The next installment in the Expat Interview Series! I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad, and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place. If you’re interested in taking part or want to see a certain place featured let me know!
It’s been a few years since I visited Budapest, but I absolutely loved it and have always wanted to spend more time there. So I’m happy to share this expat interview with Cory, who moved to Budapest with her husband to live the digital nomad life there for a while. Read on to find out more!
Tell us about yourself
Hi, my name is Cory and I am the co-founder of You Could Travel, a soft adventure travel blog. I am a Romanian born British citizen who left Bucharest, Romania at the age of 18 to pursue legal studies at the University of Manchester. After 3 years in Manchester, I moved to Bristol, UK where I lived for 7 years. That’s where I met the love of my life, G, with whom I share my passion for travel.
A while back we decided to move on mainland Europe and experience other cultures, thus we lived in Portugal for 6 months, Spain for 6 months and Budapest for 6 months (where we are based right now). We also lived in Tokyo for 6 months and it’s been the best experience so far. Today, I want to talk to you about Budapest, Hungary. It’s an interesting city where we can see ourselves living for a while, but not where we want to settle. We have our plans of moving back to Tokyo and living there forever and ever.
Tell me about the cost of living in Budapest
The cost of living in Budapest is manageable. Because of the current digital nomad trend in Budapest, the price of housing is still set to increase. A newly renovated apartment in the city centre can be anywhere between £600 to £1000 and more. We are paying £700 for a modern two bedroom apartment in district 6, which is very close to everything we need.
We use our car or we walk most of the time, but we know public transport is cheap still. Utilities are around £200 per month with everything included (internet, electricity, gas, common costs etc). Food is cheap is purchased from the farmer’s market which we recommend. The fruits and veg are fresh and very tasty. One loaf of bread is just under £1 and a beer in the supermarket is as little as £0.50. However, in a pub, expect to pay from £2 for a pint of beer.
How do you make a living?
My husband and I own a digital agency in the UK and this is how we make our living. We also have the blog which just started turning a healthy amount of money on a monthly basis. We are what you call digital nomads. We know there are many agencies here in Budapest who are looking for English speaking foreigners to come and work in the city. We are not aware of what the process is like, but we can imagine it being a little cumbersome as Hungary is still quite a bureaucratic country.
Do you need a visa to live in Budapest?
I am a dual citizen: Romanian and British hence I don’t need a visa to live or work in Europe. Because of my Romanian passport, I’m still not in trouble should the UK decide to go ahead with Brexit. My husband is Hungarian and British, hence in the same boat as I am. We love our passports, but wish we could live in Japan with ease.
What’s the social scene like in Budapest? How easy is it to make friends?
We are both reserved people so we find it quite difficult to make friends. This being said, you can always talk to foreigners and tourists around who are super friendly and looking to make new friends in the city. I think expat groups are the way to go. We have a few blogger friends here who we meet sometimes as well. We don’t have any Hungarian friends but we are certain we are going to start meeting new locals soon.
What’s the best thing about living in Budapest?
As digital nomads, we love the location of the city. We love travelling by car and train so being a few hours driving distances from so many countries makes it great and exciting. No weekend is boring for us as we are always somewhere different. We also love the prices here. They are not as cheap as many believe, but definitely cheaper than in the UK or Tokyo. I personally love the four seasons. For example, I haven’t had a full Spring in a very long time.
What’s the hardest thing about moving to Budapest?
Hungarians are not quite there yet when it comes to customer service. It’s shocking to see how sometimes people get treated with disrespect in supermarkets and shops in general. Even bars and restaurants need to work on their service overall. I feel there is also a general “wall of no” here, where people don’t want to help but they usually say no and turn their back on you. Having lived in Britain for 10 years, this breaks my heart. I don’t understand why people can’t smile and do good customer service.
How is your new home different from your old one?
Well, it’s interesting because we live in a flat rather than a house like we used to, in the UK. It’s a bit odd and uncanny for us, but we got used to it. Our flat looks as modern as our previous house so I don’t feel strange being here. I think the customer service (or lack of) brings me down a lot, as I’m not used to being treated with disrespect. Some people are open to foreigners, whilst others are more reserved. I love that everyone speaks English for example. I’m trying to learn the local language as my husband can help me with that, but in general, I find British people more open to conversation, even if it’s superficial. That superficial small talk gives me comfort!
If we had just one day in Budapest, what should we not miss?
I’d say a walk by the Danube on the Pest side, the Buda castle on the Buda side, enjoy a lovely langos, a Hungarian sausage, a walk to the Central Market and a nice all-inclusive cruise at night. There are so many things I would recommend so best to stay a little longer than just one day.
Can you share your best local/insider tip about Budapest?
Learn a few words in Hungarian and say hello, thank you and goodbye in the local language. People appreciate the effort more than you can imagine. Avoid district 5 and 7 at night during the tourist season. Best to have a nice walk on the Buda side which is more quiet and relaxing. Hungarian food in touristy well-known restaurants is not authentic. For the best food, find that totally off the beaten path restaurant which doesn’t look as fancy as you’d expect.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to move to Budapest what would it be?
Finding a house here can be challenging but don’t give up. Get yourself an agent and start looking at least one month in advance. Don’t be afraid to haggle on the price if needed, but never push it if the landlord says no. Be prepared to sign a contract for at least 6 months, although most landlords prefer if you stay for a year. Most agents speak English so you can find a great representative looking to find you a home. I recommend renting a short-term flat for about a month during which you can run around and find your beloved new home.
Want to read more expat interviews from around the world? Check out the full archive here!