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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Hungary

Hungary - Consular Information Sheet
June 1, 2001

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. Many of the goods and services taken for granted in other Western countries are not yet available outside the capital. Visitors considering a trip are encouraged to read the Embassy's consular web site: http://www.usis.hu/consular.htm.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. A visa is not required for tourist stays of 90 days or less. If you plan to reside or study in Hungary, a residence permit must be obtained from the nearest Hungarian Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. before entry into Hungary. Additional information concerning entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary at 3910 Shoemaker Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 362-6730, Internet http://www.Hungaryemb.org, or the nearest Hungarian Consulate in Los Angeles or New York.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry or departure.

CRIME: Hungary has a low rate of violent crime. However, street crime, which occasionally involves violence, has increased, especially at night near major hotels and restaurants and on public transportation. Theft of passports, currency, and credit cards is a frequent problem, especially in youth hostels, at train stations, and on public transportation. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The number of burglaries has risen substantially, and vehicle thefts, particularly of high value automobiles, is a major problem.

Foreigners may also experience problems with excessive billing and/or extortion at some restaurants and nightclubs featuring "adult entertainment." Do not order beverage or food service without first seeing a menu and verifying the cost. The Consulate offers an informational brochure on tourist scams and high theft areas that includes a list of restaurants/ nightclubs to avoid. To consult this advisory, please visit the following part of the Embassy's consular web site, http://www.usis.hu/tourist.htm.

The number of highway robberies has increased over the past few years. Drivers should be cautious when stopping at gas stations and highway parking lots (especially at night), and while fixing flat tires or other mechanical problems. There have been reports of scams perpetrated on unwitting victims while traveling on the highways. This potential scam involves someone who attracts the driver's attention by saying that there is something wrong with the car (e.g. a smoking hood, or a flat tire) in order to encourage the driver to pull over to the shoulder of the road. Once pulled over, while the driver is busy inspecting the alleged trouble, these scamsters 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 a victim of a crime in Hungary are strongly encouraged to call a 24-hour multi-lingual crime reporting telephone number from 8am to 8pm at (36-1) 438-8080 (after hours: 06-80-66-00-44). There is also a 24-hour police Tourinfo office that provides service in English and in German and is located in one of downtown Budapest's busiest tourist areas: Vigado Utca 6, 1051 Budapest. Alternatively, tourists may visit the Embassy to file an incident report.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's Pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Public Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) web site at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: At best, adequate medical treatment is available in Hungary, as hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to those in the United States. Physicians are generally well trained although there is a lack of adequate emergency service facilities. A language barrier can exist as well, if one does not speak Hungarian. Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate cash payments for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's bureau of consular affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-(877)-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-(888)-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's web site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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 totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: good
Urban road conditions/maintenance: good
Rural road conditions/maintenance: fair
Availability of roadside/ambulance assistance: good

In Hungary, the number of fatal traffic accidents is approximately 1,200 per year. Also, there are approximately 7,000 traffic accidents per year that result in serious injuries. Road travel is more dangerous during the Christmas season, summer months, and at night. Roadside assistance is generally available. Ambulance service can be reached by calling 104 and the police can be reached by calling 107.

Bus, train, and taxi services are readily available for inter-city travel.

Hungarian highways are generally in good condition. In urban areas, roads and road maintenance are also good. However, in rural areas, roads are narrow, badly lit, and can be in a state of poor repair in some places. These small rural roads are often used by pedestrians, agricultural machines, and farm animals. This requires increased caution on the part of drivers.

Hungary has a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police often conduct routine road 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 1 to 5 years in prison.

Police have also instituted a more widespread practice of stopping vehicles to check driver identity documents in the search for illegal aliens and residents in Hungary, and to check vehicle registration and fitness documentation, particularly in Budapest.

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 drivers' 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 documents together. After one year in Hungary, U.S. citizens must obtain a Hungarian driver's license. For further information on this procedure, please contact the ACS office of the US Embassy in Budapest. The e-mail address is: acs.budapest@state.gov.

The speed limit for cars and motorcycles on the limited access highways is 130 km per hour (approximately 81 mph); on highways, the limit is 110 km per hr (approximately 69 mph); and, in town and village areas, the speed limit is 50 km per hr (approximately 30 mph). Also, special seats are required for children under age 12. Physically handicapped people are exempted from paying fees in any parking area.

In the past, it was commonplace for fines to be collected on the spot by the police for any alleged traffic violation. Now, tickets are written up by the police, thus documenting the infraction and payable fines. 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 can be presented and paid for at any Hungarian post office. Sometimes, in disputes about the fine or the offense, the police will confiscate the person's passport and issue a receipt for the passport as well as an "invitation" letter to appear at a police station the next day or the day after to resolve the dispute. The passport is given back after resolution and/or the payment of the fine.

Seat belts are mandatory for everyone in the car. Unless another instruction sign is displayed, yielding right of way is prevalent. Making right turns during a red light is prohibited. Flashing the high beams means a driver is giving you precedence at an intersection or calling your attention to the presence of something that may affect your driving.

The Hungarian authority responsible for road safety is the national police headquarters, telephone: 36-1-443-5651. At the national police headquarters, English is not widely spoken. "Utinform" provides road condition information in Hungarian at tel: 36-1-322-7052.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State's bureau of consular affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. 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: http://www.gotoHungary.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Hungary's civil aviation authority as category one, in compliance with the international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Hungarian air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the department of transportation at 1(800)322-7873, or visit the FAA internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618)-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Hungary's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (admission temporaire/temporary admission) carnet for the temporary admission of Professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, call (212) 354-4480, send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

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. laws. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those 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.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The acceptance of traveler's checks and credit cards is not universal. The presence of ATMs is increasing in Budapest and other major cities.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on the international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to CA's web site, http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone the Department of State at (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY ADDRESS: Americans living in or visiting Hungary are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, and obtain updated information on travel and security in Hungary. The U.S. Embassy is located at v. 1054 Budapest, Szabadsag Ter 12; telephone (36-1) 475-4400 between the hours of 8am - 5pm, or, if calling after 5pm, (36-1) 475-4703/4929. The Consular Section's fax is (36-1) 475-4188/4113, and the Consular Section's web site is located at: http//www.usis.hu/consular.htm. The web site has been published in both the English and Hungarian languages.

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