For the summer of 2014, Budapest, the capital of Hungary will be my home. It’s an exciting transition that I’m very much looking forward to. Planning a long-term stay in a European city has been something I’ve been working towards over the last several months and starting in July, it will be a reality. When trying to narrow down which city to call home, there were many solid contenders, but I ended up settling on Budapest. Here are five reasons why.
Low Cost of Living
Hungary’s Central European location offers a nice mix of Western style development, without the high prices. It is outside the Eurozone, meaning that the country has its own currency as opposed to the Euro, which is currently a killer against the freefalling Canadian dollar. The Hungarian Forint saw a huge decline in value in the years after the fall of communism. Its value is still quite low, which leads to carrying around 20,000 HUF bills in your wallet. In reality, it only adds up to about 100 dollars.
Other monthly costs are low in Budapest as well. To get an idea of the reduced costs, check out this comparison from the website Numbeo:
The savings are significant. I’ll be saving hundreds of dollars a month on rent, groceries and utilities. Public transportation and nightlife are also cheap.
Budapest rivals Paris in terms of beauty. Located on the River Danube, the city boasts impressive castles, bridges and its stunning Parliament building. The photo I used on the front page and at the top of this post was taken by me, it’s not some stock photo that paints the city in an unrealistic light. Spending a summer here, I’ll have an abundance of buildings and scenery to take photos of. It’ll be a lot of fun to explore and shoot.
Hungary is located right in the geographical centre of Europe. It is a popular destination for tourists from western Europe and the UK. Discount airlines fly in to the city from across the continent and Budapest is home to one of Europe’s largest companies, Wizzair. My goal is to take advantage of these discount flights to neighbouring countries, to be able to enjoy long weekends in countries like Italy, France and Germany.
This will be my second visit to Budapest. I spent a week there last summer and got quite familiar with the city. I won’t be disoriented or lost upon arriving. The metro and tram networks are easy to navigate and most of the Pest side of the river (where I’ll be living)is flat and easily walkable. I had a few other cities that I was considering relocating to, but most of them were only places I could read about and hadn’t experienced first hand. In the end, I wanted to have some idea about the city I’d be calling home for the summer, so Budapest won out.
Europeans take more time out to enjoy themselves. Life in the old world happens at a slower pace. It’s not just the lower working hours and the extended summer vacations either. It’s the enjoyment of quality food, the ability to enjoy a beer or some wine in a park or square without worrying about getting fined by police. European‚ cities were built for living and walking, rather than driving and commuting. Overall it’s a healthier lifestyle physically (more walking, better food) and mentally (less work, less stress) than we endure on this side of the Atlantic.
Budapest isn’t perfect. There are some rundown spots, far-right political movements exist and the language is incomprehensible to the newcomer (this last point almost kept me from going there entirely). There will no doubt be days where I long for the familiarity of English, Tim Hortons and the culture I grew up in. But it’s important that I challenge myself to push through those days of home-sickness and overcome the obstacles a long-term traveler faces. A life well-lived doesn’t come easily. The comfort and security of home is always there. Challenging myself to live in new city with an entirely different culture, can only lead to self-improvement and character building. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.