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October 2017

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.



Budapest Expat Tips

The Best Facebook Groups for Budapest Expats

October 27, 2017
Budapest Facebook Groups

Moving abroad to Budapest, Hungary… I still can’t believe we are going to do this!  It’s scary, exciting, stressful, wonderful – it pretty much covers the gamut of my emotions.  Thanks to Facebook Groups for Budapest, we feel like we are well prepared to move to this foreign land – at least as well as we could be – and much of that is thanks to a LOT of research all done on Facebook.

How and where did we get our information?

The “Digital Age” we currently live in makes finding information about our new city life in Budapest only a click away. I’ve said over and over that I think this move is much easier in 2017 then it would have been even ten years earlier (when I first considered moving to Budapest).   Google searches and Facebook social networking allow me to get even the most specific of questions quickly answered.  I have figured out transportation, real estate services, professional associations, health services, legal services, beauty services, banking, entertainment and more.

I already have appointments booked with nearly all of these – weeks in advance of my arrival. I’m hopeful this will help us reduce our stress and help us integrate into our new lives a little easier then trying to figure it all out “boots on the ground”.  And since it will be the end of November, we will definitely need our boots!

Facebook Info about moving abroad

Info about moving abroad is only a click away!

The following Facebook Pages and Groups are my favourite resources for those planning to move abroad to Budapest or those that are already living there.

Facebook Groups for Budapest

Not only have I gathered a wealth of information from Facebook, but I have made new friends and business associates. The vast majority of Budapest Facebook Groups and Pages are filled with happy and friendly people who respond quickly to my questions and help me with any confusion. I have recommendations to excellent restaurants, events, apartments, professional services, dog sitting, grocery stores, wine bars and anything else I wanted.

Iced Christmas Fruitcake

Iced Christmas Fruitcake

Another great discovery is the The British Pantry.  Found through Facebook groups for Budapest, this awesome online grocer delivers your favourite British goods right to your door in Budapest.  This means my husband will have his Christmas favourite fruitcake while celebrating the holiday for our first time in Budapest. It will also keep us stocked in baked beans, sausages and biscuits as long we are there.

A huge thanks to David at The British Pantry for his quick replies to my emails and great customer service!

Why did we choose to move to Budapest? Read this post to learn more.

Moving Abroad

5 Tips for Moving with a Pet from Canada to Europe

October 24, 2017
Pet Relocation

As we get closer to the “big move”, we find ourselves making our final visits to doctors and dentists. Moving with a pet from Canada to Europe is not difficult  – but paperwork, bureaucracy and patience is required. Our 8 year old dog, Lucy, is no exception. In fact, for Lucy, this final vet visit is an essential part of her travel and immigration requirements for her new life in Budapest, Hungary.

Moving with a pet

Lucy hanging out at a local park in Toronto.

Lucy needs to visit her veterinarian and get a “Veterinary Certificate” (clean bill of health) within 10 days of travel. We then take that certificate the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and get it endorsed by a CFIA vet before we fly.

Top 5 Tips for Moving with a Pet:

  1. Make sure your vet has the correct form for European travel and has done it before. You need to complete this for your port of entry into Europe (in our case, The Netherlands) NOT for the final destination (in our case, Hungary). This is especially relevant as we almost messed up on this thanks to bad information we received.
  2. Note that you must personally accompany your dog while moving – at least within 5 days. Dogs can travel in-cabin or as cargo.  Lucy is small enough to come in-cabin with us.
  3. If your dog comes in-cabin, it will count as your carry-on luggage – VERY FRUSTRATING. Not only do you miss out on being able to take a bag, but you have to pay $125 (may vary) for the privilege of having your pet on board. This is standard for Economy or Economy Premium classes – I’m not sure about the fancy folks in higher classes.
  4. Identification is mandatory for the European Union. Your pet needs to be identified with a microchip (or in some cases a clearly readable tattoo is acceptable). Be prepared for them to scan your dog to ensure your paperwork and pet match up.
  5. And finally, know that a rabies vaccination is required for entry of pet animals to ALL EU countries. This needs to been done AFTER your pet receives their microchip. An essential part for any pet’s relocation.

Bonus Tip: Make sure you fully understand your airlines regulations.  In our case, we booked our tickets FIRST with KLM and then waited about 5 days to find out if there was room for our dog to accompany us on the plane.  Airlines have limits to how many pets can be aboard any given flight. This may effect moving with your pet, so make sure to check before you arrive at the airport to board your flight!

“Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place with curators in museums; others we take for walks.”  -Roger A. Caras

Click this link for detailed information and CFIA paperwork for entry of pets to the European Union (EU).

Furthermore, we use a carrier like this one. We use it successfully on WestJet, Air Canada and KLM for international travel – no problems at all. However, please check with your airline for specific recommendations.

Moving Abroad

Now Boarding: Moving Midlife to Budapest, Hungary

October 18, 2017
Moving Abroad to Budapest

Welcome to our blog all about our experiences moving to – and living in – Budapest, Hungary. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this move abroad… so here are some answers:

Why did we choose to move from Canada? Well, in very simple terms, we wanted to share the experience of living abroad while we are both still young enough and healthy enough to truly enjoy it. We didn’t want to wait another 20 years until retirement – a lot can happen in that time.

Why did we chose Hungary? We chose Hungary as our destination because I am a dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen. And because my husband is British, we can easily live and work in anywhere in the European Union. In my husband’s case, he can do this before “Brexit” occurs and can remain even afterwards as the spouse of a Hungarian citizen.

Why Budapest? This is the easiest question to answer. We both firmly believe that Budapest is the most beautiful city in Europe. It offers a wide variety of incredible architecture, music, nightlife, food, wine, history, weather and a beautiful landscape that we love.

Danube Drinks

Our favourite place for a drink beside the Danube.

We are also seeking a simpler, slower life then we had in Canada and we look forward to reconnecting with my Hungarian relatives and family history. While we will continue to work hard, we want to live a life where personal relationships are more important than material possessions. We are looking forward to “starting over again” and trying something new.

What about our families? This is the toughest part. Leaving our family in Canada. But with today’s technology, we know that each and every one of them is only a click, swipe or phone call away. Furthermore, first visits are already scheduled on the calendar. 🙂

Are we taking our dog? Absolutely. Lucy will be making the journey with us from the very first day as we travel via Amsterdam to get to Budapest. For the details on how we did this, please read our post: 5 Tips to Moving to with a Pet.

When do we arrive in Budapest? This first post was written while still in Canada.  We arrive in Budapest at the end of November 2017 and are looking forward to the Budapest Christmas Markets.

Do we have somewhere to live?  Yes and no.  We have secured a fabulous, classical, one-bedroom apartment for short-term rental through HomeAway until the beginning of January. Its right near the Central Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok) and we are very familiar with the location. Once we arrive, we will look for long-term accommodations using the services of InterRelocation.

Budapest Central Market Hall.

Spices for sale in the Budapest Central Market Hall.

Will we eat Kocsonya (ko-choan-yuh)? Absolutely not! (Google it yourselves)

Why is this blog called “44 Letters”? Because there are 44 letters in the Hungarian alphabet. Doesn’t learning Hungarian sound scary and confusing? Well that’s because it is. Much like this move to Budapest!

What can you expect from this blog? Lots of stories, photos and videos about moving abroad, our daily life, our favourite places in Budapest to eat, drink, dance, enjoy and more!  We’ll even include stories from our travel experiences throughout Hungary and Europe. We’re not 20, you likely won’t see a photo of me in a bikini – but we are not retired and we are ready for this adventure.  This is our Midlife in Budapest.