Written by Charlotte Howlett

Hungary! Bordered by 7 countries, Hungary is a crossroads at the heart of Europe. What was once known as Mitteleuropa, Hungary is an inevitable blend of European culture, making it culturally and linguistically unique from its surrounding neighbours. Home to stunning architecture, thermal pools, goulash, folk traditions and ruin bars; Hungary is undeniably a vibrant tourist destination. Over 700,000 British tourists visit the country each year! However, if you’re lucky enough to venture to this beautiful country, bear in mind its differing laws and customs to make the most of your Hungarian adventure.

In Hungary it is not uncommon for local police to request documentation to establish your identity. Therefore, as a British tourist you must carry an official form of identification with you at all times. Hungarian police may take you into custody if you attempt to prove your identity with documents other than a passport. A photocopy of your passport won’t cut it!

As of June 2018, the “Stop Soros Law” has made it illegal to provide assistance to undocumented migrants. Under the terms of the “Stop Soros Law” helping migrants legalise their status in Hungary by distributing information about the asylum process or providing them with financial assistance could result in a 1-year prison sentence. Did you know: Hungarian prisons have the second highest level of overcrowding among the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, with 132 inmates per 100 spaces…

Although same sex relationships and civil partnerships are legal in Hungary, same sex marriages aren’t recognised in Hungarian law. Hungary’s capital Budapest is generally tolerant and open as the city hosts the largest Pride Festival in Central Europe, however historically there has been resistance against the LGBTQ community, which has led to confrontation. Be aware that outside of Budapest public displays of affection may be frowned upon or attract unwanted attention. See the information and advice page for LGBTQ travel for more information.  

Unfortunately, I got approached numerous times by street dealers asking me if I wanted drugs whilst staying in Budapest. However, Hungarian laws on the possession and use of drugs are strict and you will be penalised. For more information check out the FCO’s travel advice on Hungary’s laws and customs.

If you were to get yourself into any trouble whilst travelling in Hungary, here’s some information about that penal system:

  • When a British National is arrested in Hungary, under EU regulations the Hungarian authorities would be required to contact the British Embassy within 48 hours. However, this is dependent on whether you consent on not.
  • Be aware that if you have been convicted for certain serious offences, such as sexual assault or drugs trafficking, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is obliged to inform the UK police. It is therefore possible that information about your offence may appear if a Criminal Records Bureau check were carried out by a prospective employer.
  • The period between arrest and trial is often quite long and can vary greatly. It is not unusual for this to be as long as six months to a year. Take into consideration that it is not possible for the British Embassy to obtain priority for British nationals.
  • Under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, a foreign national serving a prison term in Hungary may be eligible for transfer to their home country in order to complete their sentence there. However, as this process can be quite lengthy, it is only normally considered if the prisoner has less than 2 years of his sentence remaining.