I was a bit hesitant to begin this post with the following. Embarrassed, actually. And not because I had done anything, but because something had happened to me that easily would be a strike to the ego of any conscious person. In short, I’m pretty sure that I got stood up. The girl who I knew and was supposed to stay with in Budapest had fallen off the map, leaving me shelterless and plan-less. Why I say stood up though, instead of impatient, is because my phone informed me that she had read all three of the messages I had sent to her in the past 24 hours – that is with no responses.
Whether perceived or real, rejection sucks. Especially when you’re by yourself. So, after a short brain storm I narrowed my next moves down to two options that would help me overcome the morning. I could either sob while listening to a Matchbox 20 playlist and eat a pint of ice cream, or grab my bag and jump on the next train to Croatia – I chose the train.
I lucked out. The reason being that their was a train leaving from Budapest at 6:00pm for Split (a 15 hour ride); however, that train was full. With a wide smile I walked up to the ticket counter, asking if there was anyway to get me on the train. To which the lady said that she would issue me a non-reservation ticket, meaning that if I weren’t able to find a seat on the train she would refund my purchase.
Naturally I asked what the likelihood is for not finding a seat, to which she enthusiastically informed me that it was very low. If I do miss the train though, my back up plan is to take a 7:15pm train to Vienna…just because.
After I had sorted out the tickets, off to the market I trotted to get some food. And that is where I am now, enjoying a $1.89 breakfast, which is a big step up from my $0.89 breakfast yesterday. I’ll just cut to the chase – lets play a numbers game.
Hungary does not use the Euro but instead their own currency; forints. As of now, the exchange rate from USD to HUF is around 1 to 224. But, just because a currency isn’t one-to-one doesn’t mean a restaurant owner wont charge you 20,000 for a steak. However in Hungary, your dollar goes FAR.
To keep you from having to bother with exchange rates, here are the prices of some everyday consumables in Budapest with the price converted to dollars. Additionally, some prices are in kilo’s [2.2 pounds], so on those I’ll divide them into cost per pound. That way it would be exactly like you’re eating or grocery shopping in the US.
Slice of Pizza: $0.89
Fresh Baked Bagel: $0.11
Heineken (at a bar on draft): $1.33
Kolbasz Sausage: $1.19/pound
Freshly Baked Pastries and Cakes: $0.75/slice
Whole Jar of Natural Mountain Honey: $3.55
Lamb Gryos: $2.22
Bottle of Water: $0.42
and the list goes on…..
These prices are incredibly consistent too. Last night I went to one of the more hip night clubs in the city and a Vodka Soda (using Absolute) cost only $3.11…I’m used to $10 AT LEAST for the well liquor, or even a shot! These incredible prices had my mental gears grinding over one question, “how much would it cost to live in Budapest?”
Mind you, this is only what I was able to find after an hour or so of research – meaning that I bet I could get even a better deal! (BTW, my friend did get back to me! So I wasn’t stood up!….but I’m still going to go to Croatia.)
So as a bachelor I could rent a hip and modern private studio near the center of town through AirBnB for just over $600 a month [pictures of that apartment below]. Which would place me in walking distance of the central market, as well as many restaurants. For the past two days I have eaten ALOT. All good food, but I haven’t spent more than $10 dollars a day on it. So to be fair, lets bump that number up to $12.00, just to give a good margin of error. Now we are at $960 a month for both food and living.
That’s not all…say you like to party. And usually go out three nights a week, drinking on average four drinks per night. Let’s say of those two drinks are beers and two are cocktails – priced as if you are buying them in the popular clubs. So your nightly alcohol budget would come in at $9.00 a night, making it $108.00 a month.
Lastly, clothing and cosmetics. I do not use many cosmetics products, or have many clothes for that matter. However I did make a point to walk into a few stores to run price checks. And the results reflected that of the food. A new pair of slim fit jeans from H&M; $19.32. Shirts, under $5. Of course if you wanted to walk into Gucci, you’d be paying Gucci prices. However, you could buy a new and trendy out fit every month for less than $40 – so lets just say it’s $80 a month for two outfits.
So now we have a rough but probable monthly figure of $1148, to which I’m going to add 15% (transportation, miscellaneous purchases, ect..) Thus, the monthly cash-flow needed to live in a private studio (a cool one), go out three nights a week, eat well, and do some shopping is only $1320 per month. Meaning a that someone making just $16,000 a year would be living the life style I just described. And anything above that would be either spending money or savings.
Of course, you’d probably find the same prices in Hicksville Arknasaw, but Budapest is a real city. The nightlife is trendy, people are good looking, the streets are clean, it’s looks like Paris, and there are restaurants, museums, operas, parks, and more…just saw the clock, gotta run!