Hungary is located in Central Europe. The area of Hungary is just 93.000 m2 which makes it easy to tour: you can cross it in just a few hours. Despite its small size, Hungary boasts a colourful display of diverse sceneries: the landscape is crisscrossed by foothills, lakes and rivers.
Its capital is Budapest, divided by the River Danube: the serene, green hills of Buda on one side, and the flat, but vibrant cityscape of Pest on the other. Budapest is one of the most popular cities of Europe, and one of its top tourist destinations.
Hungary can be divided into 6 geographic regions: Alpokalja, The Little Hungarian Plain, The Transdanubian Mountains, The Transdanubian Hills, The North Hungarian Mountains, The Great Hungarian Plain. As far as its economy, Western Transdanubia is the most advanced territory of the country. Sopron and Kőszeg are the most well-known historic cities of the border region of Alpokalja.
The Small Hungarian Plain is bounded by the watercourses of the Danube and Rába rivers, its centre is the historic baroque town of Győr. The region of the Balaton Uplands among the Transdanubian Hills is famous for its vineyards, natural beauty and rural charm. Vines have been cultivated and wine has been made around the lake since Roman times. The most popular and frequently visited part of the country is its central region, with the capital, Budapest. Northern Hungary boasts many historically famous towns and fortresses, but is also renowned for the special species of grape used in making the world-famous wines of Tokaj and Eger. Last but not least, the most traditional and unspoilt region of the country is the Great Hungarian Plain, where traditional lifestyles such as agriculture and livestock breeding remain to be the part of everyday life. This region takes up more than half of the country’s overall area. If you’re in Hortobágy, near Debrecen, you can observe the wonders of grassland fauna: flocks of sheep, herds of grey cattle and studs.
The horizon of the country is quite flat: most of its territory is below 200 metres (656 feet) below sea level. The highest point of Hungary is the Kékes mountain (1014 metres / 3327 feet) which lies in the Mátra range; it offers hiking trails in the summer and ski slopes in the winter. It has two major rivers, the Danube and the Tisza, both suitable for sailing and shipping. Its many minor rivers and lakes offer an exciting, yet original location for watersports and boating.
Hungary is a landlocked country, however, its renowned Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and its often referred to as the “Hungarian Sea”. Lake Balaton is an ideal vacation spot all year-round, visited by bathers in the summer and winter sports enthusiasts in the winter.
Hungary is one of the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area, where citizens of the member states can travel around freely and unrestricted, without border control.
The role that Hungary played in the history of Europe is far greater than one might conclude by its size or population today. Throughout history, Hungarians managed to preserve and maintain their identity through the many years of foreign occupation and the wars in Hungary.
The population of Hungary is close to ten million. The quarter of these people live in Budapest and its wide-spread agglomeration, with more and more people moving in from foreign countries, many of whom have their very own love-at-first-sight Budapest story to tell. The Hungarian capital is the most densely populated metropolitan area in Central-Eastern Europe, but its streets never seem overcrowded, not even in high season.
Hungary is suitable for travel in all four seasons, at all times of the year. The climate of Hungary is continental, Summer temperature is 25-30 °C on average with occasional heat waves reaching 35-38 °C. The winters are cold with a temperature of -10 – 0 °C.
The official language is Hungarian that is a unique one. The only language that Hungarian is supposed to be related to is Finnish, but not in a communicative level. English and German are the most frequently used second languages.
Hungary is in the Central European Time Zone (CET). UTC + 1 hour; summer time (March–October): UTC + 2 hours
VISAS AND DOCUMENTS
The visa requirements of Hungary are in line with the provisions and recommendations of the EU and of the Schengen Convention.
You can enter Hungary at 65 border crossing points. You need a valid passport, but for EU citizens the ID card is sufficient and visas are not required either. Neither are visas required for citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the United States or New Zealand.
Europen Union citizens can stay in Hungary as long as they please. USA and Canadian citizens can stay visa free for up to 90 days. Citizens of most other countries need a visa before entering Hungary.
Hungary's official currency is Hungarian Forint (HUF). Many stores and other places accept Euro as well.
However, the exchange rates at such places often don't follow the most up-to-date bank rates, and this is not in favor of the customers. Be prepared to get the change in HUF. Coins are HUF 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200. Denominations of banknotes are HUF 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000. Smaller shops or ice cream parlors may not have enough change if you try to pay with high denominations, so it's recommended to have change or smaller denomination notes at hand.
In each city around the country there are ATMs for money withdrawal, that accept major debit cards or credit cards. You can also pay by debit or credit cards in most stores. Only a few banks are willing to cash traveller’s cheques, so it is recommended to bring your debit or credit card when you visit Hungary. Smaller shops or country guesthouses may only accept cash.
Generally, money exchange points at airports use the least convenient exchange rates. So, when you arrive, only exchange the smallest amount necessary (you can also pay by card for cabs or bus tickets). It is recommended to exchange money at banks, private money exchange points or maybe even at hotels or travel agencies, where the exchange rates are displayed. To avoid any unpleasant surprise, always ask whether they apply a commission. Exchanging money in the streets is definitely not recommended. Hotels usually use less convenient exchange rates than banks or private money exchange points. ATMs are often located in the lobby of banks, and you need your card to open the door. Banks open between 8 and 9 am and close between 4 and 5 pm (the opening hours of banks at malls are longer).
The usual amount of tips is 10%. This goes for cabs, restaurants etc. If you pay by card at a restaurant, the staff prefers to receive the tip in cash. The 10-15% service charge added to the sum total of the bill, is just starting to spread in Hungary. If it is included you don't need to tip.
The European Union does not limit what you purchase as a private individual for personal use in another EU country, because the taxes levied by the country of purchase are already included in the price of each product.
Most stores in Hungary are open from 10 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday, and from 10 am to 1 or 2 pm on Saturdays. Most stores are closed on Sundays, except for large malls and popular tourist destinations. Banks are open Monday to Friday, but on Fridays they close earlier than usual. Banks at malls have the longest opening hours. Post offices are open from 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday and from 8 am to 12 pm on Saturday. Museums are usually closed on Mondays, just like a few restaurants. All banks, offices and stores are closed on National Public Holidays.
1 January (New Year’s Eve), 15 March (Memorial Day of the 1848/49 Revolution), Easter, 1 May (Labour Day), Whitsun, 20 August (Day of Foundation of the Hungarian State), 23 October (Memorial day of the 1956 Revolution), 1 November (All Saints’ Day), 24-25-26 December (Christmas).
In some cases weekdays might be changed for off days connected to holidays if the holiday is on Tuesday or Thursday.
The electric current in Hungary is of 230 V and 50 Hz.
HOW TO GET TO HUNGARY?
Hungary is a country in Central Europe, bordering with seven countries: Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia. It is easily accessible by air, land or water transport.
The scheduled flights and charter flights operated by international airlines are received by Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest, the airport of Debrecen in Eastern Hungary and the airport of Sármellék in Western Hungary. Liszt Ferenc International Airport is located some 24 kilometres to the southeast of Budapest. Generally, Terminal 2A receives planes from member states of the Schengen Area, while Terminal 2B operates flights of low-cost airlines from countries outside of the Schengen Area.
Debrecen Airport is much smaller, easier to navigate and it operates year-round: it services airplanes of Lufthansa and Wizz Air and operates charter flights, receiving flights from cities such as London, München, Paris or Tel Aviv.
The Hévíz-Balaton Airpport is located just 15 kilometres away from Keszthely and Lake Balaton, and it used to serve as a Russian military airport. Today, it is a modern airport with a terminal upgraded to meet international standards operating from April to October and the majority of its traffic consists of international charters flights, mainly from German cities.
Budapest is easily accessible from any direction by the diverse international railway travel offered by the National State Railways. Long distance slow-trains are available from many European cities, which allow for a more peaceful, observing journey to Hungary. You can get to the city from London through Munich and Paris, from Stockholm through Hamburg or Copenhagen, or from Istanbul through Belgrade.
Budapest has three major railway stations, Keleti (Eastern), Nyugati (Western) and Déli (Southern) Railway Stations. International trains usually arrive at Keleti (Eastern) Railway Station. Déli (Southern) Railway Station mostly receives trains from countries on the southern border of Hungary, such as Croatia, Slovenia.
Regular bus services operate between Budapest (and other Hungarian cities) and cities of neighboring countries, and more distant European towns. The majority of buses arrive at and depart from Népliget Bus Station.
Those who choose to travel by car or motorbike will be pleased to find well-maintained and extensive roads in the country, with an adequate domestic highway system for fast travel. Highways are designated by the letter M and a number, or the letter E indicates they are connected to the European highway system. Motorways in Hungary are typically two-lane highways in each direction with an emergency lane on the side.
Many companies service boats on the Danube, which is the busiest and most important waterway in Europe. Furthermore, when you arrive in Budapest, most boats dock near the scenic historic city centre. International piers can be found between Chain Bridge and Szabadság Bridge on the Pest side, and between Margaret Bridge and Chain Bridge on the Buda side.
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CAPITAL
If you arrive at Liszt Ferenc International Airport, you can choose from several options to get into the city centre.
There are two regular bus lines that connect the airport to the city. You will find the bus stop of line 100E between Terminal 2A and 2B, the frequency time of the buses is 20 to 30 minutes, they arrive at Deák Ferenc tér within 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic, after two intermediate stops (Kálvin tér, Astoria), which is the transport node of Budapest, the meeting point of the different metro lines. The first bus line leaves the terminal at 5 a.m. and the last one thirty minutes after midnight, in alignment with the flight arrivals. The price of the bus ticket which is valid only for this line is HUF 900, which can be purchased from the ticketing machine in the bus stop (cash or card).
Bus line 200E circulates between the airport and Kőbánya-Kispest railway station, from where you can get to the city centre by metro line three, the blue line. The ticket price is HUF 350. There are 25 to 30 minutes between the buses. The daily or weekly ticket is also valid for them. Those can also be purchased from the ticketing machine in the bus stop. The first bus leaves the airport at 04:09 a.m., and the last one departs 21 minutes after midnight. (The metro runs until 11 p.m., after that you can get to the centre by night buses.)
Between 1 and 4 a.m. at night look for bus 900 at the airport. You can purchase a ticket for HUF 530 for the night bus from the same ticketing machines and it takes you to the city centre, to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út in an hour.
The passengers who are over 65 years of age and arrive from any member state of Europe, as well as Island, Liechenstein, Norway or Switzerland can use the public transportation buses free of charge.
By airport minibus
There are several shuttle service options available at the airport, and miniBUD is the official airport shuttle service. You can buy tickets for the shuttle service at the kiosk located at the baggage claim area, and your shuttle bus will transport you to your accommodation in Budapest. It’s recommended that you shouldn’t be the last one to board the bus, because on a first-come-first-served basis it may take smaller detours in the city before you arrive at your destination. You can also book a private, premium or VIP transfer for a higher price.
The one-way minibus tariff is HUF 4,900, but you can purchase a return ticket which saves you ten percent. If you have already purchased your Budapest Card, depending on the type of the card, you will get a discount on your transfer or your return journey can be even free of charge. You can buy the card online, so you can refer to it on arrival:
You can pay for the minibus shuttle by bank card if you don’t have Hungarian forint on you. (We do not recommend exchanging cash at the airport, because the exchange rates are less favourable.)
Főtaxi is the official transport partner of Budapest Airport. When exiting the terminal you have to check in at the taxi kiosk, where you will provide the address where you want to go and you will be given a number and the estimated price of your ride. During peak hours the cars arrive frequently, you only have to check their number. Your journey to the centre of Budapest will cost around HUF 9,000. You will pay in the taxi, either by card or in cash.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN HUNGARY
The centre of Hungarian rail transport is Budapest. It is cheap and comfortable to get around by railway in Hungary.
The major railway stations are
Volánbusz has an extensive bus service system in Hungary. Buses are fairly clean and comfortable and there is enough leg room to give you comfort. You can purchase tickets directly from the driver, or from ticketing machines at major bus stations.
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. The EuroVelo Nr.6 international bike route crosses Hungary along the Danube. One of the most beautiful and spectacular day trips from Budapest by bike is to the Danube Bend. If you don’t want to leave the city, Margaret Island and the Buda Mountains are also great destinations. Bike routes along Lake Balaton, Lake Tisza and Lake Velence are also worthy of mentioning.
TRANSPORT IN BUDAPEST
With 268 bus, 32 tram, 15 trolleybus, and 4 underground lines, Budapest has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems among the capitals of Europe. It also includes cogwheel and commuter trains, a funicular, and boat and chairlift services. Daytime services are available between 4.30 am and 11.30 pm, while at night you can get around with night buses or Tram No. 6, which runs round the clock.
The M-1 metro line, continental Europe’s oldest underground railroad, was built in 1896
and constitutes part of the world’s heritage. This line starts from Vörösmarty Square and continues under Andrássy Avenue with stops at the Opera House, Heroes’ Square and the City Park. The M-2 metro line runs from the Déli (Southern) train station on the Buda side to Örs Vezér tér in Pest, cutting across the city from east to west. The M-3 metro line goes from Újpest-Központ to Kőbánya-Kispest, stopping at the Nyugati (Western) train station as well as at the local and international bus station at Népliget. Bus 200E travelling to the Liszt Ferenc International Airport Terminal leaves from the Kőbánya-Kispest metro station. With its spacious stations, the M-4 metro line, the newest in Budapest, links the Kelenföld station in southern Buda with the Keleti (Eastern) train station. This line also has stops at the Great Market Hall on Fővám tér and at the Gellért thermal baths.
For a single uninterrupted journey use a ticket of HUF 350. The tickets are valid for metro, bus, trolleybus, tram and HÉV (suburban train) within the boundaries of Budapest. Transfer ticket: 530 HUF. The ticket purchased in advance must be validated at the orange machines in the metro undergrounds or on the bus/tram. It entitles you to travel for 100 minutes (for 120 minutes at night). If you travel 3 or less stops, it is enough to purchase the 300 HUF ticket. When you change from one line to another, you should use the so-called transfer ticket or validate one more ticket.
The MOL Bubi public bike-sharing scheme is a new mode of public transport in Budapest,which consists of 158 docking stations and 2,071 bicycles.
You can use MOL Bubi
There are several taxi companies operating in Budapest. The officially licensed taxi cabs can be easily identified by their uniform yellow colour, with the sign ”Licensed Budapest taxi” displayed on the front left door in both Hungarian and English. The registration plate is also yellow. You are seated in an officially registered Budapest taxi if the driver’s photo identification card and taxi fare rates fixed by the Municipality of Budapest are posted on the instrument panel as well as on the two rear side windows. There are officially regulated uniform fares in force in Budapest: the basic fee is 700 HUF, the per kilometre rate is 300 HUF, and the waiting time charge is 75 HUF per minute.
You can pay the taxi fare both in cash and with a bank card but it may happen that some bank cards are not accepted. The prices listed above are valid within the municipal boundaries of Budapest. If you wish to travel outside Budapest, please check the terms and conditions in advance. After the trip, ask for a receipt printed from the taxi meter, by which you can check if the officially fixed rate has been applied, and any complaint that may be related to the trip can be effectively handled.
Budapest is divided into parking zones, and fees vary from one zone to the next. Find the parking meter closest to your car, and insert the necessary amount using coins that are marked as accepted. Display the slip behind the windshield. You may also purchase parking time by sending an SMS to the number displayed on the meter, but only Hungarian phone numbers can be used for the transaction. The paid parking hours can also vary over zones, though generally the 8 am-8 pm period is paying, while weekends are free (with the exception of special zones, like Buda Castle).
For short-term stops, coaches are recommended to use the car park behind Műcsarnok, or one of the P+R car parks near the major sights.
Hungary is known to be safe, peaceful and easy to travel around. Tourists can feel safe here: in Hungary, crime statistics are generally below the European average. On the list of the Global Peace Index, Hungary is the 15th safest among 163 countries.
Drug-related crimes are less frequent in Hungary than in many other European countries. The possession of firearms is subject to strict authorization, and is not common at all. Regarding natural disasters, Hungary is also one of the lowest risk countries. Female tourists can also feel totally safe, even if they travel alone.
However, there are a few things you should be aware of, as you would probably do anyway. Most of all: use common sense. You may encounter pickpockets at crowded tourist destinations or public transport. So, as always, take care of your personal belongings and documents. Order cabs by phone or mobile apps, instead of hailing them on the street. If you park your car somewhere in the street do not leave any value or document that will catch one’s sight. Don’t change money on the street. Check the price list at bars and restaurants before ordering. Like at any other place in the world, prices may be higher at major tourist areas than at places visited primarily by locals. The nightlife of Budapest is remarkably vivid and exciting. Simply use your common sense at bars and clubs, and check the bill if necessary.
Hungarian healthcare is publicly funded, but there are private institutes as well.
Foreign citizens may be eligible for free public healthcare services only if they come from countries that have a special agreement with Hungary. But even in such cases, public health care services may only be provided up to the necessary extent, in case of acute illness or emergency.
Private healthcare is fast, professional and of high quality. On the other hand, it is not for free. You should always have accident and health insurance before starting your trip. When choosing an insurance plan, always check the services it will make you eligible for.
Hungary is a low-risk country from a health perspective, so there are no required vaccines for entering the country. The WHO only recommends the non-country-specific vaccines it generally recommends for trips abroad.
REGULATIONS ON SMOKING AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Tobacco products can only be purchased at licensed tobacconists, the “Nemzeti Dohánybolt”. Smoking is forbidden in indoor public spaces such as bars, restaurants and pubs, and out of doors in the following cases: in public transport stops, and within five metres from the entrance of businesses and workplaces. Elsewhere, smoking is allowed at designated places only.
Alcohol consumption is forbidden in public spaces. Persons under 18 years of age cannot be served alcohol, nor can they enter the tobacconists. Certain places of entertainment may also bar them from entering.
EMERGENCY AND IMPORTANT NUMBERS