As I’ve mentioned here quite a few times before, this summer is looking to be an expensive one for those wanting to fly between the United States or Canada and Europe. There have been a few nice sales that have crept in over the past month or two, but generally prices are looking just about as high as they’ve ever been, so it’s wise to start looking into alternative destinations.
So instead of flying to London or Paris or Barcelona, where flights are relatively expensive and it’s even more expensive once you arrive, it’s worth looking into Budapest and cities near it. Right now you can fly between New York and Budapest for only US$640 round-trip, which is about the same price as the cheapest Paris flight, and actually cheaper than flights to London or Barcelona right now.
The capital of Hungary is a shining star among the cities that used to be behind the Iron Curtain. While Prague got off to an earlier start in attracting foreign tourists and expats, Budapest has at least as much to offer and it’s quite a bit cheaper in most respects as well.
In Budapest you can still find 3-star hotel rooms for under US$50 per night if you look around a bit. Whatever hotel you stay in, it’s sure to be half the price or even less compared to a similar hotel in London or Amsterdam. The Hungarian currency has been struggling over the past couple of years so the country is a bit cheaper now than it has been for a while.
In addition to the castles and museums that most people go to, Budapest is known for its many natural spring spas right in the middle of the city. Unlike in most of the world, where a soak in a hot spring is something you do as a special (and expensive) treat, in Hungary it’s a part of life. There are some fancy tourist spas where you can spend a lot if you prefer, but there are also many spas where it costs only a few dollars and you’ll be surrounded by locals.
The food is another highlight, with the famous paprika-covered meats found on most menus. This is hearty fare where a budget traveler can have a cheap and light lunch and then fill up on a heavy meal at dinner for well under $10, including a bottle or two of beer.
Budapest is a fairly large city so you can easily spend a week there, combined with a couple of day trips out into the countryside. But it’s also fairly close to a number of other worthwhile cities by train. You can get to Prague or Belgrade or Vienna in half a day or so, so use the cheap airfare and a reasonably priced train ride to see a few different cities for the same price as you might pay to visit just Rome or Munich this summer.