Hungary (Magyarország) is a country in Central Europe. Member of the European Union and the Schengen Border-less Europe Agreement. The country offers many diverse destinations: relatively low mountains in the north-west, the Great Plain in the east, lakes and rivers of all sorts (including Balaton - the largest lake in Central Europe), and many beautiful small villages and hidden gems of cities. Top this off with Hungary's great accessibility in the middle of Europe, a vivid culture and economy, and you get a destination absolutely not worth missing if you're in the region.
Following a Celtic (after c. 450 BC) and a Roman (9 BC - c. 4th century) period, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late Ninth Century by the Magyar chieftain Árpád, whose great grandson István ascended to the throne with a crown sent from Rome in 1000. The Kingdom of Hungary existed with minor interruptions for more than 900 years, and at various points was regarded as one of the cultural centers of Europe. It was succeeded by a Communist era (1945-1989) during which Hungary gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal move of opening its border with Austria in 1989, thus accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The present form of government is Parliamentary Republic (1989-). Hungary's current goal is to become a developed country by IMF standards, already being considered "developed" by most traditional measures, including GDP and Human Development Index (world ranking 36th and rising).
Hungary is one of the 15 most popular tourist destinations in the world, with a capital regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world . Despite its relatively small size, the country is home to numerous World Heritage Sites, UNESCO Biosphere reserves, the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grassland in Europe (Hortobágy). In terms of buildings, Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe (Great Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), the third largest church in Europe (Esztergom Basilica), the second largest territorial abbey in the world (Pannonhalma Archabbey), the second largest Baroque castle in the world (Gödöllő), and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy (Pécs).
You can expect to find safe food and water, good safety and generally political stability.
Hungary doesn't attract terrorists and keeps drug and crime levels moderate.
Hungary has been ethnically diverse since its inception, and while over 90% of the population are ethnically Hungarian, pockets of ethnic and cultural Slovaks, Romanians, Germans and others dot the country. Due to the frequent border shifts in Eastern European history, over 2 million ethnic and cultural Hungarians live in bordering countries, as well.
Temperatures in Hungary vary from -20°C to 39°C through the year. Distribution and frequency of rainfall are unpredictable due to the continental clime of the country. Heavy storms are frequent after hot summer days, and so do more days long still rainfalls in the Autumn. The western part of the country usually receives more rain than the eastern part, and severe droughts may occur in summertime. Weather conditions in the Great Plain can be especially harsh, with hot summers, cold winters, and scant rainfall.
Hungary is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.
Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.
Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.
As of January 2011 only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan*** (Republic of China), United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports. These visa-free visitors may not stay more than three months in half a year and may not work while in the EU.
However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.
Further note that
(*) nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel,
(**) Serbian nationals with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still do need a visa and
(***) Taiwanese nationals need their ID number to be stipulated in their passport to enjoy visa-free travel.
Citizens of Croatia can also enter the country by showing their identity card.
Hungary's international airports are Budapest Ferihegy Airport in Budapest, Airport Debrecen in Debrecen (non operating in winter 2008-2009) and FlyBalaton Airport in Sármellék (non operating in winter 2008-2009). The Hungarian national carrier is Malév (Hungarian Airlines) . There are also several low cost carriers operating to Budapest: for example Ryanair , Wizzair , Easyjet , Germanwings .
Air Europa operates a daily fly from Madrid and is a good choice from Latin America with stop in Madrid.
There are direct connections to Hungary from:
You can search for international train connections at official schedule site of MÁV, national train company.
To enter the country, ensure that your International Motor Insurance Card is valid for Hungary(H) along with the Vehicle Registration and a Power of Attorney from the owner if the car is not yours. The border guards are very strict about allowing cars through without these documents.
The Hungarian border control is very strict and thorough. They will not hesitate to conduct a full vehicle search if necessary.
Entry from non-Schengen countries can take quite a long time, in particular in the summer months on the weekends when EU-Nationals are returning north along the E75 corridor from Belgrade, Serbia. The wait lines to get through the border have been as long as 7 km with a wait time of up to 6 hours. Alternative border points in Hungary or Croatia can be used to by-pass. If you are driving in from an EU country e.g. Austria, you are required to pull over to check with authorities at the border, otherwise, the borders are open and usually the immigration control kiosk are empty.
When driving into Hungary, ensure that the border crossing on the route you choose allows the passage of foreigners. Also some smaller crossings close in the afternoon for the night. It is also required to buy a vignette for driving on highways. Domestic (Budapest) car hire: and International car rental supplier: .
Several international bus lines go in or through Hungary. You can find timetables and book tickets on the homepage of Volánbusz , which is the national bus company and also the local Eurolines representation. On the southern border with Serbia you shouldn't be surprised when there in the bus a collection is being held for a donation to the border-guards, to let the bus pass faster.
It is possible to enter Hungary by international shipping lines on Danube (Duna) or Tisza rivers. There is a scheduled hydrofoil service on the Danube to and from Vienna and Bratislava between May and September operated by Mahart.
Hungary presently has no regular domestic flights. As Budapest lies in the center of the country and pretty much any point can be reached within three hours by train or bus, there isn't much need for scheduled domestic flights.
However there are many opportunities for people with a valid pilot's license to rent a plane and explore by air.
Buying train tickets on-line in Hungarian
You can purchase domestic train tickets on the web, but only in Hungarian. It will certainly be a nightmare if you don't speak the language, but if you believe that it's worth the hassle, the following instructions will help you. 1. First of all, you have to register at MÁV's site . 2. Click on the blue underlined 'Regisztráció' (registration) word at the bottom of the page. Type your e-mail address next to 'e-mail', choose a password, enter it next to 'Jelszó', then repeat your password next to 'Jelszó ismét' (repeat password). Tick the box below, and click on the orange 'Regisztráció' button. 3. Check your e-mail account; you should have received an e-mail from MÁV, containing a blue link. Click on it. 5. Return to MÁV's schedule page by clicking here . 6. Wow, this section is in English! Use your common sense, select the train you need, then click on 'Tickets'. 7. On the next page type your e-mail address next to 'E-mail', enter your password chosen in step 2 next to 'Jelszó'. Click on the orange 'Bejelentkezés' (enter) button. 8. Almost done! On the next page, if you click on 'Jegy a kosárba' (add to basket), you will have one piece of full fare 2nd class ticket in your basket. Need more tickets? Click again on 'Jegy a kosárba'. Rather prefer a 1st class ticket? Tick '1. osztály' (1st class). Want to finally buy your tickets? Click on the orange 'Helyfoglalás és fizetés' or 'Fizetés' (proceed to payment) button (depending on which one you have). 8. At the bottom of the next page click on the orange 'Fizetés' (pay) button. 9. On the next page click on the orange 'Banki fizetés' (payment through bank server) button. 10. On the next page enter your bank card data: 'Tehelendő bankkártyaszám' (bank card number), 'Lejárati dátum' (date of expiry mmyy), Érvényesítési kód (authorisation code, the last three digits of the serial on the flip side of your card). Click on 'Elküld' (send data) button. 11. On the next page click on 'Elküld' (send data) button again. 12. After a few seconds a new page will appear, containing a huge 10-digit blue serial number. The number itself doesn't allow you to board the train. You will have to go to a major Hungarian railway station, find a pre-purchased ticket issuing machine (consult this page about where to find the nearest), and input the serial number in order to get the tickets.
The Hungarian National Railway is MÁV and GYSEV (some lines in the west of the country). MÁV has online schedule and pricing site . See boxed text about how to use its online booking system, available only in Hungarian.
The train network is star-shaped (hub-and-spoke), fanning out from the centre at Budapest. This is caused by history because half of the once complete train system went to the neighbor countries after World War I. If neither the starting or ending point is Budapest, expect to travel for a long time often with change in Budapest.
Intercity (IC) trains are the fastest, and they're up-to-date, well maintained and clean. They link the major cities with Budapest. Expect to pay about 550 Forints (= 2 EUR) extra fee independently from the distance for the manditory seat reservation (not in international ICs, ECs). In some cases the extra charge can be lower. Compared to the majority of Western European ticket prices, Hungary's IC trains are amongst the cheapest, with an excellent record of speed and comfort. In almost all cases they also have a restaurant car. At the weekends many students use these IC trains to commute between Budapest and other cities, so an early advance booking is recommended on Friday afternoons for the trains leaving Budapest and on Sunday evenings for trains towards Budapest. Working with a notebook is generally safe, unless it's heavy overcrowded.
Other train lines usually are not that fast, and not always cleaned up to the high standards (even in the 1st class), and often vandalised (mostly in Budapest region); however quality standards are improving. During summer trains linking Balaton to Budapest are sometimes overcrowded with the IC usually being sold out. The next choice is the gyorsvonat, or the old fast train. Pricing depends only on the distance and on the car class. Cash desks assume 2nd class by default for non-IC trains (at least in Budapest for English speakers), so if you didn't catch your IC, consider asking 1st class, paying small extra for much more comfort. When in the train, keep in mind that there are smoking and non-smoking cars--check a sign over a door inside a car.
Young people (under 26 years) may travel with 33% reduction at the weekends (Friday afternoon included). Children (under 6 years) and retired (citizens from EU countries over 65 years) can travel free except on InterCity trains where the extra fee (reservation) must be paid.
It is possible to buy Inter Rail pass for Hungary. Check whether buying tickets for each journey is cheaper.
How to check the domestic long-distance bus timetable
It's possible to plan your travel checking Volán’s online timetable. It is available only in Hungarian, but easy to use: “honnan” means ‘from’, “hová” is ‘to’; write your departure date in format year/month/day after “mikor”; leave the other parameters alone and press “keresés”, ‘search’. The results appear on the next page. (“Autóbusz állomás” will mean ‘bus station’, “naponta” is ‘daily’, while “munkanapokon” is ‘on workdays’ ).
Hungary’s national bus network is operated by 28 state run companies, united in Volán Association .Connections are frequent, prices are identical to those on non-Intercity trains. Bus lines often are more complete than train lines, the speed is quite similar. Long-distance buses are clean and safe, but often subject to delays. Buy your ticket at the station ticket desk before boarding; if you do not take your bus at a main station, purchase a ticket from the driver. It is a good idea to reserve your tickets for national holidays, Friday and Sunday evenings beforehand. Online booking is available only in Hungarian . See boxed text about how to check the timetable.
There are several scheduled riverboat and hydrofoil lines operated by MAHART PassNave Ltd. from the capital city Budapest to towns in the Danubebend, like Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom.
In the capital city there are several sightseeing and night cruises opereated by MAHART PassNave Ltd. and other shipping companys, like Legenda Ltd.
Although from May to September there is a good hydrofoil boat connection between Vienna and Budapest.
There are some ferries on Danube and Tisza but their undetermined working hours make them non-recommended. You can trust the ferry on Lake Balaton, though, for a modest price.
Most roads in Hungary are two lane apart from modern motorways. Main roads are mostly in good shape, however cracks, potholes and bumpy roads are common on minor roads and in major cities though they are constantly being repaired. Usually you can travel by using a map and the road signs.
Expressways are not free, but there are no other toll roads or tunnels. A vignette system is used, similar to that in neighboring Austria and Slovakia, but as of 2008 the vignette is stored electronically and checked for using gantries that read license plate numbers. You can purchase them in intervals of 4 days, 7 days, 1 month, or 1 year. The vignette is very important and it is a good idea to buy it even if you don't plan to use the highway. Control is automatic with videocameras and you will get a high ticket (70 000 HUF) automatically without any warning.
if you travel by normal roads the speed limit is 90 km/h between cities and 50 km/h inside, which slows you to the average around 60km/h. Roads often have high traffic (especially main roads like #8 to the west, #6 to the south and #4 to the east). On highways, travel is the same as in Germany, and on the inside lane it is very common to have someone speed by you.
When you cross the country from the west to the east (or vice versa), take into account that there are only a few bridges crossing the Danube outside Budapest. There are some ferries available though.
It is a legal requirement to drive with headlights on, even during the day -- a requirement that is becoming more common across the EU.
Hungary has a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. If you are caught driving even after only having a couple of units of alcohol you are most likely to be arrested.
There is a fast growing highway network in Hungary (1,480 km in total). Each highway starts in Budapest.
A single vignette is required to use all highways, except for M0 and short sections around major cities, which are free. Vignettes can be purchased online with bankcard on , at filling stations and at ÁAK (State Motorway Management Co.) offices. A 4-day vignette for a passenger car costs HUF 1520 (~EUR 6) during summertime. Vignettes are controlled automatically through a camera system. See or for details.
Inspect the change that taxi drivers give you. Cabbies commonly rip off tourists by giving them change in outdated Romanian currency, which looks similar to Hungarian currency, but is worthless and cannot be redeemed.
Within the city centre of Budapest, you will find there is local metro stations "BKV" throughout the capital and within proximity to many tourist attractions. However, be warned that many ticketing staff do not speak English and some times it is best to use the available ticket machine which has an English option. However, if you do plan to see a number of attractions on BKV, it is best to get a 24 hour travel card. It is valid for a full 24 hours from the time of purchase and many travellers will find that there are metro ticket checkers virtually at every stop. If you are caught with invalid fare, you will be asked to pay a fine of 6000 HUF on the spot or you'll will be taken to the police station. Alternatively, they may ask you for 40 Euros which is significantly more than 6000 HUF.
When you approach the ticketing machine, you will see a number of options. Short fare is intended for only 3 stops, regardless of which train you catch or change to. Regular fare instructions is as listed, but be sure to validate your fare or it'll be considered invalid. For more information:
Hungary has several World Heritage sites. These are:
Other major tourist destination is Lake Balaton, with winehills, thermal spa in Hévíz around.
There are also some amazing things to see.
Hungarians are rightly proud of their unique, complex, sophisticated, richly expressive language, Hungarian (Magyar pronounced "mahdyar"). It is a Uralic language most closely related to Mansi and Khanty of western Siberia. It is further sub-classified into the Finno-Ugric languages which include Finnish and Estonian; it is not at all related to any of its neighbours: the Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages belonging to the Indo-European language family. Although related to Finnish and Estonian, they are not mutually intelligible. Aside from Finnish, it is considered the most difficult "European" language for English speakers to learn with the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation being radically different. So it is not surprising that an English speaker visiting Hungary understands nothing from written or spoken Hungarian. Hungary did adopt the Roman alphabet after becoming a Catholic country in the middle ages, but most of the root words have nothing to do with Latin.
English-speakers tend to find most everything about the written language tough going, including a number of unusual sounds like gy (often pronounced like the d in "during" or as the j injury) and ű (vaguely like a long English e as in me with rounded lips), as well as agglutinative grammar that leads to fearsome-looking words like hozzáadottérték-adó (value-added tax) and viszontlátásra (goodbye). Also, the letters can very well be pronounced differently than in English: the "s" always has a "sh" sound, the "sz" has the "s" sound, and the "c" is pronounced like the English "ts", to name a few. On the upside, it is written with the familiar Roman alphabet (if adorned with lots of accents), and--unlike English--it has almost total phonemic orthography. This means that if you learn how to pronounce the 30 letters of the alphabet and the digraphs, you will be able to pronounce almost every Hungarian word properly. Just one difference in pronunciation, vowel length, or stress can lead to misinterpretation or total misunderstanding. The stress always falls on the first syllable of any word, so all the goodies on top of the vowels are pronunciation cues, and not indicators of stress, as in Spanish. Diphthongs are almost-nonexistent in Hungarian (except adopted foreign words). Just one of many profound grammatical differences from most European languages is that Hungarian does not have, nor need to have the verb "to have" in the sense of possession - the indicator of possession is attached to the possessed noun and not the possessor, e.g. Kutya = dog, Kutyám = my dog, Van egy kutyám = I have a dog, or literaly "Is one dog-my". Hungarian has a very specific case system, both grammatical, locative, oblique, and the less productive; for example a noun used as the subject has no suffix, while when used as an direct object, the letter "t" is attached as a suffix, with a vowel if necessary. One simplifying aspect of Hungarian is that there is NO grammatical gender, even with the pronouns "he" or "she", which are both "ő", so one does not have to worry about the random Der, Die, Das sort of thing that occurs in German, "the" is simply "a". In Hungarian, family name precedes given name, the same as with asian languages. And the list of differences goes on and on, such as the definite and indefinate conjugational system, vowel harmony, etc. Attempting anything beyond the very basics will gain you a great deal of respect since so few non-native Hungarians ever attempt to learn any of this small, seemingly difficult, but fascinating language.
Since English is now obligatory in schools, if you address people in their teens, twenties or lower thirties, you stand a good chance that they will speak English well enough to help you out.
However, due to Hungary's history, the older generation had less access to foreign language tuition, so your chances are worse, and with people over 50 as good as zero. A minority of Hungarians speaks Russian, which was obligatory in the Communist era, although most Hungarians are quite happy to forget it so try it only as a last resort. German is also very useful in Hungary: it is almost just as widely spoken as English, and almost universally so near the Austrian border and especially Sopron, which is officially bilingual and has huge contacts with Vienna due to it being accesible by Vienna suburban trains. In these areas, and with older people in general, German will most often take you a lot further than English.
Basically, in Hungary, you will have a much better chance finding someone speaking a foreign language (mostly English and German) in larger cities, especially in those with universities such as Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, and Szeged. In rural areas the chance may be as good as zero, in some cases even with young people, except in southwestern region of Venvidék, where there is a strong Slovenian minority speaking Slovene.
Hungary is an excellent destination for birdwatching (aka birding) holiday. There are wooded hills, vast fish-pond systems and grasslands, the puszta. Particularly good areas include the Kiskunsag and Hortobagy National Parks and the Aggtelek, Bukk and Zemplen Hills.
Vast areas of open countryside coupled with the long traditions of horsemanship make Hungary an ideal country for riding. Wide open plains in the south and forested hills in the north offer varied riding terrain.
Thermal waters abound in Hungary with over 1000 thermal springs in the country many of which have been turned into baths and spas. The most famous being the Szechenyi baths in Budapest. There are, however, hundreds of individual baths all around the country. The cave baths at Miskolc-Tapolca and the spa at Egerszalók are some nice examples.
See Budapest#Baths, Nyíregyháza#Do for details. More thermal bath and spa from Hungary:
The unit of Hungarian currency is known as the Forint (HUF). The Hungarian "cent" (Fillér) is long since obsolete. Bills come in 20000, 10000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200(until November 2009) HUF denominations, coins are 200 (two colored, similar to €1), 100 (two colored, similar to €2), 50, 20, 10, 5 HUF. As of March 1, 2008, the 2 and 1 HUF coins have been withdrawn, too.
Euro is now accepted at most hotels and some of the restaurants and shops. Make sure you check the exchange rate though, sometimes even well known places (like McDonald's) will exchange at unrealistic rates. Forint is scheduled to disappear around 2014-2015 in favor of Euro, but no date is fixed yet.
You can use major credit cards (EuroCard, Visa) in major shops and larger restaurants, but never expect that without checking first. Small places cannot afford to handle cards. ATMs are available even in small cities, the coverage is good.
While completing any monetary transactions, it is best to pay in HUF when you can. Some restaurants and hotels charge a steep rate for Euro exchange and often due to the fluctuation in HUF, cost and services stated may vary drastically.
There are 227 forints to the USD and 279 forints to the EUR (14 June 2010).
Exchange rates for EUR and USD are roughly the same within downtown (at least in Budapest and Eger). Rates will likely be much worse in airports and large train stations - so change exactly what you need to reach downtown. A good habit is to compare the buy and sell rates: if they are drastically different, you're best going somewhere else. Official exchange offices always give a receipt and normally have a large glass between client and a cashier making all steps transparent for client.
Travellers report that unofficial money changers operating nearby an official money changing booth offer unfavourable rates--and recommend to use official exchange offices. It's worth noting that such exchanges are illegal.
If you arrive to Budapest at late nights or state holidays it is quite likely you won't be able to find any working bank or exchange office. In this case you may attempt to exchange your money with any random taxi driver. They will rip you off by 100-200 forints (around 1 EUR), but it's better than nothing. There is an ATM in the arrival hall at Budapest Ferihegy, and the rates for using ATMs with a card are often better than the bureau de change. There are many banks machines in Budapest which will accept European and North American debit/credit cards, if it becomes necessary, it maybe in your best interest to draw a sufficient amount for your stay and it will often give a more much favorable rate.
Adventurous locals in Budapest report they change EUR unofficially with Arabs on a train station, but they don't recommend it to unaccompanied travelers.
Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things unique to Hungary or just hard to find elsewhere.
Main courses in menu are normally 2500..3000HUF in touristy places in Budapest, 1500..1800HUF outside it, or in towns like Eger and Szentendre (March 2009).
A lunch in Budapest is from 900 to 8000 HUF per person, and half or third of that outside Budapest (Chinese fast food menu is around 500 HUF).
In restaurants, a service charge is frequently included into bill, 10% or even 12%, but this has to be clearly pointed out on the menu. If it's not mentioned, the place has no right to include a service charge in the bill.
Even if there's no service charge, unless the service was preposterous most Hungarians tend to leave a generous tip (10% minimum). Unlike in most western countries, tip is usually not left on the table, but rather the amount is specified to the waiting staff when you pay.
There were some places (mainly in downtown Pest) that tried to rip off drunk tourists at night by charging ridiculously high prices for drinks. Most of these places are closed now, but it's still a good idea to always check the prices on the menu before ordering.
In major cities and next to the highways you can find restaurants of the major international chains such as KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway and TGI Friday's.
Hungarians are quite proud of their cuisine (Magyar konyha), and most of the time not without a reason. Food are usually spicy (but not hot by general standards), and it's tasty rather than healthy — many dishes are prepared with lard or deep-fried. The national spice is paprika, made from ground sweet bell peppers and which actually has some flavor when fresh. The national dish is, of course, goulash, but Hungarians call the thick paprika-laden stew known as goulash elsewhere by the term pörkölt and reserve the term gulyás for a lighter paprika-flavored soup.
Less well known in the rest of the world are paprikás csirke, chicken in paprika sauce, and halászlé, paprika fish soup often made from carp.
Goose is also quite popular in Hungary. While tourists gorge on goose liver (libamáj), still cheap by Western standards, probably the most common dish is sült libacomb, roast goose leg. Stuffed (töltött) vegetables of all kinds are also popular, and Hungarian pancakes (palacsinta), both savoury and sweet, are a treat. Common snacks include kolbász, a Hungarianized version of the Polish kielbasa sausage, and lángos, deep-fried dough with a variety of toppings (mostly sour cream, cheese and/or garlic).
A Hungarian meal is almost always — even at breakfast — accompanied by Hungarian pickles called savanyúság, literally "sourness". These are often dubbed saláta on menus, so order a vitamin saláta if you want fresh veggies. Starch is most often served as potatoes, rice or dumplings (galuska' or nokedli), the primary Hungarian contribution in this field is an unusual type of small couscous-like pasta called tarhonya.
It is worth to visit a "Cukrászda" if you are in Hungary. These are very popular with delicious cakes and coffee. Try the traditional Krémes (with vanila cream), Eszterházy (lots of nuts) or Somlói Galuska. You should visit Auguszt, Szamos or Daubner if you want the best! Daubner is a little out of the way, Auguszt Cukrászda is an absolute must. They have a shop downtown near Astoria metro station, founded in 1969.
Another favourite is Langos, it is basically deep fried bread, similar to "whales-tail or beaver-tail" but in Hungary, it can be served with any fillings imaginable. If you do come across a Langos stand, there are usually a large number of options from pizza langos, or eggs with mayo or nutella and bananas.
Vegetarians and Vegans will have about as much ease eating out as in any other western country. Budapest is not a problem, as there is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, but in an ordinary Hungarian restaurant the non-meat mains on the menu are pretty much limited to rántott sajt (fried cheese) and gombafejek rántva (fried mushrooms).
However, in recent years, Italian food has become a lot more popular, so as long as you don't mind a pasta heavy diet as a vegetarian you will find a wider choice.
If one self-caters from supermarkets or local shops and markets, however, the selection of fruits and vegetables is quite good, especially in summer.
There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and a lot's of healthfood stores that offer all sorts of vegetarian/vegan products (including cosmetics). Regular stores like Groby among other brands sell everything from vegan sausages to mayonaise. A good place to start is looking at Budaveg and Happy Cow for specific information.
Over all, apply the same rules as you do at home, and you should be well fed.
Hungary has several famous vine regions, most known are Villány, Eger, Badacsony, Tokaj, Szekszárd. Prices are reasonable.
If new to Hungarian wine, be aware that both champagne ("pezsgő") and wine, red or white, are quite likely to be sweet ("Édes"). If dry wine is your preference, look for the word "Száraz" on the label. When buying bottled wine, don't bother with types cheaper than 6-700 HUF, as these are usually very low quality (maybe not even produced from grapes). In wine cellars, however, high quality may be available at surprisingly low prices.
In Hungarian, pálinka denotes strong brandy-like liquor distilled from fruit. Pálinka is a very social drink: just as the English drink tea, the Hungarians, especially in rural areas, will offer pálinka to guests upon arrival. The best-known varieties are barackpálinka, made from peaches, körtepálinka from pears, and szilvapálinka made from plums. Factory-made pálinka is widely available, but keep an eye out for homemade házipálinka. Pálinkas usually contain around or above 40% of alcohol, often more for the homemade ones. Pálinka bottles marked mézes will be heavily sweetened with honey. (HUF 3000 for something good)
Unicum is a strong digestif made from a secret mix of over 40 herbs. It comes in striking black bottles emblazoned with a red and white cross, and has a very strong and unusual taste. Unicum Next has a lighter, citrusy flavor, and is rather more palatable. Definitely worth trying, the bottle itself may also be used for decoration, and keeps very well for a long time.
Hungarian beer is quite average compared to other Central European countries like Germany and the Czech Republic as it has long been a wine culture. The most common beers are Dreher, Szalon, Borsodi, Soproni and Arany Ászok, available in the styles világos (lager) and barna (brown). They cost about 200-300 Forints at a store and 400-600 at a bar. Some expensive club can charge up to 900 in Budapest.
Imported beers like Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budweiser-Budvar (the Czech variety) are widely available in bars and markets for not much more than the ubiquitous Hungarian brands. If you have to try only one Hungarian beer, your choice should go for Dreher Bak, the best Hungarian beer for many.
When offering a toast with beer, be warned that most Hungarians will politely refuse. This is due to an old tradition due to remembering soldiers killed in the 1848 revolution, whereby it was decreed no Hungarian would toast with beer for 150 years. It's been so long, however, that most Hungarians no longer know the origins of this tradition or that they've been free to make toasts over beer for the past ten years.
Cafe culture is alive and well in Hungary, although it may never recover the romance of its turn-of-the-century intellectual heyday. Unless asked, it's a good idea to specify what kind of coffee you prefer. The word kávé means the strong, espresso like coffee to most Hungarians, although American-style coffee (known as hosszú kávé in Hungarian, usually translated as "long coffee") is now also available at most places.
Tea houses are now getting popular in cities, especially among the young. There is a growing number of tea houses, mainly in Budapest and some bigger cities where people can buy several types of loose tea. As it is quite fashionable to spend time in a tea house, more and more people will be able to serve good tea even at home. The best teas to go for are the herbal and fruit varieties. In restaurants and cafes, lemon juice is frequently served in a small bottle. In traditional restaurants or cafes however, good teas are hard to find, as coffee and beverages are preferred.
When you ask for a black tea in a budget cafe, frequently Earl Grey is served instead--remember to specify if that does matter for you.
It should be noted though that as it is the case of most European countries, in Hungary, it is safe to drink tap water anywhere, even 'remote' settings.
Prices vary greatly. For the cheapest room in a youth hostel in Budapest expect to pay between €10 and €12, but the normal rate in a hostel is €20-22 per person.
Village Tourism is popular and very well developed in Hungary, and can be a remarkable experience. Start your research with 1Hungary , National Federation of Rural and Agrotourism and Centre of Rural Tourism . Near Budapest it is also possible to find rural houses to rent, for instance the Wild Grape Guesthouse , what makes a good combination to explore the capital and a National Park while staying at the same accommodation.
There are campgrounds available. See the city guides, including the Budapest guide.
Hungarian universities are open to all foreign students. Many European exchange students come through the EU's Erasmus program. There are quite a lot students from Asia and the Middle East as well, particularly because despite the high standard of education, fees are still considerably lower than in the more developed Western European countries. Interested should visit Study in Hungary or University of Debrecen websites.
It could be very difficult for an individual to seek (legal) employment in Hungary because of the complexity, cost and time involved. Most foreign workers in Hungary have received their visas and other necessary documents through the company they are employed by. It is hoped, however, that since the joining of Hungary to the EU a reduction will follow in the amount of red tape involved.
Many students (usually on a gap year) work as second language teachers at one of Budapest's many language schools. Be advised that a qualification is required (ESL/TEFL/TESOL) and that experience is preferred.
An excellent option is to teach through the Central European Teaching Program . For a reasonable placement fee they will take care of all your paperwork and set you up in a school in Hungary teaching English. Contracts are for one semester or a whole school year.
See also Work section in Budapest article.
Watch your baggage and pockets on public transport. There is a danger of pickpockets.
There are some reported cases when people got their baggage stolen while sleeping on the train so watch out for that.
Generally, Hungary is rather quiet during the night compared to other European countries, and crime to tourists restricts to pickpocketing and eventual cheating on prices and bills and taxi fares.
Chances are slim, but Indian and South American travellers might encounter hostility because of being misrecognized as the local Roma minority, generally discriminated against in Hungary.
Food and water is generally safe.
Private health care providers are good quality but limited in scope. Dentistry is cheaper here than in Western Europe (8-10000 HUF for an appointment and x-ray), and physiotherapy also (3000HUF for a half hour treatment), but check the price with the provider before you confirm the appointment. Outside Budapest you will very likely have to speak Hungarian to communicate your needs as few doctors will have any English or German skills.
Public health care is free for qualifying (insured) people, but varies in quality.
The country has joined the EU, so basic coverage is present for EU citizens, but check before entering the country how far are you insured and what you have to pay for. Do not expect at this time that the local doctor will know the EU rules, prepare to provide info.
The European Health Insurance Card is required from EU citizens applying for free treatment under this regulation; European health card for 1 June 2004
Pharmacies are everywhere, you may expect high prices, but very good pharmaceutical coverage. The only problem might be communicating with the pharmacist as most of them speak only Hungarian outside Budapest. Even some rusty Latin might come handy quite unexpectedly. For travellers from Eastern Europe, note that due to limited or abandoned trade of Hungary with Romania (as of Dec 2006), some of familiar medications are unavailable--so be prepared to find a substitute in advance.