Living abroad
July 8, 2024
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Affordable living in Hungary: cost breakdown and comparisons

Hungary is one of the most affordable yet underrated places to live in the European Union. Real estate prices, along with the costs of transportation, food, healthcare, and education, are all significantly lower than in the USA and many other EU countries.

Learn how much money a Hungarian resident might need on average. We have gathered actual prices across the country and compared them with other destinations popular among expatriates.

Average cost of living in Hungary
Affordable living in Hungary: cost breakdown and comparisons

What to know about Hungary

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. The Danube River beautifully splits the capital, Budapest, into the historic Buda and the vibrant Pest, each side offering cultural sights and historical perspectives.

Hungary has been a member of the European Union since 2004. This status has boosted the country’s economy, encouraged political reforms, and enhanced the quality of life for its citizens.

The official currency in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint, which is used for all transactions within the country. The euro is not widely used, but some tourist areas and businesses in Budapest accept it.

Hungary is among the most affordable countries within the EU member states. The overall price level there is 24% below the EU average. Only a few countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania, have more affordable prices.

According to the immigration law, there are 24 types of residence permits available in Hungary. Along with standard permits for work, study, or family reunification, Hungary offers residency for remote workers, entrepreneurs, and investors

To obtain a Hungary residence permit, candidates listed above must meet the following conditions:

  • digital nomads prove a monthly income of at least €3,000 and savings of €10,000 or more in a bank account;
  • entrepreneurs provide a business plan and register a company in Hungary with authorised capital of €7,700 or more;
  • investors put at least €250,000 in the country’s economy by choosing one of the available options.

Hungarian residence permits are valid from one to ten years, depending on the chosen type.

Housing prices in Hungary

Real estate purchase. Hungarian average property prices are twice as affordable as those in the UK and 20% cheaper than in the USA. According to the cost of living database Numbeo, Hungary is ranked 6th out of 40 European countries on the property purchase affordability index. 

The price for new housing averages around €2,564 per square metre nationally. In Budapest, the capital, prices for new homes can exceed €3,093 per square metre, making it the most expensive area in Hungary. In contrast, Nyíregyháza offers the most affordable new housing, with prices around €1,469 per square metre.

Second-hand housing offers even more affordability, with the national average cost at €1,126 per square metre. In Budapest, the price is €2,281 per square metre, while in the surrounding agglomeration, it drops to €1,559. Near Lake Balaton, a popular tourist spot, secondary properties cost €1,766 per square metre.

Lake Balaton, Budapest, and areas along the western border are the most desirable locations among foreigners wishing to buy real estate in the country. According to the Central Statistical Office, the majority of property purchases by non-nationals in Hungary are made by Germans, Slovakians, and Chinese.

Apartment price range per square metre in Hungary

CityPrice range
Budapest€3,109 to €5,182 in the city centre

€2,073 to €3,368 outside the city centre
Szeged€2,073 to €2,850 in the city centre

€1,554 to €2,202 outside the city centre
Debrecen€2,073 to €2,591 in the city centre

€1,684 to €1,943 outside the city centre
National average€1,943 to €3,886 in the city centre

€1,554 to €3,109 outside the city centre

Rental prices in Hungary are also more affordable than in many other European countries. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of a Hungarian city is 66% cheaper than in Italy, and half the price compared to Spain or Malta.

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of Budapest costs around €589 per month, while in the capital’s outskirts the price is €457. In Debrecen, the average rental cost is 30% lower — €344 for a small apartment outside the city centre. In cities like Pécs and Siófok, the rental price for a comparable apartment falls to €252.

Average rental costs in Hungary
In April 2024, rental prices in Budapest were three times higher than in smaller cities like Miskolc or Békéscsaba

Utility expenses in Hungary

The cost of basic utilities for an 85 m2 apartment is around €139 per month, while a smaller 45 m2 studio incurs about €79 monthly. This includes electricity, heating, water supply, and garbage disposal. Sixty-five percent of the utility expenses account for electricity and gas.

Hungarian citizens pay the lowest utility fees in the EU. Prices for electricity and gas in the country are three times more affordable than the EU average. For comparison, residents of Rome pay €0.64 per kilowatt-hour, which is seven times higher than the €0.09 paid in Budapest.

Internet services are also exceptionally economical, costing approximately €12 per month. This is five times cheaper than in the USA and three times cheaper than in Spain or the UK.

Hungary is ranked 23rd among 181 countries for its internet speed. The download speed in the country is 178.73 Mbps. It is slower than in the USA, France, or Spain, but faster than in South Korea, Malta, or the UK.

Mobile service. The cost of the cheapest prepaid SIM card varies between €3 and €13 per month, depending on the chosen mobile operator and data package. The main mobile providers in Hungary are Vodafone, Telekom, and Yettel.

Prices of the cheapest prepaid SIM card plans in Hungary

Mobile operatorInternet dataMonthly cost
Vodafone3 GB4,990 HUF / €12.62
Telekom1 GB1,290 HUF / €3.26
Yettel3 GB1,500 HUF / €3.79

Understanding the food prices in Hungary

Groceries. According to Numbeo, a single person spends at least €6.95 daily or about €215.57 monthly on food. This estimated sum is 45% less than in the USA and 33% less than in Italy. Hungarian food prices are comparable to those in Portugal and Spain.

In early 2023, Hungary experienced the highest food inflation within the EU. While the average increase across Europe was 19.6%, Hungary saw prices surge by over 45%. Prices for eggs, butter, bread, and milk were 72 to 80% higher than those in 2022.

As of 2024, Hungary's average food prices are as follows:

  • milk, 1 litre — €0.99;
  • a loaf of bread — €1.32;
  • 12 eggs — €2.47;
  • rice, 1 kg — €1.71;
  • chicken fillets, 1 kg — €4.88;
  • beef round, 1 kg — €10.81;
  • apples, 1 kg — €1.39;
  • banana, 1 kg — €1.62;
  • potato, 1 kg — €1.06;
  • tomato, 1 kg — €2.72.

Eating out in Hungary is 45% cheaper than in the USA, France, or Germany, and 36% cheaper than in the UK. 

A basic meal with a drink at an inexpensive restaurant costs €8, while a combo meal at a fast food restaurant is around €7. A cup of cappuccino in a local coffee shop costs about €1.84. A couple will pay €45 for a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant.

Tips in Hungarian restaurants are usually around 10 to 15% of the bill. 

Transportation costs in Hungary

Fuel prices in Hungary are among the lowest in the European Union. The cost of 95 petrol and diesel is €1.5 per litre. Premium 98 petrol is €1.6 per litre. To compare, in the UK, Portugal, and Germany, one litre of 95 petrol will cost €1.7. The most expensive EU fuel prices are in Denmark and the Netherlands — around €2 per litre.

Renting a car is also quite affordable. Daily rates start at €24 for a small car and €25 for a medium car, with premium cars ranging between €147 to €351. For comparison, renting a small car in the USA costs significantly more, starting at €136. In the UK, the minimum price is €79.

Most Hungarian motorways are toll-based. A toll pass for 10 days costs €23, while a monthly pass is €37. An annual toll pass costs €250. These can be bought in advance on the national toll payment website.

Train travel in the country is among the cheapest in Europe, comparable to Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia. A standard ticket can be purchased for less than €5. In the UK, one would pay €34 for a short trip from London to Oxford. In Germany, the train ticket price starts at €11.

Here are the rail fares on the day of travel from Budapest to other popular cities:

  • Pécs — €10 to 12;
  • Szeged — €7 to 9;
  • Eger — €7 to 10;
  • Siófok near Lake Balaton — €5 to 8.

Certain categories of passengers travel by train for free, regardless of their nationality or residency. Among them are children under 14, seniors over 65, and families with at least three children.

Buses in Hungary cost roughly the same as trains, but the travel times are generally longer. For example, a bus journey from Budapest to Pécs takes around 4 hours and costs €9—10, compared to the train which takes only 2 hours and 50 minutes. Up-to-date bus schedules and ticket purchases are available online.

For extensive travel within the country, one can purchase a Hungary Pass. Priced at €48 monthly for adults, it grants unlimited access to trains, interurban buses, and local city transport, including metros, trams, and buses.

Flights. The cheapest flights from Hungary to other EU countries start at just €33, with destinations like Bulgaria and Italy. Flights to Romania, Poland, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden range from €39 to €44. 

The most expensive destinations within the EU are Slovenia, Finland, and Latvia, with prices ranging from €146 to 168. For Hungarian residents looking to travel to the USA, fares start at €391.

Popular flight routes from Budapest include London, Barcelona, and Rome. Demand is also growing for Mediterranean destinations, such as Larnaca, Naples, and Athens.

Healthcare pricing in Hungary

Hungarian state medical care is provided free of charge to those who make social security contributions. The social security tax rate in the country is 18.5% of an employee’s gross monthly salary. The unemployed pay a social security contribution of €20 per month to maintain their public healthcare insurance eligibility.

Public healthcare encompasses preventative care, emergency services, prescribed treatments, and medication. Dental treatment is free for children under 18, while adults must cover ordinary visit fees and technical costs associated with their dental care.

Private healthcare in Hungary offers a more cost-effective alternative than the USA and some European countries. The average cost of a 15-minute visit to a Hungarian doctor is €67, compared to €97 in the USA. In Italy or Finland, the visit costs about €75.

Dental services in private clinics also reflect this affordability. A routine dental check-up costs between €75 and €140. Complex dental cleaning varies from €118 to €350. A standard filling is priced at €109, while a tooth extraction can cost between €80 and €200.

Examples of medical fees in major Hungarian clinics

ServiceHealth GuardFirstMedRMC Clinics
General practitioner consultation€110€313€133
Specialist exam€200€291€188
Annual check-up€400€268

Cost of education in Hungary

Public education at primary and secondary levels is free for all residents, including the children of foreign nationals. This system covers the cost of schooling, including most educational materials. However, some minor expenses for books and extracurricular activities may still apply.

Private and international schools are considerably more expensive, typically charging fees ranging from €11,200 to 25,500. Most of these schools follow British or American curriculums. 

Annual tuition fees for primary students at major international schools in Budapest are as follows:

  • British International School — €18,277;
  • Britannica International School — €17,550;
  • Greater Grace International School — €14,416;
  • Budapest Real School — €14,346.

Hungarian universities offer high-quality European education at affordable costs. In 2023, there were more than 36,000 foreign students enrolled at local universities. 

In public universities, annual tuition fees generally range from €1,200 to €5,000 for most undergraduate and graduate programs. Specialised fields like medicine and dentistry are significantly more expensive, with annual fees ranging from €12,000 to €16,000. For comparison, international undergraduate students in the UK pay up to €10,944 per year. In Italy, students pay €950 to €4,000 per year. In Austria, the annual tuition fee is around €1,450.

At least 11 Hungarian higher education institutions are recognised among the best in the world, according to the 2025 QS World University Rankings. The highest scores were given to Eötvös Loránd University, the University of Szeged, and the University of Debrecen. The annual tuition fees in these universities range from €2,500 to €6,500.

Cost of living in Hungary for a single person and a family

Monthly expenses for residents in Hungary can differ significantly depending on the city, lifestyle, and individual needs. Overall, the average cost of living there is more affordable than in 73% of countries globally and 67% of countries in Eastern Europe, making it an attractive destination for those seeking a cost-effective lifestyle.

Estimated monthly costs in Budapest, Hungary

Expense categoryA single personA family of four
Renting an apartment outside the centre€453 €737
Food at home€204€815
Public transport€24€95
Sport membership€46€184
Going out once per week€25€102
Total amount€991€2,669

The most expensive places in Hungary to live in 

Budapest is ranked fifth in Eastern Europe for its cost of living. As the capital city and a major economic hub, it features a significantly higher demand for real estate than other parts of Hungary. Budapest offers a wide range of amenities and a higher standard of living, with access to luxury goods, high-end dining, cultural events, and entertainment options. 

Remeteszőlős is a small town located an hour away from Budapest. The proximity to the capital leads to high real estate prices and a wide selection of luxurious properties. A house in Remeteszőlős may cost from €200,000 to €900,000. The town has high-quality schools, healthcare facilities, and recreational options.

Ábrahámhegy is noted for being the most expensive village in Hungary. It is highly sought after primarily due to its picturesque location on the northern shore of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake. This village attracts a considerable demand for vacation homes and rental properties, with real estate prices averaging €3,208 per square metre.

Hungarian cost of living: the most expensive places in Hungary
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Balaton attract around 180,000 foreign guests in summer, increasing property prices in the towns nearby 

The cheapest places in Hungary to live in 

Miskolc is the fourth largest Hungarian city and one of the most affordable. The cost of living in Miskolc is 27% less than in Budapest and rental prices are 60% lower. 

The city offers a comfortable and relaxed lifestyle, enhanced by a range of amenities and services. It is also home to numerous historical buildings and monuments, such as the mediaeval castle of Diósgyőr.

Szolnok is a city in central Hungary, just one hour away from Budapest. The cost of living here is 32% less than in the capital, with rental prices 59% more affordable. Property prices are about 65% lower than in the capital, due to a stable demand. 

Szolnok is not just affordable; it also offers a rich blend of cultural and recreational activities, alongside accessible education and healthcare services.

Békéscsaba is located about three hours away from Budapest and is famed for its Csabai sausages and cultural festivals. It boasts an extremely affordable real estate market, with property prices 71% cheaper than in Budapest and rentals 59% lower. 

The city also offers low costs for groceries, utilities, transportation, and other daily necessities, making it an attractive option for those looking to enjoy a high quality of life at a lower cost.

5 benefits of living in Hungary

1. Transport accessibility to other EU capitals. From Budapest, residents can reach major European capitals by air in just 2—3 hours. The city also has direct rail connections to 13 European capitals, including neighbouring countries, such as Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

2. European healthcare and education. Hungarian residents benefit from high-quality medical services and educational opportunities provided by EU regulations and funding programs. With an EHIC card, they can access medical facilities throughout the European Union.

3. Stable banking system and developed online banking. The local banking sector is resilient, marked by strong profitability, low levels of non-performing loans, and adequate capital buffers. Hungarian banks offer comprehensive online services, including instant payments, digital wallets, and mobile banking apps for both individuals and businesses.

4. Wide range of thermal baths and resorts. Hungary has over 1,300 thermal springs, many of which are harnessed in the country’s famous thermal baths and wellness resorts. Numerous baths, such as those in Budapest, are historic landmarks. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath, with its 18 thermal pools, is considered one of the largest spa complexes in Europe.

5. Historical and architectural heritage. Hungary is rich in historical landmarks such as castles, churches, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include Buda Castle, the old village of Hollókő, and the Tokaj wine region, one of the world’s oldest and most renowned wine-producing areas.

How to obtain a Hungary residence permit

The Hungary business residence permit is granted to foreigners who register a legal entity in the country, an analogue of an LLC or JSC. The minimum authorised capital for the company is €7,700.

Hungary residency by opening a company is valid for one year and can be extended once for two years. The applicant’s spouse, children under 18, and parents may obtain residence permits when the main applicant renews their initial residency card after one year.

The Hungary business residence permit does not grant the right for permanent residency or citizenship. When the permit expires, the entrepreneur and their family must leave the country.

The Hungary White Card for digital nomads is available to remote workers who earn at least €3,000 per month from sources outside Hungary. They are also required to demonstrate at least €10,000 in their bank account. 

The White Card is issued for one year, with the right to extend it once for the same period. The applicant’s family members do not get residence permits. Digital nomads are not eligible for permanent residency or citizenship.

The Hungary Golden Visa can be acquired by one of the following options:

  • €250,000+ for the purchase of investment fund units;
  • €500,000+ for purchase of residential real estate — this option will be available from January 1st, 2025;
  • €1,000,000+ as a non-refundable donation to a higher education institution.

Examples of investment properties in Hungary

The residence permit by investment is valid for 10 years. Investors have the right to extend the status once for the same period. All investments, except for charitable donations, need to be maintained for at least 5 years.

After three years of living in Hungary, investors can apply for permanent residency. To qualify, they can leave the country for no more than 4 months in a row and no more than 270 days in total during a 3-year residency period. The status is granted for life but requires renewing the ID card every five years. 

After eight years of holding permanent residency, investors become eligible for Hungarian citizenship by naturalisation.

Key points about Hungarian cost of living

  1. Investors obtain a Hungary residence permit by purchasing local property, investment fund units, or by making a charitable donation. The Hungary Golden Visa is valid for 10 years and can be extended once for the same period.
  2. Hungarian property prices are significantly more affordable than in the UK and the USA, with average new housing costing €2,564 per square metre and second-hand housing costing €1,126 per square metre.
  3. Hungary has some of the lowest utility fees in the EU, with basic utilities for an 85 m² apartment averaging €139 per month.
  4. To live comfortably in Budapest, a single person may need about €990 per month. The expenses for a family of four are higher and total about €2,669. The sum includes all the basic needs, like rent, transport, food, and entertainment.
  5. Hungarian education and healthcare are also more affordable than in the USA or other EU countries. Despite the low prices, the country manages to provide these services at a high level.

Frequently asked questions

Is it expensive to live in Hungary?

No, living in Hungary is relatively cheap. The cost of living is more affordable than in many Western European countries, with affordable housing, reduced utility costs, and reasonable prices for food and transportation.

Is Budapest cheaper than the USA?

Yes, Budapest is generally cheaper than the USA. Budapest offers a significantly more cost-effective living standard, including housing, food, and transportation, compared to most major cities in the United States. The overall cost of living index in Hungary is around 40% lower than in the USA.

What's the average rent in Hungary?

The average rent in Hungary is approximately €310 to 700 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre and €260 to 520 outside the city centre. For a three-bedroom apartment, it ranges from €465 to 1,300 in the city centre and €390 to 905 outside the city centre.

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in central Budapest costs around €589 per month, while in the outskirts of the capital, the price is €457.

Is Hungary cheap or expensive?

Hungary is generally considered to be affordable. The cost of living, including housing, food, and transportation, is more affordable compared to many Western European countries and the USA.

Can you use US dollars in Budapest?

No, you typically cannot use US dollars for transactions in Budapest. The local currency is the Hungarian Forint, and it’s recommended to exchange your dollars for forints at currency exchange offices or withdraw forints from ATMs. Some tourist areas may accept euros, but not US dollars.

What language do they speak in Budapest?

The primary language spoken in Budapest is Hungarian. English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and among younger people and professionals. 

What is the cost of living in Budapest?

Monthly expenses for a single person are around €991, including rent, utilities, food, and transportation. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from €310 to €700 in the city centre and €260 to €520 outside the centre.

How expensive is food in Budapest?

Food in Budapest is reasonably priced. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about €8, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is around €45. Groceries are also affordable, with items like milk costing approximately €1 per litre and bread about €1.32 per loaf.

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