There is no single website that will give you the lowest airfare all the time or a truly complete search for flight options to Budapest. My goal here is to provide information on how to find the best airfares to Hungary. I worked in airline sales for several years and it's an erratic industry, to say the least. Because of the many variables involved, fares fluctuate quite a bit and no single site finds or offers every flight option and every fare. To find the best deal, you will have to do little bit of digging and research.
Compare Airfares to Budapest
Fare comparison sites are meta search engines and not travel agencies, so you won't be able to buy your ticket to Budapest, but they can point you in the right direction. TripAdvisor Flights and Kayak are a good place to start your research. Momondo is another good option, especially for flights and trains from European cities to Budapest. ITA's Matrix Airfare Search powers many big travel sites and is fully accessible to everyone. There are no ads or links and it provides a wealth of information.
TripAdvisor Flights compares some of the big OTA's side-by-side, offers airline ratings and estimates fees (US departures only) for extra baggage and in flight services.
Kayak.co.uk in Europe or Kayak.com Flights in North America searches several hundred sources in real time for airfares including fees and taxes.
Momondo.com includes many European low cost carriers, as well as sites like Opodo and Lastminute. Fare comparison is made easy with a color-coded calendar.
ITA (http://matrix.itasoftware.com/) has a nifty 30-day search matrix and provides flight information, including booking class and fare rules for savvy travelers.
There are many other fare comparison sites, but most are clones of each other with quirky names and offer little or no value for researching a destination like Budapest.
Online Travel Agencies (OTA's)
OTA's generally have the widest selection of airlines and flight options, so it's always a good step to check their airfares to Budapest. If you are traveling from North America, check Orbitz Flight Search, Travelocity Flights, or Expedia Flights. Opodo or Lastminute are both good options for travel from within Europe to Budapest.
Once you've found the airline with the lowest fare, check the airline's website. They may have seat sales and flight options that will not show up on comparison sites or OTA's. Both Delta and American Airlines offer connections from the US to Budapest. From Europe, there are several low cost airlines and flagship carriers flying directly to Budapest.
Tip: If the rate is comparable, book your flight directly with the airline. It will save you a lot of hassle should you have any changes or need help en route.
Click here for a list of airlines offering direct flights to Budapest, along with links to online check-in and contact info in Budapest.
What you should know
Content displayed on travel comparison sites and OTA's depends largely on their affiliations and marketing deals. None have a complete offering. Fare comparison sites help you dig up low airfares, often from lesser known travel discounters. While you can find some good deals, my advice would be to double check the fine print and watch for fare restrictions and additional fees on top of airline fees, as these can be significant. The initial low price may be attractive, but these tickets can be highly restrictive. If, for any reason, your itinerary changes, the "cheapest ticket" can become very, very expensive.
In the race to get noticed, some travel sites will show airfares without taxes and fees, outdated rates or itineraries with long layovers and undesirable airport changes. It's bad practice, so stay away from these. And finally, don't forget to check their reviews either to ensure you are dealing with a reputable company and to avoid customer service hassles.
If you find a great rate, please post it in our Travel Deals Forum to share it with others.