medical Center
- Dr Rose
The Next Generation: International Education in Budapest
Expats who come to Budapest with their families will have to figure out which school their children are supposed to attend. Fortunately, there are a lot of international schools in Budapest with experience in catering to expat children. As an expat parent you can choose from the following:
- American International School of Budapest: Ages 3–18; American Curriculum and International Baccalaureate (IB)
- British International School Budapest: Ages 3–18; English National Curriculum and IB
- Britannica International School: Ages 5–18; adapted from the English National Curriculum and IGCSE (International General Ceritificate of Education)
- Greater Grace International School: Ages 3–18; Christian / Independent Curriculum
- International School of Budapest: Ages 5–14; Modified English National Curriculum and Hungarian National Curriculum
- SEK: Ages 3–18; Trilingual (Hungarian, English, Spanish) offering DELE examinations, English exams and the IB
- Europaschule: Ages 6–14; Catholic / Independent Curriculum
- Deutsche Schule Budapest: Ages 6–18; German and Hungarian Curriculum
- Lycée Gustave Eiffel: Ages 3–18; Baccalaureate
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