Hungary's thousand years of history is only one intriguing aspect of this country in East Central Europe. Influences from other countries, the unique characteristics of the Hungarian language, and regional traditions and culture contribute to its complexity. A single short visit to Hungary is just not enough for a thorough understanding of its various features, but basic facts can act as an introduction to the most important information about this country, its people, and its history.
Information about getting to and getting around Hungary is also useful if you're planning a visit.
Basic Facts About Hungary
The country of Hungary is landlocked in Europe and borders seven countries—Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia. The Danube River divides the country and the capital, Budapest, once known as two separate cities, Buda and Pest.
The following quick facts will help acquaint you with Hungary:
Capital: Budapest, population = 1,756,000
Currency: Forint (HUF) – View Hungarian coins and Hungarian banknotes. You can use Euros in Hungary but the exchange rate at shops may not be favorable. Major credit cards are accepted and you will find ATMs throughout urban areas.
Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) and CEST during summer.
Calling Code: 36
Internet TLD: .hu
Language and Alphabet
Hungarians speak Hungarian, although they call it Magyar.
Hungarian has more in common with Finnish and Estonian than the Indo-European languages spoken by neighboring countries. Though Hungarians used a rune script for their alphabet in days gone by, they now use a modern Latin alphabet.
Hungary is a mostly Christian nation with many different denominations of Christianity making up 74.4 percent of the population.
At the 2011 census, 39 percent of Hungarians reported that they were Catholic. The largest minority religion is "none" at 16.7 percent.
Major Attractions in Hungary
Budapest is Hungary's top destination city. This sprawling city maintains the regal look given to it towards the end of the 19th century. With plenty of restaurants, bars, museums, spas, and other attractions, Budapest never leaves visitors without something to do.
Elaborate and historic Thermal baths are popular, especially in Budapest. On day trips from Budapest, you can visit Hollókő, a traditional Hungarian village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as Gödöllő, home to a magnificent royal palace that once served as the summer residence of Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef.
Hungary Travel Facts
US citizens will need a current (good for at least 6 months) passport to visit Hungary. Citizens of the EU or EEA do not require a visa for visits under 90 days but must have a valid passport.
Airports: Five international airports serve Hungary. Most travelers will arrive in Budapest Ferihegy International Airport (BUD), colloquially known as Ferihegy. An airport bus leaves every 10 minutes from the airport and allows for a connection to the city center via the metro or another bus.
A train from terminal 1 takes travelers to Budapest Nyugati pályaudvar - one of the 3 main rail stations in Budapest.
Trains: There are 3 major train stations in Budapest: East, West, and South. The West train station, Budapest Nyugati pályaudvar, connects to the airport, while the East train station, Budapest Keleti pályaudvar, is where all international trains depart or arrive. Sleeper cars are available to several other countries and are regarded as safe.
Hungary History and Culture
Hungary was a kingdom for a thousand years and was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the 20th century, it was under a Communist government until 1989, when a parliament was established. Today, Hungary is a parliamentary republic, though the long existence of its kingdom, and the powers of its rulers, is still fondly remembered.
Hungarian culture has a long tradition that travelers can enjoy while exploring Hungary. Folk costumes from Hungary remember the country's past, and the pre-Lenten festival called Farsang is a unique annual event during which furry costumes are worn by participants. In the spring, Hungarian Easter traditions brighten up city centers.