One bedroom? Two bedrooms? Buda side? Pest side? Near Danube? Finding an apartment in the right place and for an affordable price can be one of the most frightening tasks, especially if you don’t know the city or you are a foreign student or short-term expat. Hunting my own flat for a three-month internship has not been easy. Should you face the same problem, here is some advice to help save your time.
What is a given for any local is probably a surprise for a lot of foreigners: Budapest is divided into two sides, Buda and Pest. These are quite different, so the first decision you face is about the lifestyle you prefer.
If you want a more relaxed place, avoiding noisy streets every night and a large crowd of tourists, Buda is just the place for you. Meanwhile Pest is full of popular bars, restaurants and clubs. Among others Király, Wesselényi and Kazinczy streets never sleep at night. For me this was appealing so I chose to live near Király utca. My decision was also based on location because in this part of the city the public transport network is very well developed. If you want to reach everything easily you should definitely choose one of the inner districts (V, VI or VII).
Prices in Buda are generally higher than in Pest, but the apartments located in the very centre of the city rent for the same price as homes in Buda.
Where to look?
Like many other people I started looking for accommodation on the internet. In my case it was the most effective search tool because I was not in Budapest. There are a lot of websites offering apartments for sale and rent in Budapest (realestatehungary.hu and alberlet.hu/en are recommended). In addition you will see plenty of groups on Facebook that will help you to find a room if you are willing to share the flat (“Budapest, Hungary Apartment Rentals” is a useful one).
There are also Facebook groups dedicated to Erasmus students or new arrivals. These are great if you are looking for a permanent place and they’re in English, so you don’t need to ask anyone to translate.
As my internship is only three months, one of the biggest problems I had to face is that many owners only offer long-term leases and they require you to pay a large deposit. My problem solved itself when I found Iskola – that’s how I call my new home –, a dormitory full of foreign students from all over the world. If you like to meet new people, live in the centre of the city and be surrounded by bars, restaurants and all kind of shops, this is your place. If you like to have privacy, not so much.
Ask the locals
If you can’t speak Hungarian – which is probably the case – don’t be afraid to ask for help from the locals. Many flat owners do not speak English. If you don’t have family or friends living in Hungary turn to Facebook, which has a number of groups where you can meet people from Hungary and they will gladly give you recommendations and useful advice.
Even before arriving in Budapest I knew that even though rental prices are lower than in other districts, it is not such a good idea to live in Józsefváros (District VIII).
Finding a good apartment at the right price and place before you arrive could be difficult. Start thinking about this early and be patient while looking. Don’t think for a second that you will find something very quickly and be moving in after a few days.