Destinations Europe

Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling to Hungary

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From architectural landmarks, neoclassical gems and mineral spas, Hungary is the confluence of Turkish, Roman and European influences. Hungary is a paradise for nature lovers, history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. Here are is your all encompassing travel guide to Hungary.

Top Highlights of Hungary

Throughout its history, Hungary has seen various occupations, rulers and territorial conflicts. This is reflected in the Mosque of Pasha Qasim, one of the most striking examples of Turkish architecture in Hungary. Located in Pécs, this stunning building was constructed in the late 16th century by the Ottomans. It was later converted into a Roman Catholic Church by the Jesuits. Even today, the building is a beautiful fusion of faiths, that of Christian symbolism and Islamic motifs.

Hungary is home to natural treasures such as the Caves of Aggtelek Karst National Park. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cave systems are to this day, a secret and mysterious world. Visitors can admire the various rock formations including some of the largest stalactites in Europe, courtesy the rich mineral content in the region.

Lake Balaton is a popular destination for Hungarian locals. Central Europe’s largest lake, Lake Balaton offers visitors many activities including swimming, fishing, sailing, ice skating, as well as spa services in nearby Hévíz.

When you travel to Hungary, be sure to stroll through the streets of central Budapest at night. Against the backdrop of the night sky and the swiftly flowing Danube, visitors can behold the brightly illuminated spires of the majestic Hungarian Parliament, the towering Buda Castle atop Castle Hill, and the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Geographical Landscape

Hungary is a landlocked country, that shares its borders with seven nations: Slovakia, Ukraine, Austria, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

The topography of Hungary is largely a result of the Great Hungarian Plain which lies east of the Danube. Nearly 56 percent of the country’s terrain is flat or rolling plains.

Toward the north, near the Slovakian border, the plains rise up to form hills and small mountains. The highest point in Hungary is Mount Kekes, situated 3,300 feet high in the Matra Hills. Other mountain ranges include the North Hungarian Mountains and the Transdanubian Mountains.

The Danube is one of the major water bodies in Hungary and actually divides the country in half. Other notable rivers are the Drava and Tisza. The lowest point in Hungary at 77.6 meters above sea level sits along the Tisza River near Szeged.

Hungary is home to Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in central Europe, as well as many hot springs and spa towns. The lake measures 78 kilometers long and as an area of 592 square kilometers. Lake Balaton is so large that it is often called the “Hungarian Sea.”

Things To Know Before Visiting

Best Time to Visit

The best times to visit Hungary are from March to May and September through November. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and there are far less crowds.

Weather

Hungary has a European continental climate characterized by warm, dry summers and cold winters. Showers occur during the spring and summer months, while heavy snowfall during the winters is rare and limited to the mountains.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Hungary is Hungarian, while English and German are the most common foreign languages spoken here.

Currency

Hungary’s official currency is the Hungarian Forint, though Euros are accepted in many establishments. Restaurants and shops usually display the types of credit cards they accept. It is recommended to always check if your credit card is accepted before making any purchases.

Electricity

The electrical sockets in Hungary are of types C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V, while the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If you are traveling to Hungary from the US, you will need a combined power plug adapter and voltage converter.

Social Conventions

Like every country, Hungary has its own set of social norms and rules. So when traveling around Hungary be mindful of these things:

  • When meeting a Hungarian for the first time, it is customary to shake hands, and use your first and last name.
  • When invited for a meal, guests express their thanks by presenting flowers, chocolates or a bottle of fine wine to their host.
  • When a toast is made during a meal, it is polite to return the gesture.
  • Although prohibited in public buildings and on public transport, smoking is still prevalent in Hungary.

Traveling around

There are two main things to keep in mind when traveling around Hungary. Hungary has a toll system on some of its major roads and highways. All rental cars must have a valid motorway vignette which is usually provided by the rental company. If not, vignettes can be purchased at many gas stations and post offices.

Visitors to Budapest can take advantage of the city’s public transportation network. This includes the metro, buses, trams, and trolleys. Tickets have to be both paid and validated to avoid being fined by ticket inspectors.

Thermal Springs

When you travel to Hungary you must try one of their hot springs. With over 300 thermal springs across the country, Hungarians have been harnessing the healing waters since the time of the Romans. Whether for medicinal, therapeutic or simply recreational purposes, mineral spas continue to draw visitors to Hungary. From traditional bathhouses and art nouveau decor to bubbling pools and body treatments, the spas of Hungary are not to be missed.

Food

You cannot travel to Hungary and not taste a traditional dish. Hungarian cuisine is a blend of simple peasant food from the nomadic tribes, the spices brought by the Ottomans, and the luxurious delicacies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hearty traditional meals helped to endure the long, cold winters. They include:

  • Gulyás: Chunks of beef and vegetables cooked with paprika. Paprika is especially popular in Hungarian cuisine.
  • Lángos: Deep fried bread topped with sour cream and cheese.
  • Nokedli: Egg noodle dumplings.
  • Halászlé: A favorite at Christmastime, the Fisherman’s Soup is made of river fish, onions, green peppers and red paprika.

In addition, desserts and baked goods are always decadent and indulgent. Local favorites include strudel, pastries, and sponge cakes like Somloi Galuska and Dobos Torta.

Hungary has always been culturally and linguistically distinct from its neighbors. With its diverse historical roots, vibrant folklore, natural beauty, rejuvenating spas, well-preserved castles and stunning architecture, it is no wonder that Hungary has grown to become one of Europe’s most exciting countries and a world-class travel destination. Whether it is hiking up the steep Castle Hill, sailing a boat on Lake Balaton, or savoring piping hot goulash, a lifetime of travel memories awaits you in Hungary. Come and discover for yourself!

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