Cash or Card: Navigating Currency in Hungary


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When traveling to Hungary, it’s important to know how to navigate the country’s currency. Hungary uses the Hungarian Forint (HUF) as its official currency, and while credit and debit cards are widely accepted in larger cities, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases or when visiting more rural areas. In this article, we’ll explore the best ways to use cash and cards while traveling in Hungary, so you can make the most of your trip.


  • In urban areas like Budapest, most establishments accept credit and debit cards, while rural areas and traditional events might require cash payments.
  • ATM and foreign transaction fees are potential costs to be aware of when using cards in Hungary.
  • For a balanced experience, a mix of both cash and card is recommended when navigating the country’s financial landscape.

The Historical Love for Cash: Why Hungarians Prefer Forints

The Forint, Hungary’s currency, is deeply rooted in the nation’s history, tracing its name back to gold coins minted in Florence in the 14th century.

For centuries, tangible currency in Hungary has been more than just a means of transaction; it’s a symbol of national identity, especially evident during epochs of foreign dominations.

Post the era of Communism, many Hungarians continued to rely on cash. This preference stemmed from a blend of tradition, skepticism of newer financial technologies, and the comfort of anonymity that cash offers.


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Even as the world moves digital, the Forint remains a cherished link to Hungary’s storied past for many locals.

Modern Tendencies: Hungary’s Move Towards Cashless Transactions

As global trends evolve, Hungary is steadily transitioning towards cashless transactions. This shift is fueled by government initiatives promoting electronic payments, and the younger Hungarian population’s affinity for digital finance, facilitated by widespread internet and smartphone access.

Furthermore, as Hungary attracts more international visitors and businesses, there’s an increased need to align with global payment preferences.

While cash still holds significance, the rapid adoption of electronic methods in urban areas indicates Hungary’s balancing act between tradition and modernity.

Tourist Hotspots: Acceptance of Credit and Debit Cards

Hungary, with its captivating landmarks and bustling cities, has become a magnet for tourists worldwide. As tourism has surged, so has the acceptance of credit and debit cards at most of the country’s prominent attractions.


As the capital and the heart of Hungary’s tourism industry, Budapest sees the most extensive card acceptance.


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Hotels, restaurants, shops, and even many street vendors in the city are equipped to handle card transactions. Iconic places like Buda Castle, Hungarian Parliament, and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath all facilitate card payments.

Historical Cities

Cities like Pécs, Debrecen, and Eger, known for their historical significance, have also adapted to the needs of international travelers.

While major establishments in these cities do accept cards, it’s still advisable to carry some cash, especially when exploring more localized markets or smaller attractions.

Wine Regions

Hungary’s famous wine regions, such as Tokaj and Villány, welcome a lot of tourists. The bigger wineries and vineyards in these areas have embraced card transactions, but again, if you’re venturing to smaller, family-owned spots, cash might be preferred.

Thermal Spas and Resorts

Hungary is renowned for its thermal spas, and most of the prominent ones like Gellért Baths or Miskolctapolca Cave Bath now accept cards, ensuring tourists can relax without the worry of payment methods.

Countryside and Smaller Villages

While Hungary’s rural beauty is unparalleled, these regions are where cash remains dominant. While an inn or a larger restaurant might have card facilities, many local vendors, artisans, and smaller eateries still rely on cash transactions.

While Hungary’s major tourist hotspots are increasingly card-friendly, it’s always wise for travelers to keep some cash on hand. This ensures they can fully experience both the well-trodden paths and the hidden gems without any monetary hitches.

Off the Beaten Path: Where Cash is Still King

Away from the bustling streets of Hungary’s major cities and popular tourist destinations lie its lesser-known gems: quaint villages, secluded forests, and charming eateries. In these untouched corners, traditions remain strong, and cash is often the preferred – if not the only – mode of transaction.

Rural Villages

Small hamlets and villages, dotted throughout Hungary’s picturesque landscape, offer a genuine taste of the country’s rich heritage. Here, local markets, artisan workshops, and family-owned eateries often operate on a cash-only basis, preserving the age-old economic practices.

Traditional Events and Festivals

Hungary is home to a myriad of festivals that celebrate its culture, from folk dances to wine harvests. While these events offer a deep dive into Hungarian traditions, many stalls and vendors at such gatherings rely solely on cash.

Local Transport and Parking

In remote areas, using local transportation like buses might require cash payments. Additionally, for those journeying by car, parking in these regions often relies on traditional coin-operated meters or parking attendants who accept only cash.

Family-Run Accommodations

While Hungary’s hotel industry has largely adapted to card payments, several smaller, family-run bed-and-breakfasts or guesthouses in the countryside may still operate on a cash-only policy.

Adventure Activities

For those seeking outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing, or even horseback riding in less commercialized areas, local guides and service providers might not have card facilities available.

For the authentic traveler keen on exploring Hungary beyond the mainstream attractions, it’s imperative to carry a reasonable amount of cash. This ensures not only smooth transactions but also a deeper connection to the traditional ways of Hungarian life, where cash still reigns supreme.

Tips for Carrying Cash Safely and Efficiently

Carrying cash, especially when traveling, requires caution and a strategic approach. Here are some tips to help you manage your cash safely and efficiently, along with some product recommendations that can aid in this endeavor:

  1. Distribute Your Cash: Never keep all your money in one place. Split it between your main bag, your pockets, and a hidden stash. In the unfortunate event that one source gets stolen or lost, you’ll still have backup.
  2. Money Belts: These are thin belts with concealed compartments, designed to be worn underneath your clothing. They’re ideal for storing larger bills discreetly. One popular choice is the “Eagle Creek Money Belt,” known for its durability and comfort.
  3. Anti-Theft Bags: Invest in a bag designed to deter thieves. Look for features like RFID protection, slash-resistant straps, and lockable zippers. The “Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag” is a great choice, as it combines these security features with style.
  4. Hidden Pouches: For days when you might not want to wear a money belt, consider hidden pouches or neck wallets. They can be worn under your clothing and are typically made of lightweight, breathable material. The “Pacsafe Coversafe S25 Bra Pouch” is an innovative option for women.
  5. Be Discreet: When paying for items or services, try not to show large amounts of cash. Organize your money in advance, so you know where your smaller bills and coins are, reducing the time you spend rummaging through your wallet.
  6. Backup Options: Always have a secondary payment method like a credit card or traveler’s checks. Store them separately from your cash.
  7. Stay Alert in Crowded Areas: Pickpockets often operate in busy areas, such as markets, train stations, or popular tourist spots. Being aware of your surroundings and ensuring your cash storage methods are secure is crucial.
  8. Regularly Re-evaluate: At the end of each day, take a moment to assess how much cash you’ve spent, and if you need to access more from a secure location or ATM. This helps in budgeting and reduces the amount you carry daily.

Incorporating these tips and tools into your travel routine can significantly reduce the risk associated with carrying cash. With the right products, which are easily accessible on platforms like Amazon, and a vigilant mindset, you can navigate Hungary with both confidence and convenience.

Understanding ATM and Foreign Transaction Fees in Hungary

Navigating a foreign country’s financial landscape can be a tad complex, especially when it comes to unexpected charges. When in Hungary, understanding ATM and foreign transaction fees is crucial for both budgeting and ensuring you’re not paying more than necessary. Here’s a concise breakdown:

  1. ATM Fees:
    • Local Bank Charges: Hungarian banks may charge a fee for using their ATMs, especially if your card is from a foreign bank. This fee can range depending on the bank, but it’s usually a small percentage of the withdrawal amount or a fixed fee.
    • Your Bank’s Charges: Your home bank may also levy a fee for international ATM use. It’s wise to check this with your bank before traveling.
    • Tip: To minimize costs, consider withdrawing larger amounts less frequently. However, always balance this against the safety of carrying large amounts of cash.
  2. Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC):
    • DCC is when an ATM or card terminal offers to convert the transaction into your home currency rather than the local currency (Forints in Hungary). While it might seem convenient to see the amount in your home currency, this service often comes with a higher exchange rate.
    • Tip: Always opt to be charged in the local currency (Forints) to avoid potential mark-ups on exchange rates.
  3. Foreign Transaction Fees:
    • Some credit and debit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, typically a percentage of the transaction amount, for purchases made overseas.
    • Before traveling, review the terms of your card to check for any such fees. If you have multiple cards, it might be wise to use the one with the lowest foreign transaction fee.
  4. Credit Card Cash Advances:
    • If you use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, this is usually treated as a cash advance. Cash advances often come with high fees and interest rates.
    • Tip: Avoid using credit cards for ATM withdrawals unless it’s an emergency.
  5. Finding Fee-Free ATMs:
    • Some international banks or banking alliances offer the benefit of fee-free ATMs abroad. Check if your bank has partnerships or affiliations in Hungary that allow you to withdraw cash without extra charges.
  6. Stay Updated: Exchange rates and transaction fees can fluctuate. Regularly check your bank’s terms and conditions and stay informed about any changes.

In conclusion, while Hungary offers a myriad of experiences for travelers, being savvy about your financial transactions ensures that you’re spending on experiences, not unnecessary fees. Always be proactive in understanding your bank’s charges and seek out the most cost-effective ways to access and use your money.

Is It Better To Use Card Or Cash In Hungary?

When visiting Hungary, travelers often wonder whether it’s more advantageous to use cash or card. The answer largely depends on the type of experience you’re seeking, where you’re going, and personal convenience. Here’s a comparison to help guide your decision:

1. Convenience:

  • Card: Hungary, especially in urban areas like Budapest, has embraced modern banking. Most hotels, restaurants, shops, and even many public transport systems accept credit and debit cards.
  • Cash: In rural areas, smaller establishments, local markets, and certain traditional events, cash is the primary or only accepted method of payment.

2. Safety:

  • Card: Carrying a card can be safer than carrying large amounts of cash, especially if it offers features like fraud protection. Additionally, if lost or stolen, cards can be easily blocked.
  • Cash: While cash can’t be replaced if lost or stolen, having a modest amount can be handy, ensuring you’re never caught in a pinch.

3. Fees and Charges:

  • Card: Using cards can come with foreign transaction fees, depending on your bank. However, these fees are often outweighed by the convenience of card transactions.
  • Cash: When withdrawing cash from ATMs, especially those not affiliated with your home bank, you might incur charges. Furthermore, currency exchange services, particularly at airports, may offer less favorable exchange rates.

4. Budgeting:

  • Card: It’s easy to lose track of spending with card payments. However, online banking apps allow you to monitor your transactions in real-time.
  • Cash: Having a tangible amount helps some travelers stick to a budget, as they can physically see and control their expenditure.

5. Experience:

  • Card: Ideal for those who prioritize convenience, especially if staying primarily in urban settings.
  • Cash: Essential for those aiming to dive deep into local experiences, particularly off the beaten path. Also, small gestures like tipping are often easier with cash.

It’s not strictly a matter of one being better than the other. For the best experience in Hungary, a mix of both cash and card is recommended.

Utilize cards for significant expenses like accommodation and dining in upscale places, while keeping a reasonable amount of cash on hand for local experiences and smaller transactions.

Before traveling, check your bank’s policies on foreign transactions to avoid unexpected charges.


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