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Preface Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

After 40 years of communism, Hungary has emerged as a dynamic and progressive country that reflects 1,000 years of history and culture. Now on the verge of entry into the European Union, Hungary has seen economic reform and strong economic growth, both of which have helped to make Hungary a leader among the reformist economies of central and Eastern Europe.

Budapest is a beautiful capital, especially at night, when lights on the city's landmark monuments and bridges light up the evening sky. Assignment to Hungary requires adjusting to a different pace and way of life. The national culture and its regional variations are shaped by patterns rooted in a long and unique Eastern European history. Although English is not widely spoken, a fair number of locals do speak some English, particularly the young.

Budapest offers the familiarity of European culture with a distinctive Hungarian flavor and continues to be a place where Americans enjoy a relatively low cost of living. The city offers something for everyone—world-class cultural events, recreational facilities, country festivals, Western-style malls, museums, thermal spas, antique-filled flea markets, caf‚s, and excellent Hungarian and international cuisine. In addition, Hungary’s location makes it ideal for extensive travel outside the country.

This is the official post report prepared by the post. The information contained herein is directed to official U.S. Government employees and their families. Any other information concerning the facts set forth herein is to be regarded as unofficial information.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Hungary is located in central Europe’s Carpathian Basin and is about 36,000 square miles in area. The capital city, Budapest, hosts about 2.1 million residents. Hungary shares a common border with seven countries—Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria. Hungary has some topographical variation; however, as much as 50% of the country’s territory is flat. The two most important rivers, the Danube and the Tisza, cross the country from north to south. The region between these two rivers is flat, while Transdanubia, the region lying to the west of the Danube, is hilly country featuring central Europe’s largest lake, the Balaton. A range of medium height mountains stretches diagonally across the country. The Hungarian “puszta” (plain) is a favorite tourist destination where the characteristic animals and ethnographic traditions can be seen.

Hungary’s climate is relatively temperate; however, winter can be a grueling season when the daily low temperature is typically below freezing. January tends to be the coldest month and has an average temperature of 29°F. Snow normally melts in Pest after 3 or 4 days; however, small amounts of snow may last for weeks in the Buda Hills. Summer in Hungary is especially enjoyable and easier to tolerate than the humidity of a Washington, D.C. summer. July and August are usually the warmest months, with average daily temperatures in the low 70s (°F), with highs that can reach the 90s (°F). Rainfall is most frequent in late October and early November, and the annual precipitation averages 25.2 inches.

Population Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Of Hungary’s 10 million people, 2.1 million live in the capital city of Budapest. Hungary is the most densely populated country in east-central Europe and trends indicate a steady urbanization. The ethnic composition is 90% Hungarian, 5–7% Roma, 2–3% German, 1% Slovak, 0.9% Southern Slavs, and 0.25% Romanian.

About 65% of the Hungarian population is Roman Catholic, followed by 25% Protestant. The Jewish population approaches 75,000. Religion can be practiced in total freedom, and all major churches receive limited financial aid.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

In 1987, after 40 years of communism, Hungary’s reform-oriented Communist government opened talks with the political opposition. These talks led to free elections in March 1990—the first free elections since 1945. Since then, Hungary has had a multiparty democracy, with six parties represented in Parliament—all committed to a free market economy and constitutional democracy. Following the 1998 national elections, a conservative coalition government was formed. As a result, Viktor Orban, of the Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party, was appointed Prime Minister.

According to the Constitution, state power rests in the 386-seat Parliament. The Parliament has the authority to propose, review, adopt or reject all legislation, and can override Presidential vetoes. A political party must receive at least 5% of all votes to gain representation in Parliament. The Government consists of the Prime Minister, who is elected by a majority of the Members of Parliament, and a Council of Ministers. The President of the Republic, upon the Prime Minister’s recommendation, appoints the Ministers. The Prime Minister chairs the Council of Ministers and is the government’s chief executive official.

Executive power rests in the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister. Various Ministries are divided up between the coalition partners according to their share in the parliamentary mandates. The President, elected separately by Parliament to an independent 5-year term, is the Head of State. The President has limited, largely ceremonial powers and serves as a symbol of national unity. However, the President’s role in issuing laws gives him the ability to return legislation to Parliament for further debate or to forward it to the constitutional court if he deems any of its provision unconstitutional. The President also bears the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

The Parliament elects Commissioners (Ombudsmen) to safeguard human and political rights. There are Commissioners for citizen’s rights, data protection, and national and ethnic minority rights. The Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of all laws passed by Parliament; however, it does not operate as court of appeals. A separate Supreme Court adjudicates the appeals from lower courts.

Hungary recognizes the collective rights of ethnic minorities; therefore, in addition to local government, a model of minority local governments has been introduced. Each minority can have a local minority self-government that operates in conjunction with their respective local government.

Hungary joined NATO in 1999 and has started the enlargement talks with the European Union (EU). The Hungarian Government is firmly committed to eventual integration into the EU and has among the highest rates of economic growth among the EU candidate countries—5.4% for 2000.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Hungary has enjoyed a long and rich cultural tradition that has produced important leaders and innovators in the fields of music and science. Among the most well known are Ferenc Liszt, Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, and Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a participant in the U.S. delegation that returned the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary in 1978.

Hungarian cultural life has also produced a number of outstanding literary figures such as Ferenc Molnar, Sandor Petofi, Attilla Jozsef, George Konrad, Peter Nadas, Gyula Illyes, and Endre Ady. Although the translation of Hungarian works continues, it is a slow and time-consuming process.

Budapest is the heart of Hungary’s cultural and social life. Excellent opera, ballet, and concert productions feature performances by both local and foreign artists who focus on new and classical productions alike. During the summer months, open-air stages in both Budapest and the provinces compete with Budapest’s rich and elaborate theaters such as the spectacular State Opera House, the Erkel Opera Theater, and the Operetta Theater, now undergoing restoration. Each year in August, Budapest is host to the Summer Opera and Ballet Festival as well as the weeklong Pepsi Island Festival—one of the largest rock festivals in Europe. During the theatrical season (September to May), over 30 theaters with resident companies offer a broad range of classical and modern repertory productions giving audiences a choice of almost 300 different plays to see over the course of the year. The spring and fall music festivals organized each year in Budapest focus on new and classical music and theater. In addition, there are a variety of international music, theater, and film festivals throughout the year.

The city’s highly rated symphonies, chamber groups, and soloists perform at the Academy of Music and various other concert halls. There are open-air concerts on Margit Island in the summer and the internationally known Liszt-Bartok Piano Competition is held every third year. The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, the One Hundred Gypsy Violinists, and the Budapest Ballet perform regularly. There are six major symphony orchestras in Budapest—each has a very active season-ticket series and is complemented by numerous professional chamber orchestras.

In addition to Budapest, Hungary’s beautiful towns and villages host a variety of unique and interesting productions and festivals throughout the year to celebrate national heritage, Hungarian history, and cultural, gastronomic, and sporting events. The Gyori Ballet Company is perhaps the best in Hungary and there are excellent repertory theater companies in Szeged, Miskolc, and Debrecen. Each year, the Szeged open-air stage, one of the largest in Hungary, offers a variety of musicals and rock operas to a huge public audience.

Hungarian filmmaking has achieved a high level of sophistication. A number of Hungarian films and directors have received international recognition to include Karoly Makk, director of Cat Games and Love; Miklos Jancso director of The Last Roundup; and Istvan Szabo, who received an Oscar for Mephisto in 1982.

In an effort to preserve Hungary’s historical and cultural treasures, Budapest is home to over 60 museums. The Hungarian National Gallery, housed in the Buda Castle Royal Palace, focuses on Hungarian painting, sculpture, and graphic arts from the 10th century to the present day. The Museum of Fine Arts has an extensive collection of both Hungarian and foreign artwork, to include the largest collection of Spanish paintings outside Spain. The Ethnographical Museum provides a historical look at Hungarian people and culture through costume, furnishings, and traditions. Among the most unique of Budapest’s museums is Statue Park, which is an open-air collection of gigantic statues that were previously set in public parks and squares during the Communist era.

Hungarian higher education underwent a drastic change in 2000. Over 70 public universities and almost 100 colleges were reorganized, on a regional basis, into 13 large comprehensive universities and 22 colleges. In addition, a new university (St. Stephen’s) was created in Gödöllö. Only the universities of Budapest, which remain the center of Hungarian higher education, managed to avoid the reorganization. Hungary’s universities include the Eotvos Lorand University of Arts and Sciences, which offers degrees in law, liberal arts, and the natural sciences; the Budapest School of Economics and Public Administration; the Semmelweis Medical University; the Academy of Fine and Performing Arts; and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics—Hungary’s largest university. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is Hungary’s premier scientific body and maintains more than 80 research institutes and centers, most of which are in Budapest. Hungarian universities are in the process of building new programs such as business and leadership training, informatics, E-business, and environmental management. In addition, as Hungary pushes toward EU membership, it is attempting to update educational infrastructures in line with EU priorities and practices. Budapest is also home to the Central European University (CEU). Funded by the Soros Foundation, CEU is an American-registered graduate school where classes are taught in English. The university has strong programs in central European studies, international relations, economics, business, environmental studies, and medieval studies, and draws an international mix of students and faculty from Europe, the U.S., and Asia.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Hungary possesses few natural resources other than bauxite, coal, oil, and natural gas. Agriculture, while important politically, has declined in economic importance. Hungary’s strategic location in the heart of central Europe, a well-educated population, and a history of government policies favorable to foreign investment, all combine to give the economy a remarkable degree of openness. Economic reform and strong economic growth have helped to make Hungary a leader among the reformist economies of central and Eastern Europe.

Since the end of the Socialist era in 1990, Hungary has undergone a huge economic transformation from a centrally planned economy to free market society. The transition was difficult for Hungary as the economy initially fell into recession. Unemployment and inflation rose, driving real wages and living standards down sharply. In 1995, the Government of Hungary embarked on a bold economic reform program of liberalization, privatization, fiscal austerity, and other significant structural reforms. Within a year, the economy responded positively, and since 1997, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has averaged 5% each year. In addition, inflation has slowed from a high of 31% in 1995 to just below 10% in 2000, and unemployment has fallen dramatically to 6%. Hungary’s openness to foreign direct investment has also contributed to its economic turnaround. Hungary has received more than $20 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the largest inflow of FDI per capita in the region, and foreign-owned companies dominate the most dynamic sectors.

Hungary has completed its transition phase and is a fully functioning market economy. Hungary’s economic future is largely tied to the European Union (EU)—75% of Hungary’s exports are to EU countries, and it is a leading candidate for EU accession between 2003 and 2005. Hungary is considered one of the most attractive destinations in the region for U.S. businesses and investors, and the prospects for further strong economic growth are bright.


Automobiles Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Requirements for importing and registering vehicles in Hungary are becoming more stringent as Hungary adopts and implements European noise and environmental protection standards. At present, you may ship a personally owned vehicle (gasoline or diesel) to post with U.S. specifications, if manufactured after 1987, or European Union specifications if manufactured after July 1992. Gasoline burning vehicles must be equipped with a catalytic converter. The Hungarian Vehicle Department encourages importing vehicles manufactured after 1992, as vehicles must meet rigorous environmental requirements. Any imported vehicle that has cleared customs and belongs to an Embassy staff member can be sold duty-free after 3 consecutive years in country.

Automobiles arriving by freight cannot be driven until customs and registration forms are completed. All private motor vehicles must be registered with the Hungarian National Police in Budapest. The General Services Office (GSO) will assist Embassy staff members with automobile registration and will help to obtain third-party liability insurance, which is mandatory in Hungary. The price for this insurance is based upon the size of the engine and typically ranges from $90 to $300 a year. It is important to note that third-party liability insurance does not cover damage to the owner’s car, but pays for damage to other vehicles or property where the owner is found to be at fault. It does not cover loss due to theft. In addition, registration for third-party insurance provides the owner with the documentation necessary to drive across European borders.

Additional collision and theft insurance may be purchased from the Hungarian State Insurance Company or from U.S. insurance companies who provide coverage in Hungary. Automobiles insured by the Hungarian State Insurance Company require an alarm system. Please contact GSO to determine the necessary alarm system specifications.

Service for American cars is available in Budapest, but not always reliable. American spare parts, although expensive, can be purchased locally, at U.S. military post exchanges in Germany and Italy, and in Vienna. Tires such as Goodyear and Michelin are readily available in Budapest. All major automobile makers have local dealerships; however, dealers largely sell automobiles built to European specifications. U.S. regulations allow for the importation (at U.S. Government expense) of foreign-made and/or foreign-purchased vehicles; therefore, many Embassy employees purchase European-made cars.

Upon request, the commissary will issue an employee an MOL credit card—Hungary’s national gasoline company. Diplomats may avoid commissary service charges by filing for tax refunds individually; however, the commissary MOL credit card program has several advantages. When using the commissary MOL program, monthly gasoline purchases are directly added to the employee’s commissary account. In addition, tax refunds are received immediately and the commissary assumes all exchange rate risks and administrative costs.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Public transportation in Budapest is excellent. Budapest and its environs are well serviced by a network of buses, trams, trolleys, and subway lines. Ticketing is on the honor system; however, Metro Police make routine ticket checks and will issue on-the-spot cash violations for failure to present a correctly punched, valid ticket or metro pass. Monthly and yearly passes are available at major metro stations and can be used for all forms of public transportation. As of January 2001, a monthly pass can be purchased for 3,800 Forints ($14) and a yearly pass can be purchased for 43,000 Forints ($154). Taxis are readily available 24 hours a day and, despite some documented taxi scams, are reasonably priced. Fares vary depending on the company and the time of day. A highly dependable minibus service operates to and from Budapest’s Ferihegy Airport; its set fare is considerably less than a taxi.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Air service between Budapest and most Western European cities is quite good and reasonably priced. Discount fares are available during the winter months. In addition to Malev, the Hungarian airline, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Sabena, and Swiss-Air all provide service to and from Budapest.

Rail travel throughout Europe is frequent, fast, and reliable. Currently, there are direct rail links between Budapest and 13 European capitals. During the spring and summer months hydrofoil boats travel the Danube River between Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna. The scenic ride takes about 5 hours. Hydrofoil boats depart from Vigado Ter and reservations must be made in advance.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Direct-dialing telephone service to most countries is available and very reliable. In the last few years, Hungary has updated its telephone system and increased the quality of service. An international call from Hungary to the U.S. is normally more expensive than a call of the same duration placed from the U.S. Many Embassy employees utilize long distance calling cards such as AT&T and MCI, and international callback services that offer calls at considerable savings.

All Government-owned and -leased housing has telephone service available at the occupant’s expense. Monthly telephone bills include a monthly service charge plus itemized calls, which are billed per second. Employees will notice a slight increase in their monthly telephone bills if they are connected to a local Internet provider.

Basic local monthly service is available for about $12 a month. An average monthly bill, with moderate Internet use and a few overseas calls, could run $50–$120 a month.

American telephones, to include most cordless phones, answering machines, and fax machines will operate in Hungary although devices with internal clocks may run slow because of the difference in cycles in the electrical current.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM
Hungary has an extensive cellular telephone network and personal cellphones are commonplace. Customers can choose to either prepay for their phone usage or purchase a monthly payment plan. Both payment methods have advantages and disadvantages and should be weighed based on a customer’s need. Public telephones are operated by coin or by prepurchased cards that are sold in post offices and some newsstands. However, coin-operated telephones are being phased out and can be difficult to find.

Internet Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Hungary has several local Internet Service Providers to choose from to include DataNet, MatavNet, and Nextra. Depending on the plan, monthly Internet fees start at about $15 a month. Euro ISDN service is available, but is more expensive than dial-up service. Budapest has a number of Internet Cafes where customers can surf the net and access e-mail. Prices vary but are based on per minute or per hour usage.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Department of State (DOS) Pouch. Employees may use the DOS pouch to receive both letters and parcels. Parcels may not exceed 24 inches in the longest dimension or 62 inches length and girth combined. In addition, parcels must not weigh more than 40 pounds. Personal merchandise packages, newspapers, and other periodicals may all be received via pouch provided they meet the size and weight limitations of the State Department pouch system. Prohibited items include liquids, glass, and the usual list of contraband; however, emergency medical supplies and prescription medicines may be sent via pouch. All pouches are sent via air. Incoming pouches are delivered to the Embassy 3 times a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Pouch transit time from Washington to Budapest averages 2–3 weeks. Although expensive, express mail services such as UPS, DHL and FedEx are also available in Budapest and provide overnight delivery service throughout Europe and North America.

Employees may use the DOS pouch to send out letter mail and parcels no larger than the size of a videocassette and weighing no more than two pounds. However, employees may send catalog and/or mail-order purchases that are returned directly to the shipping company. Pouch mail transiting from Budapest to Washington typically arrives in the U.S. postal system within 2-3 weeks. The following address should be used to send and receive mail by pouch:

Employee’s Name—Office Symbol
5270 Budapest Place
Department of State
Dulles, Virginia 20189-5270

International Mail. The Hungarian mail system is generally reliable and can be quicker than diplomatic pouch. International parcel mail, as in the U.S., is quite expensive. Packages arriving from the U.S. are subject to Hungarian customs declarations and inspections. Employees should use caution when using the Hungarian mail system. Items of great value should be registered and insured. International mail may be addressed to the Embassy or the employee’s local, home street address. The Embassy address is as follows:

Employee’s name
Amerikai Nagykovetseg
Szabadsag ter 12.
1054 Budapest

Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Listeners will find a variety of radio program options such as classical, pop, rock, and talk radio. Most stations offer a mix of Hungarian and English-language music. The Hungarian Radio broadcasts English-language news every day. Hungarian Radio Public Broadcasting Corporation (Magyar Radio/MR) has three national channels that offer markedly different programming. There are numerous regional radio stations that broadcast a wide variety of music and talk radio programming. In addition, there are nearly 100 independent local radio stations with public service programs, most of them on the FM band. A few local stations are owned in part by Americans.

Due to an excellent cable penetration in Budapest there is access to European programming in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. If equipped with a satellite dish or cable, most areas in Budapest can pick up many of the following English-language channels: Sky News, CNN International, MTV, Euronews, Super Channel, Eurosport, the Cartoon Network/TNT, FoxSport/Cartoon, Sport 1, MSNBC, Animal Planet, and Discovery Channel. Without cable, or a digital satellite receiver and dish, which are available locally, you will receive only Hungarian channels.

American radios will work with voltage transformers; however, the television broadcasting system is different from that in the U.S. Hungarian television uses the PAL (European) standard. A PAL or multisystem TV is necessary to receive local programming. Converting an American television set to the PAL standard is a great expense. However, an American TV and video system is useful for viewing American videotapes if a multisystem is not available. Multisystem televisions and VCRs are sold locally at large electronic stores and at military shopping facilities.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Currently, there are 12 national dailies published in Budapest. These include four quality newspapers, two economic papers, two all-sports dailies, an advertising newspaper, an all-news free daily, and two tabloid newspapers. In addition, each Hungarian county has at least one regional paper. Of the 24 regional dailies, the largest is Kisalföld, which is published in Györ. A wide variety of opinions and views are represented throughout these publications; however, most national and regional papers tend to be associated with a particular political faction or point of view. Hungarian language women’s interests magazines, intellectual journals, and specialized periodicals are available for purchase locally.

Western newspapers and magazines are readily available in Budapest and in large Hungarian cities. Major dailies such as the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal Europe, and the Financial Times, are available on the day of publication, either by subscription, at newsstands, or in local hotels. USA Today is available, but usually arrives a day late. U.S. daily newspapers such as the New York Times are very difficult to find. International editions of Time, Newsweek, and other magazines are available at newsstands on the day of publication.

There are two local English-language weekly newspapers, the Budapest Sun, a general interest newspaper, and the Budapest Business Journal. Where, Budapest is a monthly English-language magazine that offers cultural, dining, shopping, and local interest information. It is available by subscription and can often be found at the Embassy. Additional (free) English-language magazines, which offer weekly cultural information and listings, include Budapest in Your Pocket and Look. The U.S. Embassy Information Resource Center (IRC), located in the Public Affairs Section, is open to the public twice a week. The IRC maintains a small reference book collection and a CD-ROM database of U.S. journals, newspapers, magazines, and business directories. IRC librarians have access to Internet and commercial on-line databases.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The Embassy maintains a Health Unit that provides primary health care, preventive services, and assistance with access to local health care specialists. A Regional Medical Officer (RMO), regional Foreign Service Health Practitioner (FSHP), a secretary, and two registered nurses staff the Health Unit. It is recommended that employees and their family arrive at post with an initial supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and a first-aid kit for their home and car. Prescription medications may be obtained via the DOS pouch. Many prescriptions are available locally by prescription (check with your FSHP prior to arrival). The regional psychiatrist (RMO/P) who is located in Vienna visits quarterly. Personnel requiring medical evacuation are authorized travel to London, the U.S., and in some cases, Vienna.

Community Health Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The medical system in Hungary is not as advanced as in Western Europe and improvement is slow. Although the physicians are excellent, the hospital facilities are old and offer few amenities. Most outpatient health care services are obtained in large hospital settings, staff are not service oriented, and communication is difficult. In-patient care is uncomfortable due to lack of privacy. It is common practice to tip hospital nurses and doctors. Hospital facilities lack adequate emergency room services. The Health Unit maintains a list of medical specialists who are available to the Embassy community. Obstetrical delivery is discouraged in Budapest. A number of private care clinics are emerging in Budapest, some owned by foreign companies. Many of the employees speak English and the facilities offer outpatient services in a comfortable setting.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Tap water in Budapest is potable, but many employees choose to filter their water using a locally purchased filter such as Brita. Food is safe to eat. Sewage and garbage disposal is adequate. There is the risk of tick-borne disease in Budapest and throughout central Europe. The Health Unit offers a tick-encephalitis vaccine that provides good protection. European Lyme disease is also a problem, but there is no available vaccine; preventive measures are important. Those who experience allergy symptoms, asthma, and other respiratory ailments can expect an aggravation of their problems in Budapest. The fall ragweed season is especially difficult for many sufferers.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Embassy Employment. The post has made strong efforts to enhance employment opportunities for Eligible Family Members (EFMs). The post employment policy provides that priority will be given to EFMs who are as qualified for a position as other American applicants. The nature and number of EFM positions varies with program requirements and funding availability. At present, EFMs are working in the following positions: Community Liaison Officer, Consular Associate, Cleared American Escort, Diplomatic Pouch Assistant, General Services Assistant, Administrative Assistant, and Office Management Specialist. Several part-time positions are available on an as-needed and intermittent basis. When possible, post prefers to employ EFMs through the Family Member Appointment (FMA) program that allows EFMs to gain service credit and participate in the retirement and Thrift Savings Plans. Additional information on the FMA program is available at post from the Human Resources Officer or in Washington from the Family Liaison Office.

Provided that funding is available, the post offers minimum-wage summer-hire jobs for EFM dependents. Eligible dependents must be between the ages of 16 and 24, enrolled in a course of study at an educational institution, and registered to reenroll. When the number of students exceeds the number of jobs available, the post employs a job-share approach. Whenever possible, a winter vacation or semester break program is also provided.

Private Sector Employment. Private sector opportunities have significantly expanded in recent years. Of the more than 300 American/Hungarian joint ventures, most have offices in Budapest. A bilateral work agreement between Hungary and the U.S. facilitates the issuance of work permits to EFMs. In recent years, some EFMs have found employment in the private sector; however, many jobs require Hungarian language skills. Therefore, participation in a language program may broaden employment prospects. The American Chamber of Commerce ( in Budapest is an excellent resource and can provide a list of American companies represented in Hungary. In addition, there is information available electronically through the Overseas Briefing Center about American companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) located in Hungary. Eligible Family Members with specific skills may find it useful to contact these companies prior to arrival in Budapest.

There are teaching positions at Budapest’s English-language schools; however, job opportunities are infrequent. For more information on schools in Budapest, visit the American International School in Budapest web site at and the International Christian School of Budapest at

The human resources officer and the community liaison officer at post will be glad to discuss employment possibilities with eligible family members.

American Embassy - Budapest

Post City Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Despite heavy damage during World War II and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Budapest has been rebuilt and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. In fact, of the many towns built on rivers all over the world, only the bank of the River Seine in Paris and the Buda Castle District and Danube riverbank in Budapest are on the World Heritage List. The Danube bank in Budapest is a wonderful combination of fantastic natural endowments and impressive buildings. Much of the city, particularly Pest, has a decidedly 19th century appearance.

Even before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Hungary was the most progressive of Europe’s Communist countries, allowing more foreign investment and attracting more tourism than its neighbors. This head start is most apparent in Budapest, which has rapidly closed the gap with other Western European capitals.

Budapest is a combination of three originally distinct settlements. Buda, located on the western bank of the Danube River, served as the seat of Hungarian kings from the early part of the Middle Ages. Pest, on the eastern bank, became the city of ambitious citizens and industrialization, and Obuda, located to the north of present-day Buda, used to be an important settlement in the Roman Empire. These different parts were unified in 1873, creating the Budapest of today—a metropolis of past, present, and future.

On the right bank of the Danube, there is a city of winding streets, green foliage, and the rocky Buda hills. This is where the Castle district, dating back to the Middle Ages, is situated. The jewels of the right bank are the Royal Castle, Matthias Church, and Gellert Hill. The statue on top of the hill, a female figure holding the palm of victory above her head, is well known as one of the symbols of Budapest. On the left bank in Pest, avenues and boulevards spread out on a flat plain. In Pest you will find the Parliament, the St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Hungarian State Opera, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Heroes’ Square, with statues of Hungary’s greatest leaders from the founding of the state to the 19th century.

Basic knowledge of Hungarian is helpful for professional effectiveness and full enjoyment of the Hungarian culture. A fair number of locals do speak some English, although German is more widely spoken.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The Embassy Chancery Building is located at Szabadsag Ter 12 and houses most State Department offices and the Defense Attaché‚ Office (DAO). The Public Affairs Section, U.S. Commercial Service (USCS), Agricultural Office, Office of Defense Cooperation, and the Agency for International Development Regional Services Center (AID/RSC), and Regional Inspector General (AID/RIG) are housed in the Bank Center building located 1 block from the Chancery. The General Services Office and the Building Maintenance Office are in a separate building located about 20 minutes away from the Chancery. The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and the Military Liaison Team (MLT) are located in Buda about 20–30 minutes away from the Chancery. Lastly, the Treasury Department operates a regional office in Budapest that is located about 10 minutes away from the Embassy.

All sections and agencies, with the exception of the Treasury and MLT offices, can be reached through the central switchboard at 36-1-475-4400. Treasury can be reached at 36-1-266-5883 and MLT at 36-1-212-3123. The Embassy after hours phone number is 36-1-475-4703/4924. Embassy fax numbers include:

Chancery: 36-1-475-4764
Administration: 36-1-475-4520
GSO: 36-1-475-4803
Public Affairs: 36-1-475-4712
Consular: 36-1-475-4188
USCS: 36-1-475-4676
AID/RSC: 36-1-302-0693
AID/RIG: 36-1-475-4616
ILEA: 36-1-356-8487


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Every effort is made to move newcomers directly into their assigned permanent quarters; however, during the summer months, when personnel turnover is heavy, this may not be possible. If permanent housing is not ready, newcomers are temporarily placed in U.S. Government-held temporary duty quarters. If temporary duty apartments are not available, newcomers are placed in a local hotel.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Personnel assigned to Budapest are housed in either U.S. Government-owned or -leased quarters. Assignments are made by the Interagency Housing Board based on the employee’s rank, family-size, and in accordance with guidelines set forth in 6 FAM. Should an employee have any special housing needs, he or she should contact the Assistant GSO well in advance of arrival in Budapest. In Budapest, the U.S. Government owns three apartment buildings, six townhouses, and six houses—all used for employee quarters. The Ambassador, the DCM, and various agency heads live in Government-owned houses.

The Embassy-owned Szechenyi apartment building contains 12 furnished, one- and two-bedroom apartments. It is located in Pest, near the Parliament Building, and within easy walking distance of the Chancery. The apartments have a beautiful view of the Danube River and are conveniently located near grocery stores and public transportation. Master bedrooms have built-in cabinets and extra storage space is provided in the basement and attic. The apartments share a common laundry facility.

The Stefania út apartment building is located in Pest near the City Park (Varosliget). The building is near grocery stores and public transportation, and is within a 15-minute drive to the Embassy. These six apartments are fully furnished and have been completely renovated to include new plumbing and electrical fixtures. The apartments have adequate closet space, a common laundry facility, and extra storage space in the basement.

The Matyas Kiraly complex, located in the Buda Hills, includes six townhouses and a renovated mansion now housing three apartments. Located close to grocery stores, it is a 20-minute drive to the Embassy. The townhouses are fully furnished and feature an eat-in kitchen, three bedrooms (with an optional fourth), three full baths, a combined living/dining area, and a den. Colors are neutral throughout. Built-in cabinets provide plenty of storage space and each unit has its own washer and dryer. The apartments are fully furnished and feature an eat-in kitchen, three bedrooms, 2 baths, a combined living/ dining area, large den, and a sun porch. These units contain plenty of storage space and a common laundry facility.

The Ora út Complex, located in Buda, contains five apartments in a renovated manor house. The property shares common ground with the American International School of Budapest (lower school) and the American Club and is a 20-minute drive to the Embassy. Apartments are fully furnished and feature kitchens with a small eat-in area, three bedrooms, 2 baths, a combined living/ dining area, and a den that can be easily converted into a formal dining room. Ora út apartments offer built-in cabinets, a common laundry facility, and a spectacular view of Pest and the Danube River.

Furnishings Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

All living quarters are furnished with basic household furniture. Most furniture is made in the U.S., has dark mahogany finish, and is 18th century style. A few residences have wall-to-wall carpeting, but most are parquet floors or tile. Area rugs are provided for the bedrooms, living room, dining room, and den upon request. Residences are also provided with a combination of draperies, sheers, and blinds. Each residence is furnished with the following appliances: refrigerator, freezer, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and electric or gas range. American-size appliances are provided where space allows—about 75% of the residences.

Household equipment such as microwave, toaster, and coffeemaker are not provided, but may be purchased locally at a reasonable cost. Your airfreight should contain basic housekeeping items such as bed linens (master bedrooms have a queen-sized bed and all secondary rooms have twin-sized beds), blankets, dishes, silverware, kitchenware, utensils, glassware, and shower curtains. Until your airfreight arrives a Hospitality Kit containing these items will be provided. Humidifiers are available upon request. Vacuum cleaners are not provided, but are readily available on the local market. Most household necessities can be purchased on the local economy at reasonable cost. Although not imperative, you may want to consider bringing additional area rugs, lamps, paintings, and prints to round out your furnishings and provide a familiar surrounding.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

All quarters have central heating and hot water. Although some newer leased properties have air-conditioning, most do not and residents are provided with ceiling fans. Heating is generally radiant floor or hot water radiator. American-made full-size washers and dryers are provided in Government-owned properties and most leased properties where space allows. Standard electric power is 220v/50 hertz for lights and standard outlets. Plugs are European “SCHUKO” (CEE–7) type with 28mm rod contacts. Incandescent lights can have 110v wiring but will require a plug adapter and a 230V bulb.

Two transformers (1,600–2,000W) are provided to each residence. Additional needs such as plug adapters may be purchased through mail order or at the commissary. (Note: Most adapters do not provide for grounding conductor.) Many new appliances, computers, and audio equipment allow conversion to, or automatically adapt to, 230v/50hertz. Other appliances such as telephones will require a small converter. Power outages are rare, but power spikes can occur particularly during thunderstorms.

Food Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The American Embassy Employee’s Association (AEEA) operates a medium-sized commissary with membership open to all American Embassy staff members. The Commissary stock includes basic food and beverages that are unavailable or rare on the local market. Imported wine and liquor are also available at prices significantly lower than on the local market. Diapers are available at the commissary on a limited basis; however, Western brands can be purchased at local stores such as Tesco, Auchan, and Cora. Western baby food is difficult to find but can be special ordered through the commissary. It is advisable to bring a supply with you and to ship a supply to post. Every 5–6 weeks the commissary makes a supply trip to Germany. If you have any special needs upon arrival, be sure to tell your sponsor family ahead of time so that your items can be waiting for you when you arrive. The commissary will take special orders in caselots only.

Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables are of excellent quality, easy to find, and affordable. Meat and poultry are readily available year round, but the selection of fish will vary according to season. Frozen fish is available at local supermarkets. Local stores also carry a large selection of canned goods, frozen foods, bread, dairy products, pasta, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items. Fresh milk, although pasteurized, has a short shelf life. Long-life milk is available at all local stores and the commissary. In general, the rapid growth of large Western-style supermarkets has made shopping very convenient.

With the advent of large hypermarkets, such as Cora, Tesco, Auchan, and Metro, a good selection of food and household products is available at prices that tend to be significantly lower than in Washington, D.C. The commissary is charged retail prices when it purchases goods; therefore, resale to the Embassy community is more expensive than military commissary prices. The commissary provides a number of other services to the Embassy community. Based upon availability, the commissary/AEEA rents Armed Forces Network (AFN) decoders for the reception of American television programming. Individuals may need to purchase a satellite dish to ensure reception. Currently, AFN decoders may be rented for $25 a month and a one-time $600 deposit. The commissary sells U.S. postage stamps, runs the MOL gasoline credit card program, and occasionally rents vehicles.

Embassy employees and their families also have access to military commissary, Post Exchange, and recreational facilities in Germany and Italy. In order to use these privileges, Embassy personnel need to obtain a military facility privilege card from the Defense Attaché‚ Office at the Embassy. Plan on an 8-hour drive to these facilities.

Clothing Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Dress in Hungary is similar to that in Washington, D.C. Very few special purchases are required prior to arrival. Cold weather clothing is an absolute necessity, to include warm winter boots. The spring season can be wet and rainy, so pack accordingly. Men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and footwear can be purchased locally; however, quality may be not be up to U.S. standards and imported clothing is expensive.

Men Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Dinner jackets are occasionally necessary for entertaining; however, most entertaining is more informal (coat and tie). The Marine Corps Ball, held each November, is a black-tie affair. Renting a tuxedo can be a difficult process in Budapest. Tuxedos can be purchased locally, but the selection of styles is limited to shawl collars. Tuxedo shirt styles are limited as well. Local tailors can make good, affordable tuxedos; however, men may prefer to bring a tuxedo from home.

Women Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Women’s suits, dresses, knitwear, and dress pants are practical and worn to work, daytime affairs, and cocktail parties. Receptions, parties, and formal social occasions can be frequent, so women should include dressier garments in their wardrobe. Most women wear full-length evening gowns to the Marine Corps Ball. Evening gowns can be difficult to find in Budapest; therefore, it is suggested that women bring a gown(s) to post. Women may also want to bring a supply of hosiery, as Western brands are unavailable.

New, large, Western-style shopping centers such as Mammut and the West End City Center provide a good selection of European clothing. In addition, there are several American sportswear shops to include Nike, Adidas, Colombia Sportswear, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Levi’s. Most recently, the British department store Debenham’s opened at Campona Mall. Other European brand name stores include Bennetton, Marks and Spencer, Reebok, Villeroy and Boch (china & housewares), and Esprit. A limited selection of couture fashions is available in Budapest. Although local shopping options continue to improve, many Embassy personnel shop from American catalogs and on-line Web sites.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The commissary stocks a few brands of tissue, deodorant, soap, shampoo, razor blades, shaving cream, toilet paper, paper napkins, toothpaste, mouthwash, candles, shoe polish, and miscellaneous cleaning supplies. However, pharmacies and local stores carry popular brands of cosmetics, shampoo, shaving supplies, and other toiletries. Toilet paper bought on the local market is not of American standard. Remember to bring Fahrenheit oven and meat thermometers. Toy stores carry a variety of different goods, but children’s English-language books and other educational items can be hard to find. Supplies for holidays and children’s birthdays are readily available in the city.

Basic Services Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

All basic community services such as dressmaking, tailoring, shoe repair, drycleaning, and beauty shops, etc. are available locally. Laundry is done in the home as washers and dryers are available in all Embassy housing. Drycleaning is reasonably priced and satisfactory; however, most drycleaners do not use starch. Of the few cleaners that do starch, the process is unsatisfactory to many American customers. Several drycleaners offer pick-up and delivery services. Other personal services that are available include photo processing, jewelry repair, key cutting, picture framing, tailoring, photocopying, and small appliance repair.

Beauty salons are numerous and their work is excellent. Most beauticians use and sell local supplies, so you may want to bring your favorite hair products from home. Other good and equally inexpensive beauty services include manicures, facials, massages, and waxing. All local salons cut men’s hair, while only a few shops cater to children.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Many Embassy personnel employ either full-time or part-time domestic help for housecleaning, ironing, cooking, and babysitting. Expect to pay an hourly rate of between 700 and 900 ($2.29–$3) Forints. Full-time help is about $100 per week. In addition, domestic help for entertaining and parties is easy to come by. Embassy employees can recommend individuals and their services for your event.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The majority of local religious services are held in Hungarian; however, a number of weekly English-language services are offered at the following churches: St. Margaret’s Anglican/Episcopal, International Baptist Church, Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic), Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Danube International Church, Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Christian Science, and the International Church of Budapest (nondenominational).


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM
Budapest offers a number of educational opportunities for Embassy children: the American International School of Budapest (AISB), the British-Magyar International School (a British-run elementary school), the International School of Budapest (ISB) and two Christian schools—the Greater Grace Christian Academy and the International Christian School of Budapest. The AISB, the International Christian School and the ISB are the only schools with an American accreditation. In addition, there are a number of English-language preschools in Budapest.

The majority of Embassy children attend AISB, which offers instruction for pre-kindergarten through high school. Since its founding in 1973, AISB has undergone tremendous growth. Enrollment for school year 2000–2001 numbered 650 students. AISB is not able to admit children with learning/behavioral disabilities or special learning needs (other than English as a second language) who require placement in a learning resource center in excess of 30% of the school day, or substantial modification of the existing academic curriculum.

The AISB lower school, which enrolls children of pre-kindergarten age through grade 2, is located in Buda and consists of 15 classrooms, specialist rooms, a theater, a kitchen and cafeteria, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, outdoor sports field, and a tennis court.

The AISB Upper School campus contains the Elementary School (grades 3–5), Middle School (grades 6–8), and high school (grades 9–12). The Upper School, located in the village of Nagykovacsi, is a brand new, “state of the art” facility that was completed in summer 2000. The facility is 18,000 square meters and consists of 35 classrooms, various specialty classrooms, a theater, kitchen/cafeteria, indoor swimming pool, three gymnasiums, weight room, track field, baseball field, outdoor play area, and four tennis courts.

Children must be 5 years old by October 15th (in the year of entrance) to be eligible for enrollment in kindergarten. There are NO exceptions to this age requirement. Kindergarten classes run the entire school day.

Tuition and transportation costs for the AISB are fully covered by the post’s education allowance. Post will cover tuition costs for other schools, but only up to the amount of AISB tuition. The Office of Overseas Schools considers the AISB “adequate” at all grade levels. Where a local school is deemed adequate by the Department of State, the school “at post” and the school “away from post” education allowance rates are identical. The Administrative Section can request that space be reserved for your child at AISB. Please notify them as soon as possible.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Budapest offers a wide variety of sporting activities and recreation facilities. Swimming and horseback riding are available year round. In the winter, there is a small ski area in the Buda Hills that offers skiers a short run, snow permitting. Ice skating at Varosliget Park and sledding at Normafa Park are also popular winter pastimes. Sports enthusiasts can also enjoy biking, caving, hiking, jogging, hunting, and fishing. Varosliget Park also contains the city zoo, an amusement park, a weekend flea market, and a circus. In the summer, Margit Island is packed with locals and visitors alike walking, biking, picnicking, and sunbathing. Hungary’s biggest sporting event is the Hungarian Grand Prix, which takes place each August and attracts fans from all over Europe. Hungary also attracts World Cup Soccer matches and World Championship Speed Skating tournaments.

Members of the American Club can enjoy the indoor basketball/volleyball court, platform tennis court, and full-size swimming pool. These facilities are shared with the AISB lower school. The American Club also offers yoga, martial arts, and aerobic classes, and organizes basketball and softball leagues. Swimming lessons from qualified instructors are available. There are several golf courses within an hour’s drive of Budapest. In addition, there are several reasonably priced indoor tennis, squash, and racquetball facilities available for year-round play.

There are several Western-style health clubs in Budapest that offer a variety of gym facilities and aerobic classes. Embassy employees also have access to the gym at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). The ILEA gym is complete with aerobic machines, free weights, and nautilus-style machines. In addition, ILEA boasts an indoor basketball/volleyball/tennis court and men’s and women’s locker rooms. Currently, the yearly fee is 5,000 Forints (about $17).

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Budapest’s central location provides residents with easy accessibility to the surrounding Hungarian countryside. Szentendre, Esztergom, and Visegrad, all to the north of the city, can all be reached by boats that run throughout the summer along the Danube River. Szentendre, 16 miles outside of Budapest, still maintains a strong Orthodox religious tradition although the town has long been an artists’ colony. Esztergom, Hungary’s first real capital, is the seat of the archbishop of Hungary and home to the nation’s biggest church. Dominating Esztergom’s skyline is the huge Catholic cathedral built in the early 19th century. Visegrad, set on the narrowest stretch of the Danube, is a small village that hosts a 13th century ruined castle.

Lake Balaton is the summer retreat for many Hungarians, Germans, and other Europeans. Although relatively shallow throughout, the Balaton offers swimming, windsurfing, sunbathing, sailing, fishing, and thermal springs. The lakeside resorts of Balatonfured, Siofok, and Tihany are about 90 minutes from Budapest by car and have numerous hotel facilities. Cottages are available for rent throughout the Balaton Region.

Eger is situated east of Budapest, at the foot of the Bukk Hills. Eger is famous for three things: its fine Baroque buildings; a siege at which the locals repelled the Turkish army; and Bull’s Blood, a heavy red wine known to Hungarians as Egri Bikaver. A well-preserved minaret located in Eger is one of the most visible reminders of the century and a half of Turkish rule during the 16th and 17th centuries. Eger is an important center of the Hungarian wine industry and wine cellars outside the city are open to visitors.

Eastern Hungary contains the plains of the well-known Hungarian Puszta. Visitors can see displays of traditional horsemanship performed by costumed csikos (cowboys) and view the unique gray long-horn breed of Hungarian cattle. Debrecen is the largest city in eastern Hungary and is the center of Hungarian Protestantism. Debrecen was the seat of the provisional government during the revolution against Austrian rule in 1848. Other provincial cities include Szeged and Gyula, both of which host annual summer festivals; Kecskemet, which lies in the heart of the country’s fruit growing region; Pecs, home to two Turkish mosques and an exceptional ballet company; Sopron, with its medieval walled city center; and Sarospatak, seat of the Reformed College that houses a remarkable library and cloister.

Entertainment Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Budapest’s cultural life is rich with excellent operas, symphonies, chamber music, ballet, theater, and nightclubs. Operas are well staged and include a wide repertoire of German, Italian, Russian, and Hungarian works. Most operas are performed in the original language; those in Hungarian, have original language subtitles. A number of foreign and Hungarian guest stars appear in Budapest during the opera season.

Stage plays are performed in more than a dozen theaters. Although translated into Hungarian, many Western and American plays are performed to include works by Albee, Miller, O’Neill, Weber, and Williams. A few theaters do offer English-language performances. The Merlin Theater offers a six-play, English-language season of Hungarian, British, and American plays performed by casts drawn mostly from the London stage. In addition, the International Buda Stage; the Duna Players, a fledgling amateur group; and various visiting theater companies periodically offer English-language theatrical performances.

More than 100 cinemas and multiplexes in Budapest feature films from all over the world. Most theaters show films in their original language, to include English, with Hungarian subtitles. A number of modern movie screens have been built in complexes such as Mammut, Europa Center, Rozsadomb, Campona, Polus Center, Duna Plaza, and West End City Center. First-run American films are shown at these theaters regularly. There are also a dozen art cinemas that show a mix of foreign and classic Hungarian films. In addition, the Hungarian Film Archive operates its own screening room and shows classic films throughout the year.

Each year, Budapest hosts the annual Spring Festival—a month-long performing arts extravaganza. There is a similar festival of almost equal importance and prestige in the fall. During the summer, opera, ballet, musical concerts, and folklore programs are staged in a variety of outdoor theaters such as those on Margit Island, the Buda Castle, the Kiscelli Museum, and in some of the smaller cities in Hungary. Youth concerts by various internationally known popular music groups are offered throughout the year and a music festival is held each summer in Szeged. Folklore programs by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and other leading groups are presented at the Folklore Center and other venues throughout the year.

Tickets for cultural events are less expensive than for similar events in the U.S., and information about performances can be found at the Embassy, in English-language periodicals such as the Budapest Sun and Where, Budapest, and at ticket outlets around town.

Budapest’s public baths, which date to Roman and Turkish times, remain a strong element of Hungarian cultural life. Budapest is a city of more than 120 thermal springs which can be enjoyed in either single sex or mixed spas. At the recently restored Szechenyi Baths, you can swim outdoors year round—even amid the winter snow. The spectacular art nouveau Gellert Hotel Baths have an outdoor wave pool in the summer and an indoor pool complete with marble halls and a vaulted glass ceiling.

There are a great many restaurants in Budapest and the surrounding suburbs that offer quality, quantity, and affordability. Good traditional Hungarian dishes can be found within all price ranges. Gundel, founded in 1894, is Budapest’s most famous restaurant. In recent years, Hungary has seen the arrival of cuisine from all over the world. American-style fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Wendy’s, are also found in Hungary. There are even a few restaurants that cater to vegetarians. Most restaurants offer menus printed in Hungarian and English. In addition to restaurants, Budapest abounds with cafés, where you can sit with a cappuccino and a newspaper all day.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM
Budapest has much to offer in the way of recreation, entertainment, and social events. As such, social activities among Embassy personnel are largely dependent on individual inclination. The American Club provides an excellent opportunity to meet Americans. New joint ventures opening in Hungary have brought a large number of American private business people to Budapest. Club members enjoy a restaurant and bar on the premises and numerous special activities to include movie nights, wine-tasting events, and holiday celebrations. Membership in the American Club is open to individuals of all nationalities. Nonmembers may join in special activities and social events for a fee. Members of the American Club have access to a collection of American videotapes. In addition, Budapest has a number of video stores, some with English-language PAL tapes.

The Community Liaison Office and the AEEA organize trips, tours, and social activities throughout the year. In addition, the U.S. Marine Security Guard Detachment often sponsors community events at their house in the Castle District (Var). Budapest hosts a chapter of the “Hash House Harriers” who are popular worldwide and attract many diplomats and business people.

The American International School of Budapest has a strong extracurricular program for students, to include athletic teams, summer camps, and social activities. Activities vary each session, but have included sports and games, music, choir, drama, art, cooking, and computers. In addition to school sponsored activities, assorted parent-organized programs are popular. There are active Boy Scout, Cub Scout, and Girl Scout organizations that operate out of the AISB and are chartered with the Boy Scouts of America.

International Contacts Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM
Budapest is home to a large and active international community. The British and Canadian Embassies both operate clubs open to American employees. The International Women’s Club (IWC) is open to all foreign women in Budapest and is quite useful in making contact with people outside the Embassy. The North American Women’s Association (NAWA) is open to women from North America and women whose husbands hold an American passport. The NAWA publishes Thriving and Surviving in Budapest, which many find a useful guide to the city. Lastly, the Professional Women’s Association (PWA) supports women involved in business, trade, service, government, the arts, sports, and other professions. All three groups meet monthly, sponsor numerous events, and participate in a variety of charitable causes.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Many official functions tend to be informal cocktail parties and buffets. Black-tie dinners are infrequent. Senior officers may expect a fairly heavy schedule, to include formal social functions, but representational obligations for other officers are comparatively few. Business attire generally worn for most official events. Contact among members of the Diplomatic Corps, Hungarian Government officials, and other members of the local Hungarian community has become quite common. Spouses can expect to be invited to a few representational functions; however, some official receptions may exclude spouses.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Courtesy calls are desirable for new personnel assigned to Budapest. Officers should bring an initial supply of business cards with them. Informal cards are useful for invitations, reminders, and thank you notes. Personal invitations can be printed in Budapest. Guests invited to a Hungarian home always arrive with flowers and/or a bottle of wine. In Hungarian culture, punctuality is a virtue.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Transit time for surface freight shipments leaving Baltimore is about 6 weeks. Airfreight transit time is about 2 weeks, to include Customs formalities. Consider these time frames when deciding what to pack in your accompanying baggage and airfreight. As noted, Welcome Kits are available until your airfreight arrives. Most newcomers arrive via Budapest’s Ferihegy Airport.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

All U.S. Government, direct-hire military and civilian personnel have the diplomatic privilege of duty-free entry for personal belongings, household effects, and automobiles. To obtain these privileges, employees must have a diplomatic or official passport.

To accelerate the Customs procedure, forward a complete inventory list of your airfreight and surface freight to the Embassy General Services Officer. Maintain these inventory lists, as you will be required to submit an inventory upon departure. A Customs official will be on hand when unaccompanied air and surface shipments are unsealed. If you plan to bring antiques, oriental rugs, or expensive artwork, pack these items separately and label them appropriately on your inventory list. Upon departure, packing material may not be sealed without the presence of a Customs official. The Museum of Fine Arts will be contacted if you purchase works of art or antiques to ascertain that no national treasure is being exported. Occasionally, a fee is charged when exporting special items purchased in Hungary.

No special restrictions are placed on the carton size of liftvans, but heavy and/or large vans are not handled or stored easily. Typically, a van’s gross weight should not exceed one ton. Most shipments are routed via the European Logistical Support Office (ELSO) in Antwerp, Belgium. For all practical purposes, furniture storage facilities are not available in Budapest. All airfreight should be addressed:

American Embassy Budapest
Attn: Employee’s name
American Embassy
1054 Budapest, Szabadsag ter 12.

Passage Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Each family member, to include children, should have his or her own passport and a Hungarian entry visa. Completed application forms and photographs should be submitted to a Hungarian Mission (diplomatic or consular) under a cover note from the individual’s post of origin. This should be done well in advance of your arrival in country as the application process can take up to 3 weeks to complete. If you are unable to obtain a visa prior to entry, the Embassy will process one upon arrival. Be sure that passports are updated and are valid through the end of your tour.

As soon as your itinerary is firm, please inform the Embassy of your exact travel plans. Include the name and passport number of each family member traveling with you and the date, time, and means of travel. In addition, include the date and place of your Hungarian visa application. Although Americans are not required to obtain a visa to enter Hungary, those traveling with a diplomatic or official passport should request an entry visa prior to their arrival.

Soon after arrival, visit the Embassy Human Resources Section to obtain applications for a diplomatic identification card and multiple entry visa. Failure to check in promptly with the Human Resources Section may delay release of your HHE and airfreight, as the Ministry will not act until formally notified of your arrival.

Bearers of U.S. diplomatic and official passports, who are assigned permanently or temporarily to the Embassy in Budapest, may enter Hungary by any mode of transportation and at any border crossing in Hungary. There are no areas in Hungary that are closed to travel by U.S. Government personnel, their families, or their guests.

Pets Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

There is no quarantine restriction for household pets; however, all animals must have current health and rabies certificates from a licensed veterinarian. Shots must be up to date at least 30 days prior to arrival in Hungary. In addition, pet owners must obtain an International Health Certificate that is authorized and stamped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) no earlier than 10 days prior to arriving in Budapest. A number of well-trained veterinarians practice in Budapest; many speak English and make house calls. A variety of pet foods are available locally to include Iams, Eukanuba, and Whiskas. Clumping cat litter is not available in Budapest; bring a supply. The commissary stocks a small variety of American, brand name cat food, dog food, and clumping kitty litter.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The importation of self-defense weapons into Hungary is prohibited; however, it is possible to import a hunting rifle. If you wish to import a hunting rifle, please contact the Regional Security Office well in advance of your arrival, as compliance with strict, local customs and licensing requirements will take a substantial amount of time.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

The unit of Hungarian currency is the Forint (Ft. or HUF). Banknotes are available in 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 1,000; 500; and 200 Ft. Coins are available in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 Ft. denominations. The exchange rate fluctuates based on the Forint to the dollar. The official exchange rate as of May 2002 was 271 Forint to the dollar.

You may exchange travelers checks and hard currency at banks and leading hotels. The Embassy cashier will exchange personal checks, U.S. dollar travelers checks, and U.S. dollars. Third-party checks are not honored. Black-market exchange and use of unauthorized currency exchange vendors is illegal. The Hungarian law forbids importation of more than 350,000 Forint; however, you may import any amount of American dollars, travelers checks, or other foreign currency.

Limited facilities exist in the Hungarian banking system for private or official checking accounts. All local bills must be paid in cash, bank draft, or with a postal note. Checking accounts should be maintained in the U.S. Major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATM machines are widely available.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

Taxes. Hungarian tax law requires a value-added tax (VAT) for those who live, work, and visit Hungary. The VAT is added to the price of goods and services, and is either 12% or 25%, depending on the item. As foreign diplomats, American Embassy personnel are entitled to a VAT refund on all purchases. The Embassy works with a local service that, for a small fee, will assist Embassy personnel in the VAT refund process. Embassy personnel do not pay Hungarian taxes.

Sale of Personal Property. For the first 3 years of a vehicle’s presence in Hungary, vehicles imported duty free for personnel with diplomatic status may be sold only to those with similar status, such as members of the U.S. Mission or other Embassies. After the vehicle has been present in Hungary longer than 3 years, this restriction expires and vehicles may be sold to anyone. This is true for all classes of property imported duty free. To comply with Department of State regulations, permission to dispose of any personal property (including automobiles) with a sale price of more than the “minimal value” threshold (currently $260) should be obtained from the Embassy Administrative Office.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bart, Istva. Hungary and the Hungarians, The keywords, a concise dictionary of facts and beliefs, customs, usage and myths, Corvina, 1999.

Buzinkay,Geza. An Illustrated History of Budapest. Budapest: Corvina,1998.

Financial Service Group, Banking and Financial Services in Hungary, Icon Group International, Inc., ISBN: 0741818213.

Fischer, Tibor. Under the Frog: A Black Comedy. Henry Holt, ISBN: 0805052453.

Fodor, Hungary Video Guide on Cassette

Glatz, Ferenc. Hungarians and Their Neighbors in Modern Times, 1867–1950, East European Monographs, #419.

Hoenscj, Jorg K. A History of Modern Hungary, Addison-Wesley Pub Co., ISBN: 0582256496.

Hoffman, Eva. Exit into History, A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe Viking, New York: Penguin Group.

Insider’s Hungary, 1995.

Kaminski, Bartolomiej & Riboud, Michelle. Foreign Investment and Restructuring: The Evidence from Hungary (World Bank Technical Paper), ISBN: 082134594X.

King, Lawrence P. The Basic Features of Postcommunist Capitalism in Eastern Europe: Firms in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Praeger Pub, ISBN: 0275968391.

Kiraly, Bela K. Trianon and East Central Europe (Atlantic Studies on Society in Change), East European Monographs, ISBN: 0880333154.

Krorsenyi, Andras, Government and Politics in Hungary, Central European University Press.

Lazar, Istvan, An Illustrated History of Hungary. Budapest: Corvina, 1999.

Litvan, Gyorgy, The Hungarian Revolution of 1956: Reform, Revolt, and Repression 1953–1963, Addison-Wesley Pub Co., ISBN: 0582215048.

Lonely Planet Hungary Guide.

Lukacs, John. Budapest 1900. A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture. New York: Grove Press, 1988.

Magyar, Elek, The Gourmet’s Cook Book.

Maria Schmidt-Laszlo Gy. Toth (ed.): Transition with Contradictions. Kairosz: Budapest, 1999.

Michta, Andrew (editor). America’s New Allies: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in NATO, University of Washington Press, ISBN: 0295979062.

Minorities Research. Budapest: Lucidus, 2000.

Michener, James A. The Bridge at Andau. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1997.

Nemeth, Gyula, A Pocket Guide—Hungary, Corvina, 1991.

Ranki, Vera. The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion: Jews and Nationalism in Hungary, Holmes and Meier Publishing, ISBN: 0841914028.

Romsics, Ignac. Hungary in the 20th Century. Budapest: Corvina-Osiris, 1999.

Sisa, Stephen. The Spirit of Hungary, Morristown, NJ: VISTA Books.

Szalai, Erzsebet. Post-Socialism and Globalization. Budapest: Uj Mandatum, 1999.

Torok, Andras. Budapest—A Critical Guide. Budapest: Park Books, 1996.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 6/30/2002 6:00 PM

New Year’s Day Jan. 1
1848 Revolution Day March 15
Easter Monday March/April*
Labor Day May 1
Whit Monday May/June*
Saint Stephen’s Day August 20
Republic Day Oct. 23
All Saints Day Nov. 1
Christmas Day Dec. 25
Boxing Day Dec. 26

*Date Varies

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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