Hungary Travel Guide

Are you thinking about taking a trip to Hungary? Whether you have already decided to go, or haven't quite yet, we are here to help you with some useful tips. We've put together an essential travel guide which covers everything you need to know.

Sometimes it can be difficult to choose where to go when you're planning a vacation. And, whether you have visited Hungary before, or it will be your first time, our guide will help you to get the most out of your trip.

Areas we have covered in our guide:

  • A bit about the history of Hungary
  • The best places to visit
  • How to get to Hungary
  • Where to stay and the average hotel prices
  • Dining out
  • Visas
  • Driving in Hungary

Where East meets West, a city of two halves, Hungary leaves you wanting more.

Welcome to this brief, but by no means less meaningful, travel guide in the magnificent country of Hungary. Known for its spectacular scenery and history, it pays homage to both the past and present.

Landlocked it has no fewer than seven diverse bordering neighbors. This great land is a crucial central nation to this part of Mitteleuropa (Middle Europe). Hungary is much more than the city of Budapest alone. There are plenty of hidden treasures tucked away in some of the outer regions of this country too.

Some of Europe’s most exquisite cuisine is here too, meaty, flavored and very delicious. It has one or two excellent sweet wines as well. Hungary's culture is thought-provoking, having been touched by many nomads during its history. It seems to give the place an exotic but vibrant consciousness.

A very brief history of Hungary

The country has had a rich and varied occupied past dating back to the Roman empire and the times of the Huns. During the Medieval times, Hungary gained a name for itself across Europe, by winning many battles on foreign soils.

Many Princes and Kings ruled during the Middle Ages. In the latter part of the 16th century, the Principality of Transylvania came into being. It was an extension for the statehood of the Crown during the Ottoman wars. It was an independent state and the object of many legends.

The country has had its fair share of uprisings and changes in power. Wars across many parts of Europe have affected its history. The Twenty Century saw two world wars which had the country bending to outside influence.

Following decades of occupation by Germany and the Soviet Union, in 1989, Hungary became known as the Hungarian Republic. Later, in 2012, it took its name 'Hungary.' In 2004, it then became a member of the European Union.

It no longer has a royal family and is currently a parliamentary democracy and a republic.

The people and the country

Most Hungarians enjoy a high standard of living and a good quality of life. The health and social security systems are excellent, as is the schooling system. The universities offer free-tuition education to its citizens.

Hungary is less crowded than most countries. Its population is shy of 10 million people and it has a landmass of 90,000 sq. kilometers. This state in Eastern Europe has striking scenery, hilly terrain, and low mountains. The mountains form part of the Eastern Alps.

The country offers a lush green and stunning landscape. Away from the capital of Budapest you will find more than a thousand lakes. The largest of these is Balaton, to the Southwest. It stretches some 77km in length with many summer resort towns close-by.

Find your way to the hills to the North of the country to locate Panonhalma Abbey. From here you will find spectacular views of the dramatic countryside to the South.

During the second century, the Romans discovered thermal waters. The Hungarians have made the most of this resource in various locations.  There are some estimated 1,300 thermal springs in Hungary; a third of which are being used as spas. Wellness centers are also popular. There is a full spectrum of services available such as day spas and water parks for kids (and adults).

Hungary has its seasons, warm summers, rain, and snowy winters. Much as you would expect from your four seasons, Highs can average at 23 to 28°C (73 to 82 °F) and Lows -3 to -7°C (27 to 19 °F).

The native spoken tongue is Hungarian which is part of the Uralic family of languages.

The local currency is the Forint (HUF, a stable monetary system with 320 HUF (approx.) to one Euro and 280 HUF to the US Dollar).

Getting there and getting around

The most straightforward route is by air into Hungary via the main airport at Budapest. Sometimes referred to as Ferihegy, it serves more than 13 million passengers a year. Debrecen International Airport (to the West) covers flights from many key European cities.

The roads are good in Hungary with an extensive road system. They drive on the right-hand side of the road as does all mainland Europe. Speed limits are displayed in kilometers per hour. Most visitors can use the driving license issued from their home country (it is worth checking to be sure). Drivers wishing to use the motorways will need to buy a pass (available at fuel stations). Enforcement is via automated video camera system. Get to know the road signs system. Without it you may hit problems, quite literally! - https://traffic-rules.com/en/hungary/traffic-signs

Drink driving is not tolerated in Hungary. If caught, anyone who has the mere whiff of alcohol on them will get a hefty fine.

The rail system is modern. It is a great way to get around and see the country, and the network has a broad and even coverage serving most areas. The train services are punctual and offer comfort at various levels. The operators, MAV, provide free WiFi as part of their service on most trains.

Budapest has its own Metro transit system allowing you to cross most of the city with ease.

Mobile phones and the Internet

The international telephone code prefix is +36.

Cell phone coverage and packages are mixed within a competitive market. Local SIM cards are available and are comparable with most European countries. Most mobile packages from your home country are a lot more 'roam-friendly' these days. It will not be too long before, travel and mobile phone use will be less of an issue as it has been in previous years gone.

The Internet services in Hungary are good and are getting a significant upgrade in 2019. The Hungarians claim their networks are as fast as those in other parts of Western Europe. Hotels, cafes, and restaurants generally offer free or low-cost WiFi services.

Bars and coffee house culture

A visit to one of the popular cafés is a must for a real authentic experience of Hungarian life. The social atmosphere is a great way to get in amongst the local people. Coffee drinking is a good leveler between classes. To get that genuine Hungarian coffee house/bar experience, you need to travel further the than the local Starbucks and Costa establishments. These only present a carbon copy of the same place, same look, in a different city. Search out the real deal, keep your eyes peeled and duck into one of these stylish and unique cafes. The large, majestic, and lavish coffee houses are long gone so finding them can be a little less obvious. Hungary is near the peak of the chart when it comes to the world top coffee drinkers. So, finding a place with originality should only be a short search away.

Popular destination

Budapest is the biggest draw for most tourists coming to the country. It has over 10 million visitors each year!

There are two areas of the capital city of Budapest. The old medieval town of Buda and the neoclassic The river Danube divides them. The city sprawls over hillsides to the West overlooking the East. It has both a modern European feeling and that of an exotic past. The architecture shows off the greatness of generations of proud Hungarians. It grants both an optimistic present in the here and now, with a respectful view of past achievements.

Where to stay in Budapest

Top end - The Four Seasons Hotel occupies the Gresham Palace on the bank of the scenic and stunning Danube. This location offers the finest in luxury accommodation. The price you can expect to pay is from €330 upward per night.

Medium price - With accommodation fees of between €50 - €80 per night stay, the Casati Budapest, Pest-Buda - Design Boutique and Maison Bistro & Hotel, is perfectly located in the city center.

Budget cost - There are many hostels in the city and all start from around €10 per night. The Retox Party Hostel, Adagio Hostel and Unity Hostel all have good reviews.

What else to do in Budapest

The Gellért Baths is a sight to see - The Art Nouveau architecture of the building is worth much more than the entrance fee alone. The facilities are far-ranging and appeal to all ages. From saunas and plunge pools to an open-air wave pool and effervescent swimming bath.

Shoes on the Danube Bank - The harrowing Jews riverside memorial for those killed in World War II is a thought-provoking monument. The shoes left behind of those killed and dropped into the river are encapsulated forever in cast-iron tribute and memory to those who should never be forgotten.

The Fisherman’s Bastion is a neo-Gothic castle looking building which wouldn’t go amiss in a Disney movie. From here you get a panoramic view of the river Danube, the Pest side of the city and Margaret Island.

Budapest has much to offer, history, fun, and outstanding beauty.

Hungary for more?

Lake Balaton is Europe’s largest freshwater lake and the number one summer resort. Situated to the Southwest of Budapest (often referred to as the Sea of Hungary) the grass-covered beach is an ideal place to picnic, swim or see the local historic towns and villages. Or, you can take a seat on one of the gentle hillsides bordering the lake and watch the sail-boats go by in a surreal backdrop. The outlook offers a multi-depth of view, sometimes confusing the eyes by the shear scale of the area. The distant boats almost look like children’s toys.

There are many wine growers around the lake, giving the sense you have arrived in the perfect place - if wine is your thing. The Tokaj region is famous for its sweet dessert wine, and the practice dates back more than a thousand years. Look out for wine tasting events (remember the drink driving laws) during the summer months. Food and entertainment is laid on at these events. Remember also to help the local economy by buying the produce on sale; you will not be disappointed.

On the South side and towards the top end of Lake Balaton is the party town of Siófok. Its night time activities are famous! The city offers a rich experience of Hungarian life.

Hortobágy National Park is located on the Great Plains of Hungary toward the East of the country. You might find this area so different when you visit you'll think you have been taken to another place and time! The Przewalski Horses are semi-wild and a rare and endangered breed. The 75,000 hectares are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The official website for the park is - http://www.hnp.hu/en

There is plenty of accommodation in the region to please most budgets. Tours of the horse shows and other events can also be booked in advance. The popular city of Debrecen is less than 30 minutes to the East, which has an international airport.

Sports

Hungary has 14 ski resorts (one of which is a dry slope). No part of the country rises above 1,000 meters above sea level. So, you might be forgiven for thinking this is one of the least likely places to find winter sports! You could not be more wrong. Three resorts are within a day’s trip range of Budapest. Not high on the list of most European standards of ski quality, yet if the need takes you, the means are available.

Motor racing - The Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix is a massive draw for both the locals and traveling F1 fans. The Hungaroring is always a popular event for motorsport fans. It hosts World Championship Superbikes, Touring Cars, Karting, and many other race categories. - https://hungaroring.hu/en/dest

The Hungarian experience will no doubt leave you feeling Hungary for more!!

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This beautiful Travel Guide video have been created by Expoza Travel in 2017

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