Hungary travel guide
Culturally and linguistically distinct from all of its immediate neighbours, Hungary is very much the ‘odd one out’ in Central Europe, but for all the most honourable reasons.
This is a nation whose capital, Budapest, can hold up a mirror to classical Vienna; it’s a world of well-preserved castles, seductively good wines and quiet stoic pride; a landscape of low-lying mountains, oak forests and thermal springs.
The Romans were the first to make use of the hot waters, originally for medicinal purposes. Today, the pursuit is relaxation and over time the bathhouses have grown into splendid architectural affairs, most notably in Budapest.
The capital is an elegant, stylish and lively city made up of two separate settlements clustered on either side of the Danube River: hilly Buda has a wealth of graceful Habsburg and neoclassical buildings, while sprawling Pest is its commercial centre with a generous scattering of art nouveau architecture and an ad-hoc party scene.
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.
Smaller cities are equally architecturally fascinating and deserving of a visit in their own right: Pécs for its museums; Eger for it’s fortifications and infamous Bull’s Blood Wine; and Györ whose grand Basilica houses the golden herm of László.
Beyond these urban centres, Hungary’s bathes in natural delights. South west of Budapest is Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest body of freshwater, where locals spend hot summers cooling off in waters that average 20°C (68°F).
In winter, Hungary freezes, and thrill seekers head north to the Bakony Hills for the chance to ski through the forests before unwinding with a dip in the thermal spa.
It may be landlocked, but Hungary is a country content on ploughing its own furrow no matter what seeds its neighbours are sewing and is all the better for it.
93,028 sq km (35,918 sq miles).
9,821,318 (UN estimate 2016).
106.4 per sq km.
President János Áder since 2012.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán since 2010.
Last updated: 17 February 2019
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.
There are occasional political demonstrations in Budapest and elsewhere in the country. Some take place on or close to important national holidays with a political relevance, such as 15 March (anniversary of 1848 Revolution) and 23 October (anniversary of 1956 anti-Soviet Uprising). Peaceful political demonstrations have occasionally ended in violence. You should avoid all political demonstrations, monitor the media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Hungary, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Around 700,000 British nationals visit Hungary each year.
If you’re living in or moving to Hungary, visit our Living in Hungary guide in addition to this travel advice.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
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.
Always ask to see the menu and price list before ordering drinks or food and check your bill carefully before settling up. Some restaurants and bars have been known to charge extortionate amounts and take tourists to cash points to demand more money. You should report any such incident to the police.
Some taxi drivers are accomplices in these frauds. They may 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 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.
There have been some reported instances of drinks being spiked. Be sure to buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Hungary and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Hungary, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
In 2016 there were 607 road deaths in Hungary (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6.2 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. You must use headlights on roads outside towns even in daytime. In winter, you must equip your car for severe conditions.
Hungary operates a toll system for the use of some major roads in the country. You must buy a motorway vignette at a petrol station, post office or online in advance, in order to use these roads. Further information about driving in Hungary can be found in the guides provided by the AA, RAC and European Commission
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.
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.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Hungary, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Carry your passport at all times. You must be able to show some form of ID if requested. A photocopy is not acceptable.
Hungarian laws on the possession and use of drugs are strict.
Same-sex relationships and civil partnerships are legal in Hungary but same-sex marriages aren’t recognised in Hungarian law. Budapest is generally tolerant and open; the city hosts the largest Pride Festival in Central Europe with an annual turnout of over 10,000 people. Recent Pride events have passed without incident, but historically there have been counter-events which have led to confrontation. You should be aware that outside of Budapest public displays of affection may be frowned upon or attract unwanted attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you are a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you are intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the Hungarian Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Hungary.
If you are driving a large haulage vehicle through Hungary, make sure you have full vehicle documentation. International loads must be supported by a TIR carnet providing a full inventory of the goods being carried. You must leave a financial bond with the Hungarian customs when transiting Hungary with a cargo. The financial bond, minus an administration fee is returned on leaving the country. If you are planning to transit Hungary with consignments of humanitarian aid as relief following a disaster, or medical aid, you should contact the Hungarian Embassy in London in advance to apply for a waiver.
Entry into Hungary can be barred if you have failed to pay a previous fine in Hungary. Contact the Hungarian Embassy in London for guidance on paying any outstanding fines before you next enter Hungary.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Hungary is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Hungarian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
The UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Hungary as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Hungary, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Hungary guide.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The local currency is Hungarian Forint.
Legislation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the EU applies in all Member States. Any person entering or leaving the EU will have to declare the cash that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 Euros (or equivalent) or more; this includes cheques, travellers’ cheques, money orders, etc. This will not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside of the EU and will not apply to those travelling within the EU.
Don’t use street money changers. Take care not to accept 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.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.