ABOUT Hungary was part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed in World War I. It fell under communist rule following World War II. A revolt in 1956 and an announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact was met with massive military intervention by Moscow. In the more open GORBACHEV years, Hungary led the movement to dissolve the Warsaw Pact and steadily shifted toward multiparty democracy and a market-oriented economy. Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Hungary developed close political and economic ties to Western Europe. It joined NATO in 1999 and is a frontrunner in a future expansion of the EU.

CLIMATE Hungary has a continental climate with hot summers with low overall humidity levels but frequent rainshowers and mildly cold snowy winters. Average annual temperature is 9.7 °C (49.5 °F). Temperature extremes are about 41.9 °C (107.4 °F). Average high temperature in the summer is 23 °C (73.4 °F) to 28 °C (82 °F) and average low temperature in the winter is −3 °C (27 °F) to −7 °C (19 °F).

BEWARE Take sensible precautions against petty crime. Bag snatching and pick-pocketing are common, especially in Budapest. Be particularly careful on busy public transport, in train stations, at markets and at other places frequented by tourists. Theft of and from vehicles is common. Certain bars, clubs and restaurants in Budapest, particularly near the large hotels in the business district (V district) of central Pest, may charge exorbitant prices. Common scams include adding a 20,000 HUF (£60) surcharge per drink to the final bill or charging up to 100,000 HUF (£300) for a meal. Individuals who have been unable to settle their bills have frequently been accompanied by the establishment’s security guards to a cash machine and made to withdraw funds under threats of violence. Some taxi drivers are accomplices in these frauds. They often receive a commission to recommend certain bars, clubs and restaurants to passengers. Never ask a taxi driver to recommend a bar or club. If a driver offers to take you to one, or you are approached on the street with an invitation to enter a club, treat that advice with extreme caution.