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Introduction to Hungary

Hungary is a heart-stealer; it will lure you back again and again to sample its rich wines, lounge in its thermal spas, gaze at its birdlife and make one more attempt to master its hermetic language. It has all the luxury of western Europe with a Magyar twist and at half the cost.

Its graceful capital Budapest has a lively arts, cafe and music scene, and is host to a range of cultural and sporting festivals. In the countryside you'll find majestic plains, resort-lined lakes, Baroque towns, horse markets and rustic villages.

For those in search of the heart and soul of Europe, there's nowhere better. Hungarians, who call themselves Magyars, speak a language and revel in a culture unlike any other. Away from the cosmopolitan charms of Budapest, life in the provinces is more redolent of times past - simpler, slower, often friendlier. There are endless opportunities for those with special interests - from horse riding and cycling to bird-watching and 'taking the waters' at the country's many thermal spas.

Full country name: Republic of Hungary

Area: 92,966 sq km

Population: 10.1 million

Capital City: Budapest

People: 89.9% Hungarian, 4% Roma, 2.6% German, 0.8% Slovak, 0.7% Romanian

Language: Hungarian, German

Religion: 68% Roman Catholic, 21% Reformed (Calvinist) Protestant, 6% Evangelical (Lutheran), 5% other

Government: parliamentary democracy

Head of State: President Ferenc Mádl

Head of Government: Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany

GDP: US$134 billion

GDP per capita: US$13,300

Annual Growth: 5%

Inflation: 5%

Major Industries: Mining, metallurgy, agriculture, construction materials, processed foods, textiles,chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals) and motor vehicles

Major Trading Partners: Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Citizens of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, some asian countries and most European countries don't require visas. Nationals from these countries can stay in Hungary for a maximum period of 90 days during the six months following the date of first entry into Hungary. A separate permit is required for longer stays. Visas are not available at the Hungarian border or Hungarian airports.

Health risks: leeches & ticks (Always check your entire body after walking through a potentially tick-infested area, as ticks can cause skin infections and more serious diseases. Adult ticks suck blood from hosts by burying their head into skin, but they are often found unattached and can simply be brushed off. Avoid pulling the rear of the body, as this may squeeze the tick's gut contents through the attached mouth parts into the skin, increasing the risk of infection and disease. To remove an attached tick, use a pair of tweezers, grab it by the head and gently pull it straight out - do not twist it. (If no tweezers are available, use your fingers, but protect them from contamination with a piece of paper.) Do not rub oil, alcohol or petroleum jelly on it. If you get sick in the next couple of weeks, consult a doctor)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 (Central European Time)

Dialling Code: 36

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

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Hungary's major celebration is the Budapest Spring Festival in March, a two-week cultural extravaganza of local and international performances, conferences and exhibitions. Other important events include: the Budapest Film Festival (February), which premieres new Hungarian films; Busójárás (February also), the nation's top Mardi Gras; Sopron Festival Weeks (June/July), showcasing ancient music and dance performances; the Nagykálló (Folk Arts Festival) (August), one of the biggest and best events of the year, and Debrecen (Jazz Days)(September) is Hungary's top jazz festival.

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Best time to Visit

Though it can be pretty wet in May and June, spring is just glorious in Hungary. The Hungarian summer is warm, sunny and unusually long, but the resorts are very crowded in late July and August. Like Paris and Rome, Budapest comes to a halt in August (called 'the cucumber-growing season' here because that's about the only thing happening).

Autumn is beautiful, particularly in the hills around Budapest and in the Northern Uplands. November is one of the rainiest months of the year, however. Winter is cold, often bleak and museums and other tourist sights are often closed. Animal lovers might also want to skip this season: many of the women are draped in furry dead things throughout the winter.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Forint


Budget: Ft500-1200

Mid-range: Ft1200-1500

High: Ft1500-2500

Deluxe: Ft2500+


Budget: €5-40

Mid-range: €40-90

High: €90-130

Deluxe: €130+

Hungary remains a bargain destination for foreign travellers. If you stay in private rooms, eat at medium-priced restaurants and travel 2nd-class on trains, you should get away on about US$25 a day without scrimping. Those putting up in hostels, dormitories or camping grounds and eating at self-service restaurants or food stalls will cut costs substantially.

You can exchange cash and travellers' cheques up to 30,000 Ft at banks and travel agents, usually for a commission of 1% to 2%. Post offices almost always change cash, but rarely cheques. ATMs accepting credit and debit cards can be found throughout the country, but it's always useful to carry a little foreign cash, preferably US dollars or Euros in case your plastic doesn't work. Credit cards can be used in up-market restaurants, shops, hotels, car rental firms, travel agencies and petrol stations.

Hungary is a very tip-conscious society and virtually everyone routinely tips waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers and even doctors, dentists and petrol-station attendants about 10%. Not leaving a tip, or leaving a very small tip, is a strong signal that you were less than impressed with the service. Never leave money on the table in a restaurant: tell the waiter how much money you want to leave as a tip as you are paying the bill. Bargaining is not the done thing in Hungary, but you can try a little gentle haggling in flea markets or with individuals selling folk crafts.

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With its multifarious and often embittered history, incredible architecture and rich cultural heritage, Hungary's capital deserves its reputation as the 'Paris of Eastern Europe'. It has a complex identity, somewhere between Western luxury and simple traditions.

Budapest's highlights include a cruise along the Danube, strolling along the riverfront or across romantic bridges, browsing through antique bookshops and jewellery stores, or 'taking the waters' at one of the city's many spas. The city is well laid-out, rarely confusing, and ideal for walking.


Although a long day trip from Budapest (128km/80mi), Eger warrants a visit. It's a beautifully preserved baroque town, with a relaxed, Mediterranean feel. It's flanked by two of the Northern Uplands' splendid ranges of hills and is also home to the celebrated Egri Bikavér (Eger Bull's Blood) wine.

Hungarians like to visit Eger because it was here that their ancestors fended off the Turks for the first time during the 170 years of Turkish occupation. The city has something interesting around every corner and is close dto traffic in the centre, making it perfect for negotiating on foot.

Lake Balaton

This oblong lake is one of the largest in Europe. Often called 'the nation's playground,' Balaton is divided into the south shore, one long resort of high-rise hotels and minuscule beaches, and the less glitzy north shore, offering more historical towns and sights, mountain trails and better wines.

Dominating the south is Siófok, the largest of Balaton's resorts, a Dionysian place of eating, drinking, swimming, sunbathing and the like. The north's oldest and most popular resort is Balantonfüred, a sophisticated, yet peaceful place with a bohemian feel. Balaton is 100km (62mi) from Budapest.


Lying equidistant from the Danube and the Dráva rivers in Southern Transdanubia, Pécs is one of the most interesting cities in Hungary. Blessed with a mild climate, it has an illustrious past, superb museums and some of the finest Turkish monuments in the country.

Music, opera, ballet, and Hungary's best leatherwork are some of the cultural gems of the city. Its symbol is the Mosque Church, the largest building from the Turkish occupation still standing in Hungary. The square mosque, with an octagonal green copper dome, was built in the mid-16th century.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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