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Travel money guide: Hungary

Your guide on taking and spending money like a local in Hungary

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Travel should be about adventure, discovery and relaxation. You’ll find that when you explore the largest synagogue in Europe, Memento Park and Budapest, considered the “Paris of the East”.

Our guide breaks down how to use cash and cards — and Hungarian forint — without the extra fees that come with international trips

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

Don’t just rely on one product. Debit cards let you spend your own money but a credit card will protect you in emergencies.

With so much to see and do in Hungary, it makes sense to get your finances in order before you arrive. Your budget should pay for your travel experiences, not bank fees.

How much does a vacation to Hungary cost?

Hungary is no longer the dirt-cheap destination it was before joining the EU, but it’s among the most affordable countries in Europe. Though travelers to Hungary and Budapest will still be surprised how far their dollar will go, especially after leaving the big cities. Budget travelers can get by on less than $40 a day, while mid-range travelers could budget less than $100. There are plenty of opportunities to indulge while in Budapest.

Official statistics estimate that the daily costs of living and traveling in Hungary are between one-third to one-half when compared with Western Europe.

Luxury vacationBudget vacation
eatFeats on gourmet Hungarian and international food and wine at one of Budapest’s celebrated restaurants.
$120 per person
Munch on street food or eat in one of the many cafeteria – style eateries around the city.
$1.50–$4.00 per meal
$1.25 for a half-liter of beer
seeThe ballet at the National Opera Theatre.
$80 per ticket
City’s nightlife quarter any night of the week for live music, hole-in-the-wall venues, exhibitions and parties.
Free–$2
sleepA night in one of Budapest’s famous 5-star hotels.
$275 per night
Backpacker hostels.
$10 per night for off-season, double it for the summer

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

  • Tip: How do you say “how much does it cost?” in Hungary? Mennyi bekerül (men-yii be-ke-ruul).
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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

The easiest and cheapest route to spending is a travel-friendly card that doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals — bonus if it also has no currency conversion fee. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted under the Maestro and Cirrus brands.

While you can probably get by in Budapest with your card, it’s important to know that most businesses are still cash-based outside the capital and some provincial cities.

Travel money optionProsCons
Travel cards
  • PIN security
  • Spare card if card is lost or stolen
  • Reloadable over a secure online portal
  • Load with euros
  • You’ll pay a currency conversion fee
  • Fees to reload funds
Debit cards
  • No fees at Citibank ATMs in Hungary
  • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
  • Debit cards are directly linked to your bank account if your card is lost or stolen
Credit cards
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • May come with benefits like travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Withdrawing money from an ATM will be treated as a cash advance, which come with high interest rates
  • Credit card companies may block your card if they see international transactions without being notified of travel plans

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How different travel money products work in Hungary

Using a travel prepaid card

No travel cards support Hungarian forint, so look for a card that waives currency conversion fee, such as Travelex. It won’t charge for currency conversion when you spend in lira, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The downside is these cards charge a couple of dollars for international ATM withdrawal in Hungary. Load these cards with euros to use at some merchants— but don’t count on it. And you won’t get the best exchange rate.

  • Tip: In most situations, you will get ripped off if you pay euros instead of Hungarian forint.

Using a debit card

A debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to Hungary. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. Find a bank that waives international ATM fees and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

It makes sense to take a card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion when you’re spending in a currency other than US dollars. You’ll also find that some Hungarian Banks don’t charge local ATM operator fees — so you’re only on the hook for the exchange rate.

  • Tip: Though Hungarian banks don’t charge ATM fees, non-Hungarian banks do.

Using a credit card

You won’t have any trouble using a credit card in Hungary — although American Express is accepted at fewer places. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

Using a traveler’s checks

Today, traveler’s checks are unnecessary. Security is the main advantage of traveler’s checks, but now card providers have money back guarantees if you’re the victim of card fraud too. Check our guide on how to avoid credit card fraud.

Paying with cash in Hungary

Use the Hungarian forint when you can. Though some merchants accept euros, but you’ll get a poor exchange rate.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $1,000. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
American Express® Gold Card
35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Hilton Honors American Express Card
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
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Case study: Kate's experience

Kate profile photo
Kate

Interview with Kate on her travel in Budapest, Hungary

What cards did you take with you?

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
  • TD Bank Visa
  • 500 euros

Why did you take these cards?

The TD Bank card is the card she uses at home, and it didn’t charge for foreign transactions. The Barclaycard was a backup card used for big purchases like flights and hotels. With no foreign exchange fee, rewards for travel points and complimentary international travel insurance, she got the most from purchases with this card. She brought euros because they were easy to get from her US bank.

Where there any places where you cards weren’t accepted?

While credit and debit cards are accepted in most places, Kate says the markets were strictly cash only.

What about ATMs?

Hungarian Bank ATMs don’t charge a local fee when you withdraw cash. You’ll pay when you use a non-bank ATM; however, you won’t have to look far to find a place where you can withdraw for cheap or for free.

What travel money tips do you have for Hungary?

  • Money changing scams. Never exchange money outside of an exchange booth. Always go inside. She says the people who want to change your cash on the street are going to give you fake notes. She also says not to change your money at a banks because they charge a much higher fee than exchange offices.
  • Festivals. Sziget Festival is now completely cash free and only accepts Metapay Festivalcard or with a bank issued contactless enabled card. The cash free policy applies to other popular Hungarian festivals; Volt Festival, Balaton Sound and Budai Gourmet also.
Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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Buying euro or Hungarian forint currency in the US

If you want Hungarian currency once you arrive in Hungary, look at money exchange services like Travelex. You can buy Hungarian forints and pickup the cash at major airports or from one of the many Travelex locations throughout the US.

Exchanging cash

The Hungarian forint sits at roughly 250 to 300 forint to 1 dollar. If you arrive in Hungary without cash, you can withdraw forints from an ATM or you can exchange funds at the airport — for a poor rate. Just change a small amount to get you to the main city.

Foreign currency exchange spots are very accessible in Budapest and in smaller cities, towns and frequented tourist hot spots like Lake Balaton — most will charge a small commission.

  • Tip: Check out the going exchange rate on finder.com to get an idea of the current exchange before you enter an office. If there’s a huge difference between the “buy” and “sell”, you should look elsewhere. Do your calculations before you make the exchange so you know how much you’re getting.

Using ATMs in Hungary

ATMs are everywhere in Budapest and widely available in other small cities, towns and villages. Hungarian banks do not charge additional ATM usage fees, so the amount it costs to take money out from an ATM will depend on the fees from your bank.

Third party ATMs are also common in Hungary and often found at gas stations and in bars, but many charge a flat rate for usage. Almost all ATMs will ask upfront if you prefer English, German or Hungarian.

Cash pickup services in Hungary

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 302.142 HUF 300,936 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$0 1 - 2 days USD 1.99 297.587 HUF 296,995 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Same day USD 8.00 296.828 HUF 294,453 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 296.069 HUF 290,147 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
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Find the lowest insurance quote for your next travel in Hungary

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
$50,000
$2,000
$1,000
Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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