Money Matters

Cash Payment

Money picIn Hungary the official currency is the Hungarian Forint (Ft or HUF). Name of forint comes from the city of Florence where golden coins were minted from 1252 called fiorino d’oro. In Hungary, florentinus, also a gold-based currency was used from 1325. From the name florentinus originates the name of florint, the later forint.

The denominations of the forint coins are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200, while the HUF banknotes are 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000 and 20000. Birdwatchers will like the 5 and 50 forint coins, because the images on these coins are Great White Egret and Saker Falcon.

Though, the official currency is the Hungarian Forint, you can also pay in other currencies (mostly in euro) at many places. It is legal, because businesses can decide which payment form including the use of currency they accept. For example big retail chains (like Tesco, Spar, Auchan), most hotels, certain petrol stations (near borders and along transit routes), certain restaurants, shops taxi companies accept euros. But first ask, whether they accept payment in foreign currency. Also check the exchange rate they use, as you might be better off exchanging your currency first and paying in forints. Please, also note, that though shops, restaurants may accept paying in euro, but they give back the change in Hungarian Forint. At certain places only banknotes are accepted, coins not.


Exchange rates picAs mentioned before, in Hungary foreign currency is not accepted anywhere, so you will need the local currency the Hungarian Forint (HUF) during your stay. We suggest not to buy forint in your home country, because HUF is likely an exotic currency and its exchange rate is less favourable than in Hungary.

If you arrive by plane, do not change any money at the airport terminals because the rates can be up to 15% worse than in the city centre. You can pay the taxi either in euro or by credit card.

If you need Hungarian Forint in cash, you can change your euros, dollars either in banks, at certain travel agencies, or at exchange kiosks. Never change money on the street. It's against the law and you can be easily cheated or end up with counterfeited money. A so-called money change scam also occurs usually in highly frequented tourist areas and railway stations.

The quickest and most economic way to change money is to use exchange offices or kiosks. Exchange kiosks located in tourist areas or shopping malls offer the best exchange rates. Change offices usually do not use commission, but always check for it on the display. To change euro/dollars to forint the exchange kiosks apply the cash buy rate (they buy your currency and sell forint). The buy rate is lower than the sell rate (when you change forint into euro or dollar), and some change offices make a trick by displaying the higher sell rate first, so be cautious. We recommend to use Exclusive Change which has an extended network and reasonable rates. Their kiosks can be found at most shopping malls, Tesco hypermarkets and tourist areas.

From the banks changing money we recommend OTP, the National Savings Bank. They have many branches and their rates are usually better than most foreign banks, you find OTP's daily cash and foreign exchange rates here.

As an indication of the Hungarian Forint rate, you can use the currency converter, indicating the actual mid-point exchange rates from Please, note, that cash sell and buy rates differ from mid-point rates and when the forint is volatile (usually is), the spread can be significant.


ATM picIn Hungary more than 4600 ATMs are in use and more than 1100 operates in Budapest, so it is easy to find them. Most ATMs accept MasterCard, Cirrus Maestro and Visa, but in the past it was hard to find ATMs which accept Amex, JCB or Diners Club cards.

Since the biggest retail bank OTP started to launch American Express cards, you can withdraw money from OTP ATMs using your Amex card. OTP has more than 2000 ATMs so finding cash machine with OTP logo is relatively easy.

Diners Club cards are generally accepted by the ATMs of Citibank and Budapest Bank (BB). Citibank has only a few ATMs, while BB has some 150 country wide.

Credit and Debit Cards

Credit Cards picIn Hungary credit and debit cards, especially Visa, MasterCard, Maestro are widely accepted, and you'll be able to use them at many restaurants, shops, hotels, car-rental firms, travel agencies and petrol stations or nowadays even in taxis (if you call a taxi company tell the operator that you wish to pay by credit card). Since in Hungary the banks issue most cards belonging to MasterCard, Maestro or Visa, these are the most widely accepted bank cards.

Many shops do not accept Amex or Diners Club cards, because these cards are not common in Hungary, and transaction fees are high. However since the largest retail bank OTP started to issue American Express cards a few years ago the acceptance of the Amex card is increasing. But it is recommended that beside the Amex card you should possess a Visa or MasterCard as well.

Please, be aware that in low cost restaurants, certain museums, small shops, markets, non-tourist businesses bank cards are not accepted, so always have enough forints with you.

Traveller's Cheque

Traveller's Cheque picProcessing Traveller's Cheque was never easy in Hungary and it has not improved, since the use of credit or debit cards and the increasing network of ATMs has begun to replace the traveller's cheque's function.

In Hungary many banks do not process traveller's cheques at all. If they do, they are willing to pay only in Hungarian Forint even if the cheque is issued in US Dollars or euro. If you need the USD or the EUR, you need to change back the forint into the currency, so you have exchange loss twice. Might be special (worse) rate for buying traveller's cheque, and minimum processing fee can be also applied.

Further on the authorisation and verification process is cumbersome, because many branches do not have the right to process the cheque, only some employees have the necessary authorisation to do that. Still many clerks do not speak proper English. So if you do not want to spoil your stay in Hungary forget the Traveller's Cheque or any kind of cheques.


Tipping picHungarians usually give tips when eating out, having a drink at a bar, using a taxi, having a hair cut, etc. The tip is usually 10% of the price, rounded up to the nearest 100 or 500 or 1000 HUF.

It is considered rude if you don't give any tip to the waiter, it means that you were absolutely dissatisfied with the service. However if the service or food was bad, don't give a tip.

Nowadays more and more restaurants add a service charge to the bill, but many times this information is somewhat hidden on the menu card. So before paying and tipping it is better to ask the waiter if service fee is included in the price. Of course, if the restaurant charges service fee, you need not give a tip.

If no service charge is applied and you are paying with credit card, no use to add 10% tip to the bill, because the waiters, restaurant staff and chef won't get a forint of it. Rather pay the bill by bank card and give a few hundreds forint in cash.