COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Hungary is a stable democracy with a market economy. Tourist facilities outside Budapest are widely available, if not as developed as those found in Western Europe. Visitors considering a trip are encouraged to read the Embassy's consular website:
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in Hungary and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place.
Hungary has a low rate of violent crime. However, street crime occasionally involving violence has been reported, especially near major hotels and restaurants and on public transportation. Theft of passports, currency, and credit cards is a frequent problem, especially in train stations and on public transportation.
The U.S. Embassy's Consular Section offers an informational brochure for tourists in Hungary, including a section on crimes and scams that have been encountered by other tourists. To consult this advisory, please visit the Embassy's consular website at
Drivers should be cautious when stopping at gas stations and highway parking lots, or fixing flat tires or other mechanical problems, especially at night. There have been reports of scams perpetrated on unwitting victims while traveling the highways. One reported scam involves someone who attracts the driver's attention by saying that there is something wrong with his/her car (e.g. a smoking hood or a flat tire) in order to encourage the driver to pull over to the side of the road. Once pulled over, the people participating in the scam will remove purses, passports, etc., from the car and drive away. Luggage and valuables should not be left unattended inside any vehicle.
Tourists who become victims of a crime in Hungary are strongly encouraged to call a 24-hour multilingual crime reporting telephone number. The number from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. is 01-438-8080; from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., the number is 06-8066-0044. There is also a 24-hour police Tour info office that provides service in English and German and is located in one of downtown Budapest's busiest tourist areas: Vigado Utca 6, 1051 Budapest.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Hungary's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Hungary are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical treatment available in Hungary is adequate at best, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to those in the United States. Physicians are generally well trained, but there is a lack of adequate emergency services. A language barrier can exist as well, if one does not speak Hungarian. Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate cash payment for health services.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Hungary is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
In Hungary, fatal traffic accidents number approximately 1,200 per year, with about 7,000 traffic accidents per year resulting in serious injury. Road travel is more dangerous during the Christmas season, summer months, and at night. Roadside assistance, including medical and other services, is generally available. English is usually spoken at the emergency numbers listed below. In case English is not spoken, dial 112.
Ambulance: 104 or 350-0388
24-hour English-speaker: 112
Bus, train, and taxi services are readily available for inter-city travel.
Hungarian motorways and highways are generally in good condition. Urban roads and road maintenance are also good. In rural areas, however, roads are often narrow, badly lit, and can be in a state of poor repair in some areas. Pedestrians, agricultural machinery, and farm animals often use these small rural roads. This requires increased caution on the part of drivers. Additional information on road conditions is available from "Utinform" at phone number (36)(1) 336-2400.
Hungary has a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police often conduct routine roadside checks where breath-analyzer tests are administered. Persons found to be driving while intoxicated face jail and/or fines. Possible penalties for a car accident involving injury or death are one to five years in prison. Police have instituted a widespread practice of stopping vehicles, particularly in Budapest, to check driver identity documents in a search for illegal aliens and residents in Hungary, and to check vehicle registration and fitness documentation. It is against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving anywhere in Hungary.
Hungary recognizes international driver's permits (IDP) issued by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance when presented in conjunction with a state driver's license. American driver's licenses will be accepted in Hungary for one year after arrival, provided that a certified Hungarian translation has been attached to the license. Those with IDPs do not need to have the license translated, but must present both IDP and state driver's license together. After one year in Hungary, U.S. citizens must obtain a Hungarian driver's license. For further information on this procedure, please visit our website at
The speed limit for cars and motorcycles on the motorway is 130 km per hour (approximately 80 mph); on highways, the limit is 110 km per hour (approximately 65 mph); and in town and village areas, the speed limit is 50 km per hour (approximately 30 mph). Special seats are required for infants. Children under age 12 may not sit in the front seat of an automobile. Seat belts are mandatory for everyone in the car. Unless another instruction sign is displayed, yielding the right of way to cars approaching from the right is the general rule. Turning right on a red light is prohibited. If another car flashes its high beams at you, it means the driver is giving you precedence at an intersection or calling your attention to the presence of something that may affect your driving.
Tickets for traffic violations are written up by the police, thus documenting the infraction and any applicable fine(s). The police will give the offender a postal check (money order), on which the amount of the fine to be paid is written, and this postal check may be presented and paid for at any Hungarian post office. Sometimes, in disputes about fines or the offense, the police will confiscate the person's passport and issue a receipt for the passport with an "invitation letter" to appear at the police station the next day or day after to resolve the dispute. The passport is returned after resolution and/or the payment of the fine.
For specific information about Hungarian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road taxes and mandatory insurance, please contact the Hungarian National Tourist Organization Office in New York via the Internet at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Hungary's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Hungary's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
September 17, 2004