I have gotten a few PM in the last several weeks and the reoccurring questions seem to be about money and transportation, so…….. while I am happy to answer PM’s I thought I would put some of it out here for other input, cause I am often wrong.
How much cash to bring?
I feel comfortable with 10.000 in my pocket when I arrive. That’s about $25.
The currency is the Hungarian Forint; sometimes denoted as ft. or HUF. Right now the exchange rate is about 350 to the dollar. So a 2.000 ft note is worth a tad more than $5.00 and I just think of the 2.000 ft note as a five dollar bill …. Convenient that way. The other bills are 500, 1.000, 5.000, 10.000 and 20.000. The only two coins worth worry are the 100 ft (roughly a quarter) and the 200 ft coin (roughly a fifty cent piece); the rest of the coins are good for the beggar and homeless cups.
Do keep in mind when shopping that in Hungary and most of Europe that they use a decimal point where we could use a comma. So 20.000 is our 20,000.
Few places as a matter of business (outside the tourist zone) want to accept Euros and if they do the exchange rate will not be good. Even if you see Euros on a menu (adjacent to the forint cost), understand that they don’t update their menus as the rates change so they have padded the Euro cost quite a bit. Its not to rip you off, its just not practical to update every day and then they still have to take the Euros to the exchange house.
Cash vs Credit Cars
I suspect every place you will go will take your credit card. Mostly tap machines. In restaurants they will bring the machine to you.
Tipping is not required. Tipping is not taboo either. Do what feels good. If you do, then 10% if fine. If you don’t, they wont hate you. To be honest, I don’t want the coins so I leave them if nothing else.
If you want to tip, when they start inputting the 5.777 ft charge into the machine you can just tell them, “charge 7.000 ft”and they will say thank you. Although some restaurants and bars cannot put tips on the bill. So if you want to tip, always best to have some cash.
You will almost always be asked on one of the screens if you want to be charged in Forints or Dollars. Choose Forints as your bank will probably give you a better rate. This is the DCC you keep hearing about but it wont say DCC on the screen so remember “Forints” or “HUF”
Two choices, Bank and Independent (Like EuroNet machines).
EuroNet: High fees but conveniently located. For a quick 10.000 ft to tip that pretty service provider, why not. But the 10.000 ft will end up costing you at least 12.000 ft, so take out 20.000 instead (22.000 ft); shes worth it.
When I am really bored I sit in a café outside a Bank ATM and watch. Most all bank ATM’s are located inside a glass vestibule with a door. To open the door you need to swipe a card with a magnetic strip on it. What card? Well, any card will work. So my first fun is watching the tourists stare at the card reader and assume they need a card from that bank and then walk away.
Having passed the card reader test, they then attempt to open the door. This is my second fun moment for the day. Americans intuitively pull the door because in the US most every commercial door opens out (safer that way in a fire). In Hungary they will almost always open in. I have watched tourist yanking and yanking and never think to push before they walk away (probably thinking the card reader didn’t work because they didn’t have a card from that bank). FIRST PUSH, then in the rare instance that does not work, PULL.