Forint (HUF) has been the local currency in Hungary since August 1946. The name “forint” comes from the name of the city of Florence, where golden coins had been minted since 1252.
Banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000. All of them are watermarked, contain an embedded vertical security strip of thin metal and are designed to be suitable for visually impaired individuals.
Six different coins are in use: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 forint coins. Until 1 March, 2008, coins of 1 and 2 forints were also in use but they were eventually withdrawn from circulation because their production cost was higher than their actual value. (It is important to be aware of this when you pay cash because rules of rounding are used, i.e. the bill will be rounded up or down so that the last digit will always be five or zero.)
Since January 1997, HUF has been fully convertible, making life easier for everyone visiting Hungary. Changing currencies is offered by banks or ATMs but the best way to change currencies is to find ‘no commission’ currency exchange shops near inner city shopping facilities. Most banks do not charge any commission so your money in HUF will be provided to you according to the effective daily exchange rate.
Credit cards are accepted at many more places than before. If in doubt, ask the shop assistant or look for symbols and tags on shop windows. The most popular credit cards are Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
You can also open a bank account as the non-residential account service is designed especially for foreign nationals. All you need is your passport. You can open a HUF account or any other currency account.
Deák Ferenc (HUF 20,000 banknote) was the “Sage of the Country”: a Hungarian statesman whose negotiations led to the establishment of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. He was a dedicated fighter for reforms wanting to improve the living conditions of the Hungarian peasantry, which he spearheaded using his own estates as an example. Depicted on the reverse of this banknote of the highest denomination is the building of the temporary House of Representatives. This building, where the National Assembly used to meet, was the predecessor of today’s Parliament.
Saint István (or Stephen, HUF 10,000 banknote): the first king of Hungary (1000–1038). During his reign, Christianity became the state religion in Hungary. This was a significant decision in the sense that Hungary could thus become part of the Christian Europe. The reverse of the banknote features a view of the historical city of Esztergom, which functioned as the capital city of Hungary between the 10th and the mid-13th centuries, and was also the Royal Seat at that time.
Count Széchenyi István (HUF 5,000 banknote): he was a politician, a theorist and a writer, one of the greatest statesmen in Hungarian history. Famous for his outstanding political activity, he is known as “the Greatest Hungarian”. A great reformer, Széchenyi founded the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences, introduced horse racing and also financed the construction of the first permanent bridge on the Danube, the Chain Bridge. The reverse of the banknote features Széchenyi’s castle in Nagycenk (North-Western Hungary), where he spent his childhood.
Bethlen Gábor (HUF 2,000 banknote): he was a prince of Transylvania in the first half of the 17th century, and the leader of an anti-Habsburg insurrection in the Habsburg-ruled Hungary. The principality in Transylvania reached its peak during his reign. He was one of the most striking and original figures of his century. He supported various religions, which could be freely practiced in Transylvania, and thus created a unique situation in Europe at the time. The reverse of the banknote features Gábor Bethlen surrounded by his scientists. During his reign, culture flourished in Transylvania, and many scientists visited different parts of Transylvania while the rest of Hungary was under Turkish or Austrian rule.
King Matthias (or Mátyás, HUF 1,000 banknote) was King of Hungary and Croatia, and ruled between 1458 and 1490. He is a very popular figure in Hungarian history. He was known for being understanding to the poor and was an advocate of justice – a fact that accounts for his nickname “Matthias the Righteous”. His palace in Visegrád was a centre of Hungarian renaissance. On the reverse of the banknote is a picture of the Hercules Fountain in Visegrád. During celebrations, wine instead of water is said to flow from the fountain.
Rákóczi Ferenc II (HUF 500 banknote) was also a prince of Transylvania, and the leader the Hungarian nationwide uprising against the Habsburg Empire, eventually crushed in 1711. After the failed uprising, Rákóczi was forced to leave the country. He spent the rest of his life in Turkey in exile. The reverse of the banknote shows the castle of Sárospatak, which was the centre of the Rákóczi family’s property and the venue for secret negotiations before the uprising.