£200 Challenge: Can You See Budapest For Less Than That?

The first time I set foot in Budapest I knew it was always going to be a city that had it’s teeth in me.

There’s something about the grandeur of the buildings, the crackle of the language and the coming together of cultures that grabs you and pulls you in. (There’s also the fact it’s about 89 pence for a pint; enough of those and any city becomes enjoyable).

So, when you voted for it to be the first destination on my £200 challenge, It’s safe to say I was pretty damn happy.

I was also scared half to death because I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it or not. There was every chance I’d go over budget, and make a laughing stock of myself in front of everyone I’d made a commitment to.

budapest central statue

But here I am, typing this up shortly after I’ve landed, and I can tell you this – it is possible to see Budapest for under £200.

In this article, I want to show you how I did it, what I spent my money on, and how you can do it too.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, read on…

Worried you might miss out in Budapest? Click Here to get your free must-see Checklist!

How Much Did I Spend?

Flights – £70.31 (Return)

The cheapest flights I could find were using Skyscanner, and flying Ryanair. They were also the only airline that consistently flew directly to/from Manchester. And, I didn’t want a 15-hour layover in Charles de Galle (I don’t like France when I choose to be there).

The cheapest days to fly were Tuesday through Thursday, and you could save at least £40-£50 by not flying on the weekend. You’re also able to avoid the big tourist crowds and see the city in a much more wholesome way if you’re there midweek.

Also, the earlier the flight, the better. We flew at 08:45 from Manchester and the return flight was 06:30 and saved a bunch of money. While gaining more time there as well.

ryanair to budapest flight

You might think a midweek break is easy for me because of my job. But, I took the two days off work, as did my friend that I flew with. So it’s not impossible even if you work a nine-to-five job and have holidays to use.

Accommodation – £22.50 (£11.25 per night)

Normally hostels are my go-to cheap accommodation. But, Budapest has one of the best AirBnB choices I’ve come across. And, the rates are almost unbelievable. For just £11.00 per night we managed to get a double room, in the city centre, with en-suite bathroom.

linden-ii

This place was called Linden II, and it was a short walk from the ruin bars and around 10 minutes from the banks of the Danube. That means you can stumble home drunk, or worn out from sightseeing, without having to ride a metro anywhere.

Fanni, our host, was also impressive. She had incredible recommendations for food, sights to see and she even found us the cheapest possible taxi back to the airport. So, I’d highly recommend staying here.

If you’re not already using AirBnB I’d suggest you sign up right here!

Transport – £22.86

Transport is the only part of the challenge where I feel I spent much more than I needed to. But, I’m lazy and didn’t want to fight the public transport system, so we got a Taxi to and from the airport.

On the way out we got ripped off at £12.51 each for the taxi ride to the hotel. But, on the way back, we got a local taxi that cost just short of £6.25. The cab driver did appear to be slightly drunk, or too tired to keep his eyes open, so we paid extra in fearing for our lives.

Most of the city is accessible by foot, and you see far more of it if you walk around. You’re never more than a few minutes from a bench or a cafe if you want a break.

The Metro itself isn’t an experience like London or New York, so don’t feel compelled to take it. And you’ll accidentally happen upon most of the places you want to see.

One of my favourite parts of travel is walking the city, taking the back streets, and seeing where they lead me.

That’s probably my secret sauce to finding the best places to eat, drink and chat to locals too.

Save your money and travel by foot. You won’t regret it. (Your feet might).

Food and Drink – £43.84

Food is so cheap in Budapest it’s insane. While £43.84 looks like we may have skimped on eating and drinking – that’s one meal in most European cities – it’s inclusive of lots of food. You just have to eat where the locals eat.

For example, our first meal at Frici Papa which was just around the corner from our AirBnB.

It serves traditional Hungarian food, in a rustic restaurant covered in beautiful artwork. And, you’d probably walk past it if you didn’t know it was there.

Three courses of Fried Cheese, Paprika Chicken with Noodles, an enormous local dessert and two steins of beer, came to £6.88 each.

Admittedly, it looks a little like prison food in the picture, but don’t be fooled – it’s one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever eaten and I even ordered a second helping.

budapest paprika chicken and noodles

Breakfast at a Bakery came in at just over £2.88. That’s for a big coffee and two Hungarian style chocolate croissants. (They’re divine, and I ate them all before I remembered to take a picture. Sorry).

And, the final meal at Paprika, the highest rated restaurant in the city, came to just £17 for three courses. Garlic soup, a whole leg of lamb, cottage cheese dumplings and a glass of red wine.

Worried you might miss out in Budapest? Click Here to get your free must-see Checklist!

Activities – £28.96 (Total, Breakdown Below)

It’s amazing how much of Budapest is just free to do. It is a city that you have to see to believe. And almost everything worth seeing is free.

However, there are some fantastic ways to see the city and experience the culture, which won’t break the bank either.

Here’re some of my recommended activities you can tick of for almost nothing.

Midnight Champagne River Cruise – £14.56

This cruise was my favourite event on the whole trip. And, not just because a waitress thought me attractive enough to ask for my phone number (the ol’ boys still got it).

This midnight cruise leaves the port at 10pm (So much for midnight) on the Pest side of the river. It includes free champagne, another free drink, classical music and a 90-minute tour of the Danube. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how much you get for so little in cost.

Sitting here was the most content I’ve felt on the road in a long time. A good drink, beautiful views, my best mate and being on the road. It was one of those moments that reminds you why you travel in the first place.

The views from the river are just stunning, too. You really can’t fault looking off the back deck and seeing this:

Budapest view from river

You can book your River cruise through the same company I did right here.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath House – £13.51

Thermal bath houses have been a staple of Budapest’s culture since the Roman’s happened upon their 125 hot springs all those years ago. But, while none of the original bath houses remain, you can still find ones that have stood the test of time from the Turkish occupation.

The bath house we chose is the only bathhouse on the Pest side of the city. And, it was considered to be the most expensive by Fanni our AirBnB host. But I figured we could swing £13-£14 to go and splash around in the water for a while.

You can see my grand tour of the place here:

Honestly, this is the most relaxed I’ve been since I was in the womb.

While there are lots of people in the bathhouse, there are enough pools and saunas and steam rooms to accommodate everyone.

They even have a Beer Spa if you want to pay extra where you can sit in warm beer and drink as much as you want of it for 45 minutes. (I prefer my beer without sweaty human flesh and opted out).

Underground Railway Museum – £0.89

Just, don’t.

Nope. Not even going to write any more about it. Just spend your £0.89 on literally anything else.

Szimpla Ruin Bar – Free (£1.00 in Beer from the Drinks tab)

Every so often there comes a place when you travel that just captures your heart. Szimpla, while being a cliche tourist-trip in Budapest, is one of those places for me.

me in szimpla on a chair

The concept of the ruin bars is truly beautiful. Left derelict and broken from bombs in the war, these buildings in the heart of the Jewish District were all but forgotten about. Then, some magical soul opted to turn the space – reminiscent of death and destruction – into a beautiful piece of art. Where there was once hate and evil, there is now beauty and creation.

Szimpla is the pinnacle of this concept.

To walk around the different rooms of the bar, play with the art installations and sip your home brewed beer is magical. Everything that decorates the bar is old, recycled, or donated.

One minute you’ll find yourself sat on a bench made from a snowboard, the next you’re in a car that that looks straight out of 1940’s Columbia. And, that’s before you take a moment to admire the graffiti that welcomely scrawled all over the walls.

szimpla snowboard bench

If you only take one of my recommendations, let it be this one. And go during the daytime if you’re not on a drinking holiday. That way you can really appreciate the different rooms, and get some life-affirming advice from the room around you.

don't die before you're dead

Margaret’s Island – Free

Margaret’s Island sites right int he middle of the Danube, at the top of the city. And while on the surface it’s just a park, it’s pretty beautiful to walk around if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Budapest.

The highlight here was the fountain. While it pales in size to the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas, it’s definitely as entertaining. If you turn up at 6pm, they have a musical themed water show going on that’s worth taking in. (Pick up a couple of £0.40 tins of beer to take with you, it’s even more magical).

Here’s a video to show you what I mean:

If you can catch it while the sun sets over St Stephen’s Basilica, you’re in for a real treat too.

sunset margaret island

Worried you might miss out in Budapest? Click Here to get your free must-see Checklist!

Total Spend: £182.22

It really didn’t feel like I tried to save money at all. There were times when I made smart decisions: don’t go inside the over priced exhibit, be aware of what you do want to do and don’t spend money for the sake of it.

But there were times when I was actively trying to spend money because it was so much fun to see how far your money could actually stretch.

I’d maybe have been able to save £30-£40 off the overall budget by not taking Taxis, or by not picking up snacks and drinks in-between times. But being able to sip a beer in the park with my mate, eat extra food and cruise the river all made the trip what it was for me.

While it’s always nice to come home with money, you may get extra from the experience by spending as much money that you can allocate as possible.

There’s a lot to be said for spending the money you do have on experiences. You’ll remember them a darn site longer than a new pair of shoes.

Where To Next?

Okay, over to you! I have two questions for you if you don’t mind me asking…

Where would you like me to go to on my next £200 challenge? You can add your vote in the comments, on Facebook.

How can I make the £200 challenge better for you? Again, let me know below or on Facebook.

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