Hungarian currency is denoted by the Forint, abbreviated HUF or Ft. Bills are available in quantities of HUF20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, and 500; coins are available in values of HUF200 (two coloured, equivalent to €1), 100 (two coloured, similar to €2), 50, 20, 10, and 5.
Most hotels, as well as several restaurants and businesses, now take Euros. Check the currency rate; occasionally even well-known establishments (such as McDonald’s) may exchange at ridiculous rates. The forint is set to be phased out in the coming years in favor of the euro, although no timetable has been set.
You may use major credit cards (EuroCard, Visa) at bigger stores and restaurants, but never expect to do so without first verifying. Small businesses cannot afford to process credit cards. ATMs are accessible even in tiny towns, and coverage is excellent.
When doing monetary transactions, it is preferable to pay in HUF wherever possible. Some restaurants and hotels demand a high rate for Euro conversion, and owing to HUF volatility, the cost and services mentioned may fluctuate greatly.
Shopping in Hungary is very affordable for individuals from the Eurozone and the United States. One exception to this rule is that luxury items are often more expensive than in Western Europe or the United States.
Within central Europe, the exchange rates for euros and USD are approximately the same (at least in Budapest and Eger). Rates will almost certainly be considerably higher at airports and major railway stations, so just change what you need to get to the city center. A smart practice is to check the purchase and sell rates: if they are significantly different, you should look elsewhere. Official exchange offices always provide a receipt and usually place a big glass between the customer and the cashier, making all processes visible to the client.
The cash is the thumb rule. € is widely accepted in hotels, some splurge restaurants or bars, some shops (like all SPAR super/hypermarkets, usually at the cashdesk area is a board with the actual rate), or international cash desk, but the rates are five to ten percent lower than in banks, and they should be prepared to receive change in HUF. Try using tiny notes (max. 50), and at the international cash desk, you may also pay with coins and get a good rate. K&H Bank: AUD, CAD, CHF, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, HRK, JPY, NOK, PLN, SEK, USD; OTP Bank: AUD, CAD, CHF, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, HRK, JPY, NOK, PLN, SEK, USD; OTP Bank: AUD, CAD, CHF, CHF, CHF, CHF, CHF (comission). Smaller banks, such as Raiffeisen Bank (for CZK), Oberbank (for CHF), or Sberbank (for RUB), provide better rates but do not convert as many currencies (check, it varies!). Buying €, $, and CHF for your remaining forints is always accessible, while others are only available when in’stock.’ ‘Exotic’ currencies such as ILS, HKD, and UAH could only be exchanged at money changers.
Only ATMs, money changer businesses, and a few hotels are open if you arrive in Hungary on weekends, holidays, or in the evening (mostly the biggers). One or more ATMs and banks may always be found in hypermarkets or retail malls.
If you arrive at Budapest Ferihegy Airport late at night or on a state holiday, there are exchange money changer offices available (five). The hours of operation vary: from early dawn to about midnight, with one of them operating 24 hours a day! There is an ATM in the arrival hall of Budapest Ferihegy Airport, and the prices for using ATMs with a card are often better than those offered by bureaus de change. Also, interchange has booths at the railway stations of Déli (one), Keleti (three), and Nyugati (one), which are open daily from 7:00 a.m. or earlier to 20:50 p.m. or later. Locations and opening times may be found here. The branch at #2 Vörösmarty plaza in Budapest’s city center is open 24 hours a day.
There are many bank ATMs in Budapest that take European and North American debit/credit cards; if this becomes required, it may be in your best interest to withdraw a substantial amount for your stay, since this will frequently provide a more advantageous rate.
Visitors say that unauthorized money changers operating near an official money changing booth provide unfavorable prices, and they advise utilizing official exchange offices. It is important to note that such transactions are unlawful, and you may get anything other than Hungarian money or nothing at all.
In Hungary, tips are paid for a variety of services, including those provided by restaurants, pubs, taxi drivers, hairdressers, and, on occasion, those who repair items around the home, such as plumbers and electricians.
Although not legally required, societal conventions promote tipping. The amount varies by profession: at restaurants and bars, the standard amount is at least 8% of the entire bill, and is typically 10% to 12%. While some hairdressers may anticipate 5-10% or even more, this is hardly the norm.
What to buy?
Apart from traditional tourist gifts like postcards and trinkets, here are some items that are either unique to Hungary or difficult to obtain elsewhere.
- Duck and goose liver
- Salamis – Picks are the finest Hertz goods; try the Winter salami (Hu: Téliszalámi).
- Sweets Fruit-flavored chocolates Szaloncukor, meaning “parlour candy,” is a famous Christmas sweet made of brandy, Szamos Marzipan treat, and praline with truffle.
- Cold-smoked sausages – Specials on mangalica and grey beef
- Herbal Teas
- Truffle Products – Honeys, Jams
- Spices: Mangalica and grey beef specials
- Gundel set of cheese: aged in Gundel wines, with walnut bits, or with spices Most readily obtained in 350 g sets of three types at the duty-free section of Budapest’s Ferihegy Airport (at least in Terminal 2), but also possibly available in Gundel 1894 Food & Wine Cellar. Keep in mind that this cheese has a 2-month shelf life.
- Wines: The finest wines are produced by the vineyards of Badacsony, Tokaj, and Villány, but while buying wine, it is also essential to consider the wine rack. The wrought iron with wine leaves is extremely spectacular, but it is difficult to carry if you are going by aircraft, so maybe a wood is more practical and you can purchase a broad variety of it. Other excellent names are: Somlói Juhfark, Egri Bikavér (see Liquor), Kadarka, Villány red wine, and so on.
- Pálinka: a well-known and powerful fruit brandy
- Unicum: a digestif liqueur with herbs
- Black pottery – Black pottery is a kind of Transdanubian folk art.
- Porcelain – Look for high-quality handcrafted Herend and Zsolnay items, which are typically sold in sets; basic candle holders are considerably less expensive and more popular.
- Herend majolica at a lower price than the traditional Herend.
- Hungarian Cookbook (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian)
- ‘matyó’ patterned wooden spoons, Sárospatak ceramic spoon holder
- Embroideries like patterned Kalocsa or Matyó.
- Blueprinted textiles are usually made of linen or cotton.
- Try your luck at Szentendre, Europe’s biggest diamond and jewelry hub, with diamonds in handcrafted white gold and platinum inlay jewelry.
- Handicrafts and decorative arts pieces with traditional Hungarian folk themes (letter-paper envelope sets, greeting cards, handkerchiefs, napkins, tablecloths, pillows, towels)