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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Republic of Hungary

Area: 93,000 sq km

Population: 10.1 million

Capital city: Budapest (pop 2 million)

People:89.9% Hungarian, 4% Gypsy, 2.6% German, 0.8% Slovak & 0.7% Romanian

Language: Hungarian

Religion: 68% Roman Catholic, 21% Reformed (Calvinist), 6% Evangelical (Lutheran), 5% Other

Government: Parliamentary democracy

President: Ferenc Madl


Hungary is a kidney-shaped country lying in the centre of Europe sharing borders with seven neighbours: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia. There are three basic topographies: the low-lying regions of the Great Plain in the east, centre and south-east, and the Little Plain in the north-west; the northern mountain ranges, which include Hungary's highest peak (the 1015-metre-high Kékesteto); and the hilly regions of Transdanubia in the west and south-west. The biggest rivers are the Danube and the Tisza, which divide the country into thirds, and the Dráva which forms the south-western border with Croatia. The country has over 1000 lakes - the largest, Balaton, is strewn with thermal springs.

Almost 70% of Hungary is under cultivation and only 14% remains forested. Most of the forests are beech and oak, and there's a small percentage of fir. Common animals include deer, wild hare, boar and otter, and there's also rare species such as wild cat, lake bat and Pannonian lizard. However, the majority of the country's vertebrates are birds, especially waterfowl attracted by the numerous rivers, lakes and wetlands. There are five national parks and almost 1000 protected areas.

Hungary's climate is temperate, and the country can be divided into three climatic zones: Mediterranean in the south, Continental in the east, and Atlantic in the west. In Southern Transdanubia, summers are long and winters mild and wet. The Great Plain has the most extreme seasonal differences with cold, windy winters and hot, usually dry summers. Summers can be very hot in Budapest and Western Transdanubia, with winters relatively short, often cloudy but sometimes brilliantly sunny. The mean average temperature in Hungary is 11 degrees centigrade. January is the coldest month (minus two degrees Celsius) and July the hottest (28 degrees Celsius).

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$75.4 billion

GDP per head: US$7,400

Annual growth: 5%

Inflation: 10%

Major industries: Mining, metallurgy & agriculture, construction materials, processed foods, textiles,chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals), motor vehicles

Major trading partners: Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia

Member of EU: No

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Citizens of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Asian countries and most European countries don't require visas; German and French citizens need only show their identity cards. Nationals of Australia require visas, which are valid for between 30 and 90 days. Visas may be purchased upon arrival.

Health risks: None

Time: GMT/UTC plus one hour (winter); plus two hours (summer)

Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 20 million visitors per year

Money & Costs
 Currency:Forint (Ft)
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$2-4
  • Mid-range: US$4-8
  • Top-end: US$8 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$8-14
  • Mid-range: US$14-50
  • Top-end: US$50 and upwards
  • Hungary remains a bargain destination for foreign travellers. If you stay in private rooms, eat at medium-priced restaurants and travel 2nd-class on trains, you should get away on about US$25 a day without scrimping. Those putting up in hostels, dormitories or camping grounds and eating at self-service restaurants or food stalls will cut costs substantially.

    You can exchange cash and travellers' cheques up to 30,000 Ft at banks and travel agents, usually for a commission of 1% to 2%. Post offices almost always change cash, but rarely cheques. ATMs accepting credit and debit cards can be found throughout the country, but it's always useful to carry a little foreign cash, preferably US dollars or Deutschmarks in case your plastic doesn't work. Credit cards can be used in up-market restaurants, shops, hotels, car rental firms, travel agencies and petrol stations.

    Hungary is a very tip-conscious society and virtually everyone routinely tips waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers and even doctors, dentists and petrol-station attendants about 10%. Not leaving a tip, or leaving a very small tip, is a strong signal that you were less than impressed with the service. Never leave money on the table in a restaurant: tell the waiter how much money you want to leave as a tip as you are paying the bill. Bargaining is not the done thing in Hungary, but you can try a little gentle haggling in flea markets or with individuals selling folk crafts.

    When to Go

    Though it can be pretty wet in May and June, spring is just glorious in Hungary. The Hungarian summer is warm, sunny and unusually long, but the resorts are very crowded in late July and August. Like Paris and Rome, Budapest comes to a halt in August (called 'the cucumber-growing season' here because that's about the only thing happening).

    Autumn is beautiful, particularly in the hills around Budapest and in the Northern Uplands. November is one of the rainiest months of the year, however. Winter is cold, often bleak and museums and other tourist sights are often closed. Animal lovers will also want to skip this season: half the women are draped in furry dead things throughout the winter.

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