Hungary is not necessarily the most popular European destination for American travelers, but tourists and businesspeople alike still sometimes visit this landlocked country. Whether you plan to set up a new business deal or take in Hungary's rich, historic culture, you'll need to consider the most cost-effective way to get the currency you need. Learn more about Hungary's currency and how you can exchange your dollars for the best price.
The currency of Hungary
Nestled in Central Europe, Hungary is a member of the European Union, but the country has not yet adopted the Euro as its leading currency. As such, the country's official currency is still the Forint, which you may see abbreviated as the Ft or HUF, especially if you regularly review exchange rates through a major financial institution. Hungarian banks once issued 'fillers' as well as the Forint, but this currency is no longer used.
Nonetheless, although the official currency is the Forint, many Hungarian businesses will now accept Euros. In fact, tourists will often see prices for hotels, tours, travel and attractions quoted in Euros. It's relatively convenient to pay in Euros if you're traveling around other European countries, but if you're planning a trip from the United States, it's sometimes more economical to buy Forints.
Purchasing currency in the United States
If you have plenty of time to plan, you may decide to buy your currency in the United States. However, if you choose to do this, you may not benefit from the best available exchange rate, as the Forint is relatively hard for American currency providers to get hold of. Currency exchanges in the U.S. generally have a better supply of Euros, so it's worth checking the current exchange rate through a company like Winner's Edge Trading to make sure you get the best possible deal.
Find places to exchange currency in Hungary
With a flourishing tourist market, Hungary offers plenty of places to buy your currency from the moment you land in the country. Unsurprisingly, the rate you pay will vary according to the place you choose to go to.
As a general rule, currency exchange counters at airports, hotels and train stations tend to offer a poor conversion rate to travelers. These places rely on last-minute buyers and sellers to make a larger margin on each transaction, so you should only use these places if you are desperate.
The good news is that there are thousands of other currency exchanges in Hungarian towns and cities that will offer you a better rate. Visit a tourist information office in your destination city to find out where the best deals are. In many cities, certain streets attract a lot of currency exchange offices, so you'll benefit from more competitive rates.
Like any other foreign city, you should never accept an offer to exchange currency from somebody on the street or in a café. While these deals may seem attractive, you're probably walking into a criminal trap.
Currency exchange methods and costs
Most currency exchanges will give you the best rate if you exchange US dollars for the local currency. Of course, if you're in the country for a long trip, it's not always safe to carry around large sums of money. As such, it's often worth accepting a slighter lower exchange rate to use your credit card, as this gives you more protection. Check the handling fee that your card provider charges. Your bank debit card may offer you a better deal if you withdraw cash at an ATM.
The Hungarian government introduced a Financial Transaction Tax (or FTT) in 2013. The tax applies to all transactions provided through a currency exchange and covers pretty much any transaction you make that involves a foreign currency. The tax rate is low. You'll only pay 0.3% of the total transaction, and the government caps this payment at HUF 6,000.
American visitors to Hungary will need to exchange their dollars for a local currency. You can choose from several options once you arrive, but you should always check the latest exchange rates to make sure you choose the right currency and method of payment.