Currency: Ft HUF
General Living Costs
Hungary is haven for backpackers on a budget, partly due to its currency being the Hungarian forint (Ft) instead of Euro. The average traveller can get by on 10,000Ft or less easily, if willing to go without some comforts you can manage under 7,000Ft a day. Splashing out on 4-star hotels, high end restaurants and other luxuries in Budapest will start at 20,000Ft rising depending on how much you want to spend.
Getting Money & Currency Advice
The official currency is the Hungarian forint (HUF or Ft), many establishments accept Euro, GBP and USD but exchange rates are always worse than official money changers. Notes come in seven denominations: 200Ft, 500Ft, 1000Ft, 2000Ft, 5000Ft, 10,000Ft and 20,000Ft and coins in 5Ft, 10Ft, 20Ft, 50Ft, 100Ft and now 200Ft to phase out the note version.
When changing money simply look for a store or window with the words change or váltó (exchange). Banks, post offices and private exchange offices all set varying rates so try to keep an eye out for the best ones for you.
Don’t worry too much about having stacks of cash on you it’s possible to pay with credit or debit card in larger shops and in most restaurants, establishments which take card often have stickers of those accepted displayed on windows. If visiting markets or smaller restaurants you should expect to pay cash, there’re usually ATMs close by so ask a cashier if needed. Many banks also allow cash advances on credit cards.
Compared to Western Europe, accommodation prices are very reasonable throughout the year even during high season that said hotels can get booked up fast. Reputable hostels have clean single beds starting at 2,000Ft, rooms in hotels up to 3-star can be found for under 8,000Ft, 4-star can be had for less than 14,000Ft, historic 5-star hotels in Budapest have rooms available for a reasonable 60,000Ft.
Top Tip: try to book accommodation beforehand where possible either online or by phone especially if you arriving in your destination late at night. Hotels and hostels in Budapest can get booked up quickly.
Food and Drink
Backpackers and gourmets alike looking for a cheap lunch should check out the markets where you can pick up sweet and savoury snacks for 300Ft. Whilst at the market take advantage of the many local fruits, nuts and cheeses all seem to sell for around 300Ft per 100 grams. Traditional restaurants have large menus with big portions, sit down to a filling Hungarian meat stew for 850Ft, in contrast the same meal in a tourist area can be 1,400Ft. Beware restaurants with only English menus as they are usually overpriced, a chicken breast for 2,200Ft is cheap by Western Europe standards but this is the east and should be available for less. Alcoholic drinks are a bargain, the ample range of local wine, beer and liquors are offered at 200Ft for the cheapest beer or shot of pálinka, to around 600Ft for the refined wines of Hungary and large imported beers.
Trains are a cheap and scenic mode of transport, the network centres on Budapest with many routes terminating and starting there, pricing is reasonable and even cheaper when pre-booking online. Budapest to Keszthely (Heviz) takes 3.50 hours and costs 3,700Ft, Budapest to Vienna (Wien) costs 4,000Ft.
Get to any corner in the country with buses from Eurolines there competitive for the comfort level starting at 3,700Ft for Budapest to Hévíz, Orangeways buses cost more at 4,700Ft for the same trip and are a bit slapdash considering.
All cities in Hungary have an extensive public bus network, Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc and Szeged also have trams, and there’s a four line metro system or HÉV in the capital. Purchase your ticket beforehand and validate it, keeping it safe until you disembark or exit the station if on the metro. Travelling without or with the wrong ticket will get you a large on the spot fine.
Taxis are a fast and reasonably cheap way of getting around cities, usually they work out cheaper to book beforehand than flagging one down on the street. Many taxi drivers will speak little or no English, it’s worth having someone write your destination down in Hungarian to save confusion. Only use well signed taxis that are usually yellow and have metres which work.
Costs for popular attractions are on the pricey side but there is plenty of visual treats in the way of architecture and landscape around Hungary which cost nothing to experience.
Caving under Budapest
Check out the less seen underbelly of Budapest with Caving under Budapest, they have a choice of two cave route for beginners for 3000Ft all equipment and a guide is included.
Parliament building tour
On the Pest side of the city the historic parliament building offers 45 min tours. The price for a non EU citizen is 3500Ft, EU citizens get a 50% discount and EU Students get 75% off.
Thermal Lake of Heviz
Experience the largest thermal lake in Europe, open throughout the year. There are a few different tickets, for an example a lake ticket valid for 3 hours costs 2,600Ft.
Budapest History Museum
On castle hill inside the royal palace, the museum is house to a good selection of artefacts, art and interactive exhibits. Can be seen as a little pricey for 2000Ft and extra if you’d like to take pictures.
Hungarians tip and not just waiters virtually everyone from taxi drivers to dentists are offered and accept tips, obviously amounts differ a bell boy will expect no more than 300Ft whereas a guide who has spent a few hours with you should get this as a minimum. If you’ve had a bad experience at a restaurant or bar leave nothing, the service staff will get the message.
Leaving a tip in restaurants is done differently from most countries. Never leave money on the table or bar as it’s seen as rude and careless, instead after receiving the bill and making sure a service charge hasn’t already been added, tell your waiter how much you’re paying in total including tip or how much change you’d like back if paying with cash, if you don’t ask for your change you might not get it.
Prices listed are as a guide only. Due to market changes and currency fluctuations we cannot guarantee the 100% accuracy of the prices listed. Those listed are gathered from research accurate in June 2014.