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Convert Euros or ATM for Forints?

I am a trifle anxious about arriving in Budapest from Vienna on the train (Keleti) and having to immediately get money from an ATM; I'm thinking to withdraw 50,000 HUF (looks like that's around $200 USD or so) and wondering if they'll be disbursed in large or small bills? Research indicates the OTP ones give out large bills that are hard to break, and I'll be needing a taxi.

If I have euros leftover does it make sense to go to a currency exchange for forints? 50 euros or less I'll keep for another trip, but more than that I could do something with.

Posted by
2089 posts

Thank you for the link, that helps. I think spending down my euros before leaving Vienna won't be too terribly hard, and makes more sense. This is the first trip I've made where more than one foreign currency will be needed.

Posted by
2028 posts

Request 49,000 forints, not 50,000.
This will force the machine to give you a few smaller bills for buying transit tickets.

Posted by
6033 posts

I just did this exact trip a couple of weeks ago (Vienna to Budapest Keleti) and got my first forints from the ATM at the station. There was a line by the time I found the ATM but the previous poster was nice enough to give you a link to the station layout so it should be easy for you. I needed more than you plan on withdrawing because I had to pay for my apartment up front when I got there so I withdrew 200,000 forints and I got mostly large bills but some small ones also. And the large bills were not that hard to get rid of.

Posted by
10906 posts

@christa, push comes to shove the taxis do take credit cards (have them charge the card in forints and don't let them make the conversion - typical of any credit card transaction while traveling). They will also accept dollars and euros but at miserable exchange rates. Still for a trip across town that miserable exchange rate may only cost you an extra $5 at the very most. Speaking of the taxis you do know to call one? There will be taxis lined up at the curb but they tend to be a little iffy. Not dangerous or anything, but you might end up paying a little too much. The best practice is to call a well known company like City Taxi http://www.citytaxi.hu/ . They will give you a car number and tell you to meet it at the drop off / pick up look on Kerepesi út. Go out the doors by tracks 11,12,13 (look on the map @Steven posted above). You will see a Chinese Restaurant on your left and the loop on your right. Look for your car, takes about 5 minutes. Like I said, they will take a credit card.

What to do with the left over forints? I can give you an address to mail them to if you would like. :-) The airport has some charity donation stations if you are going through the airport. If you are leaving on a Saturday morning you can have the taxi take you by the Teleki ter shul and you can make a contribution to a great group of people that need all the help they can get.

Quick conservative conversion for forints is to drop two zeros and divide by two. So 50,000 becomes 500 divided by two becomes $250. The actual exchange right now would be $210 to $215 so my shortcut "tempers" my wife's spending a little bit.

Posted by
10906 posts

Oh, the ATM may only offer 10k's and 20k's but they are not hard to break.

Posted by
10906 posts

@worldinbetween, WELCOME BACK!

But you have to remember that we are tourists with 3 days to spend (typically), the first 20k note goes for the travel card at 4,150 ft each I think. Instant small change. The ticket windows are always full of cash.

Then each subsequent 20k note is broken::

........Tourist Lunch: 7,000 ft another note broken

........Wife wants to bring home gifts for her sister and parents; bang, 4 20k notes gone

........Funicular for two; another 20k note gone

.........Danube Boat Ride

.........Tourist Dinner

..........Opera Tour

...........Parliament Tour

..........Kadarka's Wine Bar at 4k a bottle

..........Made a wrong turn and ended up walking down Vaci ut.............bang, bang, bang, bang the 20's are flying out of the purse.

...........Grocery Store (for the apartment tourists); now you got a problem.......

By the way thought about trying to contact you when we were in Budapest in June but we were too pooped out from the first half of the trip. We were also thee in March and three trips a year is the limit so we are stranded here until December. Then we will be in Budapest from the 20th of December through the 4th of January. Maybe we can buy you and yours a cup.

Posted by
2089 posts

So much good info, thank you all! I will indeed request either 49 or 59K to ensure some small bills; I was thinking along the lines of our ATMs where 20s and 10s are standard so figured a round sum was necessary. As with anything unknown there's anxiety and I'm sure once I get some money and a taxi to my hotel--thank you James for the detailed taxi info, that really helps--I'll wonder why I was anxious at all.

Posted by
10906 posts

@christa; should I send you that address to mail the left over forints to?

And, get completely relaxed for Budapest. Never was there a more laid back or easier city to navigate and enjoy. If you do manage to get lost there is a simple trick to find your way. Pull out your tourist map, open it and hold it up high where everyone can see it and then look confused. Generally it takes less than 2 minutes for someone to offer to help. I may be a little optimistic about that but it is a pretty accurate representation of the attitude and kindness of people of Budapest. DONT do this in every city. In many cities having your hands occupied in that way will invite pick pockets. ;-)

Posted by
12091 posts

@Christa....Don't you plan on coming back to Budapest on later trips if you do have left over florints? I would. My suggestion is if the remaining amount does not exceed a hundred Euro or dollars, save it for the next trip to Budapest.

Posted by
10906 posts

@fred, you know I am maybe just a little biased for Budapest so really, really want to agree. But generally speaking if I have less than $50 I consider the notes a souvenir. So few people actually return to a place; there is just so much to see out there. But I guess you are correct, if there is one place in the world where people will return it would be ........ (see biased). If they do return it can be many, many years later. Would you like some of my pre-magnetic strip forint bills? I use them for book marks, they are otherwise worthless. I also have a nice collection of Italian lira notes. I have currency from at least 15 countries, maybe half of it useless because of either the euro or changes in the currency its self. Naaaaa, better to send it to me. I will take good care of it. ;-)

Or stuff the cash into an envelope when you get home and mail it to:

Gláser Jakab Emlékalapítvány
Budapest 1077
Wesselényi utca 9. IV. emelet 2/a.

http://jakabglasermemorialfoundation.com/
Or find another worthy cause that touches you and allows you to give back to a trip, a people and a culture you most certainly enjoyed.

Posted by
2089 posts

I've only visited England, Scotland, Estonia and Finland so far, and I would love to visit them all again, so returning to Budapest is entirely possible. I have a feeling I'll love it, especially if the people are as friendly as mentioned--not to worry, even if a place is considered safe I'm still cautious.

Posted by
12091 posts

@ James ...saving coins or currency for souvenirs from past trips is only natural, if one is interested in keeping any samples of realia. I have a few from pre-Euro days too, mainly in French francs (coins) , West German marks, which I neglected/forgot to reconvert, aside from other bits and pieces. The only east bloc useless currency I don't regret in not keeping even one example as a souvenir is that East Germany Mark that looked/felt like "Monopoly" money. That from the mandatory exchange amount I made sure I got rid of spending wise or as tips. Florints, like Polish zlotys, I definitely would keep for the next trip.