There are lots of things to think about when moving to a different country. We’ve tried to provide some useful information and tips about the cultural and practical things you’ll experience when coming to Hungary.
The forint (HUF) has been the local currency in Hungary since August, 1946. The forint's name comes from the city of Florence, where golden coins had been minted since 1252.
Banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000. All of them are watermarked, contain an embedded vertical security strip of thin metal and are designed to be suitable for visually impaired individuals.
6 different coins are in use: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 forint coins.
Until 1 March, 2008 1 and 2 coins were also in use but they were eventually withdrawn from circulation because their production cost was higher than their actual value. (It is essential to be aware of this when you pay by cash because the rules of rounding are used, i.e. the bill will be rounded up or down so that the last digit will always be five or zero.)
Since January 1997 the forint has been fully convertible, making life easier for everyone visiting us. Changing currencies is a service offered by banks or ATMs but the best way to do it is to find 'no commission' currency exchange shops near inner city shopping prescincts. Most banks do not charge any commission so your money in forint will be counted according to the daily exchange rate.
Credit cards are accepted in many more place that before. If in doubt, ask the shop assistant or look out for symbols and tags on shop windows. The most popular credit cards are Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
You can also open a bank account as the non-residential account service is designed especially for foreign nationals. All you need is your passport. Your can open a HUF account or any other currency account.
HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY
First aid and emergency medical care is free for foreigners, in other cases you have to pay for treatment. On the basis of specific agreements, parties to such agreements provide for entitlement to a range of health care services on a mutual basis for their nationals during their stay.
In the case of foreigners studying in Hungary, entitlement to health care services in Hungary is restricted to foreign nationals who pursue their studies full-time at an institution of secondary or higher education and whose student status is based on an international agreement or a fellowship granted by the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture.
Non-Hungarian students who fail to meet these requirements may be entitled to health care services only if they sign an Agreement with the Health Insurance Fund.
As of 1st November 2005, the medical care of the citizens of the European Economic Area (EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) has been provided on the basis of the European Health Insurance Card. The citizens of these countries are entitled to the same treatment under the same conditions as the residents of the country in question.
General emergency service phone number: 112
Fire service: 105
To call these numbers is free of charge.
24-hour English-language crime hotline: +36 1 438 8080
English language telephone directory service: 191
International operator: 199
Most stores are open from Monday till Friday between 10:00-18:00 or 19:00 and on Saturday between 10:00-14:00. Shopping centres have longer opening hours, from Monday till Sunday 10.00-20.00.
Food shops are open Monday-Saturday 7.00-18.00. There are many markets in Budapest and in other cities, which are the best places to buy fresh vegetables and fruit. The renovated Nagycsarnok (Central Market Hall) on Fővám tér is Budapest’s finest one. There are some quite good food stalls on the upper floor serving everything from Chinese spring rolls to enormous German sausages.
There are summer and winter sales periods when you can buy high-quality clothes at a reasonable price.
Hungarian cooking is actually quite difficult to define. It frequently uses paprika, black pepper and onion. Potatoes are also commonly used in many types of meal. There are two remarkable elements of Hungarian cuisine that locals take no or little notice of but which seem quite unusual to foreigners. One is known as főzelék (various vegetables prepared in a special way, served cooked and bearing some similarity to a very thick soup) and another one, known as cold fruit soup, also served in various fruit combinations.
In Hungary, a typical breakfast may consist of fresh bread, cold sausage type minced meat (such as kolbász orszalámi), vegetables or jam. Lunch is the major meal of the day, usually consisting of three courses: soup is followed by a main dish and a dessert. What is locally referred to as 'salad' is absolutely different from your notion of salad in that it usually means pickled vegetables eaten along with the main course. Green salad is not part of the traditional Hungarian cuisine. Normally, dinner is far less significant a meal than lunch. It is a bit like breakfast, consisting mainly of a cold meal.
Typical dishes you should try while in Hungary:
Gulyásleves (goulash soup), húsleves (meat soup), halászlé (fish soup), hideg meggyleves (cold sour cherry soup), Jókai bableves (bean soup Jókai style), Hortobágyi palacsinta (pancake filled with meat), túrós csusza (pasta with cottage cheese), töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), pörkölt (stew made of different kinds of meat), lecsó (stewed onions, tomatoes and peppers), paprikás krumpli (potatoes with paprika),Somlói galuska (cake covered in chocolate and lots of cream), mákos guba (poppy-seed dumplings), szilvás gombóc (dumplings filled with plum), Dobos torta (chocolate cake with a special top on it), rétes (strudel),szaloncukor (special Christmas sweet), bejgli (Christmas cake filled with walnut or poppy-seed), lángos(scone), pogácsa (small savoury scone)…
And if you feel like a drink after a good meal, wash it down with the famous Tokaji wine or Egri Bikavér (Bull’s Blood wine). Also, you should not miss out on the famous Unicum or pálinka.
Hungary’s country code is 36. To make a long distance call you have to dial 06 followed by the area code, then the actual number. 'Green numbers' starting with 06-80 are free of charge, while calling 'blue numbers' starting with 06-40 entails a local call charge.
If you plan to live in Hungary for a while, look out for discounts by using phone cards such as Barangoló (roaming) or NeoPhone.
In Hungary, mobile phones are very popular, almost everyone has one for personal use these days. There are three service providers,T-Mobile, Telenor and Vodafone, whose networks can be accessed all over the country. They all offer prepaid cards, which you can buy at newsstands, post offices and filling stations.
There are numerous post offices throughout the country, opening hours vary, depending on office locations. In Budapest the Central Post Office is situated near the Western Railway Station and is open weekdays from 7.00 to 20.00, and from 8.00 to 18.00 on Saturdays. Mail boxes are red, marked ’Posta’.
Besides mailing your letters at a Post Office, this is also a place where you can pay your bills, transfer money, send faxes, buy phone cards, order a newspaper or open a PO box if you don't have a permanent address.
There are plenty of possibilities to access the Internet in Hungary. To check your e-mail or surf on the net, an Internet café is the place to go. Wifi is an access option offered in several cafés, hotels, bookstores and public buildings. Higher education institutions provide free Internet access for their students.