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Budapest Expat Tips, Personal Stories

Considering Home improvement in Budapest? Today’s visit to the Hungarian Home Depot (OBI)

November 27, 2017

As many of our friends and family know, we are considering home improvement in Budapest. We will rent an apartment for our first year, but do plan to buy something we can renovate in the future. My husband, Andrew, is passionate about building and renovating.  Today’s visit to the “Hungarian Home Depot” or OBI (as its actually named) was to purchase some extension cords and power bars to run our LED Christmas lights. For those of you that know us best, this should hardly come as a surprise.

The first step’s a doozy…

Our journey south alongside the Danube was fraught with danger.  While simply crossing the street outside our front door, I tripped on the curb and did a full ninja body roll onto the sidewalk pavement on the other side.  The good news?  1. I did not land in dog shit. 2. I did not land in a puddle. 3. I had leather gloves on that prevented any road rash. 4. My wool winter coat also assisted in cushioning my landing. The bad news?  I think I took 5 years off my husband’s life due to panic.

Raday Street

The curb lying in wait to trip me…

Aniko on Number 2

Anikó on the Number 2 streetcar – sitting after my fall.

Once I dusted myself off, we continued on southward on the number 2 streetcar. Unfortunately, even though we used our awesome BKK transit app, we still got off at the wrong stop.  After ten minutes of wondering around looking puzzled, we got back on the streetcar at the same stop and continued on to OBI.

Welcome to Home Improvement Paradise

OBI is in fact what we expected it to be – the Hungarian version of Home Depot (complete with orange signage).  However, unlike our North American Home Depots, OPI divides up its home improvement goods over two massive floors.  Andrew did a quick inspection of the main floor tool section, and then we headed upstairs to the electrical department to look for what we needed.  No less than two people offered us help. And even more surprisingly, I could actually understand that they were offering it. Perhaps they do have English speaking staff, but we muddled through pretty easily in Hungarian.  I suspect if we were after something more elusive, this could get way more complicated.

OBI Budapest

Once you get off at the right stop, OBI is easy to see due to its large size and 4 flag posts on the street.

We selected one power bar with surge protection and one extension cord.  This cost us a total of $2392 forints (about $11.92 CAN). While it is possible to get cheaper versions of both, we will take these with us from our temporary accommodation and wanted to make sure they would last beyond Christmas.  Furthermore, we didn’t need to go all the way to OBI for these items – they could have been purchased down the street. However, we wanted to see what OBI had to offer in terms of general home improvement and renovation supplies. From our current location in district 9, the journey took less then 20 minutes.

Hungarian POwer Bar

Our new power bar in action. We purchased all of our convertors from Amazon before we left.

By the time we completed our exploration and purchase, it was time for lunch.  We headed back on the number 2 streetcar and ate lunch overlooking the Danube. My lunch was awesome.  I randomly choose the “Lunch Menu” that was only listed in Hungarian so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get.  Andrew choose a burger that was a fail.

Tomorrow we begin our apartment search with the assistance of Inter Relocation.  Wish us luck!


On the east side of the Danube river. The perfect lunch spot.





Budapest Expat Tips, Moving Abroad

Budgeting for Budapest: Avoid these Top 3 Expat Mistakes

October 30, 2017
Budgeting for Budapest

Budgeting for Budapest is top of mind for my husband – and rightly so.  We want to avoid expats mistakes that we’ve heard other people have made.   While we are both lucky enough to be able to work remotely and have that work continue – not all of our work is remote.  For us, moving to Budapest means a drastic cut in our dual family income – and with that comes a monthly budget.

To tell the truth, neither of us have ever been big budgeters before… but we sure are now.  We use resources like Numbeo for Budapest to help us gage our monthly living costs along with other research done on Facebook.  To see my recommendation for the best Budapest Facebook Groups, read this post. As of October 2017, the cost of living index in Budapest is 32.21% lower than my hometown of Toronto, Canada.

The 3 Top Expat Mistakes when Budgeting

1. Not budgeting for the cost of international shipping.

If you can fit all your belongings into two suitcases then you don’t have to worry about this too much.  If it is a company transfer or job offer, its likely the corporation will pick up the bill. However, if you are moving by your own choice midlife like we are, or you’re moving to retire in Hungary, its likely you have more “stuff” you want with you.  Especially if you are planning to be away for more than a year or two.

We had a garage sale in preparation for our move and sold all of our bigger items through online marketplaces, so we will not be moving any furniture or cars.  However, the smaller stuff still adds up.  We have boxes of china, crystal, decor items, paintings, stereo equipment (yes it will all work with 240v), a bicycle, purses, shoes, clothes, tools and more. In total, we will be moving about 190 cubic feet of precious (to us) cargo.

Our belongings will make the journey via container ship and should arrive about six to eight weeks after we do.  The shipment is considered “household goods” and thus duty-free. But don’t be fooled, the total cost of door-to-door shipping with insurance for our smaller amount is around $8000 – even without duty or import taxes. You really need to crunch the numbers to see if its worth it. It may be cheaper to simply purchase everything new on upon arrival. Furthermore, the shipping company will want all the money upfront sent via international bank wire.  No putting it on your credit card and worrying about it later!

2. Living like a tourist upon arrival

Hand decorated gingerbread cookies at the Christmas Market Stands.

Hand decorated gingerbread cookies at the Christmas Market Stands.

We are really excited to be arriving in Budapest at the start of the holiday season.  We have never been in Budapest for Christmas and are looking forward to the famous Christmas Markets, mulled wine, marzipan and hot pálinka.  The temptation to go crazy buying holiday items, food, wine, gifts and attend special events is strong. However, we know we need to keep to our budget for any unexpected items that may creep up.  We can not live like we are on holiday.  Unexpected charges could be anything from lawyers, rents, visas, permits – not cake and champagne.

Since we know we want to participate in some of the many the holiday events in Budapest, we included those bigger tickets items into our first month’s budget.  Moreover, we are able to purchase tickets in advance or make reservations online from Canada for the Nutcracker Ballet, La Bohéme Opera and our Christmas Brunch at the famous Gundel Restaurant.

3. The cost of Health Care

Hungary has a tax-funded universal healthcare system, organized by the state-owned National Health Insurance Fund. But don’t assume that because you are moving to Hungary that you will automatically have access.  As mentioned in this post, I am a dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen and my husband is British.  You would think this gives us access to a EU health-care system – but if you do, you would be wrong.

Since I have never lived in Hungary, I have not yet paid any taxes.  Since the health care system funds itself by taxes, I do not qualify and this requires me to get a private plan.  The same goes for my husband.  Since he has been in Canada for many years, he does not quality for his EU card which would typically allow British citizens access to the healthcare system. Both of us will need a private plan for this first year or until we perhaps work with a Hungarian employer.

However, if we are employed, the Hungarian company will pay this health care fee for us.  Consequently,  if we remain independent consultants, we need to foot the bill. The good news is, this cost is not exorbitant and a wide variety of plans and providers are available. After a our first year, we are able to “buy” into the social system and use it like any other citizen.

Interesting: Hungary is one of the main destinations of medical tourism in Europe and has excellent medical and dental services. According to Wikipedia, the most popular medical treatments are dentistry, cosmetic surgery, orthopaedic surgery, cardiac rehabilitation, fertility treatment, dermatology, anti-aging treatment, obesity treatment, addiction programmes and eye surgery.

Of course there are other financial considerations to make – personal, business and property tax rates, pensions, bank accounts, life insurance, etc. If in doubt, speak to your accountant before you leave – and find a good one upon arrival.  We are planning to meet with an accountant I found via Facebook.  To find out my favourite Budapest Facebook groups, read this post.