Basics – Florins? Forints? What’s the deal with the Hungarian Currency?
Despite the fact that taking up the Euro has been one aim of the Hungarian government since the country joined the European Union in 2004, its currency, the Hungarian forint (normally not capitalised) remains an unfathomable mystery to those who handle it for the first time.
The forint was named after the city of Florence, Italy and has been in circulation since the 14th century, when Hungary was governed by the Anjou King, Charles Robert (which is why the Italians still call it fiorino). In those days, the forint was a gold-based coin cherished by half of Europe. Beautiful as the banknotes may look today, keeping a watchful eye open is recommended at all times since money scams and sloppy money exchanging maneuvers are always avoidable if we perceive them in time. Withdrawing cash in Forints can also be an option. It may help to know that we have an ATM cash machine right outside the door of our Budapest office behind the opera house.
Budapest is not particularly famous for confidence tricks, when sharps take advantage of unsuspecting tourists, but there’s a couple of scams -mainly happening in and around the railway stations and the touristic hot spots of the city centre- that it might help to know about before we decide to hit the Hungarian capital. Most of these cons involve ‘undercover policemen’, who (after flashing their fake badges) confiscate our wallets and return them a few hundred euros short; so called ‘ladies’ in distress, who with whatever excuse lure us to places of ill repute, where the bill for any drinks is astronomical and -last but not least- beggars pretending to be handicapped, crawling on the streets of Budapest for a couple of coins, relying on the kindness of passers-by.
As the Hungarian saying literally goes: ‘It’s better to be afraid than surprised’ (better to be safe than sorry), so be aware of your belongings, avoid people offering better exchanging rates on the streets and always insist on getting a receipt wherever you go! Being on the safe side never hurts – with just a little caution you will leave Hungary with only good memories!
HUNGARIAN FORINT (HUF) – USEFUL INFORMATION
Average exchange rates (may fluctuate depending on market value)
1 EURO = 310 HUF
1 USD = 280 HUF
1 GBP = 400 HUF
Bear in mind that it’s very easy to get lost among the zeroes, so always make sure you get out the right banknotes when paying cash! (Confusing the 1000 and 10 000 Forint banknotes is a common mistake.