Visiting the Parliament building is one of the top things to do on Budapest.

Hungary Travel Guide

This travel guide features the best places to visit in Hungary, how to get there, safety, scams, logistics and more to help you plan an amazing trip.

Hungary is a beautiful, safe, and affordable country with its cosmopolitan must-visit capital, Budapest, picture perfect views, dazzling architecture, royal castles, beautiful bridges, a 2,000+ year old thermal spa culture, fantastic food, great wine, wonderful people, and much more. If you haven’t been here, you really need to add it to your list.

Note: This travel guide and posts on Hungary are updated as of January 2022.

Top Attractions In Hungary

Budapest, Hungary’s Capital

Budapest, along with Barcelona and Berlin, is another of the great ‘B’ cities in Europe. One of the most beautiful European cities, this gem has magnificent historical buildings, grand bridges spanning the Danube River, numerous spas fed from over 120 natural hot springs, a lively nightlife, splendid street art, and lovely people.

This grand city is split by the Danube, with affluent, quiet Buda, on the west side, and buzzing Pest, its administrative and commercial center, full of bars, cafes, and malls, on the east. A perfect marriage.

Parliament building is a highlight in the Hungary Travel Guide
Budapest Parliament

Some architecture that you can’t miss includes the National Parliament building (which contain the Hungarian Crown jewels) stunning by day and night, Baroque Buda Castle, once home to Hungarian Kings, now host to museums, ornate Matthias Church, and stately Szechenyi Bridge, the first bridge here linking Buda and Pest.

Matthias Church is one of the top things to do on Budapest.
Matthias Church
Szechenyi Bridge is a highlight in the Hungary Travel Guide
Szechenyi Bridge

There are also spots for stellar views that you can’t miss, like the scenic panoramas from Fisherman’s Bastion and Gellért Hill. Perfect places to sit back and admire all the beauty Budapest has to offer in a single moment. Especially as the sun starts to set and the city lights start to twinkle.

For fun after sunset, its vibrant Jewish quarter has a thriving nightlife with its well-known ’ruins bars’, literally bars rising from the ruins this area was left with after the war.

And, of course, you also need to try one of the many thermal spas here. With over 1,000 thermal springs in Hungary, there has been a bathing culture here for centuries, starting in the ancient Roman city of Aquincum, which means ‘abundant in water’, 2,000 years ago.

Visegrád

Visegrád, the royal seat of Hungary in the 14th century, makes a great day trip destination. Located less than an hour north of Budapest, this picture-perfect town its easy to visit by train.

Highlights include the summer palace of King Matthias I, Visegrád Royal Palace, perched on a hill by a deep bend in the Danube. This is the site of the famous 1335 meeting of Central-European Kings to resolve international disputes.

About an hour hike from the river, it’s well worth the climb for its stellar views, old world architecture, and interesting history.

Soloman’s Tower, lower on the hill, can also be visited. Once used to control river traffic, it now features exhibits on local history.

Visegrád Palace | Szvitek Peter

Sibrik Hill, near the castle, is a little known, but also interesting spot in Visegrád. The ruins here are from a 1,700 year old Roman military camp, positioned to control the Danube.

There’s also a Toboggan Park within walking distance of the castle, offering both summer bobsled and winter toboggan runs, fun for the whole family.

Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton, the second most popular attraction in Hungary, is the biggest lake in central Europe. Dubbed the Hungarian sea, it’s so large, it’s 9 miles across at its widest point.

With almost 124 miles (200 km) of shoreline, 20 cities/towns, and 22 harbors, it’s Hungary’s ideal summer getaway, offering a variety of water sports like sailing, kayaking, water skiing, windsurfing, SUP paddle boarding and more.

Lake Balton | Susulyka

Best Time To Visit Hungary

The best times to visit are spring, March to May, and Fall, September to November, when the weather is the most pleasant and there are not as many tourists.

Languages in Hungary

Hungarian is the official language of Hungary. The second most common language is English, which is spoken by about 16% of the population. Especially in tourist areas.

An unusual fact on the Hungarian language is that it arrived with the Magyars, who came here in the 1st century AD from the Ural Mountains between Russia and Asia.

Hungary Travel Guide: Money Matters

Currency: Although Hungary is a part of the EU, they use the Hungarian Forint (Ft), rather than the Euro. And while they do accept other currencies for payment, the exchange rate is not very good, making it best to use Forint when cash is needed. Conversion rates as of January 1, 2024 are as follows.

  • USD (1)=346.78 Ft
  • Euro (1)=383.46 Ft
  • CNY (1)=48.82 Ft

Credit Cards & ATMs: Most places accept MasterCard and Visa, although smaller establishments generally only accept cash. ATM’s are available practically everywhere in larger cities, especially Budapest. Try to use ATMs from larger banks like, OPE, ERSTE, MKB, Budapest Bank, K&H, or Raiffeisen. Private ATMs, like Euronet, should be avoided as they charge high fees. ATMs at airports, hotels, and near tourist areas likely charge higher fees. Some ATMs will allow you to view the transaction in your home currency, but it also triggers a higher conversion fee. Always use/view local currency and do the math yourself for the best rate. Most ATMs only accept 4-digit codes, so if yours is longer, change it before you arrive.

Tipping: It’s common in Hungary to tip 10% for good service in bars and restaurants, 15% for excellent service. Make sure it’s not already included in the bill first. It’s also customary to tip salons and barbers 10%. Give bellboys 500-1000 Forint for carrying your bag. For taxis, leave 10% if you’re happy. In spas, 100 Forint for attendants and 300-500 for a massage are appropriate.

Hungary Travel Guide: Safety

Hungary is relatively safe, but pick-pocketing and petty theft does occur. Especially in touristy areas like Budapest. Take normal precautions, always being vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Don’t carry too much cash and keep a close eye on your purse or wallet.

Always check the latest situation on your government website. Sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), or a similar program in your country. These services email you updates if a known dangerous situation arises.

Budapest

Hungary Travel Guide: Scams

Generally Hungary is safe, but there are always a few people trying to take advantage of tourists. Common scams in Hungary include the following.

Invited For A Drink

A well-known scam is for a beautiful woman, or two, to approach a man and start to flirt with him, suggesting to have have a drink. Unfortunately, they will take you to a place also in on the scam, where you will be charged an outrageous bill. You will not only be expected to pay it all, staff will escort you to an ATM to get more cash if you don’t have enough!

If you feel the invite is legitimate, steer it to a location of your choice. Preferably one close to a main street with easy access.

Spiked Drinks

Always watch your drink to make sure no one has an opportunity to add a sedative or drug to it. This includes men. Especially in strip clubs.

Taxi Scams

Taxi drivers are ruthless everywhere and it’s no different in Hungary. The common scam here is for scam taxi drivers to conveniently hang around tourist areas, especially bars late at night, and excessively overcharge you. Only get in official taxis with an official sign and driver registration.

Uber and Lyft do not currently operate in Hungary. Bolt is the ride hailing app to use in Budapest and some other cities. Download it on your phone before you travel.

Overcharging In Cafes

Some cafes intentionally do not list prices on the menu, then charge outrageous fees. Others have higher prices on the ‘tourist’ menu. While the latter is more difficult to determine, always make sure you see the price in writing before you order.

Shady Money Exchangers

Only exchange money from reputable exchange centers and compare the rate to internet rates. Never exchange money with someone you meet on the street. They will either give you a very bad rate or bills other than Forint.

Fake Tour Guides

Never buy tickets or tours from someone on the street. It’s best to buy from official ticket booths or websites. Verify websites by reading reviews and make sure the phone number listed actually works.

Best Ways To Get Around Hungary

Budapest

Airport To Budapest

Budapest’s airport is Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD).

Bus: The cheapest way to get from the airport to Budapest is by bus. Bus 100E leaves terminal 2 and stops in town at Kalvin Square and Deak Ferenc Square. It takes 30-60 minutes depending on traffic and runs frequently. From there you can walk or taxi to your destination.

Shuttle: Another inexpensive option to the city is Minibud, the airport shuttle service.

Taxi: Taxi is the most convenient, but also the most expensive waY to get to Budapest from the airport. Depending on traffic it can cost $25-35. Bolt is the ride hailing app to use here, but prices should not be better.

Getting Around Budapest

Budapest is a great walking city, very safe, with most sites within walking distance. But there is also a metro, the old yellow tram cars, buses, ferries, and more. As there are so many options, Budapest has a route planner to help you choose the best option.

Taxi: Taxis are also an option. Bolt is the ride hailing app to use here, as Uber and Lyft do not operate here, although reportedly the same price as traditional taxis. See the note on taxi scams above.

Parliament building at night in the Hungary Travel Guide
Budapest Parliament

Visegrád

Budapest to Visegrád

Train: The best way to take a day trip to Visegrád is via train from the Nyugati station in Budapest to Nagymaros-Visegrád. It’s only about 45 minutes. From here take the ferry to cross the Danube. Be sure to check ferry return times with the return train schedule.

Lake Balton

Budapest to Lake Balaton

Drive: Lake Balaton is about a 1.5 hour drive southwest of Budapest. Traffic can be very heavy, however, in summer. Plus you will need a highway permit to self-drive.

Train: There is a direct train from Deli Station in Budapest to Balatonfüred. It takes around 2 hours, running frequently in the summer.

Bus: There is a direct bus from Népliget Station in Budapest to Balatonfüred, taking about 2 hours. Buy the ticket at the station in advance.

Getting Around Lake Balaton

The best way to get around Lake Balaton is by boat, ferry, or water taxi. Balatonfüred – Tihany – Siófok is one of the most popular routes. Schedules change throughout the year, so check bahart.hu for details.

Visa Information for Hungary

Hungary is part of the Schengen, so operates on the Schengen Visa policy. US citizens can enter visa free for up to 90 days, then can only re-enter after an additional 90 days.

Chinese citizens need to apply for a Schengen Visa. See the Schengen Visa Policy to learn more.

Hungary Travel Guide: Top Destinations

Click the image to the left for more details on the key sites in Budapest.

If this travel guide has been useful in planning, or you’ve visited and have a comment, add a note below.

Safe Travels!

Julie

To read more about me and my philosophy on travel see my about me page.

Note: To The best of my knowledge, all the information in this travel guide for Hungary is correct, but from time to time, things change. If you see an incorrect detail, please contact me.


Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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