Useful travel information to read as you plan your trip to the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Budapest. The next race takes place on July 22-24, 2016.
Hungary is a land-locked republic in central Europe with a population of 10 million and a history dating back over 1000 years. Once a part of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, the country lost much of its territory when attaining independence after the first World War and was then subject to a Communist leadership between 1947-1989. A member of the European Union since 2004, Hungary is a developed nation and a popular tourist destination, receiving around 10 million visitors a year.
Hungary is a member of the Schengen area, which provides visa-free entry for up to 90 days to citizens of the European Union, as well as Australia, the USA, Canada and other major Western countries. Within the Schengen area, which comprises twenty-six European countries, there are no border controls and you are free to cross borders without having to show your passport. Make sure you have at least three months validity on your passport beyond the planned visit. Read more about the Schengen area and find out whether you need a visa here.
Budapest, one of Europe’s grandest and most beautiful cities, is the capital and largest city in Hungary. The greater metro area of the city is home to in excess of 3m inhabitants. Budapest was created in 1873 when Buda, a city to the West of the Danube River, was united with Pest to the East. The city attracts over 4m tourists annually, placing it number six in the top ten most visited cities in Europe.
On the whole, Budapest is a safe destination, but like any big city popular with tourists, F1 fans need to keep their wits about them as crime and scams do exist, particularly when a big event such as the Grand Prix is on. Pickpockets operate on public transport and around popular tourist attractions, so keep your belongings secure. Always book your taxi by phone and don’t hail on the street.
Scammers do target tourists, particularly in the old town area, so be careful about making new friends, particularly if you have been drinking. The most famous Budapest scam – targeting men – involves a pretty girl introducing herself on the street and wanting to take you to a bar. Don’t fall for this one! The bar will charge exorbitant rates for drinks and heavies will make sure your bill is settled, often to the tune of hundreds of dollars.
Don’t forget to sort out adequate travel insurance before you head to Hungary. The health service in Hungary is adequate, though still somewhat behind Western standards. If you do get sick, the best doctors can be found in private clinics and hospitals, but you will pay a lot more than at equivalent public facilities.
It’s hot and dry in Budapest when the race is held in late July, often oppressively so. Expect temperatures around 30°C (86°F) or above and plenty of sun – Budapest gets as much summer sun as many resorts on the Mediterranean sea. The Hungarian Grand Prix has only been rain affected three times in the last 29 years. Be sure to pack lots of light, comfortable clothing and don’t forget a hat and sunglasses.
The Hungarian currency is called the Forint (HUF), which has remained steady against the EUR in the past 12 months, but fallen by around 20% against the USD and GBP during the same period, which is good news for American and British fans. ATMs are easy to find in Budapest and credit cards are widely accepted in shops and restaurants. Avoid money changers as the rates are often very poor and tourists can be scammed – if you do need to change money, go to a bank instead. Tipping is expected in Hungary, but only if you are happy with the service.
The official language of Hungary is Hungarian (sometimes referred to as ‘Magyar’). Often cited as one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, it is related to Finnish and Hungarian and derives from the Uralic language family. Luckily for tourists, a lot of Hungarians speak at least some English (German is also widely spoken), particularly younger people and those in the services industry. A phrase book (or translator on your smartphone) is a good idea however, and it never hurts to learn a few pleasantries – the locals will appreciate you making the effort.
Need to Know
- Hungary uses European standard 2-pronged electricity sockets.
- The timezone in Hungary is GMT +1 hours.
- Hungary’s international dialing code is +36. The general Emergency number is 112.
- As with the rest of continental Europe, Hungarians drive on the right.
- The tap water in Budapest is safe for human consumption.
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