Not a huge country with 10 million inhabitants and disparaged because of its eastern block reputation Hungary is often overlooked by travellers. Nothing could be further from the truth! The lakeside resorts, picturesque architecture and good food and wine make Hungary an attractive country to visit on your travels.
This country makes quite a good gentle introduction to travelling into Eastern Europe. Hungary has in recent years expanded its tourist related infrastructure so you will find more in the way of tourist accommodation and more people able to speak English than in other areas of Eastern Europe.
- Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF) = 100 fillér
- Time Zone: GMT + 1
- Language: Hungarian (Magyar), German
- Telephone Services: Country code +36, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 107 Police, 104 Ambulance, 105 Fire
From June to August the weather is typically very warm, the spring and autumn are generally quite mild whilst winters are very cold. Hungary is quite a rainy country and it is likely to rain all year round.
Things to see and do
Budapest is the key attraction in Hungary, the capital is often nicknamed as the !Paris of Eastern Europe! but Budapest has a much stronger early 1900s feel to it. The Castle District is normally the first thing to attract visitors and contains the Fishermen’s Bastion with it’s seven forbidding turrets. Travellers wanting to experience something a little more out of the tourist track could investigate Obuda, the part of Budapest which contains several Roman ruins and the Kiscelli Museum. Most tourists couldn’t possibly leave Budapest without taking a boat ride on the Danube.
Eger is a very highly recommended site, the town is a beautifully preserved collection of Baroque architecture including the Eger Cathedral with its 40m tall minaret. The town is home to the famous Bull’s Blood Wine and no traveller should really leave Eger without trying it. The centre of this city is closed to traffic and boasts over 170 protected or historical buildings. This makes Eger good for exploring on foot, this really is the best way to discover all the towns hidden gems.
Lake Batalan is an oblong Lake just a couple of hours drive from Budapest. The lake is one of the largest in Europe and is often referred to as "the natives' playground". The south shore of this lake is a plethora of high-rise hotels and beach resorts. If however you tire of the club 18-30 lifestyle you can always venture to the north coast where you will find much more refined resorts like Balantonfured, less glitz and better wine.
The trains in Hungary are comparatively western and are generally comfortable, efficient and reliable. The network is somewhat radial so you may have to use Budapest or another larger city as a hub when travelling between some towns. Prices in general are quite cheap although you do need to pay a supplement to travel on inter-city trains (IC).
You should always buy your ticket at the station since buying a ticket on the train attracts a hefty price increase. A station should also be able to give you a seat reservation for a small supplement. On some trains such as Express trains (EX) this reservation is compulsory. If a reservation is compulsory it will be indicated on the timetable by means of a red R.
All major European rail passes (Eurail, Interail etc.) are valid in Hungary so this really represents the most inexpensive way to do any travelling in Hungary.
Trains are a good option to get around but if you want to go a little more out of the way you may need to use buses. Buses are generally cheap and reliable and tickets are normally purchased from the driver when boarding the bus. Local buses that operate within a town leave from the városiautóbusz pályaudvar which is Hungarian for local bus-station. Intercity and international buses run from the távolságiautóbusz pályaudvar or long distance bus-station.
Hungary welcomes tourism from the West so you will find service in all classes of lodgings in Hungary to be hospitable and friendly. As well as the usual hotels Hungary also provide tourist hostels which are normally 4 person rooms with basic facilities. These are regulated by the Hungarian Hostel Association and more information can be found on their website.
Guest-houses and bed and breakfasts are common in Hungary and generally very inexpensive. This means for spending a few quid over a hostel you can get a much more comfortable room and get to know some locals.
There are 24 youth hostels in Hungary and these are regulated by the Hungarian Youth Hostels Association, detail and listings can be found on their website. The hostels in Hungary are very cheap and you should be able to get a bed in a dorm for under Ł5.
The NHS has a bilateral agreement with the Hungarian health service so British Nationals are entitled to emergency healthcare free of charge. Any other treatment however must be paid for so be sure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
There are no known health problems although if you intend to spend time in forested areas during the summer you are advised to discuss tick-born encephalitis immunisations. The tap water is considered safe to drink and normal everyday precautions should be taken with food.
The Hungarian tourist board offer tourist information and travel tips for visitors to Hungary.
The Hungarian Hostels Associations maintains a list of tourist hostels throughout Hungary.
The Hungarian Youth Hostels Association publishes information, listings and booking information on the 24 youth hostels in Hungary.