Budapest is Eastern Europe’s up and coming expat hotspot and an increasing number of people are relocating to Budapest each year. And no wonder, the Hungarian capital has all the things Western European cities have to offer – good quality of living, diverse culture and attractive job opportunities – with a much lower cost of living.
Ever since Hungary joined the EU in 2004, an increasing number of international companies have opened branch offices in Budapest, making more lucrative positions available for expats than the traditional language teacher jobs. An important thing to keep in mind when you are negotiating your salary for your new job in the Hungarian capital is that although the salary you are offered may be lower than you expected, you may come out ahead in the end, as life in Budapest is cheaper than in many Western European cities.
Once you have snagged that dream job abroad, you need to choose where you want to live. Budapest is divided into 23 districts – 6 in Buda on the west side of the Danube River, 16 in Pest on the east side, and the final one in an island in the middle of the river.
A majority of expats choose to live in Buda because it offers more quiet residential areas and lovely green spaces. Where you choose to live depends on your budget. District 2 (Pesthidegkút) has many expensive villas, especially in the Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) neighborhood, but also less pricy apartments. Many people like this district as it is quiet and clean, near many public schools and not too far from the city center. District 12 (Buda Hills) is also quiet while still lying within close proximity to the downtown area. Many prominent Hungarian politicians live there, including the president and prime minister.
For expats on a budget, several districts on the east side of the Danube in Pest may offer more practical housing options. District 14 (Zúgló) is the preferred choice of many expat families. It has reasonable housing prices as well as many historical residential buildings. The district is home to the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden and an expansive city park. Expats living here will be able to reach downtown Pest quickly and easily.
District 13 (Downtown) lies between Zúgló and the Danube. New residential buildings are currently being built in this district, which offer nice options for expats with a smaller paycheck. The neighborhoods in this district are still clean and safe, despite being located in downtown Pest.
If you are coming to Budapest as a young and single expat, you should consider renting an apartment in District 5 (Belváros), which is the heart of the city, located right on the Danube. You’ll be right at the center of all the nightlife action. This district offers lots of housing options, from nice and expensive apartments to cheap and run-down ones. There is also a good chance that you will be working in this district, as it is the city’s financial hub and home to the Hungarian seats of many international companies.
Before you move to Budapest, joining the Expatriate Community of InterNations is a good way to get in contact with other expats before your arrival. In the housing forum, you can ask expats already living in Budapest about their experiences renting or buying in the various districts of the city. In other sections of the forum, you can get answers to your questions about reasonable salary expectations, the cost of living, international schools and child care for your children and much more.
Once you arrive in Budapest, you can meet expats face-to-face at InterNations Events and Activities. It is important to also meet some locals, though, and make an effort to learn the Hungarian language and about the country’s culture. You will find that Hungarians are very proud of their language and their rich cultural heritage. Especially if you are staying for an extended assignment, taking these steps will help you feel more at home abroad and less like an eternal tourist.