Budapest’s Banking System and Currency
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has seen its banking system advance significantly in recent years, now matching many European standards. Modern local and foreign banks are widespread, offering efficient and courteous service. The city has an abundance of automatic teller machines (ATMs) and currency exchange offices, primarily located in the city center and around railway stations. The acceptance of credit cards is also increasing, but cash is still the prevalent payment method for goods and services.
Banks and Currency Exchange Bureaux
Foreign currency can be exchanged at numerous bureaux de change, such as Ibusz or M and M Exclusive Change, which often offer more favorable rates than local banks. Be sure to check exchange rates beforehand, as they can vary significantly. Some exchange offices may quote seemingly attractive rates, but these may only apply to large sums, a condition often mentioned only in the fine print.
Hotels and airports generally provide less favorable rates. Better rates can typically be found at bureaux de change near railway stations or the city center. Hungarian banks also offer reasonable rates. Banks, such as branches of Budapest Bank and K & H Bank, are usually open Monday to Friday, with specific opening hours. Note that most banks are closed during the weekend, but bureaux de change and ATMs remain open.
Please remember exchanging money outside licensed premises is illegal and could involve counterfeit currency.
ATMs and Credit Cards
ATMs are conveniently located throughout the city and provide instructions in various languages, including English. Don’t be disheartened if a machine rejects your card; trying another bank’s machine may solve the issue. Some machines also offer foreign currency exchange.
Although credit card acceptance is growing, carrying some cash is advisable, especially when visiting older establishments and more budget-friendly eateries. The most commonly accepted cards include VISA, American Express, MasterCard, and Diners Club. You can usually identify accepted cards by their logos displayed at establishments, but it’s always worth checking before making a purchase or ordering a meal. Traveler’s cheques can be exchanged at most banks and some hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Wiring money is a popular method in Hungary because a significant proportion of the population does not have bank accounts. Western Union, with branches throughout Budapest, is often used for sending and receiving money transfers abroad. While Western Union offices can exchange foreign currency, they may not provide the most favorable rates.
Hungarian Currency – Forint
The official currency of Hungary is the Forint (HUF or Ft). Banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 forints. Two versions of some notes are currently circulating, but older versions of the 5,000 forint note are no longer accepted.
Coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 forints. Like the banknotes, new coin designs are gradually being introduced, with the current 200 forint coin, comprised of a nickel disc inside a brass ring, being the only legal version.