Don’t be a victim! Check where you exchange money in Budapest! Here are tips and advice to help you get up to 25% more value for your money.
Money thrown out the window
In this comprehensive article, I intend to provide you with all the essential information on exchanging money in Budapest because it’s definitely worth discussing.
Let’s say you would like to exchange 1.000 euros to forints. You get 250.000 forints instead of 335.000 forints. That is an 85.000-forint difference which is 253 EUR less. In other words, each euro is worth only 75 cents.
I believe it is money thrown out the window. Do you agree?
You could spend that money on your children, partner, yourself, or anything else.
If you agree with me, read along so you won’t be surprised when exchanging money in Budapest.
Money exchange in Hungary – Questions every tourist considers important
You’ve been planning your trip to Budapest for weeks: you have the flight tickets, booked your accommodation, carefully planned what to see each day, checked all the top-rated restaurants and also decided which ruin bars to visit.
I wrote a comprehensive article about ruin bars, giving you advice on which ones you should visit.
There is also the perfect plan in your head about which sweets and artisan products would surprise your family and friends with. Halfway through packing your bag you check your passport, ID, and see if they are still valid.
Everything is ready.
So, you exhale. But your mind is filled with countless questions:
- How much money should I take along with me?
- Does it have to be in Hungarian forints or will euros be fine as well?
- Should I exchange my money here or in Hungary?
- How widely are credit cards accepted?
- Will they accept my card at all?
- Where can I withdraw cash cheaply, but safely in case I need it?
I intend to answer these questions in this article so that worrying about finances does not overshadow preparation and travel.
What is the aim of this article?
I believe there is nothing worse than the feeling that you have been fooled, only because you don’t speak the language and you are not a local. It’s not a recent problem. I have experienced this many times during my travels.
I feel for the victims. In fact, I think it’s outrageous that certain companies and businesses are “specialized” in swindling tourists.
However, these companies operate legally. It’s legal because it isn’t prohibited to exchange money at a bad rate.
No one forces you to exchange money there – that’s what they say in their defense. Well, they might be right, but still, don’t let yourself be fooled.
The purpose of this article is to help you navigate your way through exchanging money in Budapest without being fooled.
Table of Contents
What is the official currency in Hungary?
The official currency of the country is the Hungarian Forint. Its international code is HUF, while its short form is Ft.
Its history goes a long way back in the past; there is not one currency that has been “revived” so many times as this one.
Several Hungarian rulers and leaders saw financial stability and revalorization in the forint. The so-called aranyforint (golden forint) was already in use from the 1300s for almost 200 years.
After the 1500s, several currencies followed in the royal treasury until the re-emergence of the forint in 1750. After another 100 years of glory, koruna and later pengo took over and stayed until the end of WW2.
Pengo, the shortest-lived Hungarian currency
The hyperinflation of pengo, the shortest-lived Hungarian currency, which served the economy for 19 years, has kept its world record ever since.
After WW2, the financial chaos swept through the area and stayed for 13 months, doubling prices in just 11 hours.
The highest denomination banknote ever issued – the 100 trillion pengo – had already lost its value by the time of its introduction.
Then, forint returned again. It changed a bit in appearance since its last use but has remained the official Hungarian currency ever since.
Why is Hungary cheap? You really get more for your money
The primary tourist attractions of Hungary are its cultural and natural heritage, its gastronomy, festivals, and program tourism.
More than 100 tourist sights in Budapest – Explore what to see in this beautiful city!
Still, it wouldn’t be right to say that there is nothing more to its popularity. One of the most notable components is its cheapness.
But why do Hungarian services and products cost half the price as those in the western part of the European Union? The answer is simple: the Forint is kept artificially low in order to boost the Hungarian economy.
Cheap labor and favorable taxes attract foreign companies that can sell low-cost-manufactured products in euros or other stronger currencies.
The same applies to products manufactured by Hungarian businesses. They can make much greater profits if they manage to reach the international market instead of selling for the domestic market.
Last but not least, in order to boost the tourism of the country, it is also in the government’s interest to keep the forint low.
Foreign tourists get much more for their money here than they would in any other neighboring country where the euro is the official currency. Thus, they will be willing to spend more as well.
This is called a win-win line-up and it is perfect for everyone.
How much spending money should you take to Budapest?
Naturally, the answer is: It depends. Well, I probably didn’t help much, right?
If you already have a flight ticket and accommodation, you can only spend on entertainment, traveling, museums, and food.
If you want to have fun, Budapest is the perfect place for that. There are countless great clubs in the capital.
A night of partying affects your wallet, not just your body. If you are partying till morning, asking out drinks continuously, you can easily spend 20.000–30.000 HUF. That’s approximately €60–90.
Of course, our spending depends on what and how much we drink. You can find some useful information in my articles on recommended ruin bars and nightlife in Budapest.
If you intend to use public transport, a weekly pass only costs 4.950 HUF. That is 15–17 euros, depending on the exchange rate.
Traveling by taxi means more expenses. Calculate with a 700-Ft basic fare plus 300 Ft/kilometer. Still, you need to be careful which one you choose. For more information, read my article about taxis.
Museums and culture
If you are interested in more than just wild parties and want to know more about the history of Hungary, you should visit some of the best museums in Budapest.
You can read my comprehensive article about the best museums here. Most museums in Budapest are inexpensive. Admission fees range from 3 to 15 euros.
Just like in the case of entertainment, you can spend quite a lot on food.
Those of you trying to save money eating sandwiches and pastries will get by on a maximum of 3.000 forints. That’s less than 10 euros.
If, instead of going to a top-notch restaurant, you just grab a gyro at a Turkish restaurant or avoid places frequented by tourists, you’ll get by on 6.000 forints a day. That’s less than 20 euros.
A quality restaurant in downtown Budapest, especially near the Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, Váci Street, and St. Stephen’s Basilica is much more costly.
A main course costs 3.000–8.000 forints unless you eat lobster, caviar or Kobe beef. A plate of soup is 800–2.000 forints. A dessert is between 1.000 and 2.000 forints.
That is approximately 20.000 forints (60-70 euros) for two persons with beverages, soup, main course, and dessert.
How much spending money should you take to Budapest? – An approximate calculation for specific needs
Don’t eat at restaurants. Travel the city by public transport. Visit museums and cheaper baths, but leave out clubs.
6.000–8.000 HUF a day (approx. €18–25).
Eat in a restaurant at least twice a day. Once at a good restaurant that is not in the frequented area. Once at a cheaper Turkish, Chinese or a similar category place.
Travel the city by public transport and, sometimes, by taxi. Go to more expensive baths and visits clubs occasionally.
25.000–30.000 HUF a day (approx. €75–90).
Eat at downtown restaurants 3 times a day. Travel by taxi only. Party and treat themselves.
50.000–70.000 HUF a day (approx. €150–210).
Is the euro an accepted currency in Hungary? Is it worth paying with euros?
I always tell my friends who visit Hungary, that it may be useful to have some euros in their pocket, but they are better left untouched.
Forint or euro?
Huge vacation destinations, like Turkey and Egypt or big European cities accept international currencies. But that doesn’t apply to Hungary.
You might meet prices given in forints and euros at central tourist attractions, programs, and gastronomic specialties. But consider these guidelines.
Making a quick head-count, you quickly realize you are better off paying in forints. Service fees are counted way under the average rate, so you may lose up to €15–20, depending on the price.
Why isn’t it worth paying in euros in Budapest?
Let’s see an example. Something that is not expensive at all, yet you lose almost 40% if you pay in euros.
Average rate: 338 HUF.
You would like to taste the classic Hungarian sweet called chimney cake (kürtőskalács). It costs 1.200 forints. But if you don’t have forints, you will pay €5.
If you weren’t able to exchange euro to forint at the best exchange office and got 330 forints for the euro, you pay approximately €3.6 for a chimney cake, if you pay in forints.
If you don’t pay in forints, but pay the 5 euros for it, you buy it for a 38.8% higher price.
It is clear that the seller counts well below the average rate. If they ask 5 euros for 1.200 forints, your euro is only worth 240 forints.
Do they accept euros in shops in Budapest?
Short answer: Yes, they do at bigger shops and department stores, but it isn’t worth it.
Not even in the most popular shops in downtown Budapest will you find a euro price tag underneath the products, even though there is a large blue sign at the entrance of the shop saying: We accept euros!
At more correct locations, there is a logo with the exchange rate at the cashiers, which in many cases is as incredible as the exchange rates at the airport.
Important! If you still haven’t left the shop after seeing the outrageous amount, try to pay the exact amount as, in 90% of the cases, the shopkeeper may not be able to give you back the change.
But that is true for all services. Since the euro is not the official currency in Hungary, businesses don’t have the financial infrastructure for it and it is not in their best interest to keep change in cashiers.
In fact, it only makes things more difficult for them, as they will have to exchange the money in a bank after closing the cash register, in order to reinvest that income in forint into their business.
Do they accept euros in the countryside?
The acceptance of euros is even less common in the countryside than in Budapest.
Apart from the department stores and shopping centers in big cities, international banknotes are not worth waving around, and the same rules apply as previously explained.
Are tips in euros accepted in Budapest and in the countryside?
What about tips? Well, yes. Tips are welcome in euros as well. If you don’t have any cash left in forints, but would like to leave a tip, show your appreciation with a banknote instead of a coin.
Euro coins are changed at a very bad rate in Hungary. Instead of the 330–340-forint rate, 1- and 2-euro coins are exchanged for approximately 280 forints, while cents for 200–250 forints. These kinds of tips are like warm beer – it’s okay, but it could be better.
Tipping in Budapest – how much to tip when in Hungary?
I do not intend to scare you off, you don’t need to throw all your euro coins out of your wallet. Instead, plan ahead!
Calculate how much you would like to spend on expenses in Hungary and make the exchange based on that. And hide some euros in your bag in case you might need them.
How widely are the dollar, pound and Swiss franc accepted in Hungary?
The only reason you might want to have them in your bag is if you want to convert them to forints.
They are not accepted in the countryside or Budapest either. Due to being a member state of the European Union, Hungarians can make more use of the euro in their financial life.
However, America is too far away, so businesses cannot make use of dollars.
Although England is only a two-hour flight away from Budapest, pounds are not accepted in Hungary. The same is true for the Swiss franc.
Exchanging money in Budapest – Useful tips and pieces of advice
No matter where we travel, doing the maths with the currency of that specific country is always difficult. We are continuously dividing, multiplying to see if we got our money’s worth.
What is more, Hungarian banknotes with several zeros at the end make counting more difficult. And, of course, there are the classic questions as well.
- Where shall I exchange my money – at the airport or in the city?
- Where is it safe?
- What about small, less busy exchange offices?
- Or shall I go to well-known, international exchange offices?
Let me walk you through all the details. But first some general useful advice.
Get to know the forint!
No matter whether you exchange at home or in Hungary, take a close look at both Hungarian banknotes and coins.
Each one has its unique pattern, color, and size, so they can be easily distinguished without looking at the number on them.
This way, you can avoid taking all the notes out of your wallet in front of everyone, trying to calculate the right amount.
Always be informed about the exchange rates!
Although in the case of the forint, this rate might change on a daily basis, still, check out the average rate on Oanda before setting off. Another option is xe.com.
Currently (early 2020), 1 EUR is approximately 330–340 HUF.
Check the exchange rate at the place you intend to change currency. Ask them! Always before the exchange, not after, when it’s too late.
Often, there are two exchange rates indicated which can be rather tricky. It is more fortunate if you exchange more than 1.000 EUR, as changing less than that is not so favorable.
It probably won’t take you by surprise, that the favorable price is indicated in big letters and eye-catching colors, while the less favorable one is in the fine print.
A two-three-forint deviation from the average rate is perfectly fine. If there is more than ten, or in some rare cases, fifty forint-difference from the average rate, get out of there!
You ran into legal robbers who can’t wait to cheat you out of your money.
Money exchange – in the evening or in the afternoon? It does matter when you exchange money!
Some good advice. Whichever exchange office you choose, be sure to follow the following rule! Exchange offices work with a small divergence between buying and selling prices.
However, after 4 pm, before closing, there is a greater difference in the buy-sell ratio at the same money changer. Why? It is simple.
Hungarian financial institutions close at 4 pm, so the currency bought after that time cannot be taken to the bank that day. Thus, the exchange office tries to compensate for the possible jump in exchange rates valid from the following morning.
As in the evening (CET), many things can happen in the world market (in America it is still daytime with the stock market still working). So, they try to minimize their loss per euro or dollar in case the forint rate changes. Of course, it is also true for the weekends.
Want a better exchange rate? Then never change money at weekends or after 4 pm.
Pay attention to the commission fees!
While the “low” exchange rate is advertised in bold letters at every exchange office, commission fees are hidden in the fine print part.
Commission fees are sometimes added progressively or sometimes in percentage after every change.
Avoid exchange offices with no commission!
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, in addition to checking the divergence from the average rate, we need to be aware of the commission fees.
All in all, we can say that if a money changer buys the euro at 3–4 forints under the average rate, we are in the right place. The ideal commission fee is less than 1% of the total amount.
Don’t be fooled by the following either: “No commission!” – in this case, you need to check the exchange rate itself. If the price is significantly different from the average rate, then the commission fee is certainly included in the figures.
“No commission!” does not mean that you will get more money there.
Still, don’t be scared away by commission fees. The best exchange offices work with commission fees. This is how they can exchange money at affordable prices.
Don’t worry about others waiting in the line and the exchange officer wanting to get rid of you! Count the notes, check the recipe and use a calculator in case you need to!
Ask for smaller denominations!
10.000- and 20.000-forint banknotes are the biggest Hungarian denominations. It is okay if you have some of these notes in your wallet, but if the officer only gives you these, ask for smaller denominations.
Sellers at small shops and street stalls probably won’t be able to give you back the exact change. You might also get confused with the many banknotes you get back.
It is better if you pay the exact amount, thus decreasing the possibility of being scammed.
Be careful when changing money!
It might seem like a good idea to go to an exchange office to change your high denomination banknote to a smaller one, as they have loads of banknotes.
But be careful! Most exchange offices charge for this activity, which can be up to 0.8% of the total amount.
Do not accept damaged or defective banknotes!
It is less likely to run into a situation like this at an exchange office, but in case it happens, feel free to ask for an undamaged one.
Yet, don’t panic if you happen to get a damaged one. You can take it to any Hungarian bank or post office where it will be replaced with an undamaged banknote.
Where to exchange money – at home or in Budapest?
I definitely recommend you do it in Hungary as you might get more for your money if you find the correct exchange offices.
Since it is much more difficult to purchase the currency of a small country than that of a large one, you might happen to buy Hungarian forints for up to a 10% higher price at home.
Customers looking to buy Hungarian forints at a financial institute abroad might be quite rare.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – The three types of exchange offices in Budapest
The Bad! Save your money, or where not to exchange money in Budapest
Every story has its good and bad. The same applies to exchange offices. I deliberately chose to start with the blacklist of converters, so that you would know right away after arriving in Budapest, which ones are to be avoided.
Airport – Interchange
How shall I put it? Definitely not recommended. Total rip-off. Real predators. These are just a few of the things that come to my mind when I think of airport Interchange.
If you must exchange money here, only exchange the amount you really need to. Why?
Well, there might be up to 70–100 forint difference between the average rate and their pricing.
Instead of 330–340 forints, you only get 250 forints for one euro. But the same applies the other way around.
This is a significant difference even in the case of a smaller amount, so don’t let yourself be fooled!
I would like to add that the company providing financial services at the Hungarian International Airport is licensed until 2022. And since the owners say customers have accepted the exchange rate practices, the prices remain the same.
According to the explanation, these prices are used to pay staff with good language skills and the 24–hour service.
This picture was taken at the Liszt Ferenc Airport on 13 June 2019, before my flight to Spain. At that time, the average rate on the official site of the MNB (Central Bank of Hungary) was 322.29 HUF. Proof!
Yet, as the picture showed the exchange rate at the exchange office was 252.01 HUF. Oops! It would have been an epic fail if I had exchanged money there.
The same applied to the other currencies as well. Every currency is exchanged at such “reasonable” rates from US dollars to British pounds. And this isn’t hidden at all. It is stated in the fine print that there is a 40% (!!) margin between the selling rate and the buying rate.
Dear Customers! Please be informed, that in cases of money exchanges of EUR or USD the margin between buying and selling rates is 39,2%.Interchange
I recommend you pay by card for the taxi or only change a minimal amount for the bus ticket, and exchange money in the downtown, probably at a much more correct office.
And spend all the Hungarian banknotes at the duty-free shop before leaving.
Railway Stations, Váci Street, International Bus Terminals
The exchange rate difference is much less blatant, but it’s still not the best.
Large exchange offices like Exclusive Change can be found in the vicinity of Eastern and Western Railway Stations, Váci Street and Népliget International Bus Terminal.
These exchange offices that are specialized in the crowds of tourists are not ashamed of charging a 20–30 Forint difference plus commission fee that is over 1%.
However, a few streets off the railway station and the bus terminal, you will find much more correct exchange offices.
Attention! In Váci Street, you can find the same exchange office chain (Interchange) that can be found at the airport. Naturally, it works with the same rates. Avoid!
Hotels and banks
Although one of the safest ways of exchanging money is at hotels and Hungarian banks, it might not be the best for you.
In the case of hotels, you might get up to 10% fewer forints than at official exchange offices. Banks generally buy euros for approximately 10 forints less than the daily average exchange rate.
If you are wondering how much you get for your money at one of the biggest Hungarian banks (OTP Bank), try their online converter.
The Ugly! Well-known exchange offices in busy places where changing money is only recommended in case of emergency
Who are they?
- Western Union
- Exclusive Change
- Northline Change
- Exchange offices at Tesco and Auchan hypermarkets
- Exchange offices at shopping centers
Some exchange offices that might look attractive, still you’d better avoid them. They hardly reach the average rate.
They have several branch offices, but there might be a difference of 8–10 forints between them. Obviously, they work at higher prices in tourist areas.
The commission fee is above 1%. I recommend you exchange money at smaller, yet more reliable offices.
The Good! The best exchange offices in Budapest
Here come the good guys! 7+1 exchange offices you can exchange your money to forints without worrying. I tried to collect the reliable money changers who only deviate a bit from the average rate and only have a minimum commission fee.
You will find the website and contact information at the end of the introduction, however, bear in mind that the disclosed exchange rates are not always the latest ones. The exact rates are to be found on site.
Omika Change – Best place to exchange money in Budapest
The top of the podium undoubtedly belongs to the tiny family-run business, called Omika Change.
It is in 5-minute walking distance from St Gellért Thermal Bath and St Gellért Square named after it. It is just off the – Műegyetem (Technical University) stop of bus 7 that crosses the whole downtown.
Don’t worry, if you find yourself in an organic shop after entering the door with a Change label! You are at the right place.
If you feel like leaving when you see that the exchange rates are too good to be true, don’t! There is nothing wrong going on.
You can convert your currency to forints with a deviance of 1.5–3 forints from the average rate and the commission fee is as low as 0.3%.
In addition to the euro and US dollar, the currencies of many neighboring countries are accepted, but exchanging Japanese yen or the Australian dollar will not be a problem either.
It is open from Monday to Friday until evening, and on Saturday till lunchtime. Good prices and nice service are guaranteed, and you also get a candy to sweeten your day.
1111 Budapest, Bartók Béla út 16. (5-minute walk from the Gellért Thermal Bath)
For more information on prices and opening hours: http://www.omika-change.atw.hu/
The second place of the podium belongs to the privately-owned business, called Silver Change. The only reason why it is second is because the commission fee is slightly higher than that of Omika Change.
It is only a 5-minute walk from the very popular “residential” and shopping area, the Corvin District. But if you’re traveling by trams 4 and 6, the main traffic line of downtown, you might want to get off at the Corvin District to fill up with Hungarian forints at Silver Change.
As soon as you enter the tiny place under the yellow signboard and feel the warm welcome, you know everything will be okay.
The prices are real, there is only a 1.5–3-forint difference from the average rate, and the commission fee is only 0.5%.
What is more, the owner also accepts rarities, such as the Ukrainian Hryvnia, Qatari Rial and the United Arab Emirates Dirham.
Silver Change is open six days a week, from Friday to Saturday, from morning to evening.
1085 Budapest, József krt 58. (5-minute walk from Corvin Plaza)
For more information on prices and opening hours: https://silverchange.hu/
Money Exchange at the beginning of Király Street
The bronze medal goes to the real veteran of the Budapest money market. Located between OTP Bank and a shop offering doner and kebab, right at the beginning of Király Street, the largest party street of the capital.
No name, no website, but the Arabic letters and green signboard are known to everyone who often pass-by at Deák Square.
You won’t miss it, as it is a rather striking phenomenon. The only reason why it occupies the third position is the fact that many people wait in the unbelievably long line.
As it is on the way to Gozsdu udvar (Gozsdu Courtyard), it is an attractive place for tourists to exchange their money on a 2–3 forint difference from the average rate and a 0.3% commission fee.
Due to increased interest, the service is extremely fast, so I recommend you pay more attention to the number of banknotes you’ve been given.
I once received 5 euros less than the amount on the block, but it only happened once in several years. When we counted the amount again, it turned out to be a mistake on the part of the cashier who later gave me the missing banknote amidst ample apologies.
It awaits tourists in the middle of the tourist quarter with opening hours tailored to them. Money exchange is available from Monday to Saturday from morning till evening, but you can also jump in on Sunday morning.
1075 Budapest, Király Street 1/B (near Deák Square)
Oktogon is one of the largest meeting points in Budapest. That is the meeting point of the beautiful Andrássy Avenue and the ever-on-the-move Teréz Boulevard, and tram 4 and 6 with metro line 1. Cafés, restaurants, shops, hostels and many colorful services make the Oktogon restless.
Of course, there are also plenty of money changers in the area, but don’t settle for the first corner currency exchange office! Walk toward Western Railway Station ( Nyugati pályaudvar) and after 2 minutes you will find yourself in one of the best exchange offices in the area.
Euro Change offers Hungarian forints for a much better price than others at Oktogon. There is only a 2–3-forint divergence from the average rate and the commission fee is also very low – only 0.5%. Common international currencies are exchanged without a problem.
Considering opening hours, Sunday is the only day off. It awaits guests from Monday to Friday from morning till evening, and until early afternoon on Saturday.
1067 Budapest, Teréz krt. 27. (2-minute walk from Oktogon).
For more information on prices: https://eurochange.hu/
If you’re already near Oktogon, walk a little further toward Western Railway Station. In addition to Euro Change, Korona Change is the other name worth keeping in mind, if you want to buy forint at a good price.
There is only a 2–3-forint divergence from the average rate and the commission fee is also very low – only 0.5%.
It accepts at least 20 different currencies, including Bulgarian Leva, Serbian Dinar or Turkish Lira. And its opening hours are in perfect harmony with the busy life of Oktogon: it is open Monday to Sunday from morning until evening.
1067 Budapest, Teréz krt. 35. (3-minute walk from Oktogon).
For more information on prices and opening hours: http://www.koronachange.hu/
I always say that it is worth getting off the beaten tourist tracks in order to find treasures. The fairy-tale-like Parliament is the most important destination of tourists visiting Budapest.
Its monumentalism and unparalleled beauty can captivate every visitor. What is more, there is a quite correct little exchange office near its aspiring dome.
Go across Kossuth Square, past II. Ferenc Rákóczi’s equestrian statue, then walk down to the memorial statue of Imre Nagy.
We can see the beginning of Nádor Street from Vértanuk Square. Walk until the first crossing. The friendly and tiny Hanifa Change is right over Garibaldi Street. The only a 2–3-forint divergence and a 0.3% commission fee make it worthy of our list.
In addition to money exchange, you can also buy tickets for the Hop On – Hop Off sightseeing buses of Budapest. It has friendly opening hours as well. It awaits tourists from Monday to Friday from morning until evening, and on Saturday and Sunday until early afternoon.
1051 Budapest, Nádor utca 34. (5-minute walk from the Parliament)
For more information on prices and opening hours: http://hanifachange.hu/
Keleti Change is the perfect example of a correct exchange office that is just opposite one of the busiest railway stations.
Once you are at the huge square right in front of the Eastern Railway Station, walk down to the underpass, turn left and go forward until you reach the other side of the busy Kerepesi Road.
Continue for about a minute, with your back toward the railway station, until you reach Keleti Change. The flashing neon sign above the shop calling attention to the business is unmistakable.
The deviation from the average rate is a maximum of 4 forints, and the commission fee is also quite low – only 0.3%. Moreover, it is open from morning till evening every day of the week.
1087 Budapest, Baross tér 6. (2-minute walk from the Eastern Railway Station-Keleti pályaudvar)
For more information on prices: http://www.keletichange.hu/rates.php
I wasn’t sure whether to include the Correct Change chain store into this list, but I thought you definitely need to hear about it.
Contrary to the first seven mostly family-owned or single-owner exchange offices, Correct Change has 12 exchange office locations in Budapest and another 26 in the countryside.
So, it is close in numbers to large converter offices, yet it is trying to convert on correct rates (as the name implies).
Yet, it doesn’t always succeed in doing so. Although exchange rates are quite favorable on the website, you might meet different ones at the offices.
The commission fees range from 0.3 to 0.5%, and there might even be a 3-forint divergence among shops. In any case, they still leave much more money in your pocket than the “really big” ones.
If none of the first seven offices are within your reach, but you bump into a Correct Change office, give it a try!
You won’t regret it. I exchanged money at Correct Change several times, and the prices were always correct.
1114 Budapest, Bartók Béla út 53. ( 2 minutes walk from the Mórizs Zsigmond Square)
For more information on prices and opening hours: https://correctchange.hu/en/home/
- I checked every exchange office personally
- MNB (Central Bank of Hungary): Shortcomings in the practice of several credit and money exchange institutes
- origo.hu: MNB fined several exchange offices
- TripAdvisor forum
- Google reviews on Budapest exchange offices
- penzcentrum.hu: Tricky exchange offices
- index.hu: Don’t exchange money at Liszt Ferenc Airport
- hvg.hu: The method for swindling tourists at money exchange
Are credit cards widely accepted in Budapest?
The really good news is that you can pay by credit card almost everywhere in Hungary, especially in Budapest. The only international credit card that is accepted by only half of the service providers is American Express.
The most common cards, such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted at all major shops and tourist destinations. But if you want to be sure, check the bottom corners of the entrance before entering a place as most Hungarian shops display the types of bank cards, vouchers and discount cards they accept.
If you can’t see Visa, Amex, and MasterCard logos, you most probably need to pay in cash. You might want to be prepared at temporary artisan and food stalls at major events and festivals.
If you see the credit card logos on the side walls, you are free to use your card.
Is it worth paying by card instead of using cash?
Well, it depends on your bank. When you use your credit card, banks generally convert your money to forints at a price close to the daily average rate. The keyword is generally.
The problem is, that sometimes it’s a 3–5 forint divergence from the average rate, but it can reach 10 forints as well. Your bank at home needs to ensure that it has its profit despite the exchange rate fluctuations during the day. But that is not all!
The extra fee – that may differ significantly from bank to bank – is always the currency conversion fee. I recommend you check it out at your bank, as some financial institutions only charge 1–2% of the total amount as a currency conversion fee.
However, if this fee is closer to 5%, you might need to have a greater forint (or euro) reserve, and only use your credit card in case of an emergency.
I strongly suggest that you avoid using your credit card abroad if the currency conversion fee is greater than 2%. You will be MUCH cheaper if you exchange money at a normal exchange office with a commission fee of 0.3–0.5%.
Of course, using a card is convenient, fast, and you don’t need to sort out the change. So, it is up to your preference.
Cash withdrawal at ATMs in Hungary
It is good to know that there is a financial life belt in our pocket that can help us get money anywhere in the world. As I discussed above, depending on your bank, using a credit card can be beneficial. Thus, ATMs are left for real emergencies.
Of course, there may be cases when you need forints, but your cash reserves are exhausted. This is where ATMs come into play.
But let me share an open secret with you: cash withdrawal from ATMs is the most expensive method of currency acquisition. Banks use the same exchange rate for cash withdrawals as when you walk into a bank and buy it.
So, check the margin for the currency you need, that is, see how much it differs from the average rate! You may also want to inquire about the additional commission fee associated with ATM cash withdrawals so that you do not have a heart attack when you receive your next bank statement.
Cash withdrawal from the ATM of your bank
If you keep your money in an international bank, which has a subsidiary in Hungary, you start off with an advantage. These include Erste, Raiffeisen or the Hungarian CIB, which is a member of the Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group.
The parent company “rewards” you with discounts and low cash withdrawal costs if you withdraw money from the subsidiary ATM abroad.
A Hungarian example of this case is the embossed credit card issued by the Hungarian CIB. It allows you to withdraw money free of charge from approximately 10.000 ATMs in 11 countries belonging to the Intesa Sanpaolo Group.
And there are banks where the cost of a single cash withdrawal from their own ATM hardly reaches 1–2 euros. So, it is definitely worth checking your bank coverage in Hungary and the benefits before traveling.
Cash withdrawal from the ATM of a Hungarian Bank
If you withdraw money from ATMs of Hungarian banks, your own bank will be the decisive factor. You need to know the daily forint exchange rate and the fixed and percentage costs charged if you withdraw money from a foreign ATM.
Then it’s time for the head count to see how much it really is. My advice, in this case, is that withdrawing a larger amount from a Hungarian ATM is more worth it.
If you want to withdraw a smaller amount, even the poor exchange rate and transaction fees of Euronet ATMs is better than the percentage and fixed costs and other commission fees charged by your bank.
Cash withdrawal from Euronet ATMs
I cannot put Euronet on the blacklist of ATMs as clearly as I did with airport exchange offices in case of money changers.
The greatest advantage of the bright yellow-blue ATMs is that (not surprisingly) they can be found at the busiest tourist destinations and in addition to forints, you can also withdraw euros. At an extremely poor exchange rate.
Compared to banks and exchange offices, exchange rates are 10–15% worse, and the transaction fees reach 3–4 euros.
So, if you do the math, you can see that if you withdraw forints equivalent of 100 euros, you might happen to pay the equivalent of 20 euros for commission fees.
So only withdraw the minimum amount of cash from Euronet ATMs, and only in case of emergency. If you need a larger amount, use the ATMs of local banks.
The departure date is almost here. You have the flight ticket in your hand, the accommodation voucher saved on your mobile, and you already know which sight you are going to start with. Even the menus of restaurants and the selection of ruin bars are listed carefully.
Everything is ready: suitcases packed, passport and ID valid for at least half a year.
You know that airport money changers are to be avoided, how much should be spent on things and where to exchange money. Paying for the taxi or the bus taking you to the booked accommodation should be done by card.
You have your credit card in your wallet for good measure, as the small shop near your accommodation accepts credit cards. And there is an ATM of a Hungarian local bank nearby, in any case. You have planned everything carefully.
Now let yourself be carried away by the experiences and you lock Hungary in your heart forever!