Winters in Hungary are generally mild, with temperatures ranging from -10 to 3 Celsius (14-36 F). Summers in Budapest are typically very hot with July being the hottest month. Temperatures usually reach between 25-35 Celsius (77-86 F), and at times there will be long stretches of daily highs of 35-40 Celsius (95-104 F).
Citizens of the United States, Canada and all European countries apart from Turkey and Albania can stay in Hungary for up to 90 days without a visa, only a passport is required. South Africans can stay up to 30 days. Citizens of Australia and New Zealand still need visas, which are valid for up to 30 days. Visas can be obtained from Hungarian consulates, on the border if arriving by car, not by train, and at the airport.
Hungarian is the official language of Budapest. Many young people can speak some English and German is also spoken.
Budapest is one hour ahead of GMT.
The Hungarian unit of currency is the forint (Ft).
Banks give better rates than change kiosks, but its advisable to shop around as rates vary. Travellers cheques are exchangeable although sometimes at a worse rate than cash. Forints can be changed back into hard currency at any bank and at the bureaux de change in the airport. You may be asked for your exchange receipts for this. Beware of black market foreign exchange on the street, its only a con.
The usual opening times for banks are 8.15am-6pm Mon, 8.15am-4pm Tue-Thur, 8.15am-1pm Fri. Most post offices are open from 8am to 7pm on weekdays. Most shops open from 9am to 5pm M-F and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. There are many small 24-hour corner shops, where you can buy basics. Most restaurants will close by 11pm or midnight.
To call Hungary from abroad dial 36. The area code for Budapest is 1. To call other places in Hungary from Budapest or to call Budapest from the rest of the country you have to dial 06 first. You must also dial 06 before calling a mobile phone. Most public phones are card phones but some public coin phones still exit. Phone cards cost Ft750 for 50 units or Ft1, 600 for 120, and are sold at post offices and newsagents.
Each of Budapest's 23 districts is designated on maps, street signs and addresses by a Roman numeral, which prefixes the street name.
There are several government agencies but the best is Tourinform. V Suto utca 2 (tel. 117 9800). M1, M2, M3 Deak ter. Staff are helpful and multilingual and will provide information about travel and sightseeing. You can also pick up free maps of central Budapest. Open 9am-7pm M-F, 9am-4pm Sat-Sun. Tourinform have also set up 11 info-touch terminals at different points around the city.
Ibusz is the best agency for accommodation. V Petofi ter 3 (318 5707). M3 Ferenciektere, Open 24 hours daily. They can book rooms, organise tours and provide information. Some English is spoken. They have branches across Hungary.
The main office is at V, Petofi utca 13, Open M-F 8am-6pm, Sat 8am-2pm.
Most post offices can supply a booklet in English detailing charges.
It is usual to round up the bill or leave about ten per cent for waiters in restaurants or bars. As you pay, tell the waiter either how much your rounded-up amount comes to or how much change you would like back. Saying koszonom (thank you) as you hand over a note means you want him to keep all the change.
The current used in Hungary is 220V.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Hungary they take place on January 1st, March 15th, Easter Monday, May 1st, the first Monday in June, August 20th, October 23rd and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.