Top events in Hungary

August
11

This week-long music festival, held on an island in the Danube in north Budapest, has become one of Central Europe’s largest, attracting tens of...

September
05

This annual gastronomic and cultural festival in Budapest includes demonstrations of Hungarian cookery and rock, pop and jazz music on outdoor...

September
14

Open to runners over the age of 12, the popular Budapest International Half-Marathon attracts over 13,000 runners from approximately 60 countries...

Budapest, Hungary
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Budapest, Hungary

© 123rf.com / Péter Gudella

Hungary Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

93,028 sq km (35,918 sq miles).

Population

9.9 million (2014).

Population density

106.6 per sq km.

Capital

Budapest.

Government

Parliamentary Republic.

Head of state

President János Áder since 2012.

Head of government

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán since 2010.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

The small landlocked country of Hungary in eastern Central Europe is very much the 'odd one out' in the region. Surrounded by Slavs on all sides, apart from Austria to the west, the country is culturally and linguistically distinct from all of its immediate neighbours.

Hungarians today are direct descendents of the Magyars that arrived here, by way of Russia, in the ninth century. Hailing originally from the Central Asian steppe, these Magyars brought with them a fiendishly difficult language that has few links to any other, except a very distant relationship to Finnish. Along with the language came a unique culture, which, despite invasion by Mongols in the 13th century, occupation by Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries, Austrian Habsburg rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Communist domination following World War II, has survived more or less intact.

Most Hungarians display a quiet but stoic pride for their nation and cling determinedly to a culture that remains undiminished despite centuries of foreign domination. Such pride is not without foundation: the country is home to some outstanding historic towns and cities, numerous elegant castles, palaces and churches, as well as some attractive – albeit mostly flat – countryside. This bucolic rural landscape is also home to many highly regarded winegrowing regions such as those at Tokaj. Thermal springs are another notable feature of the Hungarian landscape. As a consequence, there are more than 150 thermal spas – some of which date back to Roman times – and elegant bathhouses in some urban areas, most notably in the capital, Budapest.

Budapest is an elegant, stylish and lively city made up of two separate settlements clustered on either side of the Danube River. Buda, west of the river, is hillier and older, with a wealth of graceful Habsburg and neoclassical buildings, while Pest, the commercial centre on the opposite bank, is flatter and more sprawling with a generous scattering of art nouveau architecture. The city has long been the focus of Hungary’s artistic, musical and literary community, and is by far the best place in the country for a choice of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Although Budapest, with a population of around two million, is by far the country’s largest and most important urban centre, smaller cities like Eger, Pécs, Szentendre, Sopron, Györ and Szeged are all fascinating historical places to visit in their own right, with equally attractive architecture.

Beyond these urban centres, Hungary’s terrain is surprisingly varied. The flat open prairie of the Great Hungarian Plain (Nagy Alföld) characterises the southeast of the country and spreads far beyond Hungary’s political boundary into Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. The smaller Little Hungarian Plain (Kisalföld) is found in the northwest of the country next to the Austrian and Slovak borders. In contrast, the Transdanubian region of central and western Hungary is a gently rolling landscape that’s also home to Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest body of fresh water – a popular holiday destination for many Hungarians. The country’s highest mountains, which rise to a little over 1,000m (3,281ft), are located in the Carpathian region along the Slovak border.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 28 July 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Take sensible precautions against petty crime. Bag snatching and pick-pocketing are common, especially in Budapest. Be particularly careful on busy public transport, in train stations, at markets and at other places frequented by tourists. Theft of and from vehicles is common. Don’t carry large amounts of cash.

Certain bars, clubs and restaurants in Budapest, particularly near the large hotels in the business district (V district) of central Pest, may charge exorbitant prices. Common scams include adding a 20,000 HUF (£60) surcharge per drink to the final bill or charging up to 100,000 HUF (£300) for a meal. Individuals who have been unable to settle their bills have frequently been accompanied by the establishment’s security guards to a cash machine and made to withdraw funds under threats of violence. Some taxi drivers are accomplices in these frauds. They often receive a commission to recommend certain bars, clubs and restaurants to passengers. Never ask a taxi driver to recommend a bar or club. If a driver offers to take you to one, or you are approached on the street with an invitation to enter a club, treat that advice with extreme caution. As a general rule it is better to phone for a taxi from a reputable local company. Be careful in establishments where menus do not properly display prices.

Don’t use street money changers. Take care when receiving bank notes that are no longer valid but which are still in circulation. There have been a small number of reports of taxi drivers deliberately passing these notes to tourists - as well as notes from neighbouring countries that are not valid in Hungary.

Road travel

In 2013 there were 591 road deaths in Hungary (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2013.

It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. You must use headlights on roads outside towns even in daytime. If you drive on the Hungarian motorways M1, M3, M5 and M7 you must buy a motorway vignette at a petrol station, post office or online. In winter, you must equip your car for severe conditions.

See the European Commission,AA and RAC guides on driving in Hungary.

Rail travel

If you travel by overnight train, try to avoid travelling alone and secure your compartment from the inside.

Public transport in Budapest

Foreign visitors are often caught out by the ticket system in Budapest, and fined by ticket inspectors. Follow the passenger information notices, which are usually printed in English. Validate your ticket before starting your journey (before you get to the platform if travelling by Metro; and immediately after boarding buses, trams or trolley buses). Keep your ticket until the end of your journey and show it to inspectors on request. You have to validate another ticket every time you change lines.

A special ticket is required for use on the night service network.

For more information on ticket conditions and prices, visit the website of the Budapest Transport Authority.

Customs Regulations

Community regulations ensure the free movement of goods between EU member states. This means that no customs procedures are required for exporting goods from Hungary to another EU member state and/or for importing goods from a member state to Hungary. The export and import of goods purchased for non-commercial purposes (for personal use or as gifts) while travelling is not restricted, however, the transport of certain goods (such as: pets, hunting weapons, alcohol and tobacco products, medicines containing drugs, etc.) within the European Union is restricted or subject to special permissions.

Check the customs regulations before entering or leaving Hungary on the National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary website.

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