Bargaining

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.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Pickpocketing is common at popular tourist sights, inside foreign fast-food chains, near major hotels and in flea markets. Sometimes pickpockets work together, with one causing a distraction by running into you and then apologising profusely as an accomplice takes off with the goods.
  • Thefts from rental vehicles are not uncommon. Don’t leave anything of value, including luggage, inside the car.
  • Excessive billing of customers occasionally happens in some bars and restaurants, so check your bill carefully.

Taxis

There are isolated incidents of taxi drivers, particularly in Budapest, taking advantage of passengers unfamiliar with local currency by switching large denomination notes for smaller ones and demanding extra payment. Only ever take taxis from reputable companies and make sure you know exactly how much cash you're handing over. Reputable companies include Fő Taxi and City Taxi.

Discount Cards

Hungary Card

Those planning on travelling extensively in the country might consider buying a Hungary Card (www.hungarycard.hu), which comes in three denominations (basic/standard/plus 5000/8000/12,000Ft). Depending on the denomination, benefits may include free admission to many museums nationwide; a 50% discount on a number of return train fares and some bus and boat travel, as well as other museums and attractions; up to 20% off selected accommodation; and 25% off the price of the Budapest Card. Cards are available at Tourinform offices nationwide.

Regional Cards

A number of regions in Hungary offer region-specific discount cards. These include, among others, the Budapest Card, Balaton Card and Badacsony Card.

Student & Youth Cards

The International Student Identity Card (ISIC; www.isic.org; 2610Ft) gives students many discounts on certain forms of transport, and cheap admission to museums and other sights. If you’re aged under 26 but not a student, you can apply for ISIC’s International Youth Travel Card (IYTC; 2050Ft) or the Euro<26 card (2500Ft) issued by the European Youth Card Association (EYCA; www.eyca.org), both of which offer the same discounts as the student card.

Embassies & Consulates

Selected countries with representation in Budapest (where the area code is 1) are listed here. The opening hours indicate when consular or chancellery services are available, but be sure to confirm these times before you set out as they change frequently. The nearest embassies representing Australian and New Zealand citizens are in Vienna, Austria.

Austrian Embassy

Canadian Embassy

Croatian Embassy

Dutch Embassy

French Embassy

German Embassy

Irish Embassy

Romanian Embassy

Serbian Embassy

Slovakian Embassy

Slovenian Embassy

South African Embassy

Ukrainian Embassy

UK Embassy

US Embassy

Emergency & Important Numbers

Hungary country code36
Ambulance104
Europe-wide emergency number (for English-, German- and French-speakers)112
Fire105
Police107

Entry & Exit Formalities

Hungary maintains 65 or so border road crossings with its neighbours. Border formalities with Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia are virtually nonexistent. However, you may only enter or leave Hungary via designated border crossing points during opening hours when travelling to/from the non-Schengen nations of Croatia, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia. In the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, a controversial border wall now stretches along Hungary's border with Serbia and Croatia. For the latest on border formalities, check www.police.hu.

Customs Regulations

The following allowances apply to duty-free goods purchased outside the EU:

  • 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of loose tobacco
  • 2L of wine and 1L of spirits
  • 50mL of perfume
  • 250mL of eau de toilette

You must declare the import/export of any currency exceeding the sum of €10,000.

When leaving the country, you are not supposed to take out valuable antiques without a ‘museum certificate’, which should be available from the place of purchase.

Passports

To enter Hungary, you must have a valid passport or, for many citizens of the EU, a national identification card.

Visas

Citizens of all European countries as well as Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the USA do not require visas for visits of up to 90 days. Check current visa requirements on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://konzuliszolgalat.kormany.hu).

More Information

Citizens of other countries must consider either a short-stay visa (entry, with stays of up to 90 days) or transit visas (five days). Since Hungary is a member of the Schengen Agreement, if you have a visa valid for entry to any of the other Schengen members, it's also valid in Hungary.

Etiquette

Hungarians are almost always extremely polite in their social interactions, and the language can be very courtly – even when doing business with the butcher or having one's hair cut.

  • Greetings Young people's standard greeting to their elders is Csókolom ('I kiss it' – 'it' being the hand, of course). People of all ages, even close friends, shake hands when meeting up.
  • Asking for help Say legyen szíves (be so kind as) to attract attention; say bocsánat (sorry) to apologise.
  • Eating and drinking If you're invited to someone's home, bring a bunch of flowers or a bottle of good local wine.
  • Name days As much as their birthday, Hungarians celebrate their name day, which is usually the Catholic feast day of their patron saint (all Hungarian calendars list them). Flowers, sweets or a bottle of wine are the usual gifts.

LGBT Travellers

There have been a couple of violent far-right demonstrations recently in response to Budapest's Gay Pride parades, and Hungarian society maintains largely conservative views, but attitudes are slowly changing. Budapest offers a reasonable gay scene for its size but there's not much going on publicly elsewhere in Hungary.

Háttér Society Operates an information and counselling hotline from 6pm to 11pm.

Labrisz Lesbian Association Has info on Hungary’s lesbian scene.

Insurance

  • A travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. There is a wide variety of policies available, so check the small print.
  • If you need to make a claim regarding a loss or theft of possessions, you will need to produce a police report and proof of value of items lost or stolen.
  • Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Many libraries in Hungary have free (or almost free) terminals.
  • Wireless (wi-fi) access is available at all hostels and hotels; very few hotels charge for the service.
  • Many restaurants and bars and most cafes offer wi-fi, usually free to paying customers.
  • Some hostels and hotels have at least one computer terminal available to guests either for free or for a nominal sum.
  • Internet cafes are rapidly dwindling, due to the proliferation of smartphones and wi-fi hot spots, though occasionally you'll stumble on one in the provinces.

Maps

Hungary’s largest map-making company, Cartographia, publishes a useful 1:450,000-scale sheet map of the country, as well as maps of all the main cities and towns, widely available in kiosks. Its 1:250,000 Magyarország autó-atlasza (Road Atlas of Hungary) is indispensable if you plan to do a lot of travelling in the countryside by car. Bookshops in Hungary generally stock a wide variety of maps, or you can go directly to the Cartographia outlet in Budapest.

Cartographia also produces national, regional and hiking maps (average scales 1:40,000 and 1:60,000), as well as city plans (1:11,000 to 1:20,000). Smaller companies such as Topográf (www.topograf.hu) and Magyar Térképház (www.terkephaz.hu) also publish excellent city and specialised maps.

Media

  • Newspapers Budapest has two English-language newspapers: the Budapest Times (online only) with good reviews and opinion pieces, and the biweekly Budapest Business Journal.
  • Radio Magyar Radio has three main stations: MR1-Kossuth (107.8FM; jazz, talkback and news); MR2-Petőfi (94.8FM; popular music); and MR3-Bartók (105.3FM; classical music). Sláger FM (103.9FM) is a good mix of local and international pop music, and Rádió C (88.8FM) addresses issues concerning the Roma people.
  • TV & DVD Like Australia and most of Europe, Hungary uses PAL, which is incompatible with the North American and Japanese NTCS system.

Money

ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants.

ATMs

  • 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.

Cash

  • 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

  • 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.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1204Ft
CanadaC$1216Ft
Eurozone€1322Ft
Japan¥100250Ft
New ZealandNZ$1189Ft
SwitzerlandSfr1282Ft
UKUK£1368Ft
USUS$1283Ft

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Money Changers

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.

Tipping

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.

More Information

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.

Travellers Cheques

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.

Opening Hours

With rare exceptions, opening hours (nyitvatartás) are posted on the front door of businesses; nyitva means ‘open’ and zárva ‘closed’.

  • Banks 7.45am or 8am–5pm Monday to Thursday, to 2pm or 4pm Friday
  • Bars 11am–midnight Sunday to Thursday, to 2am Friday and Saturday
  • Businesses 9am or 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm or 2pm Saturday
  • Clubs 4pm–2am Sunday to Thursday, to 4am Friday and Saturday; some only open on weekends
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets 7am–7pm Monday to Friday, to 3pm Saturday; some also 7am–noon Sunday
  • Restaurants 11am–11pm; breakfast venues open by 8am
  • Shops 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday

Post

The Hungarian Postal Service (Magyar Posta; www.posta.hu) is reasonably reliable, but at the post offices service can be slow, so buy your bélyeg (stamps) at newsagents to beat the crowds.

Postcards or letters sent within Hungary cost 135/115Ft, while postcards or letters within/outside Europe cost 305Ft/355Ft. At post offices, look for the window marked with the symbol of an envelope.

To send a parcel, look for the sign ‘Csomagfeladás’ or ‘Csomagfelvétel’ at post offices, but it's best not to send anything of value by regular post. If absolutely necessary, opt for registered post and ask for an ajánlott levél form to fill in; you get to keep the stamped form while the package is marked with an ID number.

Hungarian addresses start with the name of the recipient, followed on the next line by the postal code and city or town, and then the street name and number. The postal code consists of four digits. The first one indicates the city, town or region (eg ‘1’ is Budapest, ‘6’ is Szeged), the second and third are the district, and the last is the neighbourhood.

Public Holidays

Hungary celebrates 10 ünnep (public holidays) each year.

New Year’s Day 1 January

1848 Revolution/National Day 15 March

Easter Monday March/April

International Labour Day 1 May

Whit Monday May/June

St Stephen’s/Constitution Day 20 August

1956 Remembrance Day/Republic Day 23 October

All Saints’ Day 1 November

Christmas holidays 25 and 26 December

Smoking

It is illegal to smoke indoors in public places as well as at bus stops and railway stations. It is also prohibited in all restaurants and bars. Smoking outdoors in public places is still common.

Taxes & Refunds

ÁFA, a value-added tax of up to 27%, is levied on all new goods in Hungary. It’s usually included in the price but not always. Visitors are not exempt, but non-EU residents can claim refunds for total purchases of at least 52,001Ft on one receipt, as long as they take the goods out of the country (and the EU) within 90 days.

Claiming a Refund

The ÁFA receipts (available from where you made the purchases) should be stamped by customs at the border, and the claim has to be made within 183 days of exporting the goods. You can then collect your refund – minus commission – from the VAT desk in the departure halls of Terminals 2A and 2B at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest, and at branches of the IBUSZ chain of travel agencies at the land border crossings.

Telephone

Hungary has extensive mobile (cell) phone network coverage. You can make domestic and international calls from public telephones, though these are all but obsolete with the advent of cheap mobile phone calls and WhatsApp, Skype and other VOIP services.

Local & International Calls

  • All localities in Hungary have a two-digit telephone area code, except for Budapest, for which the code is ‘1’.
  • To make a local call, dial the phone number (seven digits in Budapest, six elsewhere).
  • For an intercity landline call within Hungary and whenever ringing a mobile telephone, dial 06, followed by the area code and phone number.
  • Cheaper or toll-free numbers start with 06 40 and 06 80, respectively.
  • To make an international call, dial 00, then the country code, the area code and the number.
  • The country code for Hungary is 36.

Mobile Phones

  • EU providers are no longer allowed to apply roaming charges for mobile (cell) phones used in other EU countries.
  • Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones, as well as most North American phones. Other phones must be set to roaming, which can be pricey (check with your service provider).

More Information

  • Hungary's three main mobile-phone providers are: Telenor, T-Mobile and Vodafone.
  • Call and SMS rates are standardised across the board and an increasing number of service providers include the use of other countries' networks in home tariffs.

SIM Cards

You can purchase a rechargeable or prepaid SIM card from any of the three providers – Telenor, T-Mobile and Vodafone – but check first with your service provider if outside the EU, as it may be possible to get an even cheaper rate with your own home network.

Time

Hungary lies in the Central European time zone and is one hour ahead of GMT. Clocks are advanced by one hour on the last Sunday in March and set back on the last Sunday in October. The 24-hour clock is used.

The following times do not take daylight-saving times into account.

Auckland

Noon in Budapest

11pm

Bucharest

Noon in Budapest

1pm

London

Noon in Budapest

11am

Moscow

Noon in Budapest

2pm

New York

Noon in Budapest

6am

Paris

Noon in Budapest

noon

San Francisco

Noon in Budapest

3am

Sydney

Noon in Budapest

9pm

Tokyo

Noon in Budapest

8pm

Telling the Time, Hungarian Style

Hungarians tell the time by making reference to the next hour – not the previous one. Thus 7.30 is fél nyolc óra (‘half eight’; sometimes written as f8).

The 24-hour system is often used for the times of movies, concerts and so on. So a film showing at 7.30pm could appear on a listing as ‘f8’, ‘f20’, ‘½8’ or ‘½20’. A quarter to the hour has a ¾ symbol in front (thus ‘¾8’ means 7.45), while a quarter past is ¼ of the next hour (eg ‘¼9’ means 8.15).

Toilets

  • Public toilets are relatively common but often in poor condition.
  • A fee of 200Ft to 300Ft is typically payable.
  • A better bet is to use the toilets in restaurants and shopping malls.

Tourist Information

Hungarian National Tourist Office Has a chain of some 120 tourist information bureaus called Tourinform across the country. They are usually the best places to ask general questions and pick up brochures. They can sometimes provide more comprehensive assistance as well.

Budapest Info (www.budapestinfo.hu) Produces plenty of handy information about the capital and its attractions.

Travel with Children

Hungary is a good destination for travellers with children. The little ‘uns receive discounts on public transport and entry to museums and attractions, with some museums specifically geared towards kids. Many thermal parks across the country have slides, wave pools and designated kiddie pools, and some restaurants offer children's menus.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Budapest

Children's attractions galore, from museums to thermal parks, but the costs can add up.

  • Danube Bend & Western Transdanubia

Boat cruises up the Danube are reliable family-pleasers.

  • Great Plain

Colourful traditional costumes and the chance to meet farm animals are popular with small children.

  • Lake Balaton & Southern Transdanubia

The shallow waters of Lake Balaton and plentiful cycle lanes are great for active families.

  • Northern Hungary

Hiking in the Bükk Hills and splashing in water parks is fun for outdoorsy kids.

Hungary For Kids

Dining Out

Some restaurants – particularly in Budapest – offer children's menus. Those that don't are usually happy to provide half-portions of adult dishes for kids.

Entertainment

Budapest has the lion's share of children's entertainment. This ranges from puppet theatres that transcend language barriers to folk music and dance evenings in which kids can participate if they want to.

Parks & Playgrounds

There is no shortage of green spaces in Hungary, and playgrounds are common in Hungarian towns. Budapest reigns supreme on this front, with City Park due to feature a brand-new amusement park by 2019, excellent playgrounds on Margaret Island, on Óbuda (Hajógyári) Island and in Szent István Park, and smaller playgrounds dotted about the city.

Attractions

Hungary's attractions for kids are many and varied. These range from the cerebral (museums, hands-on learning) to outdoorsy (thermal baths and water parks, unusual forms of transport, parks). Then there are historic ruins, caves, cellars and centuries-old castles to explore, and animal farms where kids can get up close and personal with Hungary's celebrated livestock.

Children's Highlights

Thermal Baths & Pools

Meet the Animals

Museums & Art Galleries

Rainy Day Fun

Magic Tower, Eger Eighteenth-century astronomical equipment, a camera obscura and a planetarium for young star-gazers.

Tropicarium, Budapest Vast aquarium with Hungarian fish species and a non-Hungarian shark tunnel.

Palóc Play House, Hollókő Traditional crafts and games in an old farmhouse with attached playground.

Palace of Wonders, Budapest 'Smart' toys, puzzles, and lots of interactive elements, such as the 'wind tunnel'.

Outdoor Activities

Castles & Caves

Planning

  • Babysitting An ever-growing number of hotels in Budapest offer babysitting services, but try to book at least six hours beforehand.
  • Car hire Most car-hire firms have children’s safety seats for hire at a nominal cost; book them in advance.
  • Hotels and restaurants High chairs and cots (cribs) are standard equipment in many restaurants and hotels, but numbers can be limited; request them when booking.
  • Travel seasons In July and August, many Hungarian families 'staycation', particularly around Lake Balaton. This is the liveliest (and most expensive) time to visit, so book well ahead. Late spring, early summer and September are perhaps the nicest times of year to visit, weather-wise, with the added bonus of no crowds.

Accessible Travel

Hungary has made great strides in recent years in making public areas and facilities more accessible to the disabled. Wheelchair ramps, toilets fitted for the disabled and inward opening doors, though not as common as they are in Western Europe, do exist, and audible traffic signals for the blind are becoming commonplace in the cities.

For more information, contact the Hungarian Federation of Disabled Persons’ Associations.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Volunteering

  • AIESEC (www.aiesec.org) run volunteer programmes in Hungary of varying lengths in the education, literacy and sustainable living fields.
  • United Way Hungary (www.unitedway.hu) take on volunteers looking to work with children for three months or longer.
  • Alternatively, backpackers from European countries looking to linger in Budapest are often able to do volunteer work in hostels in exchange for accommodation.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Hungary uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

Women should not encounter any particular problems while travelling in Hungary besides some mild local machismo. If you do need assistance and/or information, ring the Women’s Line.

Work

There's a high demand in Hungary for foreign employees in the IT and telecommunications fields, as well as English teachers. It is relatively straightforward to apply for a job in these fields if you're an EU citizen; citizens of other nationalities, however, can only be employed if the company they wish to work for can prove that they can't find a Hungarian to do the job. www.jobsinbudapest.eu and www.budapestjobs.net are useful sites if you're after a professional posting in the capital.