Money and Costs
It's okay to bargain at markets and it may be possible to negotiate a discount if you're staying in lower or midrange accommodation for several nights, but otherwise you have to pay the set price.
ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
- All major banks have ATMs, and most ATMs accept cards issued outside Hungary. ATMs are plentiful, particularly in Budapest and larger towns.
- Some ATMs at branches of Országos Takarékpenztár (OTP), the national savings bank, give out 20,000Ft notes, which can be difficult to break in the countryside.
- A proliferation of Euronet ATMs dispense both forint and euros, particularly in tourist hot spots. They offer comparatively poor exchange rates; visitors are better off using ATMs of major banks instead.
- The Hungarian currency is the forint (Ft). Coins come in 5Ft, 10Ft, 20Ft, 50Ft, 100Ft and 200Ft. Notes come in seven denominations: 500Ft, 1000Ft, 2000Ft, 5000Ft, 10,000Ft and 20,000Ft.
- Prices in shops and restaurants are uniformly quoted in forint. Many hotels and guesthouses give their rates in euros. In such cases you can usually pay in either euros or forint.
- It’s always prudent to carry a little foreign cash – preferably euros or US dollars – in case you can’t find an ATM nearby.
- Credit cards, especially Visa, MasterCard and American Express, are widely accepted in Hungary, and you’ll be able to use them at many restaurants, shops, hotels, car-rental firms, travel agencies and petrol stations.
- At train and bus stations it's possible to use credit cards if you purchase tickets from ticket machines rather than ticket counters.
- Many banks give cash advances on major credit cards but charge both a fee and interest.
- Contactless payment, in which you wave or touch your card or handheld device over a reader at the point-of-sale terminal without inserting your card or entering your PIN, is now widespread in Hungary. The limit is set at 5000Ft.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
For the best rates, change money at banks rather than with money changers. Arrive about an hour before closing time at the latest to ensure the bureau de change desk is still open.
Gratuities in Hungary are commonplace.
- Bars 10% of total for drinks brought to your table.
- Hairdressers 10% of haircut price is appropriate.
- Hotels 500Ft for luggage, 200Ft to 300Ft per day for housekeeping.
- Petrol stations & thermal spas Attendants expect some loose change.
- Restaurants For decent service 10%, and up to 15% in more upmarket places; note that 12.5% service is often included in the bill.
- Taxis Round up the fare.
In Budapest and other cities and towns frequented by tourists, many restaurants now automatically add a gratuity of about 10% to 12.5% to the bill. Ask if you're not sure whether service is included. When tipping, never leave the money on the table – that is considered rude – but instead tell the waiter how much you're paying in total. If the bill is 3600Ft, you're paying with a 5000Ft note and you think the waiter deserves a gratuity of about 10%, tell the waiter you're paying 4000Ft or that you want 1000Ft back.
You can change travellers cheques at most banks and post offices, but shops never accept them as payment. Bureaux de change generally don’t take a commission, but exchange rates can vary; private agencies are always the most expensive. OTP bank offers among the best rates.
A good alternative is the Travelex Cash Passport (www.travelex.co.uk/cash-passport), a prepaid travel card that you load up with funds before departure and then use to withdraw cash in local currency as you go along.
Budget: Less than 12,000Ft
- Dorm bed: 3000–6500Ft
- Meal at a cheap or self-service restaurant: 1500–2500Ft
- Ticket to national museum or other attraction: 700Ft
- Single/double private room: from 7500/10,000Ft
- Two-course meal with drink: 3500–7500Ft
- Cocktail: from 1500Ft
Top end: More than 35,000Ft
- Double room in superior hotel: from 16,500Ft
- Dinner for two with wine at a good restaurant: from 12,500Ft
- All-inclusive ticket at a spa/water park: adult/child 3600/1600Ft