|Preface Last Updated: 6/30/2002
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Szabadsag ter 12.
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
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 6/30/2002
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 (www.amcham.hu) 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 www.aisb.hu and the International
Christian School of Budapest at ICSB@compuserve.com.
The human resources officer and the community liaison officer at
post will be glad to discuss employment possibilities with eligible
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
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
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
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:
Public Affairs: 36-1-475-4712
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
American Embassy Budapest
Attn: Employee’s name
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
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
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
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
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
Bart, Istva. Hungary and the Hungarians, The keywords, a concise
dictionary of facts and beliefs, customs, usage and myths, Corvina,
Buzinkay,Geza. An Illustrated History of Budapest. Budapest:
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:
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:
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,
Minorities Research. Budapest: Lucidus, 2000.
Michener, James A. The Bridge at Andau. New York: Fawcett Crest,
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:
Romsics, Ignac. Hungary in the 20th Century. Budapest:
Sisa, Stephen. The Spirit of Hungary, Morristown, NJ: VISTA
Szalai, Erzsebet. Post-Socialism and Globalization. Budapest: Uj
Torok, Andras. Budapest—A Critical Guide. Budapest: Park Books,
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