Healthy Budapest: sporting opportunities and healthcare issues in the city

Budapest is a sporty city with a natural affection for sports. Running and cycling have their own built-out routes and the city’s gyms are super cheap, and they have all the current sporting opportunities that a modern city should offer. Public pitches for football and basketball are also available in the parks of the city.

Healthcare is a bit more complicated. Essential and emergency treatments are free for everyone but to get a full treatment of severe issues you need to be an EU citizen, have to contribute to the national health insurance, have a fully covered travel insurance. Otherwise, you should expect after-the-treatment bills. There are the expat and private clinics with direct billing systems.

The Hungarian healthcare system is considered poorly funded, but the knowledge of the doctors is among the top in global. Pharmacies have all the options, and they are all over the city, their prices are significantly lower than in other European countries.



Wellness and fitness opportunities

Budapest has everything you can ask for regarding sporting opportunities. Gyms have all the amenities, and I’m pretty sure that if you are into one of the types of fitness, you’ll definitely find at least a few gyms that have the equipment and a group of people practicing that type of fitness.

Popular gyms are the following:

Life1 Fitness offers 3000 m2 of fitness and wellness opportunities like swimming, massage, and other recreational opportunities. You can also find professional cardiology and rheumatology treatments here.

Oxygen Wellness is an exclusive wellness and fitness center with full medical service care as well. The interior is high-end and purposely built for the center. From the sauna rooms, you can have a superb panoramic view of the city.

World Class Health Academy is an international fitness chain in Europe and has a spot in downtown Budapest as well. Swimming pool, Jacuzzi, saunas, spinning room, steam room, cardio, and bodybuilding machine parks are all available. The gym has massage rooms and other amenities as well with a spacious, beautiful panorama of the city.

Small local gyms and fitness centers are extremely popular, and you can find them in every district’s every corner. For yoga,, courses try Mandala Yoga, for instructor-orientated fitness work Holmes Place, for 0-24 availability work Gilda Max Fitness gyms.

Thermal and medicinal baths

Budapest has the world’s largest thermal water cave system, so thermal water is literally everywhere. The first thermal baths were built by the Romans, but it was the occupying Turkish / Ottoman forces who created the first famous hamams / baths in the 17th century. Now, thermal baths feature medicinal baths with extensive wellness amenities as well. Medicinal water is increasingly popular and very useful for treating joint problems and for overall wellbeing. For further info on baths check this book’s party section.

Outdoor activities

Budapest not only has one of the best bike path systems in Europe but also has numerous streetball pitches. The best spots for outdoor activities are the city’s parks, so we start with them.

The largest park is the City Park (Városliget). It houses the largest thermal bath, Szechenyi Bath, the Vajdahunyad Castle, the largest ice rink and many museums. The most popular park is the whole Margaret Island (Margit-sziget). The island is a favorite running, cycling, and picnic location, and has a fountain that plays orchestral music and also has some bars and restaurants. Within the borders of the inner city you can find Erzsebet Square (Erzsébet tér), Szabadsag Square (Szabadság tér) and Kossuth Square (Kossuth tér) but as they are more in the inner city, they are smaller and have less green spaces. Inner city parks are flooded with BMX riders and skateboarders. The town also has two other park islands: People’s Island (Népsziget) and Obuda Island (Óbudai-sziget). They are much quieter and less crowded than the popular city parks. If you’re looking for forests and thick woods, the journey to the outer Buda regions, you can find plenty there.

Running is increasingly popular among locals. Margaret Island has an all-weather running track around its coast, but popular running destinations with built-tracks are the Orczy-kert, Vérmező, City Park and People’s Park. There are outdoor fitness parks as well as in most of the city parks, popular ones are the street workout parks in Margaret Island and City Park.

The city’s parks have free football pitches as well. The most popular ones are in Margaret Island, City Park, Olimpia Park, and Orczy-kert. These parks also have handball and basketball pitches.

For walking, hiking, downhill cycling, and Nordic walking or even horseback riding, visit the city’s hills on the Buda side. Normafa, Janos Hill (János-hegy), Hars Hill (Hárs-hegy), Harmashatar Hill (Hármashatár-hegy) and Testvérhegy are all green areas with hill slopes.

Healthcare in Budapest

Healthcare is free for everyone who pays the national insurance in Hungary which is a small deduction from the salaries. However, getting medical care as a foreigner is a bit different but not that complicated.

Emergency ambulance services are available for everyone. The number you should call in an emergency are 104 or 112 (both have English-speaking services). The ambulance will take the patient to the nearest hospital (‘kórház’ in Hungarian). You can go to the hospital by yourself but keep in mind that you might need to wait if you don’t have an appointment, or if it’s not an actual emergency.

Expat and private clinics

Expat and tourist clinics are available, but they have direct billing to patients, although you can deduct that price if you have travel insurance. Popular private and expat clinics are Dr. Rose Medical Center, FirstMed Centers, Rózsakert Medical Center, and Medicover.

Finding a general practitioner

If you are planning to stay longer, find a general practitioner (GP or ‘háziorvos’ in Hungarian) in your area. If your problem is not an emergency, you might need to get a general practitioner’s referral to the hospital to get treatment. As said before, everything is free if you have travel or medical insurance. You don’t need a GP’s referral to see a dermatologist, gynecologist, urologist, otolaryngologist, ophthalmologist, oncologist or general surgery but it is worth calling the hospital to get an appointment and avoid the long waiting hours. Dental services are only available at specialists.

Costs and insurances

For EU citizens, have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and present it with your passport so you’ll get almost free and full medical care everywhere. Things that are not covered with EHIC: pre-existing conditions and medical tourism. Dental care, however,, however, is included as long as you see a dental clinic registered with the Hungarian National Health Insurance Fund (OEP). Private dental clinics obviously don’t count here.

Citizens from Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iran, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Korea, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine can receive urgent medical care for free.

For everyone else: solely emergency-only first-aid is free without travel insurance. If you’re planning to stay longer, register for a TAJ card (national health insurance card) and pay national insurance, a small contribution to the public health insurance. TAJ card will ensure that all public healthcare services will be entirely free for you.

Differences between general hospitals, university clinics and private hospitals Public hospitals are available in almost all districts of the city. They are severely under-funded, and there is not enough staff. Though when you have an emergency situation, the ambulance will transport you to the nearest hospital, which might be a general hospital except if you have a particular problem that needs to be treated in a specialist center or university clinic. I would recommend staying away from public hospitals and focus on university clinics or private hospitals.

University clinics belong to the local Semmelweis Medical University, which has a world-class education. These clinics however also under-funded but they are not under-staffed, and the doctors have cutting-edge knowledge. All the doctors are required to speak fluent English, sometimes German as well. In case you have a severe illness or a particular issue, I would recommend picking a university clinic or ask your GP to refer you to one of them. All of these clinics also have emergency care.

Private clinics are also available where the environment is modern and fancy. But keep in mind that the staff here is rarely permanent, and most of them are part-timers from public hospitals. There’s also a mixed breed with a general hospital having a private floor where the conditions are the same as in a general hospital, but the atmosphere is more relaxing.

In every district,, you can also find outpatient specialist centers. Your GP has to refer you to get in and there you can have specialist outpatient treatments. Here you can also see public dental services for free if you have insurance, but I would recommend using private hospitals and dental surgeons instead of these centers.

Tips on sports and healthcare in Budapest

1. Tipping the doctor in the public healthcare is not necessary, but it is still a tradition among locals

2. Small local gyms can be found on every corner and usually have very friendly prices over the big gym chains

3. Martial arts are also popular in the city; literally,, everything can be found if you search for it from Kung Fu to Karate and Krav Maga (which by the way was founded by a Hungarian Jew in Israel)

4. Private massage rooms and small beauty shops are also on every corner

5. Archery, shooting and other similar activities are also getting increasingly popular

6. Golf courses can be found outside of the city

7. Flying and race driving are also popular. You can check out Hungaroring for unique driving options on the race track, and you can visit the Budaörs Airport for recreational flying

8. For dental services always prefer the private dental clinics as they are better quality and the waiting time is less. Their prices are still super low compared to Western European ones

9. Plastic surgery is prevalent, and because of the quality of the treatments and the fair prices, a lot of people visit the city for medical tourism purposes

10. If you run into an accident: every car is required to carry an emergency first aid kit and most of the hotels, shopping malls, and subway/metro stations have AEDs



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