Hungary

Introduction

Hungary is unique; Roman castles, Turkish minarets, baroque cities, blooming apricot trees and Gypsy bands playing in smoky bars – it’s all there. Established as a state in the year 1000, it has a long history, a rich culture and charming traditions.

Places to go in Hungary

History

After WWI the country lost more than two thirds of its territory – the attempt to make up for this loss drew Hungary into WWII on the Axis side. The Germans occupied the country in 1944 when hundreds of thousands Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Liberated in 1945by the Soviet army, the Communists took control over the government in 1947.


In October 1989 the Republic of Hungary was proclaimed after 40 years of Communist rule. The last Soviet troops left the country in 1991.


The attempt to turn the country’s economy into a market economy actually resulted in an initial decline in living standards, but recently Hungary has been growing economically with falls in unemployment and increases in GDP per capita as a result. It became a member of the NATO in 1999 and joined the EU in 2004.

Politics

Hungary’s political landscape is dominated by two major parties; no party can form a government without having a partner to form a coalition, so you can call the system a multi-party system.


The following are the main parties in the Hungarian National Assembly:


- The Alliance of Free Democrats (Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége - SZDSZ); a social liberal party that is part of the government (which is led by the Hungarian Socialist Party )


- Christian Democratic People's Party (Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt - KDNP)


- The Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union (Fidesz - Magyar Polgári Szövetség); the main conservative party; forms the opposition.


- The Hungarian Democratic Forum (Magyar Demokrata Fórum - MDF); a small conservative party; also part of the opposition.


- The Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt - MSZP) ;the main social democratic party (part of the government in a coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats.)


As in most other modern democracies, there is separation of power between executive (held by government), legislative (held by government and parliament) and judicial (indpendently appointed and separate of both government and parliament). The National Assembly (parliament which holds legislative power) is elected every 4 years and has 386 members.

Geography

Situated in Central Europe, Hungary covers an area of 93,000 square kilometers. It extends over 250 kilometers from north to south and over 500 kilometers from east to west. It shares 2,300 kilometers of boundaries; with Austria to the west, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in the south and southwest, Romania to the southeast, the Ukraine to the northeast, and Slovakia to the north.


Hungary is a rather flat country, most of it has an elevation of less than 200 meters. There are some moderately high ranges of mountains, that reach heights of 300 meters or more but they cover less than 2% of the country’s landmass. Kékes (1,014 meters) in the Mátra Mountains northeast of Budapest, is the country’s highest peak.


The major rivers in Hungary are the Danube and Tisza. Less important rivers are the Drava, the Rába, the Szamos, the Sió, and the Ipoly. The three major lakes of the country are Lake Balaton (the largest, with an area of 600 square kilometers), Lake Velence (26 square kilometers) and Lake Fert? (82 square kilometers).

Economy

Before WW2, the Hungarian economy was mainly oriented towards agriculture and small-scale manufacturing. Today it is a medium-sized, open economy forming an important link within the EU market. Like most other Eastern European economies, its market was liberalized during the early 1990s to make the move away from Communism possible. Since 1996, Hungary has been a member of the OECD and of the World Trade Organization.


In the late 1990s, Hungary concentrated much of its trade to the West having previously traded almost exclusively with the former eastern bloc countries. Germany is now Hungary's most important trading partner whilst the U.S. is Hungary's sixth-largest export market.

Country Information

CurrencyHungarian Forint
LanguagesHungarian
GovernmentRepublic
TimezoneGMT + 1
Population10 million
ATM availabilityWidespread
CapitalBudapest
Dialing code(00) 36
Emergency servicesAmbulance 104, police 107, fire 105
WeatherThe best time to visit Hungary is the summer period when the weather is much nicer and the attractions are all open. Summer days are generally warm and sunny (with up to ten hours of sunshine a day) and the air is relatively humid. The weather in spring and autumn can also be very pleasant, but temperatures are generally only around 9°C. In winter, temperatures often drop to 0 degrees celsius or below. Thankfully winters are normally fairly short, with very cold weather often limited to mid-December. At that time it is usually also cloudy and damp with frequent snow, but you do still get the odd bright sunny day.
Tourist boardhttp://www.gotohungary.co.uk
Famous forPaprika, czardas music, goulash & shaschlik
Useful phrasesJo napot kivanok (hello), koeszoenoem (thank you), szia (hi/bye)
Accommodation forHungarian hotel are rated from 1 to 5 stars with even 1 star hotels expected to be pleasant and clean if more simple than the higher starred hotels. There are special Tourist Hostels which provide basic accommodation, but normally only offer rooms with four or more beds. Bed and Breakfast/Guest Houses are available almost everywhere in Hungary. Rooms often have their own bathrooms but note that rates sometimes do not include breakfast, so make sure you check first. Rooms in B&Bs as well as in guesthouses should generally be booked in advance. In some parts of the country you can rent fully-equipped bungalows. Check the local tourist board for details of these. Most of Hungary’s campsites are open from May to September and caravans are normally permitted in all sites that have power points. The Hungarian Camping and Caravanning Club can provide you with further information and help you with your bookings. Youth Hostels are available in Budapest and other bigger towns; most of them have 24 hour reception cover, internet access, and other typical facilities that you would expect. With the Hungarian Tourist Card you can get discounts on a lot of types of accommodation including hotels, guesthouses and youth hostels.
Business hoursYou will find that most banks open Monday - Thursday 08.00-15.00 and close earlier on a Friday at 13.00. Larger stores open Monday- Friday 07.00-19.00, whilst smaller ones will be from 10.00-18.00 and Saturdays 09.00-13.00. In bigger towns shops are open longer.
VisasNationals of the following states do not require a visa (for stays not exceeding 90 days): Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland. United States of America, Canada, Australia; Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, countries of the former Soviet Union, United Kingdom, Uruguay and countries of the former Serbia & Montenegro. Others will need a visa before entering.
TippingTipping is very common in Hungary. A service charge is not always included in the bill, but even if it is, a lot of people would still leave an additional tip of 5-10% of the price if they were happy with the service they received.

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