Living abroad
July 8, 2024
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Benefits and disadvantages of living in Hungary: things to consider before moving

Hungary, with its mediaeval architecture, thermal baths, and picturesque landscapes, has become a popular destination for expats. In 2023, more than 403,000 immigrants lived in Hungary.

Non-EU and non-EEA citizens can become Hungarian residents benefiting from the Golden Visa program. Two other ways to move to Hungary are the White card for digital nomads and registering a company for foreign business people.

Learn about the pros and cons of living in Hungary and which cities are most appropriate for expats.

Pros and cons of living in Hungary
Benefits and disadvantages of living in Hungary: things to consider before moving

15 benefits of living in Hungary

1. Low cost of living. When compared to countries such as Germany, France, the UK, or the US, the overall cost of living in Hungary is about 40—50% lower. These savings extend across various aspects of living — from housing and utilities to entertainment and personal care.

The average monthly cost for heating, electricity, water, and garbage is around €100—200, depending on the size of the apartment and the season. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Budapest is €500—600 per month, while a similar apartment outside the city centre can be found for about €400—450. Internet service is widely available and affordable, costing about €10—20 per month for a high-speed connection.

2. Low taxes. Hungary is recognised for its favourable tax regime, which significantly contributes to its appeal as a business and expatriate destination. The corporate tax rate in Hungary is one of the lowest in the EU, standing at a flat rate of 9%. Personal income tax operates under a flat rate of 15%, while in many other European countries, the tax rates are based on a progressive scale and can reach up to 50%.

3. Job opportunities. Hungary has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, consistently under 5% in recent years.

Key industries driving employment include manufacturing, particularly the automotive sector, which employs over 100,000 workers due to the presence of major international companies. This sector generates 20% of the national GDP.

Foreign direct investments have been pivotal in job creation across various regions in Hungary. Significant investment in research and development has fostered innovation and led to higher-skilled employment opportunities.

To investors from non-EU countries, Hungary offers a Golden Visa program. Foreigners can obtain Hungarian residence permits for 10 years with the possibility of extension. The minimum investment sum is €250,000.

4. High-quality healthcare. Hungary is recognised for its excellence in dental care and cosmetic surgery, attracting visitors from Western Europe and North America. Foreigners seek quality services at competitive prices, which are up to 70% lower than in other countries.

Hungary is popular for its thermal baths, the most notable of which are Thermal Lake of Hévíz, Cave Bath at Miskolctapolca, and Széchenyi Baths and Pool.

5. Safety. According to the Global Peace Index 2024, Hungary is 14th among 163 countries, making it one of the most secure places to live. The ranking takes into consideration participation in external conflicts, crime rate, relations with neighbouring countries, and police presence.

6. Travelling opportunities. Located in the heart of Europe, Hungary is a convenient starting point for travel. By car, it takes 2 hours to reach Vienna, Austria, 4.5 hours to reach Prague, Czechia, and 6.5 hours to drive to Dresden, Germany, or Krakow, Poland.

Farther destinations such as Paris, Madrid, Rome, and Berlin are only 1.5—3 hours by plane. Ticket prices start from €26.

7. English language. English is widely spoken in Hungary, mostly among younger generations, professionals, and in major urban areas like Budapest. It is commonly used in the business and tourism sectors.

8. Currency. Hungary has its own currency called the forint. The euro is generally stronger than the Hungarian forint, so when one converts euros to forints, they get more forints. Thus, if one receives income in euros or dollars but makes purchases in forints in Hungary, they have greater purchasing power. This enables foreigners to afford more goods and services for the same amount of money.

9. Transport infrastructure. Hungary has an extensive and well-maintained road network. The most significant motorway is the M1, which connects Budapest to Vienna. Public transportation is affordable and well-connected, covering cities and suburban zones.

Advantages of living in Hungary
Budapest has over 40 tram lines that run throughout the historic centre. It’s a cheap option for foreigners to sight-see around the city

10. Compact country. Hungary’s small size allows for easy and efficient travel across the country. Major cities, tourist attractions, and natural landscapes are all within a few hours’ drive of each other. Besides, the compactness of Hungary fosters a sense of unity and cultural cohesion. Festivals and other events create a strong national identity.

Another benefit of Hungary’s size is economic uniformity, making the business environment more predictable and manageable.

11. Friendly people. Hungarians are known to be hospitable and warm. In Budapest, locals are accustomed to interacting with foreigners and often go out of their way to assist or make guests feel welcome. Initially, natives might seem reserved, but they are approachable and helpful once you engage with them.

12. Clean environment in the capital. Budapest has implemented several green initiatives, such as expanding public transportation and promoting bicycle use to reduce car emissions. The city has an extensive network of bike lanes, and the public transportation system is one of the most environmentally friendly in Europe due to its reliance on electric and biofuel buses, trams, and a metro system.

13. Diverse cultural legacy. Hungary has been shaped by various civilizations, including Roman, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian, leaving a legacy that is evident in its architecture, traditions, and arts. Key landmarks of Budapest, such as the Buda Castle, the Parliament Building, and the iconic Chain Bridge, span the Danube River.

Some of Hungary's historical sites are included as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among them are the traditional village of Hollókő, Pannonhalma Archabbey, and the Necropolis of Sopianae.

14. Great restaurant culture. Culinary traditions form a significant aspect of Hungarian culture, with dishes such as goulash, paprikash, and strudel that are known worldwide. Hungarian cuisine is famous for its use of spices. Besides, Hungary offers a blend of flavours that draw from neighbouring countries like Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia.

A distinctive feature of Hungarian restaurant culture is the phenomenon of ruin pubs. These bars, located in formerly derelict buildings, have become essential to Budapest's nightlife scene. Ruin bars offer a relaxed atmosphere where visitors can enjoy drinks, food, and dancing. Embracing their buildings’ rustic decay, they feature eclectic furnishings and decor that add to their charm.

15. Picturesque nature. Hungarian landscapes encompass a diverse range of natural features — from majestic rivers and vast plains to lush hills and serene lakes, providing locals with stunning scenery and outdoor activities. Natives as well as tourists can go hiking in the Bükk Mountains, which have numerous trails, hidden waterfalls, and clear streams. Lake Balaton is a great place for swimming and yachting.

Benefits and drawbacks of living in Hungary
Lake Balaton is sometimes called a Hungarian sea. Here one may come at sunset and enjoy the scenery of vineyards and the Badacsony mountain

Ways to move to Hungary and obtain a residence permit

Non-EU and non-EEA citizens can benefit from various Hungarian residency options. Investors, businessmen, and digital nomads can obtain residence permits if they meet certain conditions.

Hungary Golden Visa allows investors to receive residence permits for 10 years with the possibility of extension. They choose out of three options:

  • purchasing real estate fund units — from €250,000;
  • purchasing real estate — from €500,000;
  • donation to an institution of higher learning — from €1,000,000.

Spouses, children under 18, and parents can get residence permits together with the investor.

Registering a company is another way to become a Hungarian resident. Business owners receive residence permits for one year with the possibility of extension for three years. To qualify for residency, foreigners need to register a legal entity in Hungary. The company’s minimum authorised capital is €7,700.

Spouses, children under 18, and parents can obtain Hungarian residence permits one year after the main applicant.

White card is the option for digital nomads. The residence permit is issued for one year and can be extended once for the same period. Then, the foreigner leaves Hungary but is allowed to reapply for the white card again.

To be eligible for residency, digital nomads need to confirm monthly income of €3,000 from sources outside Hungary and show at least €10,000 in a bank account.

What is it like living in Hungary: best cities for expats

Budapest, as the capital of Hungary, provides a high quality of life with all the necessary services, including job opportunities, an extensive transportation system, entertainment, education, and healthcare facilities. There is a large and active expat community, with many international schools, clubs, and social groups.

The city has many parks and green areas, such as Margaret Island, City Park, and Gellért Hill. Budapest is bike-friendly, providing bike lanes and bike-sharing programmes. Throughout the year, numerous cultural events are held, including the Budapest International Film Festival, Sziget Music Festival, and Budapest Wine Festival.

Debrecen is the second-largest city in Hungary; however, the pace of life here is quieter and more relaxed than in Budapest. Debrecen offers a great cultural heritage, including the Déri Museum and the Csokonai National Theatre. One of Hungary’s oldest and largest universities is located here and is renowned for its medical and scientific research programmes.

Nagyerdei Park is one of the recreational areas and includes the University Botanical Garden, Debrecen Zoo, and Aquaticum Debrecen Thermal and Wellness Hotel. The Debrecen Flower Carnival is a festival featuring flower floats, performances, and parades. Another popular event is the Campus Musical Festival, which draws large crowds to see local and international artists.

Szeged is known for the University of Szeged, one of the top universities in Hungary, which brings a youthful and international atmosphere to the city. The lifestyle here is lively, engaging, and welcoming.

Szeged offers numerous parks, recreational activities, and a vibrant café culture. Every summer, an open-air festival in Dóm Square is held, featuring opera, theatre, and musical performances. The climate in Szeged is warmer compared to other parts of Hungary, with many sunny days. Locals enjoy walks and picnics by the Tisza River.

Pécs is attractive for the Mecsek Mountains surrounding the city, providing hiking and other outdoor recreational opportunities. The region is also known for its thermal springs and spa facilities. Located near Pécs, the Villány Wine District is famous for its high-quality red wines and thematic events and festivals.

Zsolnay porcelain is a distinctive feature of Pécs, offering a unique eosin glaze and artistic designs. The city hosts several notable music festivals, including the Pécs National Theatre Festival and the International Guitar Festival, attracting artists and audiences from around the world.

Győr is a significant industrial and economic centre, known for its automotive industry. Its close proximity to Austria and Slovakia makes it an excellent location for business and travel.

The cultural scene includes the Győr Ballet, which performs classical and contemporary works, the Baroque Evenings, and the Győr Summer Festival. The Rába and Mosoni-Danube Rivers are popular spots for walking, cycling, and picnics.

Pros of moving to Hungary
Only 1.5 hour drive from Budapest an old town Veszprem is located. It’s a cosy place for living near Lake Balaton and a great choice for expats seeking tranquillity not far away from the capital

Disadvantages of living in Hungary

1. Low salaries. The average gross salary in Hungary falls around €850—1150. This is lower compared to Western European standards; however, the country’s overall cost of living is considerably lower as well. IT professionals, financial experts, and those in certain engineering fields might earn substantially more.

2. Inflation. In 2022, Hungary’s inflation rate surged to one of the highest levels seen in decades, with consumer prices increasing significantly. The Hungarian Central Statistical Office reported monthly inflation rates reaching double digits, peaking at around 15—20% towards the end of the year. Thus, the cost of living has increased, affecting households, especially in terms of food and energy expenses.

3. Bureaucracy. Some processes in Hungary can be complex and time-consuming. This is particularly evident in areas like property registration, starting a business, and dealing with construction permits.

4. Complex native language. Hungarian is considered difficult for speakers of English and other Indo-European languages, primarily due to its unique structure and vocabulary. It belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family, which includes Finnish and Estonian. Speaking Hungarian enhances the cultural experience and daily interactions, so for those moving to Hungary, it is advisable to learn it.

5. Poor customer service. In smaller businesses, there is less emphasis on formal customer training. Besides, Hungarian service is less oriented towards the “customer is always right” mentality prevalent in Western countries. This can be perceived as rudeness or a lack of politeness.

6. Outdated education system. Hungary has several reputable universities, such as Eötvös Loránd University and the University of Szeged. However, the education system faces underfunding, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and difficulties in maintaining international competitiveness.

Regarding primary and secondary education, there are concerns about the rigidity of the curriculum, the emphasis on rote learning, and a lack of focus on critical thinking and creativity.

7. Dirty streets. In remote locations and along the motorways, illegal dumping and littering can be a problem.

8. Homeless people. Economic instability and low wages are primary drivers of homelessness in Hungary. The transition from a socialist to a market economy, which began in the late 20th century, also led to changes in property ownership and housing policies. Many individuals and families cannot afford stable housing due to these economic conditions.

9. Poor infrastructure beyond Budapest. The capital is the economic centre of Hungary, attracting more investment and development. Other regions do not see the same level of economic activity. This concerns medical care, higher education institutions, public transportation, and roads.

10. Late trains. Hungary faces challenges with punctuality in its rail services. Trains serving rural or less populated areas than Budapest experience frequent delays due to less prioritised infrastructure upkeep.

11. Slow medical treatment. Long waiting times for treatments and procedures are a significant issue in the public healthcare system in Hungary. The main reasons are high demand, limited resources, and a shortage of staff. However, the country has a robust private sector that offers quicker alternatives.

12. Ageing population. Hungary has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe. The country has experienced the emigration of young people who move to other EU countries in search of better employment opportunities. This demographic trend affects the labour market, healthcare, and pension system. Moreover, elderly people often do not speak English, which may cause problems in communication.

13. Weather. Winters in Hungary are dark due to the shorter daylight hours that are typical of its geographical location. Cold and lack of sunlight may affect physical and mental activity levels and often cause seasonal affective disorder.

Pros and cons of living in Hungary
Dark winters accompanied by snow create a romantic dusky atmosphere in Budapest. One may enjoy the panoramic view of the city from one of the viewpoints drinking mulled wine

Conclusion: why expats choose Hungary for living

  1. Hungary is a culturally rich country. Among pros of living in Hungary are low cost of living, high quality of life, location, job opportunities, low taxes, safety, affordable medical services, and beautiful nature.
  2. Main disadvantages of living in Hungary include: low salaries, inflation, bureaucracy, and difficult Hungarian language for learning.
  3. Hungary offers several ways for non-EU and non-EEA citizens to relocate: through the Golden Visa Program for investors, the white card for digital nomads, and through business.

Frequently asked questions

What are the pros of living in Hungary?

Hungary offers high quality of life at low costs. Combining rich culture, modern amenities, and beautiful views, it becomes an attractive destination for expats. Foreigners benefit from low taxes, various job and travelling opportunities, and currency.

Non-EU and non-EEA citizens can become Hungarian residents thanks to several residency options. Digital nomads can move to Hungary for up to 2 years if they confirm a monthly income of €3,000. Investors receive residence permits for 10 years if they contribute at least €250,000.

What are the disadvantages of living in Hungary?

Main disadvantages of living in Hungary include low salaries, inflation, bureaucracy, and difficult Hungarian language for learning. Other challenges expats might face are dirty streets, late trains, slow medical treatment, poor customer service, and poor infrastructure in rural areas.

What is it like living in Hungary?

Hungary offers a blend of rich cultural heritage, modern services, and picturesque landscapes. In Budapest and other cities, different events and festivals are held throughout the year. Natives are friendly and welcoming, though sometimes they may seem reserved. Hungary is known for its thermal baths, great restaurant culture, high quality healthcare, and other services at low costs.

Is Hungary a good place to live?

Hungary is generally a good place to live, offering a rich cultural heritage, affordable cost of living, and a high quality of life. However, expats might face some challenges such as language barriers, low customer service, low salaries, bureaucracy.

Is Hungary cheap?

Hungary is considered relatively cheap compared to other countries. Cost of living here is 40—50% lower than in the UK, the USA, Portugal, and Germany. One will need around €2,000 per month in Budapest and around €3,500—5,000 in other major capitals to maintain the same standard of living.

Is Hungary expensive?

Cost of living in Hungary is 40—50% lower than in other European countries. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in Budapest starts from €350—450. The utilities cost is around €100—200, depending on the size of the apartment and the season. Internet service costs about €10—20 per month for a high-speed connection.

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