Before last weekend I really had little idea what kind of place I was going to be able to find in Budapest. My maximum monthly budget is around 500 euros including bills — which would just about rent a rabbit hutch in London or Cambridge. Fortunately I had no trouble finding a really nice apartment in Budapest, although I’ll be spending probably around 540 euros per month including all bills.
For my budget I found a newly-renovated furnished apartment near the Danube river, complete with all the stuff you’d hope to find in a nice apartment in London — broadband Internet connection, dishwasher, etc.
It seems that renting an apartment in Budapest follows the same pattern as renting apartments elsewhere that I’ve looked. I’ve previously rented in England, Scotland, Italy and the Netherlands, with much the same experience in all these places. I find that if you look at a whole bunch of apartments — at least six — you’ll see one or two places that are really rubbish, a bunch of places that are OK but nothing special, and one or two that are really nice. It’s worth seeing lots of apartments in order to get to the one or two that are excellent.
Many landlords are just focused on money, but there seem to be a significant proportion who go to great lengths to make their apartments really nice and are happy if they can then rent the place to someone who’ll treat it well for a rent that will repay their investment. These are the landlords you really want!
In Hungary, these is no equivalent of the horrible British council tax as far as I know (which is basically a rent you have to pay to live in your own place, even if you use no electricity, water or gas and barely have an income!), but there are often communal costs to pay in an apartment. On top of this of course you have to pay for electricity, gas, water and internet as usual.
I’ve been worried about the state of my Internet connection since I’ll be depending on it for an income, and my connection in Lucca, Italy, was abysmal. But Budapest is one of the world’s most wired cities, and I’m assured that there should be no problems — and I can always pay to upgrade the connection speed if necessary.
You also have to pay typically 2-3 months’ returnable deposit on a Budapest apartment. I’ve been worried about getting scammed, since parts of Budapest are a bit dodgy (as is true of any big city). Angelina Jolie apparently even got scammed recently; she paid a few thousand euros to film in a warehouse, then it turned out that the person she’d paid the money to was just a security guard and didn’t own the place! But the people I met in the rental agencies I dealt with really put my mind at rest. If these people are scamsters, I’ll have to change my entire view of humanity — since they seemed thoroughly open and honest.
The two agencies that I found particularly helpful were:
Both of these agencies showed me several apartments, and both selections included one apartment that was really top-notch for my money. The people in both agencies speak fluent English; budapeststudentflat.com also speak fluent Italian and arranged a contract for me in English.
OK, if they run off with my deposit I’ll update this article — but I don’t believe for one second that’ll happen.
I’ve taken care to arrange my apartment a month in advance of when I actually need it, but I can see now that it would actually have been easier — if more nerve-wracking — to simply turn up and rent an apartment when I want one. While you’re looking for an apartment, you can rent a very cheap, rather noisy apartment with Budarpads for only 20 euros per night, and their driver, Attila, will pick you up from the airport and take you straight to the apartment for 20 euros if you want (or you could easily catch the train if you haven’t got much luggage).
Since I was arriving late in the evening, after dark, I chose the taxi option myself, although I’ve previously taken the train. Attila is a fan of classical music and was explaining to me that there is a classical music station in Hungary, Radio 3, plus a commercial classical station called Klasszik Radio. Funnily enough this is exactly the same as in Britain, where Radio 3 (as in Hungary) plays long, intense classical pieces while Classic FM plays lightweight stuff with commercials — sometimes irritatingly lightweight. There’s not really a classic station that avoids either being extremely intense or irritatingly poppy.
The really funny thing about the Klasszik Hungarian station is that it continually reports news from China. For reasons that are unclear but seem to have something to do with a Chinese station owning or having close connections with Klasszik Radio, the station bangs on about Chinese GDP and plays Chinese music, even though the level of interest in Hungary for such things appears to be about the same as in the UK. Our main thoughts about China in Britain are that we hope they keep on selling us cheap stuff and don’t end up our lords and masters. Also we wish they were democratic and not communist. Since Hungary had a long and somewhat painful experience of communism (one of the apartments I looked at still had bullet holes from the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising), I can only imagine how Klasszik Radio’s Chinese bias goes down in Budapest!
Once again I was impressed by the friendliness of Hungarians, not to mention the astonishing beauty of Hungarian women. People are as helpful and friendly (with a few exceptions of course) as in the Derbyshire English villages where I grew up, if not more so, and you don’t expect that in a big city of two million inhabitants. The city also feels very safe on the whole — I feel a lot safer wandering around Budapest at night than London or Edinburgh. I can’t wait to start living there! Today I’m quitting my job, so one month to go ….