Hungary

Baths in Budapest, Hungary   Folk dancing
Why Hungary?                                                                 Click here to view video

There is no place like Hungary (Magyarország). Situated in the very heart of Europe, this kidney-shaped country can claim a unique place in the continent's soul. Doubters need only listen to the music of Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók, view the romantic Danube River as it dramatically splits Budapest in two or taste the nation's unique (and paprika-infused) cuisine to be convinced. Hungary's impact on Europe's history and development has been far greater than its present size and population would suggest. Hungarians, who call themselves Magyars, speak a language and form a culture unlike any other in the region - a distinction that has been both a source of pride and an obstacle for more than 1100 years.

Hungary is the best place to enter both Central and Eastern Europe. While some of its neighbours may have more dramatic scenery or older and more important monuments, Hungary abounds in things to see and do, and those with special interests - fishing, horse riding, botany, bird-watching, cycling, thermal spas, Jewish culture - will find a treasure-trove here. Under the old communist regime, most of the government's focus and money went to Budapest. As a result, foreign visitors rarely ventured beyond this splendid city on the Danube River, except on a day trip to the Danube Bend or to Lake Balaton. These places should be visited, of course, but don't ignore other towns and regions off the beaten track: the tanya világ (farm world) of the Southern Plain, ethnically rich Northeastern Hungary, the Villány Hills in Southern Transdanubia covered in vineyards and the traditional Őrség region in the far west. The '90s were not a stellar time for the reborn republic. Its economic development was in limbo and serious economic problems affected all aspects of daily life. Thankfully, those days are past and many now view Hungary, with its intelligent, hard-working populace, and rich and vibrant culture, as the star performer and most interesting destination of the new Europe.

  • When should I travel?
Hungary has a mild continental climate. There are four distinct seasons, with a very warm summer from June to August where temperatures can rise to as high as 35°C (95°F). Spring and autumn are mild, while winters are very cold, as low as -10°C (14°F), and not a good time to visit rural areas – although city breaks are enjoyable at any time of year. The south of the country around Pécs is a little warmer on average, although the region still experiences snowfall in winter. Annual rainfall is an average of 6cm (23 inches) and is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year, with snowfall common in winter.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Most visits are trouble free. There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). It is possible to withdraw cash by credit card at many post offices. American Express, Cirrus, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Credit and debit cards can be used to withdraw money from ATMs, which are found throughout the country. Travellers cheques are accepted in most post offices and banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in Euros or US Dollars.

What language will they understand?
Hungarian (Magyar) is the official language. German and English are widely spoken by both the older and younger generations. Some French is also spoken, mainly in western Hungary.

  • How about my health?
It is advisable to take a supply of any medicines that are likely to be required whilst in Hungary. Many visitors travel to Hungary to make use of the country’s numerous thermal baths, which are claimed to be beneficial for a wide variety of chronic complaints, in particular for dermatological conditions and arthritis. Food and water is generally safe, even in remote villages. Private health care providers are high quality, but limited in scope once outside Budapest. Outside Budapest you will likely have to speak basic Hungarian to communicate your needs as few doctors will have any English or German skills. Pharmacies are everywhere, you may expect high prices, but very good pharmaceutical coverage. The only problem might be communicating with the pharmacist as most of them speak only Hungarian outside Budapest. Even some rusty Latin might come handy quite unexpectedly.

  • Public Holidays

2012
January 01 New Year's Day
March 15 Anniversary of 1848 uprising against Austrian rule
April 09 Easter Monday
May 01 Labour Day
May 28 Whit Monday
August 20 National Day (Feast of St Stephen)
October 23 Republic Day (Anniversary of 1956)
November 01 All Saints' Day
December 24 Christmas Eve
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
March 15 Anniversary of 1848 uprising against Austrian rule
April 01 Easter Monday
May 01 Labour Day
May 20 Whit Monday
August 20 St Stephen's Day
October 23 National Day
November 01 All Saints' Day
December 24 Christmas Eve
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for Hungary.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required for Hungary.