Thermal Bath

How to Completely Blow Your Budget in Budapest

Sometimes, you just blow your travel budget out of the water so badly that you might as well say F%*$ IT!  and keep the ball rolling.  Money is just money, after all, and travel memories are forever…


Budget travel in Budapest, Hungary, is totally, 100%, undeniably achievable.  But when you want to splash out and be completely and utterly financially irresponsible for a change, just follow these simples steps.

Budget? What Budget?

First, decide to visit Budapest during the peak of the summer travel season.  Better yet, time your arrival to coincide with a major music festival to ensure that even hostel prices are through the roof.

Realize you’d rather spend just a little extra to have an entire Airbnb apartment rental all to yourself than suffer through four nights in a 10-bed dorm full of smelly backpackers for $50 a night.  Reason that $54 per night is actually a great deal, all things considered.

Airbnb in Budapest, Hungary

Airbnb in Budapest

Buy a 72-hour metro pass for 3,850 Hungarian forint ($13.15) because, let’s be honest, this is probably the most financially sound decision you’re going to make all week.

Budapest, Hungary

The Buda-ful metro stations of Budapest

Miss the free walking tour by a matter of minutes.  Shrug it off as a financial win, because now you don’t have a tour guide to tip.

Look at your disgusting hands and feet and decide to treat yourself to the first mani-pedi you’ve had in months, because why not? Find a salon recommendation on Foursquare and set off in its general direction by foot.

But before that, you’ll need lunch.  Stop into a restaurant (or rather, an art pub) that looks new and hip, and grab your standard table for one. Struggle internally a little bit when they tell you they’re only serving breakfast because you secretly really wanted something from the lunch menu, but the breakfast items are all significantly cheaper.  Financial win, hungerlust loss.

Hungarian Forint

The men of Hungarian money

After lunch, spend no less than one hour walking from nail salon to nail salon only to be told time and again that they are fully booked.  For weeks.

Resort to your last possible option, the WestEnd City Center shopping mall.  Find the nail salon with ease.  Wind up getting a gel manicure because, naturally, they don’t have normal polish.  Go all in and get the gel pedicure as well.  Give yourself a mental pat on the back for getting a great mani-pedi that would cost three times as much in the US.

Then, because you’re in a shopping mall and you have zero self-control, buy several things you don’t need.  Like the most expensive lipstick you’ve literally ever purchased in your life (but also the best quality).  And a new pair of sunglasses, too, because it’s not like you’ve already got three other pairs or anything!

Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary

The lipstick in question

Realize you still have yet to do any true sightseeing and head in the direction of the Danube, camera at the ready.

Budapest, Hungary

On the Danube

Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary

The Parliament Building

After another 45 minutes or so of slogging through the afternoon heat, your feet are starting to feel swollen and you could really use some shade.  Head for a cafe to use a bathroom and decide it’s probably about time for an afternoon coffee.  Order the more expensive aperol spritz instead, because day drinking.

Bowhurst Classic Pack

Szabadság tér

Eat out for lunch and dinner every day after that, despite having a kitchen available in your Airbnb for cooking.  Reason that you won’t be there long enough to use all the ingredients you would’ve had to buy to cook a proper meal.  Reassure yourself of this “fact” daily.

Airbnb in Budapest, Hungary

Your lonely, unused kitchen

Decide to join a bar crawl at a hostel because you’ve been in town two nights and are starting to feel the need to meet people and experience the local nightlife.

Arrive at the meeting point late because the website gave you the wrong information. Wander aimlessly looking for the bar they might be at.  Find a different bar full of young people and chat up some strangers.  When you finally get served at the bar you can barely see over, order several drinks at once, including a shot to curb your frustration.

Stay out until 4 am.  Go to several bars including one of Budapest’s famous “ruin pubs” and spend you-don’t-even-know-how-much on drinks.  Because NIGHTLIFE!

Realize the only way to get back to your Airbnb on the complete opposite side of the city is by taxi.  Cheer with joy when the final read on the meter is less than 20 euros.

Budapest, Hungary

Near your Airbnb in Buda

The next day, in your ragged, hungover state, crawl out of your misery in search of food around noon.  On the way to a local hummus bar (named Hummus Bar), pass by a second-hand store.  Enter, because you have no self-control.  An hour or so later, leave the second-hand store with no fewer than eight items.  Feel proud that the grand total was less than $50 and that everything you got is super stylish.

Brag about your accomplishment on Snapchat.

Hummus plate, Budapest, Hungary

A poor attempt at hiding your bag of new goodies

Devour your entire hummus plate, which is definitely enough food for two meals, in one go.  Later that night, eat an entire pizza to go along with the bottle of wine your generous Airbnb hosts gifted you.  Do a self-congratulatory fist pump for free wine.

On your final day in Budapest, realize you MUST visit one of the city’s bathhouses.  Settle on the Szechenyi Thermal Bath, because it’s the one that’s located farthest from your Airbnb, and that makes sense.

Pay the nearly 20 euro entrance fee which doesn’t even include a towel and head inside.  Get slightly confused by the strange unisex changing room situation.  Fumble your way through, forgoing a locker so you can keep your cameras close by.  Wade through the thick crowds of people, taking it all in.  Enjoy the respite from the unrelenting summer heat.Szechenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest, Hungary Szechenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest, Hungary

Realize that you’ve still got to pack and check out of your Airbnb; take a few last photos, and leave the baths after only an hour or so inside.

Check your purse for any remaining local currency.  Gasp audibly when you find money left after such an inexcusably extravagant four days, even if they are only coins.  Since you’re heading to a new country that night, donate what you have left to a street musician playing outside the bath house.

Check out of your Airbnb and head to the train station, and say your final goodbye to Budapest (and your money).

Keleti Station, Budapest, Hungary

Keleti Station

Regret nothing.

Do you ever splash out and spend well beyond your intended budget while traveling?

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  • Reply Katelyn November 24, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Haha! I surprisingly spent very little in Budapest. But that’s probably because I was still recovering from my alcohol-induced coma from Greece. I definitely hope to get back to Budapest soon. Possibly get a apartment for a month or two as I completely fell in love with the city. And the wine. Loved the wine! 🙂
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  • Reply Mani @ A New Life Wandering November 24, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Haha oh well… sometimes you gotta, right? I was actually surprised at how cheap Budapest was compared to other European cities and loved it! I did do my fair share of touristing.. I visited underground caves, the bridge, the zoo, the opera house… I did not do the baths though. Did I miss out? They look sooo crowded!
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    • Reply Leah Davis November 25, 2015 at 12:59 am

      I think the bath could have been a lot of fun if I’d been there with a group of friends. On my own, there was only so much people watching I could do before I got bored, and since I had my cameras with me and not in a locker, I didn’t feel comfortable letting them out of my sight to go for a swim. The crowds didn’t bother me, but I’m sure it’s not ALWAYS so crowded, it was just a seriously hot day.

  • Reply Kinga November 24, 2015 at 10:47 am

    I did that in England while travelling through Lake District.
    It felt nice to drink local beers and enjoy the English Tea while being there, but I was devastated when I saw my bank account statement after coming back. Especially that when you count GBP into PLN, the outcome is very disadvantageous.
    To feel better, I went to Barcelona and, just on the contrary, stayed within my budget and even got some money to buy food/water at the airport.
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    • Reply Leah Davis November 25, 2015 at 1:02 am

      I keep hearing that England is just the most expensive place ever! I suppose I should be grateful I was irresponsible in a place like Budapest and not London haha!
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  • Reply Lauren Lalicon November 24, 2015 at 11:20 am

    This is such a sweet post! Detailing the decisions of the day the way you did make this post so fun and energetic! And now it makes me want to spend money just because you made it look so easy haha. That bathhouse looks gorgeous! I never thought of Hungary as a destination for me but that bathhouse makes me seriously reconsider my travel list.
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    • Reply Leah Davis November 25, 2015 at 1:05 am

      Yay! I totally recommend it, I absolutely loved Budapest. Spending money IS easy…too easy! LOL

  • Reply Brooklyn November 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    That trip sounds like it was mega fun, even though not budget friendly. We all need those trips sometimes.
    And that hummus bowl…I definitely need that hummus bowl
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  • Reply Rachel November 24, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    God. So accurate.

    Get nails done because it’s so cheap here, and hell, you don’t own nail polish remover or know where to buy it. Tip waiter a little extra because he was super nice to you and let you practice your Spanish even though tip is already included. Go for coffee, have coffee with booze in it instead because it’s mid-day and THIS IS WHY YOU QUIT YOUR JOB! And of course, when hungover, eat ALL the food because you’re helpless and you NEED IT.
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    • Reply Leah Davis November 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Hahaha exactly, somehow I knew you’d understand.

  • Reply Allison November 24, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I almost always end up blowing my budget going out, I lack self-control! Like you I will usually try to justify my decisions by telling myself my mani/pedi or massage was way cheaper than it would have been at home!
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    • Reply Leah Davis November 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Haha yup, why is it so easy? As if I NEEDED a mani/pedi…lol.

  • Reply Amanda | Lesson Plans and Layovers November 24, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    OMG that thermal bath!
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    • Reply Leah Davis December 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Right?! That’s the real reason I went there, it’s just so beautiful!

  • Reply Sarah November 24, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Hahah brilliantly put. I can totally relate to this. ALL MAKES SENSE at the time…but you know it doesn’t really. I am particularly bad at this the moment I head for a night out when travelling…yolo…!
    Sarah recently posted…Ek Balam: The tuk tuk, the sub-woofer speakers, the torrential rain … and the ruins.My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis December 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Haha YOLO is right 🙂 So glad I’m not the only one who suffers from this affliction 😉

  • Reply Rachel November 24, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Hey, it happens 🙂 So excited to visit Budapest next month!!
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    • Reply Leah Davis December 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      I hope you love it as much as I did! 🙂

  • Reply Gloria Atanmo November 25, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Bahahahahaha, YES. Too bad I was close to broke while in Budapest. No money to fail at stopping myself from spending. Enjoyed this one!

  • Reply Paul November 25, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Great post! I just went through this in Bangkok – soooo easy to justify each little splurge. 🙂 I love the final line, though – regret nothing. Totally perfect. And you’ve also helped me move Budapest up on my list of cities to visit!

    • Reply Leah Davis November 29, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Haha great news! I absolutely loved Budapest and would recommend it to anyone. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah at Nomad Capitalist December 4, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Great article! I found Budapest to be super affordable, actually. Being from Germany, Hungary has to be the cheapest country in the Schengen Area. But I will say that all the trendy new street cafes popping up tempted me to burst my budget. Walking by a place with tacos and margaritas every day didn’t help!
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    • Reply Leah Davis December 6, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      Hah yeah, it totally is affordable if you want it to be. I just didn’t want it to be that particular weekend 😉 I wouldn’t be able to resist tacos and margaritas, either!

  • Reply Eva Casey December 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Oh man, you’ve just described my entire life. Ugh. No matter my well intentioned attempts to budget I always end up blowing it in the most marvelous ways. Ah well, you only live once, right? (I type this as I am eating ridiculously overpriced red velvet pancakes in Puerto Rico, with which I HAD to have the cappuccino and side of bacon, RIGHT?) So yeah, I feel your pain haha!
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  • Reply Rebecca December 7, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Fun, fun, fun! It’s gotta be done every now and then. How amazing do the baths look?! Next time you definitely need to plan for more than an hour though.
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    • Reply Leah Davis December 7, 2015 at 11:36 pm

      I knowww the problem was I hadn’t bought my train ticket for that night and I had no idea how much of a nightmare Keleti’s queuing system would be. Waited around to buy my ticket for nearly 2 hours!! Also, I think I’d have stayed longer at the baths had I been with other people. But I DO plan to go back! 🙂
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