An American Expat in Budapest, Hungary

Transportation is similarly easy and inexpensive. We augment our walking with a network of metros, trams and buses which connect the farther reaches of the city. Our monthly pass costs roughly what I spent on a tank of gas during my last visit to the United States. Retire in HungaryInspired by our new found comfort with public transpiration, we travel throughout Europe on the ubiquitous system which links countries, cities, and villages. Between our new eating habits and daily walking, we are in the best shape of our adult lives.

Culturally, Budapest still exudes an old worldliness harkening back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire: dark wood cafes with crackled mirrors and sparkling chandeliers; art nouveau music venues; enormous marble and gold decorated museums and palaces stocked full of priceless treasures. Budapest is a music city at its core with concerts offered most nights in a dozen venues including the Opera House, Franz Liszt Academy, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Bela Bartok Hall inside the National Palace of the Arts. Hungarians embrace their musical roots enabled by tickets which are a fraction of the cost of western European cities. The venues are stunning, some of the most beautiful in the world – certainly the most beautiful in my sample of the world.

When we stroll through the old Jewish quarter, the devastation of World War Two is evident; a boarded up synagogue and graffiti covered buildings with broken windows. Yet even this area is beginning to emerge as the trendy neighborhood of Ruin Pubs and quirky coffee houses. Crumbling buildings are being plastered and repainted – restored to their previous grandeur. Retire in HungaryThe mayor of Budapest established a goal to purge the city of all vestiges of its dismal 20th century past. Given the progress in the little over a year we have lived here, I expect the city will achieve this goal in the next decade. Although personally, I hope Budapest will always retain vestiges of this past as both memorial and reminder.

Any fears we brought with us of a squalid Central European lifestyle have been dashed. Our life is easier and less stressful than the super sized life we had built up back home and with more cultural options than we ever dreamed possible. Stressful days, I unwind by soaking in the thermal waters of a four hundred year old Turkish bath. Budapest boasts more thermal baths than any city in Europe. The Turks left behind some of these on their way out of town – a hostess gift of sorts after 150 years of occupation. Retire in HungaryI return home and sip a Hungarian wine, refreshed.

Friends and family occasionally visit. Budapest is garnering the attention of international travel publications and becoming one of the the new “it” destinations of Europe. Each time a guest arrives, we introduce them to the city by walking the Danube banks and crossing the Margit Bridge after dark. Everyone marvels at the twinkling lights which illuminate the Chain Bridge, the castle and palace, Parliament and a handful of lesser known churches and squares. The city is at its captivating best at night. “Remember,” I remind our guests as we turn for home, “This used to be an empire.”

Last night over dinner, we talked about making Budapest our permanent home. Right now, I am not ready to settle down. When confronted with another adventure, I hope we once again jump. Next time, I doubt we will even close our eyes.

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  1. Had the best hot chocolate of my life in Bratislava! We loved the markets in Budapest and are coming back this June for a second look. Nicely written piece, thank you.

  2. Ms. Callahan, thank you for sharing your experiences living in Budapest. I had been there once. I’m planning to make the move by next September 2015. I’m looking on renting a small apartment around the districts V or VI. Would you please advise about the cost? or perhaps suggest a link where I can get information?

    I do live in Denver and we have snow, up in the mountains, already. Last week Hwy. 70 was closed around Aspen because the same reason.

    Thank you for your Attention, Wilfredo

  3. We visited London earlier this year (2014) and the prices… everything was virtually out of reach. The most modest of apartments found on airbnb was $180 a night. We had visited Budapest for a week some years ago and really enjoyed it all. So I did an airbnb for Budapest and found an apartment beautifully situated for $49 a night. We already know the Budapest transport is cheap and efficient, and our shopping in public markets were terrific fun. And the music events are extensive and amazing, and also inexpensive. We’re going to schedule another visit for next summer 2015. Maybe retirement… who knows.

  4. I’m an American living in Asia and debating about Hungary for retirement. I can’t find anything about a retirement visa or permanent without tied to work or refugee.

    What type of visa were you able to get since you aren’t EU or EEA? Is it permanent or something that has to be renewed yearly.


    i left budapest november 1956. Served 20yrs in theUS ARMY,also i’m
    100% DAV WITH PTSD.
    i haven’t visited HUNGARY since 1956! planing to relocate to my city!

  6. Hi…my mother in law lives in Szombathely. She unfortunately recently lost her husband and now is all alone in a house too big for her.

    Is there such a thing as a retirement community like they have in the US. Where retires live together in an apartment building with access to nurses and community center, swimming pool, tennis courts etc to live out there golden years?

  7. People I lived in Hungary for 2 years, belive me the language is very,very difficult. I moved to Croatia.

  8. It is such a well-written piece, even as a native Hungarian it was a pleasure to read it. Let me make a very polite remark: Hapbsurg should be spelt: Habsburg. (thank you it has been corrected, admin)

  9. Hi Miklos (Nick))

    Go to the Hungarian Embassy near you with your hungarian birth certificate and apply for the hungarian passport.
    With your passport you are on your way back home to Hungary.
    I will do the same when i retire from Brisbane, Australia.
    See you in Budapest.

  10. Thanks for your article, I enjoyed reading it very much. I lived in Budapest for a number of years and will be moving back to Hungary to retire in 3 more years. I agree with your observations in that it is a magical country filled with a long and varied past. This has all added to the Magyar quilt that makes Hungary what it is today. Whether it is the charm and vibrant inner city of Budapest, the shores of the Balaton, the villages dotting the pusta or the near Austrian feelings in Sopron – it is a magical place indeed.

  11. Eva Mamudoszki

    August 7, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Hungarian resident with my American husband just came back to live in Budapest after many years.
    Allow us to assist your needs and information on retiring to this beautiful city.
    We have a luxury automobile for travel assistance and eager to help fellow Americans.

    Here’s my contact email address

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