Director, Hungarian National Tourist Office
There has been no obstacle in the way of British tourists travelling to Hungary since 1990, when the visa requirement was reciprocally abolished. The 1990 ABTA Convention staged in Budapest for 2,500 tour operators and travel agents enhanced awareness of Hungary as a destination as travel industry professionals gained first-hand experience of what the country has to offer. In 1990 Hungary had 70,000 British visitors but now receives 200,000 each year. There are now more than 100 tour operators offering Hungary as a destination.
Hungary has been an associate member of the European Union for some years and is expected to become a full member by the year 2002. She has played an active role in the Partnership for Peace initiative and it is regarded as a true recognition of her efforts that the country has been invited to join NATO. If you look at the infrastructure of Hungary and experience the warm hospitality of her people, you may well think that this is a country which never really left the Europe she has now rejoined.
Budapest is clearly the favourite place to go: its excellent hotels, pensions, superb restaurants, cafes, sweet shops, wine bars, casinos, operas, theatres and concert halls combined with efficient public transport and beautiful architecture (also used on location for the film Evita) seem to appeal to everybody.
All major car hire firms are represented in Hungary and more and more people are taking advantage of the independence offered by fly-and-drive deals. Visitors to Budapest tend to explore the unspoilt countryside also and venture out on cycling, walking, fishing and birdwatching tours. These are sometimes combined with visits to some of the few thousand wine cellars and spas.
Half of the Hungarian hotel capacity has been bought up by a British company so a high quality of service is guaranteed. There are also 300,000 private beds all over the country offering accommodation as well as the almost legendary Hungarian hospitality.
Trips to Hungary can offer long weekends, Orient Express-type train journeys, lengthy spa holidays, cultural events and Formula One racing. Hungary is a romantic country, famous for goulash, paprika, Bull's Blood red wine, Tokaji royal white dessert wine, the classical music of Lizst, Bartok, Kodaly and Lehar, live gypsy music in restaurants, the hand-painted porcelain of Herend favoured by Queen Victoria, fierce horsemen, beautiful women, friendly people, fascinating architecture, hussars, the legendary footballer Puskas, the Great Plain with its falcons and bustards and, of course, Budapest, the pearl of the majestic River Danube, with its magnificent castles and medieval churches.
Places to go
Budapest and the Danube bend are hugely popular. Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Europe, offers swimming, fishing, windsurfing and sailing. Wine tours to Eger, Villany, Tokaj, Badacsony, Csopak, Balatonfured, Sopron are well subscribed. You can also go birdwatching in Hortobagy puszta, cross-country riding, pheasant shooting and potholing in fantastic stalactite caves.
Food and drink
Hungarian gastronomy was very much influenced by the French and Italian cuisine introduced by foreign monarchs. Although a great deal of work goes into preparing Hungarian dishes they are, together with hundreds of varieties of cakes and fruity wines, remarkably cheap.
Summers are very hot. May, June, September and October are very pleasant while the winters are usually cold, sometimes with a lot of snow.
From family-run pensions to de luxe Kempinski and Hilton hotels, all grades are available.
Buy a Budapest card for around £10 for three days of unlimited travel by tram, bus and underground. The card also enables you to see 55 museums and get discounts on sightseeing tour costs and cultural programmes and also in certain restaurants, thermal baths and shops.
There are approximately 320 forints to the pound. The pound will also go three times as far in Hungary. All major credit cards are accepted.
1 January, 15 March, Easter Monday, Whitsun Monday, 1 May, 20 August, 23 October, 25-26 December.
The time in Hungary is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
A city break - three nights including flights - costs from around £249. There are more than 100 British tour operators organising trips to Hungary.
There are four flights a day, two by MALEV Hungarian Airlines using Boeing aircraft and two by British Airways, all flying from Heathrow. A passport valid for at least six months is required. There is no longer a visa requirement for British citizens.
For further information, please contact: Hungarian National Tourist Office, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary, Commercial Section, 46 Eaton Place, London SW1X 8AL. Tel: (general public) 0171 823 1032, (trade) 0171 823 1055. Fax: 0171 823 1459.