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This 29-year-old left the U.S. for Budapest. Now he makes $120,000 — and pays $800 a month for rent


(2014) I experienced a profound wake-up call. My opioid overdose left me hospitalized in the intensive care unit.

After hitting rock bottom, I realized how fortunate I was to still be alive. To focus on my recovery, I spent time in Memphis to stay sober. After feeling stable I had to plan my next steps.

Friends knew that I wanted to travel and recommended I consider teaching abroad. In 2015 I was accepted into an institution. online programFor my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification (TEFL), which is required often by English-speaking schools. After applying to more than 50 schools, I was finally offered a place at a Barcelona-based school.

There was a full year of teaching before I moved to Budapest.

Ferenciek Square is Budapest’s 8th District

Photo: Francis Nayan

In Budapest for two years, I was sick of teaching. It was time to find something else. When I was tired of teaching, I wanted to do something different and started my freelance career as a copywriter. 

Budapest was my home for almost six years. I have lived in Budapest for nearly six years. This is how my expat adventure began, and what my day looks like and how much money I make.

Hungarian citizen status: How to obtain it

Following my Budapest teaching assignment, I went back to Memphis in order to build my copywriting and marketing business. After I had built up a strong client network, I was granted a temporary tourist visa to allow me to return home to Hungary.

For you to stay and work long-term in Hungary, it is necessary that you apply for an a Residence Permit for the Pursuit of Gainful Activity. It can be complicated to get a visa. I was fortunate enough to work with an experienced team of consultants who I discovered through the Hungary Expats Facebook group. They helped me with the translations and guided me through all of the documents.

First, I had to register as a sole entrepreneur under KATA, a flat-tax system where you pay a fixed monthly amount — I pay $139 — to cover all your Hungarian tax obligations as a self-employed person. Additionally, I was required to produce documents including proof of my accommodation, insurance coverage and a business plan.

After three months of waiting I got my approval in January 2018.

The Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, Hungary.

Photo: Francis Nayan

Living in such a great city is a gift.

Francis can rent a 1000-square foot apartment in the building at $800 per month.

Photo: Francis Nayan

Here is my breakdown of monthly costs:

  • Utilities and rent: $800
  • The insurance for travellers (via SafetyWing): $42
  • You can get health insurance (via Generali): $9.25
  • Groceries: $173
  • Restaurants and takeout $186
  • Freizeit activities: $100
  • Gym membership: $53
  • Subscribe to entertainment $57
  • KATA fees $139

Total = $1,559.25

While I prefer to cook my own meals, I will still eat out at least two or three times per week. Because my monthly expenses can be afforded, I am able to travel wherever I desire. The past months have seen me in Portugal and Greece. I also went home to visit my family, Memphis.

Francis is able to visit scenic places like Portugal’s Douro Vale, because Budapest is such an affordable place to live.

Photo: Francis Nayan

For long-term objectives like retiring or buying a home, I keep about 20%. This is how I save my money. Truebill appTrack my spending to automatically transfer funds into my savings account.

Budapest: How a day in Budapest looks

At 5:30, I get up and start my day. My first task is to make coffee for my girlfriend and me.

After that, I will take a 30 minute stroll through Budapest’s charming 8th District and through the beautiful gardens of Hungary’s National Museum. Sometimes I prefer to walk further, past Budapest’s lively Central Market.

Budapest has many English-speaking people, mostly young expats. This makes it easy to get around.

When I return home, I’ll continue to work until I am satisfied with my results. Then, I’ll take a break for Muay Thai training at the Gym, which is about a 10-minute drive from my residence. I may then return home and continue my work.

Lunch is a choice between preparing lunch at home with my girlfriend or eating out in a local restaurant. Loyola Cafe is a favorite spot for authentic Hungarian cuisine. The average bill is around $2.97 per head.

Loyola Cafe Budapest in Budapest, $2.97 per Head

Photo: Francis Nayan

At 3:00 pm, my workday ends. My workday can last anywhere between three and five hours. After I close my computer, I walk the streets of the 7th District neighborhood looking at street art and shops.

Meals are usually homecooked. If I want to order a pizza or KFC, I will sometimes turn to the Wolt app.

Csendes Cafe, a Budapest ruin bar is very popular.

Photo: Francis Nayan

My best life decision was to move abroad

29 years old, I do not see myself ever moving to the U.S. It’s great that Europe has so many cities at an affordable price. It’s also easy to get to other countries from Europe.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary’s 2nd largest church (Szent Istvan Bazilika), is Budapest’s cultural icon.