Central Market Hall, Budapest, Hungary. Price Check: a Budapest

Price Check: a Budapest Shopping List

 

Budapest is a brilliant city to stay in a holiday rental and settle in for a while. Food, wine, culture, and beauty aside, it’s a fantastically affordable place to live for a European city.

We still have a few destinations to go on our grand tour, but as the New Year is approaching I thought I’d compare the Price Check totals for all the places we’ve stayed this year, and Budapest fares very well, currently at number 12 out of 15 on the lower, i.e. cheapest, end of the scale. Only Jerez, Marrakech, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City are cheaper, with Mexico City being the cheapest place to buy groceries.

There are a couple of items on the Budapest shopping list that skew things a bit, such as good olive oil (which was bafflingly super-expensive in Budapest) and a good bottle of drinkable wine, which you need to fork out more money for. You can buy a bottle of wine in the supermarket that is far cheaper than the price we’ve listed below – you could pay as little as $3 if you wanted – but we didn’t think they were good for much except cooking.

If you sacrificed your olive oil and drank the cheaper plonk then Budapest would in fact be our cheapest destination of the year to shop so far – even cheaper than Mexico City. But I’ll comment more on why that’s the case and why cities like Istanbul rank close to the top, just beneath New York and Tokyo, in another post.

If you’re staying in Budapest for a while, you will find shopping not only affordable but an absolute breeze with no need to trek very far to find what you want. There are not only wonderful market halls and open-air markets scattered around the city (the Central Market Hall being the best and our favourite; it’s a foodie’s idea of heaven!), but there are supermarkets or at least mini-marts on almost every block.

Supermarkets in the centre vary greatly in quality from good supermarkets where you can find everything you need – even ranges of Thai and Mexican ingredients if you’ve been travelling for a while and have cravings – to tiny 24-hour grocery stores that offer basic supplies and seem to exist mainly to sell cigarettes and liquor.

If you are staying in the centre, we recommend that you buy your fruit and vegetables, meat, salamis, cheeses, spices, etc, at the Central Market Hall or another market (we strongly recommend you do Carolyn Bánfalvi’s excellent Markets Tour before you shop anywhere) and get everything else you need at the nearest supermarket. We found Match supermarket, just a block from our apartment, to be just fine, although there was also a Tesco, 10 minutes away on foot and by tram, on the way to the Central Market Hall.

In the basement of the Central Market Hall there’s also a supermarket and excellent Asian mini-mart. The supermarkets also have deli counters (though much of what’s beneath the glass is the same as what’s on the shelves) and bakery counters, as well as liquor sections, if you can’t make it to a good wine shop, though the quality of wine at a wine store is far superior. More on wine in our next post!

A couple of tips for shopping at the supermarket: plastic shopping bags cost, so take your own canvas bags or, once you buy your plastic bags, don’t forget to take them with you when you head out; and once you pay at the checkout the standard practice is to keep your groceries in your basket and take them over to a dedicated bench to pack them into your plastic bags.

2 litre water HUF210 £0.66 US$1.05
1 litre milk HUF240 £0.75 US$1.20
Bottle of local wine HUF2200 £6.86 US$10.96
330ml beer HUF265 £0.83 US$1.32
100g Nescafe HUF550 £1.72 US$2.74
250g coffee beans HUF340 £1.06 US$1.69
50 tea bags HUF260 £0.81 US$1.30
1 kg sugar HUF160 £0.50 US$0.80
Jar of jam HUF330 £1.03 US$1.64
1 loaf of bread HUF550 £1.72 US$2.74
250g quality butter HUF440 £1.37 US$2.19
200g cheese HUF380 £1.19 US$1.89
500 ml olive oil HUF2540 £7.93 US$12.65
1 doz organic eggs HUF480 £1.50 US$2.39
1 kilo tomatoes HUF300 £0.94 US$1.49
1 kilo onions HUF200 £0.62 US$1.00
1 kilo apples HUF300 £0.94 US$1.49
250 g pistachios HUF540 £1.68 US$2.69
Erős Pista paprika HUF560 £1.75 US$2.79
Total: 10845 £33.86 US$54.02


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  1. Grace @ Sandier Pastures

    “once you pay at the checkout, the standard practice is to keep your groceries in your basket and take them over to a dedicated bench to pack them into your plastic bags”

    It’s the same in Japan! I wish more and more countries follow suit. I can’t understand why people just stand there and watch the grocery packer pack their things.

  2. Lara Dunston

    That’s right! It was like that in Tokyo. It makes so much sense. I hate waiting for people to finish packing, and hate people waiting for *us* to finish packing, so agree with you!

    Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  3. Molly

    One tip on olive oil: Gastronomia Pomo d’Oro in the 5th district sells olive oil out of stainless steel vats. You can buy an empty bottle to fill there, or bring your own. Great quality oils and regularly trucked in from Italy. I find this more economical (and better) than buying the name brand olive oils in the grocery store.

  4. lara dunston

    Excellent tip! Thanks, Molly, that’s a great way to save on one of the more expensive items on the list but still not sacrifice quality – and that’s always the problem we have with Price Check. Another item that sometimes drives the totals up is free-range eggs which can be much more expensive than factory eggs.


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