As the largest city of Hungary, Budapest serves as the country's principal political, cultural, commercial and industrial center and acts as an important hub in Central Europe. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its World Heritage Sites include the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, and the Millennium Underground railway, the first on the European continent. Budapest was created out of the unification of the separate historic towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda in 1873. Whilst the area had been inhabited from early times, it was from this date that the city’s expansion into a world capital really began. Budapest is bisected by the River Danube with the city as much a natural geographical centre as it is the country’s transport hub. Budapest possesses a rich and fascinating history, as well as a vibrant cultural heritage. Recognizing the unique value of its traditions, it has managed to maintain its magic and charm, and is known as the Queen of the Danube. It has also been called the City of Spas, as there are a dozen thermal baths complexes served by over a hundred natural thermal springs.
By air: You can visit Budapest from an array of low-cost airlines, or the national carrier, MALÉV. Budapest (Ferihegy) International Airport is sixteen kilometers south-east of downtown Budapest.
There are two terminals: Terminal One is by low-cost airlines and Terminal Two is divided into two, with Terminal 2A the departure and arrival point for flights of Malév Hungarian Airlines and Terminal 2B hosting all international carriers' flights, including some of the budget airlines.
By train: Budapest has three main international railway stations: Eastern (Keleti), Western (Nyugati) and Southern (Déli). More than fifty trains a day provide direct links between Budapest and 25 other European capital cities. Trains to Vienna run every three hours, 7 times a day. There is also a popular network of Inter City trains, linking Budapest with the main Hungarian towns.
By river: There is a daily scheduled hydrofoil service on the Danube, linking Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, between early April and early November. Voyage duration: from Vienna to Budapest 5 hours, from Budapest to Vienna 6 hours. After the hydrofoil trip, which takes you through scenic areas of Hungary (such as the beautiful Danube Bend), you arrive in the heart of Budapest.
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Transportation in Budapest
Budapest has an efficient public transport network made up more than 180 bus, 14 trolleybus, 29 tram, and three metro lines. In general the buses, trams and trolleybuses operate between 4.30am and 11 p.m. The three metro lines intersect at Deák Square in the centre of town. Metros run at 2-15 minutes intervals from 4.30am to 11.10pm.
The local suburban train (HÉV) can be used to travel out to Csepel island in the south of the city, and to nearby Szentendre, Gödöllő and Ráckeve.
Maps sited at the entrances to metro stations give a comprehensive overview of the entire public transport network in Budapest. Conditions of travel are also included in German and English.
Budapest taxis have yellow number plates and a taxi sign in yellow. (Any vehicle without these features is operating illegally.) The total charge that has to be paid by the passenger is made up of three separate parts: the basic charge which is irrespective of how far the journey is (maximum HUF 300 during the day, maximum HUF 420 at night), a per kilometer charge which depends on how many kilometers are covered during the journey (maximum HUF 240 per kilometer during the day, maximum HUF 336 at night), and the waiting charge. The larger taxi companies work with rate far lower than the maximum charges listed above. It is well worth noting down their telephone numbers, and then calling them because a taxi ordered by phone is cheaper than one called on the street.
Taxi 2000: 200-0000
Tele 5: 355-5555
6x6 taxi: 266-6666
All cars must have a taximeter installed, and these also print out a receipt. Taxi drivers are required to give an invoice on request.
Tipping: in general 10 % of the fare is acceptable, but this naturally depends on how satisfied the passenger is with the service.
The Budapest Card offers its holder more than a hundred services, such as unlimited travel on public transport, free or discounted entry to 60 museums and to several sights, discounts in restaurants and spas, and much more. The Card can be purchased in main metro ticket offices, tourist information bureaus, travel agencies, hotels and the airport, and abroad at major tour operators.
The unit of currency is Hungarian Forint (HUF). In Hungary the abbreviation of Forint is Ft.
Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 HUF.
Bank notes: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 HUF.
For up-to-date currency exchange rates check http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Banks, Currency Exchange:
The official means of payment in Hungary is the Forint (Ft, HUF). Banks are usually open between 8 .00 - 16.00 on weekdays. Some banks are open on Saturday, but all are closed on Sunday. ATM machines and currency exchange machines are available throughout the country.
There is no restriction on the importing of convertible currencies if the amount does not exceed the equivalent of 1,000,000 Ft. For the import of currencies over this amount, it is advisable to fill out a "Certification of Values Entered".
The declaration should be made both entering and leaving the territory of Hungary. If large amounts of undeclared currency are discovered during routine inspections, the customs authority may investigate and, if a criminal act is suspected, initiate criminal proceedings. (According to the Act 24 of 1994 on Prevention and Impending of Money Laundering).
For more information see the website of the Hungarian customs authorities: www.vam.hu or www.vaminfo.hu
Hungarian (German and English are widely understood.)
The voltage is 220 V/50Hz with European two-prong plug.
Electrical equipment of 110V/60Hz requires the use of an adapter and/or voltage converter.
Hungary country code 36
Budapest area code 1 (+7-digit number)
00 + country code + local number
Domestic long distance pre-dial
06 + area code + local number
Cell-phone numbers are 9-digit,
after dialing 06, the first two numbers depend on the telephone company: 20, 30 or 70.
Important telephone numbers
Fire Department: 105
Directory Assistance: 198
International Directory: 199
require 10, 20, 50 or 100 Forint coins, or a pre-purchased phone card (sold at newsstands, supermarkets, hotels and post offices).
24-hour medical assistance: Falck SOS Hungary. Tel: 200-0100
24-hour dental assistance: Tel: 267-9602
Fire service: 105
Inland enquiries: 198
Universal enquiries: 197
International enquiries: 199
Autó club-help number: 188
Speaking clock: 180
Emergency service: 112
Tour information telephone enquiries: 438-8080
In Case of Passport Loss
You should report the loss of your passport to the following authority:
Budapest and Pest County Directorate of the Office for Immigration and Citizenship
Address: 1117 Budapest, udafoki út 60.
Telephone: 463-9165 463-9181
Open: 24 hours
If your passport is stolen, you must report the loss to the local district police headquarters.
The Budapest Police Command has a round-the-clock service in the centre of town: Tourist Police (Budapest V. Vigadó u. 6)
Budapest’s pharmacies (gyógyszertár in Hungarian) are well stocked and can provide medicaments for most common ailments. The location of the nearest all-night chemist is displayed on the door of every pharmacy.
Restaurant prices in Hungary generally do not include a service charge and it is therefore customary to give a tip, generally equivalent to 10-15% of the bill. For all other tipping, follow the guidelines used in the USA.
- Shops: food shops are open from 7 am - 6 pm, clothes shops between 10 am - 6 pm Mon. to Sat.
Most shopping centers are also open on Sun. Tesco is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Office hours: generally from 8am - 4 pm Mon. to Fri. Post offices: Mon. - Fri: 8 am - 6 pm, Sat 8 am - 1 pm
- Banks: Mon - Thu: 8 am - 3 pm, Fri: 8 am - 1 pm.
Non-resident travelers may apply for a refund of up to 16% of the general sales tax (AFA) on goods purchased in Hungary, with the exception of works of art, collections and antiques, under the following conditions:
- The single or total value of the goods on one original invoice, including AFA, must exceed 50,000 Ft.
- Not more than 90 days may elapse between the time of purchase and the time of export.
- The goods must be taken out of the country in new condition; that is, they may not be used in Hungary. More information: www.hungarytourism.hu
- At the time of departure the purchase must be presented to the customs officer, together with the AFA refund claim form, a detailed fiscal invoice and the Tax Free Envelope. These 3 items must be obtained from the place of purchase
- You should also retain the receipts of your currency exchange for Ft and enclose it with your documents. If using a credit card, enclose the credit card receipt.
- Make sure to get the a customs stamp or the refund is not possible. If departing Hungary by plane, you should go to the customs office immediately after receiving your boarding pass at check-in and before you pass security control.
- You may receive your VAT refund in cash immediately at the airport (look for the VAT refund desk at the IBUSZ office) or by bank check sent to your home address or as a payment directly to your credit card. Mail refunds must be requested no more than 6 months after date of purchase.