NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Budapest
Population: 10 million
Area: 35,900 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 36
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Hungary Forint = $0.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
Hungary, a member of the EU, does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Hungary's long-standing literary tradition has never gained much international recognition, likely because the language doesn't translate well. Two classic travelogues to prepare you for a little time with the Magyars are Patrick Leigh Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water, tracing the author's 1933 walk through Hungary en route to Constantinople, and Brian Hall's Stealing from a Deep Place, describing Hall's tempered love affair with 1980s Eastern Bloc Budapest.
In the 1999 film Sunshine, Academy Award–winning director István Szabó sets the story of a Jewish family's struggles during the Holocaust in his native city of Budapest.
Hungarian cuisine is not for vegetarians or the health-conscious. Dishes rely heavily on beef and pork, smothered in sour cream–based sauces. Paprika is more of a national obsession than a seasoning—in Hungary, they even put it next to salt and pepper on restaurant tables. The most familiar uses of paprika are in goulash, a beef soup that is much thinner in Hungary than elsewhere, and in aptly named paprikash, a dish that sometimes seems more paprika than chicken. For something sweet, head for one of the terrific Hungarian cafés or coffee shops, where you can savor some of the best coffee in Europe and indulge in flaky fruit-filled pastries and rich chocolate cake.
Until 2010, when Hungary adopts the Euro, this country will remain a bargain for travelers. Exquisite porcelain costs a fraction of the usual price if you buy direct from manufacturers like Herend and Zsolnay. Food products are also great buys. Obviously, you can find the finest—and cheapest—paprika in the world. Another bargain is Hungarian goose foie gras. Sadly, it's illegal to import this pâté into the United States, so gobble it up along your way in Europe or you'll risk getting into some serious trouble at U.S. Customs.
A value-added tax (VAT) of 15 to 25 percent is factored into all prices. Foreign travelers are entitled to refunds at the airport or by mail.
Tipping is a norm throughout Hungarian society. Service industry workers such as restaurant waiters, taxi drivers, and even gas station attendants all appreciate a tip. One note: As in Germany, waiters at most restaurants consider it rude to leave your gratuity on the table. Notify your waiter of how much money you would like to pay in addition to the bill at the end of the meal.
Did You Know?
Hungarians introduce themselves by telling you their last name first and first name last—just like James Bond.
January: 1, New Year's Day
April: 25, Liberation Day
May: 1, May Day
June: 2, Republic Day
August: 20, St. Stephen's Day/Constitution Day
November: 1, All Saints' Day; 7, Socialist Revolution Day
December: 6, St. Nicholas Day; 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday; seventh Sunday after Easter, Pentecost