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Cultural Guide to Budapest

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is an eclectic mix of ancient and modern, which has produced a very rich culture. There is a lot you need to know before traveling to Budapest. I have put together a useful cultural guide that will help you better understand the city and get the most from your trip.

Quick Info

Communication: To call Hungary (011 + 36 + local number)
Currency: Hungarian Forints (Ft, HUF) About $1 USD to 277 HUF
Language: Hungarian is the national language. English is somewhat spoken in Budapest, and many menus are in English.  You can get around the city just fine without knowing any Hungarian.
Power: 220 Volt. A European adapter is required.

People

The official language of Hungarian is spoken by 98% of the 10.3m population. Minority languages have become more prominent in recent years. They include German, Croatian, Romani, Slovak, Romanian, Serbian and Slovene. Attempts are being made to protect these languages, as many members of the ethnic groups actually do not speak them. The population of Budapest is about 1.774 million, 17% of the country’s population. Women contribute more than half with 54% of the population.

The city leaders consider it their fundamental task to make Budapest a liveable and pleasant city. A place where local people and visitors can find a variety of leisure activities and entertainment. Visitors are lured by a multitude of cafés and restaurants with terraces, particularly in the increasing number of pedestrian zones.

The cultural life of Budapest consists of buoyant nights in the theater. Many of the renowned old theaters have been remodeled over the past few years. In 2002 the National Theater, demolished in the 1960’s, was rebuilt on a new site. Szabó Ervin Central Public Library had also undergone spectacular renewal and expansion which has made it one of the largest and most moderns public libraries in Central Europe.
 cultural guide to hungary 

Government

Hungary is governed under a constitution adopted in 2011. The president serves as the head of state and is elected by the legislature for a five-year term. The legislature also nominates the prime minister, who serves as the head of government. The National Assembly has 386 members who are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 19 counties, 23 urban counties, and the capital district.

cultural guide to budapest 

Tipping Etiquette

At sit-down restaurants it is standard to tip about 10% of the total for decent service, or up to 15% for outstanding service. Nowadays, many restaurants include a 12.5% “service charge” (“szervízdíj” in Hungarian) so make sure to check for this either on the bill itself or on the menu; there is no need to leave any extra tip in addition to this amount. For taxi cabs it is ordinary to tip approximately 5-10% of the total fare, or to round up by about 100-200 forints for a ride of ten minutes or less. For other services, like a massage or hairdresser, tipping is normally accepted at 10% rate.
cultural guide to budapest

Getting Around Budapest

Budapest is comprised of 23 districts (the Roman numbers indicate the district). The historical quarters of the inner districts are the following in Buda: the Castle (Vár), Tabán (I.), Watertown (Víziváros) (I/II.), Krisztinaváros (I/XII.), Gellért-hegy (I/XI.), Országút (II.), Óbuda (III.).

And on the other side of the river in Pest: Belváros (Downtown), Lipótváros (V.), Terézváros (VI.), Erzsébetváros (VII.), Józsefváros (VIII.), Ferencváros (IX.).

Public Transit: Budapest’s public transportation systems are operated by the company BKV. The service includes buses, trolleybuses, trams, underground trains (Metro) and above-ground suburban trains (HÉV). Buses, trams and trolleybuses run daily from 4.30 a.m. until 11.0 p.m. Tickets and passes must be bought before boarding. You cannot buy them from the driver, except on the night bus network.

Taxi: Cabs in Budapest are marked with the word “Taxi”, often accompanied by a company name / logo such as “City Taxi”. All taxi vehicles must have a yellow registration plate, as opposed to the white bacgkround on regular car plates. Normal per kilometre charge (280 HUF/km).  It is important to always order cabs by phone in Budapest, or get at official taxi stands or in front of major hotels.  I always discourage hailing taxis on the street, as overcharging cab drivers are quite common.

cultural guide to budapest

City Tips

Many of the museums in Budapest are closed on Mondays.
Budapest Card: The Budapest card is a package of services and discounts for visitors to the city of Budapest. The goal of the Budapest Card is to give visitors a selection of discount services from museums and spas to dining.  If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing the card is worth getting.

Useful Words and Phrases

Hello – Hello
Good day! – Jó napot (yoh nu-pot)
Good bye – Szia (see-yah)
Thank you – Köszönöm (khoe-se-noem)
How are you?  Hogy vagy? (haw-j-vah-j)
Nice to meet you – Örülök, hogy megismertem (errel-oek hodge megh-ish-merh-them)
Please – légyszi (ledge-see)
You’re pretty – Csinos vagy (chee nosh vah j)
Kiss me – Csókolj meg (choke-oy megh)
I’d like a beer – Kérek egy sört (Keh-rack a-j chert)
Cheers – Egészségedre! (Ag-esh-sheg-ad-reh)

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