Practical information Hungary


Public Holidays in Hungary

  • 1st January - New Year
  • 15th March - National Day (commemorates the revolution and war of independence in 1848/49 against the Habsburg rule)
  • Easter Monday
  • 1st May - Labour Day
  • Whit Monday
  • 20th August - Constitution Day (commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state and king St. Stephen)
  • 23rd October - Republic Day (commemorates the 1956 revolution against the communist regime)
  • 1st November - All Saints' Day
  • 24th December - Christmas Eve
  • 25th-26th December - Christmas


Money


forint-penz-d00011c5737eda69b9ae4 20120409 1476714873The Hungarian currency is the forint (Ft) and today there are coins of 5Ft, 10Ft, 20Ft, 50Ft, 100Ft and 200Ft. Notes come in six denominations: 500Ft, 1000Ft, 2000Ft, 5000Ft, 10,000Ft and 20,000Ft.


The hero of the independence wars, Ferenc Rákóczi II, and Sárospatak Castle are on the burgundy-coloured 500Ft note.


The 1000Ft note is blue and bears a portrait of King Matthias Corvinus, with Hercules Well at Visegrád Castle on the verso. The 17th-century prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen is on his own on one side of the 2000Ft bill and meeting with his advisers on the other.


The 'greatest Hungarian', Count István Széchenyi, and his family home at Nagycenk are on the purple 5000Ft note. The 10,000Ft bears a likeness of King Stephen, with a scene in Esztergom appearing on the other side. The 20,000Ft note, currently the highest denomination, has Ferenc Deák, the architect of the 1867 Compromise, on the recto and the erstwhile House of Commons in Pest (now the Italian Institute of Culture in Bródy Sándor utca) on the verso.


Credit cards


Credit cards, especially Visa, MasterCard and American Express, are widely accepted in Hungary, and you'll be able to use them at many restaurants, shops, hotels, car-rental firms, travel agencies and petrol stations. They are not usually accepted at museums or train and bus stations.


Changing money


It is easy to change money at banks, post offices, tourist offices, travel agencies and private exchange offices. Look for the words valuta (foreign currency) and váltó (exchange) to guide you to the correct place or window.


There's no black market in Hungary to speak of but exchange rates can vary substantially, so it pays to keep your eyes open. And while the forint is a totally convertible currency, you should avoid changing too much as it will be difficult exchanging it beyond the borders of Hungary and its immediate neighbours.


Taxes & refunds


ÁFA, a value-added tax of 25%, covers the purchase of all new goods in Hungary. It's usually included in the price but not always, so it pays to check. Visitors are not exempt, but non-EU residents can claim refunds for total purchases of at least 50,000Ft on one receipt, as long as they take the goods out of the country (and the EU) within 90 days. The ÁFA receipts (available from where you made the purchases) should be stamped by customs at the border, and the claim has to be made within 183 days of exporting the goods. You can then collect your refund - minus commission - from the tax refund desk in the departures halls of Terminal 2A and 2B at Ferihegy International Airport in Budapest, or branches of the Ibusz chain of travel agencies at some 16 border crossings. You can also have it sent by bank cheque or deposited into your credit-card account.


Tipping


Hungary is a very tip-conscious society, and virtually everyone routinely tips waiters, hairdressers and taxi drivers. Doctors and dentists accept 'gratitude money', and even petrol station attendants who pump your petrol and thermal spa attendants who walk you to your changing cabin expect something. If you were less than impressed with the service at the restaurant, the joyride in the taxi or the way your hair was cut, leave next to nothing or nothing at all. He or she will get the message - loud and clear.


The way you tip in restaurants is unusual. You never leave the money on the table - this is considered both rude and stupid in Hungary - but tell the waiter how much you're paying in total. If the bill is, say, 2700Ft, you're paying with a 5000Ft note and you think the waiter deserves a gratuity of around 10%, first ask if service is included (some restaurants in Budapest and other big cities add it to the bill automatic- ally, which makes tipping unnecessary). If it isn't, say you're paying 3000Ft or that you want 2000Ft back.

Health
Recommended vaccinations


Hungary doesn't require any vaccination of international travellers, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of their destination. Since most vaccines don't produce immunity until at least two weeks after they're given, visit a physician or clinic at least six weeks before departure.


In transit
Deep vein thrombosis


Blood clots may form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) during plane flights, chiefly because of prolonged immobility. The longer the flight, the greater the risk. The chief symptom of DVT is swelling or pain in the foot, ankle or calf - usually but not always - on just one side. When a blood clot travels to the lungs, it may cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. Travellers with any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.


To prevent the development of DVT on long-haul flights, you should walk about the cabin, contract the leg muscles while sitting, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.


Jet lag & motion sickness


To avoid jet lag, which is common when crossing more than five time zones, you should drink plenty of nonalchoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
Antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine (Antivert, Bonine) are usually the first choice for treating motion sickness. A herbal alternative is ginger.


While you're there
Availability & cost of health care


Medical care in Hungary is generally adequate and good for routine problems but not complicated conditions. Treatment at a rendel? intézet (public outpatient clinic) costs little, but doctors working privately will charge much more. Very roughly, a consultation in an orvosi rendel? (doctor's surgery) costs from 5000Ft while a home visit is from 10,000Ft.


Most large towns and all of Budapest's 23 districts have a gyógyszertár or patika (rotating 24-hour pharmacy). A sign on the door of any pharmacy will help you locate the closest one.


Infectious diseases


Tickborne encephalitis is spread by kullancs (ticks), which burrow under the skin; in recent years, it has become a common problem in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, especially eastern Austria, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Encephalitis is a serious infection of the brain, and vaccination is advised for campers and hikers, particularly in Transdanubia and the Northern Uplands between May and September. For up-to-date information log on to www.masta.org/tickalert.


Lyme disease is another tick-transmitted infection not unknown in Central and Eastern Europe. The illness usually begins with a spreading rash at the site of the tick bite and is accompanied by fever, headaches, extreme fatigue, aching joints and muscles and mild neck stiffness. If untreated, these symptoms usually resolve over several weeks, but over subsequent weeks or months disorders of the nervous system, heart and joints might develop.
Poliomyelitis is spread through contaminated food and water. It's one of the vaccines given in childhood and should be boosted every 10 years, either orally or by injection.


Typhoid and hepatitis A are spread through contaminated food (particularly shellfish) and water. Typhoid can cause septicaemia; hepatitis A causes liver inflammation and jaundice. Neither is usually fatal, but recovery can be prolonged. Typhoid vaccine (typhim Vi, typherix) will give protection for three years. In some countries, the oral vaccine Vivotif is also available. Hepatitis A vaccine (Avaxim, VAQTA, Havrix) is given as an injection; a single dose will give protection for up to a year, a booster after a year gives 10 years' protection. Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines can also be given as a single dose vaccine, hepatyrix or viatim.


Rabies is spread through bites or licks on broken skin from an infected animal and is always fatal unless treated. Three injections are needed over a month. If you have not been vaccinated, you will need a course of five injections starting 24 hours or as soon as possible after the injury.


Insect bites & stings


Mosquitoes are a real scourge around Hungary's lakes and rivers in summer; the blood-thirsty beasties might not carry malaria but can still cause irritation and infection. Just make sure you're armed with a DEET-based insect repellent, or rovarirtó, and wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers around sundown


Bees and wasps cause real problems only to those with a severe allergy (anaphylaxis). They should carry an 'epipen' or similar adrenaline injection.


Water


Tap water is of course absolutely safe to drink in Hungary. However, Hungary has exceptionally good mineral water resources so you might want to drink bottled water instead – it’s cheap and can be found anywhere.


Women's health


If using oral contraceptives, remember that some antibiotics, diarrhoea and vomiting can stop the pill from working and lead to the risk of pregnancy. Time zones, gastro-intestinal upsets and antibiotics do not affect injectable contraception.


Travelling during pregnancy is usually possible but always consult your doctor before planning your trip. The riskiest times for travel are during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and after 30 weeks.


Sexual health


The numbers of registered AIDS cases in Hungary and those who are HIV-positive are relatively low (just over 1100), though Hungarian epidemiologists estimate the actual number of those infected with HIV to be around 3000 or more. Two AIDS lines to contact inBudapest are the Anonymous AIDS Association(1-466-9283; 5-8pm Mon, Wed & Thu, 9am-noon Tue & Fri) and the AIDS helpline (1-338 2419, 266 0465; 8am-3pm Mon-Thu, 8am-1pm Fri), with some English spoken.


Dangers & annoyances


As a traveller, you are most vulnerable to pickpockets, dishonest waiters, car thieves and the scams of the capital's so-called konzumlányok, attractive 'consume girls' in collusion with rip-off bars and clubs who will see you relieved of a serious chunk of money.


Pick pocketing is most common at popular tourist sights, near major hotels, in flea markets and on certain forms of public transport in Budapest. The usual method on the street is for someone to distract you by running into you and then apologising profusely - as an accomplice takes off with the goods.


It is not unknown for waiters to try to rip you off once they see/hear that you are a foreigner. They may try to bring you an unordered dish or make a 'mistake' when tallying the bill. If you think there's a discrepancy, ask for the menu and check the bill carefully. If you've been taken for more than 15% or 20% of the bill, call for the manager. Otherwise just don't leave a tip.


Most Hungarian car thieves are not after fancy Western models because of the difficulty in getting rid of them. But Volkswagens, Audis and the like are very popular, and are easy to dismantle and ship abroad. Don't leave anything of value, including luggage, inside the car.