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Hungary Country Information
Hungary's location in the centre of Europe along with its hospitable attitude makes it one of the best places from which to embark on an Eastern European journey. It is both European and distinctly Hungarian, incorporating a mixture of history and the present-day. The country proudly upholds its Magyar traditions, culture and arts, but is attentive to what is new and fashionable in the outside world.

Most visitors arrive in Budapest, situated on a lovely stretch of the Danube, the river that invokes feelings of romantic enchantment and musical memories. It is a city of culture and of astounding beauty and grace, and visitors are drawn to its enchanting magnetism. Outside of the capital the plains, rolling hills and rivers, lakes and vineyards hold much to offer the visitor. The Baroque town and fine wines of Eger, historical riverside villages along the Danube Bend, commanding fortresses, castles and palaces, the resort-lined Lake Balaton and the thermal spas and volcanically heated lake at Hévíz are just some of the country's many highlights awaiting discovery.

The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October.

Electricity: Electrical current is 230 volts, 50 Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.

Money: The official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Travellers cheques are not widely favoured. Credit cards most accepted in the country are AMEX, Diners Club, EnRoute, Euro/Mastercard, JCB and Visa, and these can be used to withdraw cash from banks and ATMs and to pay bills in hotels, restaurants and most shops. Banks usually open between 8am and 4pm on weekdays and some are open on Saturdays. ATMs and currency exchange machines are available in towns and cities throughout the country. It is advisable to retain exchange receipts for proof of legal currency exchange.

Language: Hungarian (Magyar) is the official language, but German is widely spoken. English is spoken in tourist areas and most hotels.

Travel Health: No vaccinations are required for travel to Hungary and standards of public health are good, but a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Tap water is safe to drink and food poisoning is not considered a high risk, although visitors are recommended to vaccinate against typhoid, unless on a short stay and only eating at major hotels and restaurants. Travellers intending on visiting forested, grassy, lakeside or rural areas in spring and summer should consider a tick-borne encephalitis vaccine. A reciprocal health agreement with countries of the EU provides nationals with free emergency health care on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). All towns have pharmacies, but anyone requiring specific medication should bring a supply with them as most medicines are of Eastern European origin. Health insurance is recommended.

Tipping: Taxi drivers and waiters expect a tip of 10 to 15% in Hungary. Waiters should be handed the cash, rather than have it left on the table. Most people in the service industry expect to be tipped about 10 to 15%.

Safety Information: Most visits to Hungary are trouble-free, but normal precautions against petty crime should be taken. Pick pocketing and bag snatching are common in Budapest, especially on crowded public transport and other places frequented by tourists. Some bars, clubs and restaurants in Budapest charge outrageous prices by means of scams that target foreigners in particular. Be cautious of invitations off the street to dine in certain establishments or of recommendations by taxi drivers who are often in on the scam. All political demonstrations should be avoided, as they have led to violence in the past.

Local Customs: All travellers to Hungary must carry official identification at all times; photocopies are not acceptable.

Business: A handshake is the standard form of greeting when doing business in Hungary and in mixed company it is usually women who initiate. Conservative suits and ties are standard business dress and business people should be addressed by their title and surname. Business cards are often exchanged; Hungarians usually list their surnames first. It is useful to have a local representative when doing business in Hungary who can set up meetings and act as an interpreter. It is important to invest time on building relationships; socialising is a key element of this and face-to-face meetings are vital. Punctuality is vital to all occasions, and cancelling a meeting at the last minute may be detrimental to a business relationship. Due to the communist legacy there is an aversion to risk and plenty of red tape and therefore negotiations can be slow-moving and patience is required. Although Hungary remains male-orientated, being female is not a disadvantage to doing business. Business hours are usually from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, though summer hours tend to be shorter.

Communications: The international access code for Hungary is +36. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g., 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g., (0)1 for Budapest. There are often high surcharges on calls made from hotels; it is cheaper to use public telephone boxes or calling cards. Local directory assistance is available by dialling 198, and international directory assistance is 199; callers may have to hold for a few moments, but English-speaking operators are available. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are available in the main towns.

Duty Free: Travellers to Hungary with goods purchased in the EU for personal use do not have to pay customs duty on 800 cigarettes, or 400 cigarillos, or 200 cigars, or 1kg smoking tobacco; 10 litres spirits with more than 22% and ethyl alcohol, or 20 litres of beverages less than 22% alcohol content, or 90 litres of wine or 60 litres of sparkling wine, or 110 litres of beer. Travellers arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g of smoking tobacco, or a proportional mix of these. Alcohol allowances (for passengers over 17 years) include 1 litre of spirits and 2 litres of wine; perfume up to 50g and 250ml eau de toilette; and other goods for personal consumption to the value of €175 per adult or €90 for children under 15 years. Prohibited items include fresh meat and dairy products.


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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens must hold a passport valid for at least the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a valid passport, but a visa is not required. Passports endorsed British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen or British Subject with the right of abode in the UK, do not require a visa for 90 days.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals must hold a passport valid for at least the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals do not need a visa to visit Hungary for a period of up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for at least the period of intended stay.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals need a visa and must hold a passport valid for at least six months after the expiry date of the visa.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealanders do not require a visa for a stay in Hungary of up to 90 days. A passport, valid for the intended period of stay, is required.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for at least the period of intended stay. No visa is required.

Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. All visitors other than EEA members must have the equivalent in hard currency of 1,000 HUF per day, or a major credit card, a letter of invitation or proof of accommodation. A document authorizing the visitor to withdraw cash from a bank in Hungary, return or onward tickets (or sufficient funds to buy one) and all necessary documents for next destination are also required.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

 

Weather and Climate in Hungary

The best time to travel to Hungary is during late summer, when the weather is warm and relatively dry. Hungary has a continental climate with distinct seasons, and a great variation between winter and summer conditions. During winter the weather is bitterly cold with snow blanketing the ground for weeks and the mighty Danube River freezes over. Spring and early summer are subject to heavy showers of rain. Summer temperatures can reach 82°F (28°C) or higher.

With the Alps to the west and the flat, open Great Plain to the east, Budapest's climate is accented with warm summers and bitterly cold winters, with plenty of rain all year round. Winters are fairly short, the very cold weather arriving in mid-December, usually cloudy and damp with odd bright sunny days and frequent, but light, snow. In summer, from April to September, Budapest has a high proportion of sunny, warm days with relatively high humidity, the sun shining for about 10 hours a day.

Attractions in Hungary

  • Fisherman’s Bastion - Built in 1905 on the medieval castle walls, the neo-Romanesque ramparts were so named after the city's fishermen whose duty it was to defend this side of the hill during the Middle Ages, but the existing bastion never actually served a defensive purpose.
  • The Great Synagogue and Jewish Museum - Situated within Erzsébet Town, the charming old Jewish quarter and former ghetto, the Great or Central Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world, able to seat 3,000 people.
  • Memento Park - One of the city's popular but more bizarre attractions is Memento Park, containing the giant figures of the Communist era that once filled the streets of Budapest.
  • Hévíz - Hévíz is the site of Europe's largest and the world's second largest thermal lake, Gyógytó. It is the most extraordinary sight with its huge milky blue surface covered in water lilies and steam.
  • Eger Castle - The medieval castle, which sits on the small hill overlooking the town, has been the site of numerous historical events. The original buildings included a cathedral and the Bishop's Palace dating from the 13th century; the castle was later fortified, the walls providing the cover for the determined defence against the Turks by a small and outnumbered army.
  • Visegrad - Superbly situated on the abrupt loop of the Danube beneath steep hills, Visegrad was once a Roman stronghold on the border of the Roman Empire and the second home after Buda to Hungary's royalty in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Esztergom - Esztergom combines history with a small-town riverside charm. One of Hungary's most historically important towns, it was the capital for over 250 years and the birthplace of their beloved first king and saint, Stephen, who was later crowned here in the 11th century.

Budapest Events

  • Budapest Fair - This joyful celebration of summer, enjoyed by the people of Budapest was first organised by the city council in 1991 to commemorate the departure of Soviet troops from Hungary.
  • Budapest Spring Festival - What began as a city cultural event in 1981 has now spread its wings and grown to become a nation-wide celebration of Hungarian culture and talent, drawing thousands of appreciative classical, opera and jazz fans from all over Europe.
  • Hungarian F1 Grand Prix - One of the most popular meetings on the Formula 1 motor-racing circuit is the Hungarian Grand Prix. World class race drivers pit their wits and skills against each other on the Hungaroring track about 12 miles (20km) from central Budapest.
  • Esztergom - Esztergom combines history with a small-town riverside charm. One of Hungary's most historically important towns, it was the capital for over 250 years and the birthplace of their beloved first king and saint, Stephen, who was later crowned here in the 11th century.
  • Budapest Autumn Festival - On the other side of the seasons to the Spring Festival is this Autumnal celebration of contemporary arts. A wide selection including music, arts, dance, theatre, photography, film and computer-generated art take place at various venues throughout the city.

Airports in Hungary

Budapest Ferihegy International Airport (BUD)

  • Location: The airport is located 10 miles (16km) south east of Budapest.
  • Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +36 1 296 9696.
  • Transfer between terminals: The terminals are close enough together to be accessible by foot.
    Getting to the city: The nearby Western Railway Station is walkable from terminal 1 where railway tickets can also be bought between 9am and 10pm for US$1.30. Travel time is 30 minutes to the city centre. An airport bus leaves for the Köbánya-Kispest metro terminal from terminals 1 and 2 and costs US$1.75 on the bus although previously purchased tickets are US1.30. There is an airport minibus service that takes passengers to any destination in the city as soon as the bus is full. Tickets can be purchased in the Arrivals Hall at the Airport Minibus counter or at Tel: (+36-1) 296-8555 and cost US$13. Taxis can be reserved at Tel: (+36 1) 365 55 55 or at the arrivals terminal. Fares are metered but can't exceed prices according to city zones and range between US$7.50 to US$23.80. A high speed road connects to the airport to the city in 20 minutes.
  • Car rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar and Airport Rent-a-Car.
  • Airport Taxis: Taxis can be reserved at Tel: (+36 1) 365 55 55 or at the arrivals terminal. Fares are metered but can't exceed prices according to city zones and range between US$7.50 to US$23.80. A high speed road connects to the airport to the city in 20 minutes.
  • Facilities: Facilities include ATMs, bureaux de change, left luggage, first aid, duty-free shops, childcare, post office, chapel, restaurants, tourist information and hotel reservations. There are facilities for disabled passengers and wheelchairs are available from the airport help desks; travellers with special needs are advised to contact their airline or travel agent in advance. A short walk from Terminal 2 there is an open-air aircraft museum.
  • Parking: Short and long term parking lots are situated close to the terminal buildings.
  • Departure tax: Included in the airfare.

 

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
Nil percentage of alcohol allowed in drivers' blood; amounts of less than 0.08 per cent incur a fine, more than 0.08 per cent legal proceedings.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK driving licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car and / or motorcycle 17. All valid UK driving licences should be accepted in Hungary. This includes the older all-green style UK licences (in
Northern Ireland older paper style with photographic counterpart) although the EC appreciates that these may be more difficult to understand and that drivers may wish to voluntarily update them before travelling abroad, if time permits. Alternatively, older licences may be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Fines:
On-the-spot, only payable in HUF. Credit cards are not accepted. On the spot fines can be paid by post within 30 days. The police must give a receipt for cash payments. Wheel clamps are in use.

Fuel:
Unleaded petrol (95 octane), diesel (Dizel or Gazolaj) and LPG available. No leaded petrol. Petrol in a can permitted, maximum 40 litres. Credit cards accepted at some filling stations, check with your card issuer for usage in Hungary before travel. Cash is the most usual form of payment.

Driving Distances:
Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for driving distances


Lights:
Use of dipped headlights compulsory at all times outside built-up areas. At night the use of full beam, in built up areas, is prohibited.

Motorcycles:
Use of dipped headlights compulsory at all times. The wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger.

Motor Insurance:
Third-party compulsory. Should a visitor cause an accident with a Hungarian citizen they must report it to the Association of Hungarian Insurance Companies.

Passengers / Children in cars:
A child under 3 years of age may only travel in a vehicle if using a suitable child restraint system appropriate for their weight, they are permitted to travel in the front of the vehicle using this restraint if it is rear facing and there is no airbag or it has been deactivated. Children under 1.5m and over 3 years of age must use a suitable child restraint system and be seated in the rear of the vehicle.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front and rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers: In built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) or 68 mph (110 km/h) on semi-motorways and 80 mph (130
km/h) on motorways. Vehicles with snow chains must not exceed 31mph (50km/h). In city centres, areas with an 18 mph (30 km/h) speed limit are increasingly common.

Compulsory equipment in Hungary:

  • First-aid kit
  • Warning triangle
  • Reflective Jacket - All pedestrians walking on a road, or road shoulder outside a built up area must wear a reflective jacket at night and in case of bad visibility. Any person exiting a vehicle outside a built up area in a
    breakdown situation becomes a pedestrian and therefore must wear a reflective jacket.
  • Snow chains - The use of or their presence in a car can be made compulsory on some roads when weather conditions require.

Other rules / requirements in Hungary:

Spare bulb kit recommended as its carriage is compulsory for Hungarian registered vehicles.

Recommended that the driver of a conspicuously damaged vehicle entering Hungary obtain a police report confirming the damage at the time of entry, otherwise lengthy delays may be encountered at the frontier when leaving Hungary. This report should be obtained from the police of the country where the car was damaged.

Motorway tax payable for use of:

Spare bulb kit recommended as its carriage is compulsory for Hungarian registered vehicles.

Recommended that the driver of a conspicuously damaged vehicle entering Hungary obtain a police report confirming the damage at the time of entry, otherwise lengthy delays may be encountered at the frontier when leaving Hungary. This report should be obtained from the police of the country where the car was damaged.

Motorway tax payable for use of:

  • M1 (Budapest – Hegyeshalom),
  • M3 (Budapest -Gorbehaza – Nyiregyhaza)),
  • M5 (Budapest – Kiskunfelegyhaza – Szeged - Roszke/border with Serbia),
  • M6 (M0- Erd - Dunaujvaros)
  • M7 (Budapest - Lake Balaton – Letenye, border with Croatia)
  • M30 (Emod - Miskolc)
  • M35 (Gorbehaza-Debrecen)


The electronic vignette and any toll charges must be paid in forints. Credit cards accepted: Visa, Eurocard/Mastercard, DKV and UTA. The vignette can be purchased in person, online, or by telephone (land line or mobile). When a motorist has purchased an e-vignette, a confirmation message will be sent or a coupon issued.

This document must be kept for one year after the expiry of validity. The motorway authorities check all vehicles electronically, and verify the registration number, the category of toll paid and the validity of the e-vignette. Further information: www.motorway.hu – available for 4 days (vehicles up to 3.5t only), 1 week, one month or 13 months. Fines imposed for non-display. The Hungarian motoring Association recommend foreign motorists wishing to purchase a vignette at the border have cash in Hungarian Forints. Vignettes should only be purchased from
outlets where the prices are clearly displayed at the set rate.

Motorists should be wary of contrived incidents, particularly on the Vienna–Budapest motorway, designed to stop motorists and expose them to robbery.

A new directive by the Hungarian authorities means that traffic will be restricted from entering Budapest when the dust in the air exceeds a fixed level on two consecutive days. The restriction depends upon the number which a registration plate ends, licence plates ending in odd numbers will be permitted to enter Budapest on odd numbered days, even number on even days.

The restriction also applies to UK registered vehicles, however as UK registration plates tend to end in a letter rather than a number we are waiting for confirmation as to how the restriction will apply. The restriction will be applicable from 0600 to 2200 with a fine imposed for non compliance.

Spiked tyres prohibited.

The use of the horn is prohibited in built-up areas, except in the case of danger.

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