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Budapest Expat Tips

Tourist Alert: What Not to Wear in Budapest, Hungary

March 3, 2018
What not to wear in Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city. Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing architecture, museums, hotels, bars, nooks, and crannies. And while there are many cultural differences between North America and Hungary, the way people dress is one of them. So unless you want to be immediately identified as a tourist, here is a short list of what not to wear in Budapest, Hungary.

Tourist Alert

Please note that these are my personal observations after 3 months of living in Budapest.  I have absolutely done ALL of the things listed below (as I’m sure some of you have too). You (and I) may even continue to do so in the future. Guess what?  If that’s what you want, go ahead and be the best tourist you can be! But for those of you who want to blend in a little more with your European surroundings  – keep reading.

Dirty Shoes or Trainers

Since we take public transportation practically everyday, we get to see a lot of footwear. Hungarian’s shoes are practically always polished to perfection.  Even in wintertime, you would have to look hard to find salt stains on a fellow passenger’s boots. Laces are also neat and clean – with shoes/boots completely tied up.

Now I am not saying that all Canadians have dirty shoes (as I am sure not all Hungarians have clean ones).  However, both my husband and I noticed this almost immediately.  It prompted us to get to the store to make sure we had some good polish on hand. There is definitely a higher level of respect for an individual’s personal appearance.

Furthermore, wearing trainers/running shoes is definitely a sign that you must be a tourist.  You will discover most Europeans wear stylish but comfortable shoes or a higher-end sneaker look.  You’ll likely only find running shoes being worn during an actual athletic activity.

 mens shoes

A more likely shoe to be seen in winter is something like this comfortable, but stylish, men’s shoe.

Running shoes

While these bright coloured trainers may be perfect for the gym or track, wearing on the street of Budapest simply screams tourist.

Colourful Winter Coats

When the temperatures drop, I’ve always liked to beat the gloom with a bold coloured coat.  I have a turquoise coat, a bright pink down vest and my husband has a cobalt blue coat.  Unfortunately, these are not looks you find regularly on adults on the streets of Budapest. Most Hungarians above the age of 12 wear black or darker colours. Lucky for us, we own more than one coat.

Note that this doesn’t always stop us from wearing our coats of many colours, but we make a conscious choice to do so. Sometimes, and in certain places, its simply best to fit in and look “Hungarian”.  Why be a target for tour operators and pickpockets when you don’t have to be?

Check out our latest video on YouTube to see when we blend in and when we don’t bother…

Tourist with bright coat

While we have protected his identity, this man is immediately recognizable as a tourist in this bright blue coat.

Baseball Caps

As someone who has spent the last ten summers of my life on a boat, both my husband and I own more then one baseball cap (even if I did rarely wear one).  Baseball caps are often a complete necessity when sailing to keep the sun out of your eyes without losing your sunglasses. On the contrary, you will find few adult Hungarians wearing these on the streets of Budapest.

If you do see this style of cap, its most likely to be devoid of any slogan or sports logo. I’m not really sure why baseball hats get no love?  You do see lots other styles of hats – bucket hats, pork pie hats, straw hats, and my husband’s personal favourite, the Trilby. Ps. This does to apply to ladies as well.

Tourists in Baseball caps

Wearing this hat is not only a sign that your are a tourist but a Times Square billboard sized sign that you are a tourist.

Sweatsuits, Tracksuits and Yoga Pants

I love my yoga pants.  Who doesn’t love their yoga pants?  They can be be both flattering and practical when they fit right.  In the past, I never hesitated from wearing them to the mall, out for coffee or grocery shopping.  On the other hand, please know that I never wore them to work or to a dinner party. Rarely do you see these anywhere on the streets of Budapest.  Sweats? Track suits? Leisure wear? Nope.  You won’t find any of those either. Again, this applies to both women and men.  Sorry boys!  Leave those baggy track suits at home.

yoga pants

Defying all North American logic, these two women are wearing yoga pants to actually do yoga – not to meet at Starbucks for a latte.

Other Tourist Giveaways

Of course clothing is just one part of the tourist puzzle.  Carrying selfie sticks, wearing backpacks, multiple cameras, staring at large maps, paying in Euros instead of forints, are all huge “tourist alert” giveaways.  Perhaps the most obvious – and the hardest to avoid – is speaking in English.

Selfie Stick

Perhaps the most obvious of tourist devices – the selfie stick. Not only that – but many popular spots simply ban the use of these nowadays.

In short, no matter how you dress or what language you speak, please don’t hesitate to come and visit this extremely safe and beautiful city that I now call home. Hungarians are fabulous and will fill you to the brim with the best food, wine, weather and entertainment.

What do you think screams tourist?  Let me know in the comments below!


Expat Life

Get Sore Feet with Expats on Margaret Island in Budapest

January 9, 2018
Margaret Island Bird

Unlike the majority of our friends and family back home, we are happily having a very mild winter here in Budapest.  We’ve been so lucky to be able to move around the city so easily and get settled into new life abroad without freezing or struggling with the snow. It’s also allowed for us to simply explore and discover this gorgeous city.  Yes, this means sore feet – especially mine – but we are happy and very grateful.

Margaret Island

Margaret Island is a 2.5km long island in the middle of the Danube in Budapest.  The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north). The island was called Insula leporum before being named after Saint Margaret (1242–1270) in the 14th century. Margaret was the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary, and she lived in the Dominican convent on the island. Today, the island is directly managed by the city and is a recreation area with athletic buildings, gardens, parks, pools, cafes, a hotel, a small zoo, running trails and more.

An arial view of Margaret Island

An arial view of Margaret Island.

A January Day

Yesterday, it was 12 degrees so we decided it was perfect weather to head to Margaret Island to walk with the dog.  Since Lucy no longer has a backyard, we really wanted a chance to let her run free on the grass like she loves to do on Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands.  Our new apartment is in the 5th District in Budapest, so we hopped on the number 2 tram to take us to Margaret Bridge.  We got off at the end of the line and walked across Margaret Bridge to Margaret Island from there.


Once we arrived, we simply wandered around the island and enjoyed what we accidentally found.  We found lovely buildings, cafes, trees, open green spaces, sculptures and even ancient ruins.

The Knights of St. John settled on the island in the 12th century. Among the present historical monuments of the island are the 13th century ruins of a Franciscan church and a Dominican church and convent, as well as a church from the 12th century. The park was officially turned into a public park in the early 1900s.

Running Activities for Expats

If you are a runner, there is a monthly event and free timed 5k run around the island.  Find about more about it on their Facebook page. As you can see by the photo below there is a dedicated path for runners (the red one).  There is also a path specifically for “walkers” and then also paths for bikes and motorized vehicles all around the island.

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Until next time…

There is so much to see and do, but we only spent a couple of hours.  We hope this wonderful weather streak continues and we have many more winter walks on the island.

The day was so beautiful, we decided to walk all the way home from the island and took some great photos in the winter sun.


Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

What We Did for our First Christmas in Budapest

December 26, 2017
Family Christmas in Budapest

Today is December 26th and still an official holiday here in Budapest. Sadly, my parents flew back home to Toronto this morning. However, my sister and her husband are still here – woo hoo! Andrew and I are at home today and getting organized to move to our new apartment. It’s been a great couple of days, so I thought I would share what we did for our first Christmas in Budapest.

Hungarian Traditions

Christmas is celebrated a little differently here in Hungary compared to the typical Christmas in Canada.  Santa or “Mikulas” visits on December 6th and leaves chocolates and small presents in your boots.  Mikulas serves a similar purpose as the Western Santa Claus in that he keeps track of the good and bad deeds of children all over the world. This tradition is why you don’t see “Mall Santas” here at Christmas.  No photo op with Santa to be found (much to my husband’s distain).

Christmas Tree

Decadently decorated trees at the Gresham Palace Hotel – but few Santas to be found.

Christmas Eve is when families get together. It’s when the adults set up and decorate the Christmas tree and place the larger gifts underneath.  Even in Canada as a child, I had to wait until a heard a bell ring to tell me that the angels (or Baby Jesus) brought the tree and the gifts for me. There is much more of an emphasis on advent and other Christian traditions.

In case you were wondering, the angels brought us a new flatscreen TV 😉

Our Family Christmas Eve

To celebrate our first Christmas in Budapest, I was lucky enough to have my family here from Toronto.  My mother, father, sister and brother-in-law made the journey arriving in the days before. In addition to my immediate family, we also hosted my Aunt (a Budapest resident) and our friend, Wes, from the travel blog, Feather and the Wind.

We decided to celebrate at my parent’s rented apartment so they didn’t have to be the ones to travel.  Like every city, its hard to get a taxi on Christmas Eve.

The Food

Rather than trying to sort out the pots and pans at an AirBnb, we decided to order dinner from one of our favourite downtown restaurants, Kiosk.  Early on December 24th, Andrew and I hopped on the Number 2 tram and went to pick up one whole turkey, one whole duck and all the holiday fixings.  The food was delicious.  I would highly recommend their services for the future.

We ate my mother’s deviled eggs and cabbage rolls as starters.  We ate tons of turkey and duck. We finished off our casual night with a shot of palinka and my Aunt’s traditional (and homemade) chestnut cake for dessert. A very happy and full bunch indeed!

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day

Christmas Day in Budapest was GORGEOUS.  Full sun and twelve degrees.  We’ve had Christmases in Florida with similar weather! We wanted to have a family brunch at the Gundel Restaurant. The Gundel is located just beside City Park. Gundel is the restaurant where you can find traditional Hungarian dishes based on original recipes, served in an exceptional ambiance. For those of you reading from Toronto, it is a similar experience as going to the Old Mill for Christmas Lunch.

It was a fabulous day and I was so happy to be able to spend it with my family here in Budapest, Hungary.  Missed were my step-children who celebrated Christmas in Haliburton, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta respectively. Fingers crossed to seeing them here for the holidays sometime soon.

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

Exploring the Christmas Markets in Budapest

December 19, 2017
Christmas Market Budapest

This past week has been crazy busy with organizing our new life, but when we take a break, we head out to go exploring the Christmas markets in Budapest. Luckily, there are several of them spread out around the city – both big and small.

The main Christmas markets are located on the “Pest” side of Budapest. One of these is located at Vörösmarty Square .  This includes lights, music, amazing food and drink stands, artists boutiques and other handcrafted goods.  All vendors are specially chosen for the high quality of their goods – and they are wonderful. There is a stage for live performances and Christmas lights are projected onto the facade of the iconic Café Gerbeaud. Established in 1858, Gerbeaud is Europe’s finest coffee house and pastry shop.

This Christmas market has been voted one of the Top 10 in all of Europe. To see some other great Christmas markets, click here.

Christmas Market Budapest

Vörösmarty Christmas Market at night. Our view from the St. Andrea Skybar looking at Gerbeaud.

Another huge tourist draw is the Christmas market located at St. Stephen’s Basilica.  This market features a spectacular 3D visual show projected on the front of the Basilica a few times every night. Andrew and I just LOVE watching it.  I’m sure he’s trying to figure out how he could do it himself at home for next Christmas 😉

In addition to the market booths, there is also a small skating rink for children under the huge Christmas tree located in the middle of the market. The sights, sounds and smells in this market are all delicious!

Basilica Christmas Market

The St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market complete with skating rink.

Of course, we would be remiss not to tell you about our top three things to consume at any Budapest Christmas Markets.  1. Mulled Wine 2. Fried Potato Pancakes and 3. Marzipan Chocolate.  Okay, number 3 is really for Andrew as I personally find marzipan gross  – but Andrew can’t get enough of it!

Hungarian Potato Pancakes

A Hungarian Potato Pancake. We like to top ours with sour cream and shredded cheese. Yum!

Thanks for reading!  Andrew and I are popping out for another glass of mulled wine…



Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

6 Interesting Things we Discovered after our First Ten Days in Budapest

December 1, 2017
Anikó & Andrew

Life here in Budapest is certainly very different than in Toronto – but that is exactly what we hoped for.  We’ve managed really well so far, but here are 6 interesting things we discovered after our first ten days in Budapest.

1. Cursive

There is widespread use of cursive writing on a variety of signs, shops and personal notes.  While this may not seem strange to anyone over 35, this would be tricky for anyone under 30 in North America to decipher. Shortly after I married my husband and became a step-mother in 2009, I was shocked to learn they no longer teach cursive in the Canadian public school system.  When I left notes for my step-kids, I had to ensure to PRINT them for comprehension.  When they visit, I will have to put them to the test 😉

2. Public Transport

During my very first trip to Budapest, I learned the public transport was inexpensive and easy to use. However, now that we’ve been using for more than just to visit tourist hot spots, we’ve ascertained how really amazing it is!  Using the BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Központ) you can get anywhere in Budapest.  In fact, you will often have two or three choices of routes to get there. Compared to the TTC (Toronto Transit Authority), it is nothing short of miraculous. The BKK app I mentioned in this post, makes it almost impossible to get lost. We have been to OBI, IKEA, doctor and veterinarian offices, 3 major shopping malls, Christmas Markets, live music venues, restaurants, parks and more.  Nothing has taken us more then 30 minutes from door to door!

Kalvin Ter Metro Station in the 9th District

One the entrances to the Kálvin Tér Metro Station in the 9th District

3. Manners

In these first few days, we immediately took notice that the general population in Budapest is a LOT more polite than our typical experiences in and around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).  Upon entering the veterinarian’s office in downtown Budapest, each and every person sitting waiting greeted us with a “Good Day”, and wished us the same on the way out. This also happens in smaller bars and restaurants. On our way to IKEA, a teenaged boy got up and out of the way for me on the subway which both nicely surprised me and made me feel suddenly (and sadly) old.

4. Sunday Closures

Our first ten days in Budapest have included one weekend and you should know that Budapest shuts down on a Sunday. Like Toronto did until the late 1980’s, Hungarians still take “a day of rest” fairly seriously.  Sure, you can find the tourists spots open, but you better be prepared with your groceries and the essential items by Saturday afternoon.  I have to admit, it is quite lovely having an day off from going to the mall to buy more crap we don’t need and having dedicated time for people to spend with their families. Hungarians value their own lives, and the quality of those lives, very, very highly.

The Egyetemi Templom - a baroque style catholic church

Egyetemi Templom – a baroque style Catholic Church located in the 5th District

5. A Notary is not always required

We’ve been signing a lot of legal paperwork over the past week.  In Canada, some of this would have required the services of a notary, but in Hungary they seem to simply gather more personal information.  For each important document we’ve signed we have added our birthdate, place of birth and mother’s maiden name.  Its interesting seeing how much this system is used, but I do suppose it is a unique identifier. I mean, we all know there could be another Anikó here – but not one with the same birthday AND mother!

6. Just enough Hungarian makes me dangerous

One last thing we’ve discovered is that I speak Hungarian much better than originally thought. In fact, I can speak my simple sentences so well that many have assumed I am fluent (instead of having a long way to go). Last night, after greeting the waiter and asking for a table in Hungarian, I was presented with the Hungarian only menu while Andrew was given an English one.  I was still going strong with my skills until it came to the soup of day.  I only understood… “blah, blah, blah, bacon”. Embassed I didn’t understand more, I simply agreed to have the soup.  In fact, I ordered one for myself and one for Andrew.

We still aren’t entirely sure what we ate at Input, but it was “nagyon finom” (very tasty)…



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.





Moving Abroad

Night flight to Budapest: The First 24 Hours

November 22, 2017
Night flight to Budapest

We made it through our night flight to Budapest.  Our entire journey took about 16 hours from door to door – and I have to admit, it was a bit rough.  Our flight went from Toronto to Amsterdam to Budapest. We’ve never traveled with so much luggage AND a dog.  We were sweaty, tired, a wee bit cranky but pretty happy upon arrival. Lucy (our dog) was amazing.  Not an accident or single complaint at all!

Our 5 checked bags.  We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

Our 5 checked bags. We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a successful take-off on this first Nightflight to “Budapest”
Our flying time will be 16 hours. We’ll be travelling at a speed of 2183 miles per second.”  – with apologies to Boney M

Our car picked us up at the airport and we arrived at our lovely, spacious, but FREEZING apartment.  We successfully restarted the gas boiler and then hit the streets in search of a hot beverage while we waited for our apartment to heat up. We found a lovely tented area just down the block to have a mulled wine and a beer. Perfect.

View from our balcony on Raday Utca

The view from our balcony on Raday Street in Budapest’s 9th District

After our drinks, we came back to the apartment where we started to unpack our bags and then proceeded to promptly fall asleep until about midnight.  Of course, we then spent a few hours up in the middle of the night – hungry –  as our bodies aren’t used to the six hour time difference yet. Since we are typically morning people, we were astonished to wake up the next morning around 11:30am.

The next day

We got dressed, headed off to the nearby dog park and then walked a few blocks east to the Danube for a coffee (coffee is so very good in Budapest). We went to do small grocery shop at Tesco, dropped the dog back off at the apartment and went in search of some freshly made goulash soup.  We tried at first to go to the “For Sale Pub” – a quirky touristy spot with autographed papers everywhere – but it was packed full.  Instead, we ate at the cosy “Paris Texas” on Raday Street. The soup came from the restaurant next door and it was delicious!

Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

A very jet-lagged Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Once our bellies were full and warm, we headed back “home” for more unpacking, did a little bit of work online and then collapsed into our bed… only to wake up again in the middle of the night. *sigh*



Moving Abroad

What We are Doing in our Final Week: Moving Abroad Checklist

November 14, 2017

Moving abroad to Budapest, Hungary is a huge undertaking. So many people, places and things to organize and get ready before we board our plane. Here is what we are doing in our final week in Canada.

Prepare an Important Document Folder

Perhaps obviously, you need to take important paper work with you to your new home. We are taking essential paperwork in our carry-on luggage.  That means our passports, International Driver’s Licenses, my Hungarian Residency Card, our Hungarian Marriage Certificate and our credit/debit cards.

In additional to these hard copy documents, I have scanned and uploaded all of the above along with MANY others to a secure cloud-based server that both my husband and I have access to.  You can use something like LassPast or even Dropbox, but I do recommend you scan important documents and keep copies somewhere in case of physical loss.

International Shipment Pick up

As mentioned in this post, we are using Move One to send our goods via sea shipping container to Budapest. Brytor is the company they partner with here in Toronto, so it was with them we met with to pack and load our goods directly from our storage locker. Unfortunately, this happened during a sunny but unexpectedly cold day. It was  -10 degrees celsius and absolutely frigid during packing. However, this made for fast work and our things are now safe and secure for international transit.

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Our worldly goods neatly stacked up and ready to be packed and loaded into a shipping container

Government Services

In this final week, we visited our local “Service Ontario” office to let them know we are leaving the country and that we need to suspend our OHIP health care services.  We informed them of our intent to take a two-year absence from our services. A quick and easy process (if you don’t count the long wait time in line).

Doctor’s Appointments

Andrew and I, along with our dog, all have our final doctor’s visit during this time.  For the humans, we are topping up on some prescription medication that may be harder to get in Hungary (that fact is, we don’t really know but we are hedging our bets).  For our dog, Lucy, this vet visit is essential for her being allowed into the European Union.  You can read all about that process here.

Sell Remaining Goods

Unbelievably, we STILL have stuff left to sell. By now, my husband and I are getting REALLY sick of Kijiji.  I mean, its been fabulous, we’ve sold tons of goods over the last few months, but the amount of people that respond to ads simply to express their dislike of the item/price/colour/whatever is truly bizarre and a huge time waster. Luckily, we were able to sell most items quickly and easily.  Our cars are both sold now, so its just some miscellaneous electronics left. The items we don’t sell will be donated or given to my sister to sell in our absence.  Thanks sis!

Pack our Bags

We are moving with seven suitcases.  Yes, you read that right.  Seven.  For those of you that know us well, you know that Andrew and I only ever take carry-on luggage when travelling.  No matter how far – or for how long.  So taking seven suitcases on a plane is completely contrary to our normal travel style.

Dog in Suitcase

Lucy sitting our suitcase “helping” me pack

We have three large suitcases and two medium suitcases that we will be checking in.  We also have two carry-on suitcases we are taking on board the plane with us.  These have our important documents, computers, cameras, medications, jewelry, etc.

While this many suitcases isn’t normal for us, it was considerably less expensive to come with us on the plane that add to our overseas shipment.  These bags contain everything we need to live and work for 8 winter weeks until our shipment arrives.

Saying Goodbye

By now, we have said good bye to the majority of our friends and family.  We had lunch with my husband’s brother and his wife yesterday and we will have a final dinner with the rest of our family on Saturday.  I predict the definite need for Kleenex.

However, unlike when my husband moved from England in 1988… Social media, FaceTime, Skype, YouTube and more will help us stay connected each and every day.



Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

Casting off the Lines: Saying Good-bye to our Yacht Club

November 5, 2017
Etobicoke Yacht Club

Saying good-bye to our yacht club was something I don’t think my husband or I ever expected to do.  I joined the club in 2005 and my husband joined in 2007.  It is where we met, fell in love and held our wedding reception in 2009. Practically all of our friends (and family) are members of the club and there has not been a party or event in the last decade we missed.  However last night, (with thanks to my sister), we found ourselves in the Great Hall saying good-bye to all the people we have shared our lives with. Over 40 people showed up on a rainy Saturday night to wish us well in our move to Budapest, Hungary.


My sister and I outside the Grey Wolf Gazebo at the yacht club.

Our Life at Etobicoke Yacht Club

It was wonderful to see all of our friends in such a familiar environment one last time before we leave for Budapest.  My husband and are dedicated volunteers at the EYC and have in excess of 2200 hours in our “volunteer bank”. Andrew is a “Commodore’s Cup” winner, the club’s resident DJ and I served on the Board of Directors and was the lead singer in the club band, ‘The Members”. Doing these things allowed us to form that friendships that will have no boarders.  No matter how far we go, EYC will always be remembered as our “home”.

Commodores Ball

Andrew and I at the 2015 Commodore’s Ball

Of course time spent at the club, really means time spent on the water.  For us that water is Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. And while Andrew and I are “power boaters”, we often enjoyed sailing with our friends. Especially those times with my sister, her husband and our good friend “Cap’t Dave”. Sailing gives us the ability to chat, sing and laugh while enjoying the sunshine, the water, and the waves. It was also the preferred method of travel for our dog, Lucy. She hates the noise that power boat engines make. To read more about moving with a dog to Budapest, click here.

Sailing on Lake Ontario

Andrew enjoying another great day on Lake Ontario

Our Future on the Water

We sold our boat in September in preparation for our move  – we just can’t reconcile shipping it all the way to Hungary.  It was one of the saddest moments of our journey so far – as it meant we were really going. We are really going to move abroad! And in case you were wondering, there IS a place to sail and boat just about an hour from Budapest on Lake Balaton.  Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian Sea” due to its size and beauty.  Andrew and I are very excited to spend time there next season and who knows?  Maybe we will have a boat on the water again soon…

Lake Balaton

The Mediterranean-like microclimate around Lake Balaton also makes the region ideal for wine making. Just about perfect!

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.