Travel money Hungary 2021: How to pay & how much to bring

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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

Our picks for traveling to Hungary

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Wise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Wise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

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.

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.

These are your options for spending money in Hungary

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.

  • Tip: It’s worth researching credit cards that offer travel benefit and rewards for things you’ll buy anyways like flights and hotel stays.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Debit cards are directly linked to your bank account if your card is lost or stolen

Using a prepaid travel 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.
Pros
  • PIN security
  • Spare card if card is lost or stolen
  • Reloadable over a secure online portal
  • Load with euros
Cons
  • You’ll pay a currency conversion fee
  • Fees to reload funds

Using 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.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points), 3x points on directly-booked flights and 1x points on all other purchases
$250

Rose Gold is back

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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. Plus up to $ statement credit towards groceries
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $1,000 plus up to $ statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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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.
  • Live Rate

    = Ft 299.7928

    Refreshing in: 60s | Tue, Apr 20, 10:57AM GMT

    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.

    Hungary ten forintsHungary twenty forintsHungary fifty forints
    Hungary one hundred forintsHungary five hundred forints

    The main banks in Hungary are:

    • OTP Bank
    • K&H Bank
    • Erste Bank
    • Budapest Bank
    • CIB Bank
    • MKB Bank
    • Raiffeisen Bank
    • UniCredit Bank
    • FHB Bank
    • BNP Paribas Bank
    Find ATMs in Hungary

    Cash pickup services in Hungary

    Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
    $1 Within an hour USD 3.99 298.294 HUF 297,104 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
    $10 Within an hour USD 1.99 293.797 HUF 293,212 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
    Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
    Go to site Show details
    $1 Within an hour USD 8.00 293.047 HUF 290,703 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Go to site Show details
    $1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 292.298 HUF 286,452 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

    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. All prices are in US dollars.

    Luxury vacationBudget vacation
    MealsFeats 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
    ActivitiesThe 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
    AccomodationA 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).

    Case study: Kate's experience

    Kate profile photo
    Kate

    Interview with Kate on her travel in Budapest, Hungary

    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.

    Compare travel insurance for your next trip to Hungary

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    Our latest travel deals to Hungary

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    Up to 75% off travel deals

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    Up to 50% off highest rated hotels on your next booking

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