Banking in Hungary: Living in Budapest

Banking in Hungary

As an expat living overseas, the things which affect my every day life are the things I want to run smoothly. Banking for instance….  banking has it’s up’s and downs in Hungary. I have found myself happy in some instances banking in Budapest, and extremely frustrated at other times. So what’s the scoop on banking in Budapest?

It’s Complicated

Banks have shorter hours here and banking transactions require planning ahead. Living as an expat  also means remembering that bank transactions require your passport or your residence permit (a legal card received with proper documentation to live and work in Hungary.)

Around  the city there are branches with later hours, though they may not be convenient or close to your neighborhood. Banks, (at least mine) seem to have rotating late hours, one or two days a week at most branches. If you’re lucky the branch near you is open on the night you need it. Otherwise you’re trekking around the city looking for the open branches.

Wire Transfers or Do We Live in the Dark Ages?

Wire transfers are very frustrating in Budapest. I have successfully sent several wire tranfers now, and know the procedure. They still annoy me and I have found it is easiest to do them by phone. (Which is quite funny actually, as I CAN’T do a wire transfer by phone at my US bank.) So in a few ways banking is more advanced in Hungary.

The fact that I can complete a wire transfer over the phone, when it’s convenient, is a perk, I’m grateful. It makes my life a little simpler. Lets preface that  a little simpler AFTER you’ve done it at least twice. The first time I did a wire transfer over the phone I spent no less than 45 minutes on the phone, made two phone calls and got really peeved at a bank employee. It was not a pleasant experience for either of us. I persevered and it worked.

IT TAKES HOW LONG??

Though I said wire transfers are simpler, I didn’t say they were fast. A snail could move faster. I sent a wire transfer to the states in my first weeks here and I believe it took about seven days to arrive. I was hopping mad by that time and had called the bank multiple times to check that it had been sent.

After all, we do this electronically through a computer system. How in the world can it take seven days to connect electronically to a US bank and wire the money? I have no idea. One would think a wire transfer within Europe would be faster, such as to my landlords. That would be a big fat NO. It takes nearly as long. I could drive to Austria faster! The last one took at least four to five days.

So You Want US Dollars?

Ha…ha…plan ahead, or plan to visit the bank more than one time.  I realize US dollars are a foreign currency. I realize the bank  may not have as much US money available at the local branches. (Though with Budapest being a capital city and it having a large expat community one would imagine there are often US expats looking to withdraw US dollars for travel or other expenses.)

What’s the Procedure?

Call 24 hours ahead and request the US dollar transaction. This is rarely something I remember. So that  has been an annoyance from day one. Here is what I have learned after a few months living in Budapest. After talking to my bank I learned  that you can withdraw less than $1,000 US dollars without an advance request. If you need more than that,  you call ahead,  Or, if  you don’t have time to call ahead,  you have to visit the bank on two different days or visit two different branches. Did I say banking was convenient in Budapest? I did not.

Online Banking and Banking in English

This is where Hungarian banking really rocks. When I went to my bank the first time to set up my account the paperwork was in English. Everything was simple to understand (relatively) and pretty painless. It did take time, and there were many papers to sign but overall I had  a very smooth experience. The staff as the branch I use speak English well and are friendly. I’m very pleased in that regard with banking in Hungary.

 I can also call and check my balance and transfer money by phone. All with a representative that speaks English. Which is more than I can say for those moving to the states and dealing with U.S. banks. I seriously doubt they have the banking support system I enjoy here. In addition banks in Hungary offer their website in English. I doubt U.S banks offer expats that kind of service.

Bank Fees in a Cash Society

Some would say this is still a cash society. Bank cards are taken at many places, though I run into instances where restaurants or hair cutting salons only take cash. Of course that means I don’t have cash on me that day and I am then rushing off to find another ATM. Because there are instances when I need to pay in cash I am often taking money out of ATM machines. Here taking money from an ATM (even your own) costs a fee. I also learned that using your debit card often costs a fee as well.

So in a city with banks closing fairly early and the need to use an ATM fairly high and debit cards often, it really sucks to see my bank statement and realize I paid $35 dollars (US) in fees for this past month. (Keep in mind that I pay only $45 US for an at home vet visit with two medications and a nail trim.)  So $35 US is expensive for fees. Multiply that by twelve months and you are talking over four hundred US dollars.

You Don’t Have Checks?

One of the first things I discovered in Hungary is that banks don’t offer checks. There are NO checks in Hungary. That was shocking. Not that I use them often in the U.S. But I do use them sometimes. Most expats have US bills to pay  and I normally use online banking; but I like the idea of an additional option when I need it.

Bill Paying/Banking in Hungary (and in Europe)

banking, bill paying

 

Bills are paid one of three ways. Either with a banki átutalás which means bank transfer, online or at the post office. Paying by bank transfer or at the post office I understood when I arrived, thanks to the years I lived in Germany. So at least in this regard complexities were simplified. Though nearly every transaction at the post office requires pantomime or google translate. (By the time I leave Hungary I should be great at charades!) I continue to remain grateful that people in Hungary are friendly and helpful and really do go out of their way to assist me.

It is sometimes eye opening to learn new procedures and ways of doing things in a foreign country. Sometimes experiences are baffling and occassionally unnerving, but overall  I treasure my experience of living in Budapest and love my life here.

From Lassie to Cujo; a Love of Dogs in Budapest

 From Lassie to Cujo

I read as  many articles as I could find about living  in Budapest, yet none of them described the phenomenon I encountered my first day in Budapest.

Dog

 I discovered that dogs launch themselves at their fence as you walk by.  It’s anxiety inducing to experience their snarling, barking, frenzy. These same dogs (when  their owner is near) will be as gentle and sweet as Lassie. It’s astonishing. I’ve never experienced anything like it

Dog

A Hungarian Kuvasz.

Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dogwarts/3635859420/

A Love of Dogs

 In my neighborhood there are many dogs. Dogs are well loved in Budapest, it’s one of the many things I love about living in Budapest.  I read an article recently from Easy Jet magazine called Doggie Style,  it stated that Budapest has 400,000 dogs and that almost one quarter of Budapest citizens own a dog.  When you see and encounter dogs in Budapest on the street or on public transportation they are well mannered and gentle.  

My Neighborhood

When I walk through my neighborhood and speak to my neighbhors I try to get to know their dogs.  Across the street from my house there is a gorgeous Kuvasz. A Kuvasz is a large Hungarian breed dog, and is pictured above. It is one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever encountered. It’s similar in size and stature to my own dog, but pure white. When I met the owner he told me to only pet his dog when he’s at home. Otherwise he is not friendly, and he may bite. That was a little daunting.

 The Beautiful Kuvasz

Over the months since I’ve been living in Budapest I have pet this Kuvasz many times. He is a sweet, beautiful dog. But, one would never know that if they were a stranger walking by. He goes into a barking frenzy like every other dog on the block when strangers walk by. We’re now become buddies of sorts. He no longer barks at me when I leave the house and he actually seems to look forward to seeing me. He wags his tail sometimes and always craves having his head and back
stroked. 

Hungarian Dog

My neighbor’s dog, who is gentle and friendly IF you know him. If you don’t, he is fierce.

Well Mannered and Gentle

The dogs we encounter on the street or at festivals are friendly to Tanner and I. It seems to be only dogs within their own yards which turn into Cujo as we walk by,  setting off a snarling, barking pack mentality in the neighborhood. I love dogs, so it’s bothersome when Tanner tries to go up to the fence and make friends and is twarted in his attempts at doggie friendship by barking, growling, snarky dogs.

 It confuses Tanner and it’s been a learning curve.  Frankly it annoys me to have to remember not to walk too close to fences so that I’m not facing another heart pounding moment when yet another dog lunges at me and slams against his fence. It’s Cujo to Lassie every day living in Budapest; a city that loves their dogs.

Old School Services Offered in Hungary

Old School Service

delivering milk

One of the many things I love about Budapest is its option of old school service. Here in Budapest services are offered that keep life simplier and more convenient. For example companies still offer at home delivery for milk and other products. I hear them before I see them, with their whimsical music playing as their van pulls up.

Vet Services

vet medical records

I seriously love that my vet comes to my home. A simple phone call is all it takes to schedule Tanner’s at home appointment. My vet has now visited the house twice and given Tanner his heart worm prevention medication, his tick prevention medication and trimmed his nails. She is gentle, friendly and efficient. Tanner and I both like her and best of all her services are convenient and affordable.

A Break Down of the Vet at Home Services

Tick Prevention Medication
Heart Worm Prevention Medication
Nails Trimming

Total Cost 9,800 Hungarian Forint which converts to a total of $45.37 US dollars for the services listed above.

Dog Food Delivery

pet food

Through a friend I learned that a local pet store provides home delivery for purchases of large quantity dog food. (I ordered three huge bags, 15 kilo each. Which comes out to 99.2 lbs of dog food.) The total cost 21,600 Hungarian Forint, which converts to $104 US dollars. By US standards that is expensive, but pet food products are expensive here. For example, I regularly buy Pedigree can dog food to suppliment Tanner’s dry food. It costs me the equivelent of $1.72 for a single can I would pay 75 cents for in the US.

The fact that Hungarian businesses offers these old school services is a blessing. At home delivery and pet care help keep my life simplier. They also offer a window of insight in to life long ago.