Why I left Budapest (1/2)

Budapest plane aerial photo bird eyes view panorama

Many of my followers noticed that I no longer post pictures of Budapest but of an entirely different continent. Besides that, I also changed my Twitter profile from Katechka Magyarka to Katechka Voyageuse. Note: I haven’t changed it on Facebook because it doesn’t want to let me. But what has happened?

Before you get to know the reasons that led me to leaving Hungary, here are a few facts. I arrived to Budapest on 13.12.2013, and left on 31.7.2017. That makes it 43 months, 2 weeks and 4 days = 1,326 days. Yes, I travelled here and there, but 1,326?

That sounds “wow”! That was certainly not my plan when I landed on that freezing cold Friday the 13th. I was hoping to stay for a year or so, experience living abroad, wait for the political situation to normalize in my country, and see where life carries me. Instead, I fell in love not only with Budapest, and decided to stay longer.

Being a foreigner in Budapest

Foreigners are wealthy

This is a common misperception in the Eastern Europe – all the foreigners are richer than Uncle Scrooge, and deserve to be ripped off. And there are multiple ways for doing that.

You go to the non-touristy market at Lehel tér, but because your Hungarian has an accent or is not super fluent, you all of the sudden pay double for the fresh produce compared to the rest of the people with you in the queue.

Ripping o’clock

Wearing luxurious clothes, reading a foreign book in the metro or even speaking a different language? Ripping off time. Let’s demonstrate you how handy our pickpockets are.

You manage to stop a pick pocket in his best? Don’t count on the locals to help you! They would just emptily look into their smartphones, trying to ignore the world around them as much as possible. But that’s probably not their fault, that’s how individualistic and indifferent people got over time.

Need to rent a flat in Budapest, but speak no Hungarian? No problem, just prepare monthly 20-30% more for the rent. You are a rich foreigner, you can afford that. Or not?

Going to a bar, and inviting a sitting by lady for a drink? This famous Budapest scam might cost you more than a few drinks downtown New York. Much more.

And yes, there is no Uber. Forget it, take the yellow taxi and get ripped off in style. Budapest style.

Need forints? No worries, the driver will bring you to the ATM to personally supervise you withdraw enough. Or to an exchange office nearby that surprisingly sells forints with a commission of 30%. Impossible is nothing in Budapest.

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Budapest – the tourist den

With the recent terror attacks in Western Europe, it was quite obvious that Budapest will become the next hot spot for tourism. It’s a cheap, compact, and a relatively small city especially for tourists coming from the West.

The truth is, there are even more tourists than one could bear. I used to live in Prague for 10 years. My university was right by the Old Town square, I also worked in the city centre by Wenceslas Square. I know how it feels to be surrounded by tourists. But Budapest managed to bring it to an all new level.

Budapest airport Wizzair plane Budapest Olympics 2024 bid
The low cost airline Wizzair popped up after the Malev bankruptcy. This picture is special, because it features governmental advertisement for the 2024 Olympic Games Bid. That was withdrawn after a petition and numerous demonstrations in the streets of Budapest.

Cheap airfare and other tourism drivers

With the bankruptcy of the national airline Malev, the city has become a hub for low cost airlines bringing in heaps of tourists every hour. Rich history, stunning architecture, thermal baths, business meetings, conference tourism and lively party scene. All these are the main drivers of tourism into Budapest.

Stag parties in Budapest

Also, I don’t know what is the decision-making process behind choosing the right place for a stag do, but both Prague and Budapest seem to be getting a lot of these groups. I devoted a whole article to why I hate the stag parties in Budapest, go ahead and read it now.

raining street budapest stag party stag do bachelor party clothes
Stag parties in Budapest can look like this. Half naked guys running in the rain through the streets of Budapest. A stag do, a must do!

Walking through the historical streets of Budapest

But how does it look like in the streets of Budapest? They are packed. Luckily the Kossuth Lajos square is huge to accommodate all of the selfie-stick maniacs. However, the rest of the city is rather the opposite. Castle district? I recommend to visit it early morning or late afternoon. Else, head on head + cars + buses (cute and small, luckily).

Parking in Budapest

Coming to Budapest by car, and wonder where to park? That doesn’t have many easy solutions. In all the cases, it will cost you. Since many buildings have been taken down, and nothing has been built on the plots again. What does it make?

A perfect parking lot.

You just need to hire a guard, buy an RV for him, or buy him a modular living unit, and your perfect cash machine is here. Can work to launder too. I wonder how much money goes through the hands of these guys. Anybody looked into this already? Leave me a link leading to an article in comments below, pretty please!

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Budapest, the car friendly city

And since Budapest is a city of cars, and many more cars, it would make perfect sense to make some parts of the inner-city pedestrian only. However, this will never happen in Budapest. Walking the city gets challenging with many cars parked on the curbs, too.

The Mayor of Budapest, István Tarlos has been emphasizing the personal vehicle use as opposed to the bicycles, bus lanes and pedestrians amenities. I dare say, I don’t share the same viewpoint. Funnily enough, the only place that is traffic restricted with fancy poles sliding from the ground, is the surroundings of the Budapest City Hall. Budapest has many unexpected faces.

Walking through the Jewish district

So, when you walk through the Jewish district, you get run over or hit by taxis or other cars, you have to navigate through parked cars, and if you take an early morning stroll (regardless of whether it is Tuesday or Saturday), you just have to watch your step. There is a lot of puke around. Bars in the Jewish district barely close, if ever. And since smoking is not allowed inside, all the funny business happens on the street.

Dior J’adore – edition Budapest

The city has a very specific smell. A combination of urine, decay and heat mix up the funkiest perfume. I once read that the Germans developed a paint that reflects urine. I believe they should donate a few cans to Budapest to mitigate for the drunken compatriots behaving like they cannot during the famous Oktoberfest.

Comically, the only time when I saw a cleaning truck spraying water on the streets was during the FINA World Swimming Championship that took place this July right before I left.

Budapest is loud and dirty

No, seriously, living in the city centre of Budapest is a nightmare. Not only you pay incredibly high rent, your neighbours change every weekend because of all those Airbnb’s, but you cannot even open your window because people are very loud in the streets.

And when spring kicks in, you have all those motorcycle maniacs driving super-fast through the city centre. Very loud and dangerous pastime. And police do nothing. I haven’t seen a single police car issuing a fine to any of those motorcycle aficionados. Yet, with iron regularity, they cruise the streets of the Hungarian capital every day. Dear Rendőrség, if you want a tip – Bajcsy Zsilinszky út from Nyugati to Deák is your fine piggy bank. You are welcome.

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This is Budapest…

A city that I will always love. A city that will be deeply rooted in my heart, forever. I could probably never get bored of its buildings. But yes, the current face of Budapest is just super monotonous. Drunken tourists, omnipresent heat, underdressed girls, and loud streets.

I guess this could be summed up the best by the following story. Back in 2015, I met a friend of mine, a big party animal Manos, on the eve of his last night in Budapest. I asked him, why are you leaving? He answered: “This city is just too much of a party”. I didn’t understand back then, now I fully agree. And, I am not the only one.

party in Budapest ankert ruin pub friday night out
Endless party in Budapest – Ankert. The only place, where I would really enjoy drinking Prazdroj. In the entire Budapest.

The residents of the VII. district were demonstrating by the district office against the noise coming after 22:00 from the streets of Budapest party district – Kazinczy street and its close vicinity. Not New York, but Budapest is a city that never sleeps.

Budapest needs to change

I believe the change needs to come from within. I hope Budapest doesn’t do the same mistake as Prague. So here is my message to you – people of Budapest – do not ever give up on your city centre. Work there, live there, raise your children there, and most importantly have fun there. Do not let the tourists take over.

And do you know how to recognize when it is too late? When there is more exchange offices than grocery stores in one street. When the number of souvenir shops exceeds the normal ones. When you cannot hear a word of Hungarian, but only English in the streets. And lastly, when restaurants around the centre give up on having the menu in a local language, but offer it in 48 other languages instead.

This is the end of PART 1 —> PART 2

Curious to read more? How does it feel to live in Budapest? And what about the locals? Continue reading the second part.

Liked it, and want to support me? Share it! Like my FB page to read the second part among the first ones.

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22 Replies to “Why I left Budapest (1/2)”

  1. Kathy Guenther says: Reply

    Thanks for the “fair warning”. First trip coming up. A little scary.

    1. No need to be scared 🙂 Just use common sense like you would do at home. Btw there is a part 2 already out, if you are interested.

    2. Well I am not so sure hiw did you manage to gather so many bad experiences in Budapest and I am not sure if I should express my regrets or just go along with the hyperbola. Naturally thing like this happen here…but i do not think they are so unique for Budapest. Busy streets, buzzing tourists in the center, high rents and noise in city center even ripping off tourists… I have been to many places with simmilar problems. I can understand that this may be different where you used to live…but maybe simpply do not rent in the city center if you want to have a quet flat.

      Secondly if you give advice to Hungarians to live in the center then you simply forgot what is the main reasons Hungarians do not live in the city center: with an avarage of 400-500 eur a month they cannot aford skyrocketing rents 300 -400 eur for studio) and the expensive bars and restorants in the city center. An avarage Hungarian does it go to restorant where a meal is 10 eur or more. Not to mention that city center in general is not friendly fir family life as there is insuficcient parks and green areas and well ild buildings are currently out and newly built so called ‘lakopark’ (A group of apartmant buildinfs with gardens) are a new in nowadays with people who are a tiny better of ( earning about 1000 – 1500 eur a month).

      Finally i do not k ow what you cinsider center of Budapest. In Budapest center is rather a wide term including about 5-7 districts. If you simplly go a few streets out of circular road it is still rather residential and actually even in the very center there are quet and residental streets. True many flats in the center are rented to airbnb…but then again there is nothing unique in this comparing to other big cities.

      I agree budapest is ot a perfect city to live in…but then which city is? Each place has good and bad sides. This is what i think.

  2. V. Kivancsi says: Reply

    🙂 Having read through your whining I’m surprised you stayed this long. In fact, I’m more curious why somebody like you would even leave home???

    1. Sorry that you take it as whining. The article has two parts, please continue reading 🙂 I really enjoyed living in Budapest, but felt like summing up what the life out there is. Guess, you are a local, which may create you a different standpoint on living in the capital.

  3. I’m from Sweden, and also fell in love, not only in the city.
    Been here for almost 19 years by now. I do not recognize the rip off mentality you describe.For a flat they want to squeeze out a higher price. That’s true, But otherwise my experience is quite different.
    Hungarians dress badly, many of them can be somewhat rude in some situations.
    But bottom line, this is a very good place to live, if you can ignore our government that is…

    1. Thank you for leaving this comment, there is a part 2 summarizing my observations. Feel free to continue reading. There is something about ignoring the government, however that was quite hard since it was shouting from literally every corner.

  4. Wow, I respect your point of view, but that was a bit painful to read, so pessimistic! Good luck out there though! 🙂

    1. Thank you! There have not been many comments, which would be like yours. Thanks, again!

  5. Man, that is a load of BS, I live in BP for 6 years, yes there are issues but man you make it sound like hell on earth.

    1. Not sure you read both parts 🙂 and surely it is not hell on earth. Like any tourist attraction, it has ups and downs.

  6. Worst description I’ve ever read for pest. Good work. Everything you say that’s bad is focused on particular areas of the city, which most Hungarians would avoid, given the choice. Every big city has the same issues in their tourist zones.

    1. I agree, yet I believe that it doesn’t have to be like this. That’s why I posted my thoughts about what is not going so well in my opinion.

  7. Hi Kathy, I completely disagree with many point of this article. This is one opinion, others have different.
    Anyway I also travel a lot in the world and have seen much worse places. I live here in Budapest, I like the travellers and like the foreigners, if you need some help or just information then send me a message.
    All the best,

    1. Thank you for offering, Peter! I do acknowledge that the city experience differs.

  8. According to Wikipedia Budapest is 13th biggest city in the Europe so saying that it’s relatively small is a pure nonsense.

    1. I bet I am referring to the city centre, which is for me the area of Pest boardered by the 4-6 tramline. By itself the city is really big. The biggest I have ever lived in.

  9. I’ve lived around the world in different countries. Got to put things in perspective of the locals, and not the spoiled rich kid from America. While it is all true what you said, from a local perspective it is the foreigners that don’t just visit to see Hungary, but abuse the local culture. If it wasn’t for foreigners, the house prices would be much lower. Locals used to not cross on a red light, now foreigners all act as if they owned everything in Hungary. Sure there are low-life in every large city, but Budapest has added so many cameras, and did so many improvements across the country, that the low-life ppl have been pushed out towards the city limits. Your article states that you lived in the V.th district. One of the richest neighborhoods. But it is a large city’s central downtown. Mostly foreigners there.
    Also in the recent years so many bike lanes and bike rules were added, that it is a hassle to drive now in the city. Parking issues are based on too many cars… it was not designed to have multiple cars per household. Locals can’t afford it as much, and usually they don’t even bring a car in to the city, but keep it on the outskirts. But why wouldn’t a taxi try to hit a person that is walking around drunk in middle of the street? This didn’t exist couple of decades ago, before all the foreigners took over. Locals can’t afford to be in the downtown area any more. Yeah the government could take many different options, but this is one of very few governments that had fixed its budget, and financially has done really well while many other countries were biting the bullet lately. It is easy to criticize… but can you do better and not just throw some random ideas around? You may think it is easiest to just delete this comments .. but I dare you and other readers to try to see the other side of the coin.

    1. Hi Peet,

      Yes, the Post-Soviet countries are attractive as a magnet (and I believe the article quite fairly summarizes the reasons why). There are many ways of handling tourism. I am quite convinced that the city of Budapest, police and let alone Hungary, too should take an action here. I hear way too many occasions of people being scammed (latest one with fake police checking bills). I think that Hungarians also had to bite a bullet, happy the state didn’t have to. The taxes are still one of the highest in Europe, yet Hungary doesn’t achieve such growth as other Post-Soviet countries. I do understand that many points I raised are related to the downtown. But that is what I know the best, since I lived there. I assume if police took action against those crazy motorcyclists by giving them a few fat fines, they would move their loud and dangerous activities out of the city centre as it would not simply be worth it financially. And no, I don’t have an understanding for the traffic problems you are talking about. With such a coverage as BKV offers, there is no point in driving a car in the city on a regular basis. And no worries, your comment goes right up now 🙂 no need to delete a fair and thoughtful one. Thanks for stopping by and leaving it!

    2. Metatron says: Reply

      I bet my house that you are Hungarian 😀 😀 Szavazunk a Fideszre, ugye?

  10. I quess with this attitude you will hate all cities of this world. Commented from a hungarian who has lived in Canada, England, Germany in different big and not so big cities. But in the comparisson to this cities Budapest never ever lost its charme. And on the contrary to you my foreign friends who live in Budapest for long years would never wanted to move back to the USA, Great-Britain etc.. Obviously the city is enjoyable for foreigners too. So, that`s the question of attitude!

    1. I am not sure what you are talking about. I have never stated that I hate Budapest. I just posted a lot of observations that I had about how the city looks like, and how it changed during the time I lived there. It may not be a nice reading, but that’s life. It ain’t always roses.

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