A quick rundown on: etiquette, WiFi info, cash exchange, SIM cards, walking tours…and more!
Home of the stunning bath houses, wines and goulash, Budapest is full of things to see and must-do’s. Just in case you’re too lazy to flip through a guidebook, here’s a quick rundown of etiquette, Wifi info, cash exchange, SIM cards, walking tours…and more!
5 things to avoid:
- Don’t order drinks without checking prices, especially at restaurants with a “tourist menu.”
- Do not use the taxis unless you have previously bargained for your fare.
- Avoid girls who try to befriend you with the sole purpose of taking you to a bar where money will be extorted out of you.
- NEVER exchange money on the streets.
- Pickpicketers, unfortunately they’re quite prevalent in Budapest (escalators, metro, food markets, any crowded area.)
Best time to visit Budapest is during spring time and early autumn. Because Hungary is in the Carpathian Basin and in temperature zone, all four seasons are very defined. The suggested temperatures below are estimations, don’t take them literally. Please check the weather forecast again before your trip.
- March, April, May: Best time to visit. 20-25 °C (68-77°F)
- June, July, August: Hot & Dry. Approximately 30°C (86°F)
- September, October: Indian summer but not as dry and hot as summertime.
- November: Dark and grey with temperature possibly below 0 °C (32°F).
- December, January, February: Cold with snow. -5°C (23°F) and 0°C (32°F).
As of May 1, 2002 Hungary is part of the European Union. American, Canadian and EU passport holders can stay in Hungary for up to 90 days without a visa, as long as the passport is valid for at least three months beyond the visit.
Countries included in visa-free entry (maximum stay of 9p days) are: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong (the exemption applies only to holders of a “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”), Iceland, Israel, Japan, Macao (the exemption applies only to holders of a “Regio Administrativa Especial de Macau” passports), Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Salvador, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela. Read more on Visit Budapest Travel.
Official language is Hungarian. Like Finnish and Estonian, it belongs to the Uralic language family, and is one of the few languages of Europe that isn’t not part of the Indo-European family and very difficult to learn! NOTE: S is pronunced SH.
- Hello – Szia (pronounced: SEE-ah)
- Excuse me – Elnézést (pronounced: EH-nee-zee-shst)
- Thank you –Köszönöm (pronounced: KOH-soh-nom) or Thanks – köszi (KOH-zi)
- Where is the toilet –Hol van a mosdó (pronounced: hol-van-a-mosh-do)
- How much does it cost? – Mennyibe kerül? (pronounced: men-yee-be-ke-rue-l)
Men and women greet by shaking hands, although a man should usually wait for the women to extend her hand. Close friends kiss one another lightly on both cheeks, starting with the left cheek.
In general, Budapest is pretty safe for travelers. Use common sense: avoid walking alone at night, avoid dark alleys, keep you bags close to you, especially at souks and markets. Having your pockets picked is the most common crime against tourists.
Even though Hungary is part of the EU, it doesn’t use Euros. You’ll need to exchange cash to Forint (Ft, HUF).
Try to exchange your money in exchange shops near Deák Ferenc tér metro station, they’ll have better rates. Rates via ATM machines are also considerably fair, this method is highly recommended.
Ask how many HUF you’ll get for US$1/EUR at the exchange offices before changing your money. The rate they post may apply if you’re exchanging a huge amount of cash. Some post the selling rate first (which is higher) and these are the exchange offices to avoid.
Tipping is part of the Hungarian culture, so make sure to tip waiters, taxi drivers, and even at gas stations. Tipping etiquette is minimum 10 – 15% in restaurants for good service, HUF 100 – 200 for gas stations and public restrooms if there are any attendants by the sinks.
The country code for Hungary is +36. Calls within local areas can be made by dialing the number without the area code. Domestic calls to all other area codes must be preceded with 06 + area code.
If you’d like to purchase a pre-paid SIM card, T-Mobile would be the best option. For 1000 HUF (USD $4.11) you can get 100 MB, enough space for casual web browsing. Read more on T-Mobile.
Hungary’s country code is 36.
Budapest is one of the most Wi-Fi friendly cities in Europe. You’ll find most cafes, restaurants and shops with Wi-Fi hotspots, even inside taxis you’ll see stickers indicating there’s free Wi-Fi.
Electricity in Hungary is European standard: 220V and AC 50Hz (cycles per second). Make sure your appliances like shavers, hairdryers, curling irons, camera chargers, laptops, etc. have a switch to change the voltage to 220.
It is typically safe to drink tap water in Budapest. If you’re consuming a large amount, it’s still wise to stock up on some bottled water throughout your trip.
We highly recommend taxis, not only is it convenient but a cheap way to get around compared to other major metropolitan cities. These crazy low rates put San Francisco cabs to shame! By taxis, everything in city center takes about 10-20 minutes. Taxi rides cost a 450 HUF (approx. USD $1.98) base price and 280 HUF ((approx. USD $1.23) for every kilometer. Time-based fare unit 70 HUF (approx. USD $0.31) per minute.
In case the taxi driver doesn’t speak English, a good tip is to screenshot the google map of your destination on an iPhone while you have WiFi prior to hopping inside the cab. Then show your screenshot to your driver.
Free Walking Tours – Provide tours that last 2.5 – 3 hours long which covers most landmarks. They also offer the first free Communism walk with a pop up exhibition of Communist relics and a free Pub tour with 2 free welcome
drinks. Both tours are unique in Hungary. They also offer Spanish language free tours as well as the only free Spanish Jewish-Communism Combo walk (beyond the general free Spanish walk). *The Combo tour is definitely the only tour of its kind in Europe.
Free Budapest Tours – Offers 2 different free walking tours in English every day throughout the year. They also feature a Ghost Tour and a Literary Walk Tour. The private guides speak English and 8 other languages.