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Laws and Customs in Budapest

March 28th, 2024

When in Hungary, do as the Hungarians do! To make your trip as smooth as possible, we would like to walk you through the most important laws and customs of Budapest. Some of them are important to consider when you are planning your trip, some are just cultural bits and pieces that might be good to know before you arrive - hopefully they come in handy!


Let's start with the most important: the Hungarian laws about drinking, smoking, using drugs, and being (too) loud.

Budapest Laws about Drinks and Drinking

Cheers with wine glass Cheers with wine glass 

Firstly, let's debunk an urban legend: Drinking on the streets of Budapest is NOT permitted. This doesn't mean that people don't do it all the time, but the police have the right to fine you for it!

Usually, they don't stop people for drinking a beer quietly in a park or walking with it, but sometimes they do. So if you see a police officer coming, lower your drink and keep it on your other side. If you are drunk and obnoxious they will definitely stop you!

The drinking age in Hungary is 18 and there are no special regulations for lower or higher alcohol content drinks. The stores and bars will ID you - not at every purchase, but anytime they have any doubt, so keep your ID with you.

Buying alcohol might be restricted not just by age but by time of day and location. A couple of districts in Budapest regulated the “alcohol selling hours” of the grocery stores. These laws are district regulated and change frequently, so if you are in doubt about your area buy your drinks before 11 pm!

Furthermore, if you are considering renting a car you must know there is a zero alcohol tolerance for driving! They take it really seriously, so, yes, not even a sip of beer ... Rather than take the risk, just sit back and let someone else take the wheel! Call a taxi, or better yet, check out this beer bus, where you can drink unlimited beers while taking in the sights of the city!

Budapest Laws about Smoking

Hungary has some of the strictest laws about protecting non-smokers from passive smoking in the EU. We have a complete ban on smoking in public indoor areas, on and around public transportation, and around playgrounds.

This means it is strictly forbidden to smoke in a tram or bus stop while you are waiting or walking through an underground underpass with your cigarette lit.

The Hungarian government has restricted the purchase of tobacco products. They are only available in special nationally run tobacco stores, so don't expect to get a pack in a grocery store or a gas station. The tobacco stores are easy to spot and they are all over town with great opening hours, so you don't need to worry about finding one.

Hungarian Laws about Drugs

Fom the standpoint of the Hungarian government, drugs are a big NO !! In Hungary consumption and possession of drugs are illegal, with no exceptions. There is no classification of drugs in Hungary, so being caught with the smallest amount can result in heavy fines and other punishments.

“Street dealers” in the party areas will try to sell you drugs, but most often those are fake, so don't spend your money on tea leaves and baking soda;)

Budapest Laws about Noise

Woman with a finger on her lips Woman with a finger on her lips 

There are no citywide regulations on where and when noise is allowed. There are guidelines, but even apartment houses can create their own internal regulations. The law is "someone who unreasonably causes noise that is likely to disturb the peace of others or the natural or protected natural value, commits a misdemeanor."

Obviously it's up to everyone's discretion to decide what is too noisy, but if police are called you can end up with an official warning, a fine payable on the spot, or even with an official police report.

Budapest offers innumerable amazing bars and clubs that are soundproofed to make sure you don't need to worry about anything. Please consider that your vacation time is someone's regular workweek and don't take the party to the streets! Need help finding cool places to go out? Take a pub crawl and let the guides lead you to fun bars with a famous club at the end!

Important: It is compulsory to always carry an ID card on you and the police can stop and ID you at any time. This doesn't happen all that often, but you will need ID to get alcohol or to get into clubs, so just make sure you have it on you at all times.

Trip Prep

Public Holidays

Man on a bikeMan on a bike

There are a couple of Budapest customs to consider when you are planning your trip to Budapest.

When you are picking the dates of your trip you may want to take into consideration Hungarian public holidays. On our public holidays no shops (other than 24-hour ones), banks, government offices, or post offices are allowed to be open.

Some restaurants and bars choose to close as well, but this is rare in the touristy downtown area. While certain “everyday places” are closed there are many places featuring special programs, street festivals, and / or free exhibitions on these special dates, especially on Hungarian national holidays.

Legal holidays in Hungary are the following:

January 1 (New Year's Day)

March 15 (Anniversary of 1848 uprising)

Easter and Easter Monday

May 1 (Labor Day)

Pentecost / Whit Sunday and Monday

August 20 (Anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian State)

October 26 (Anniversary of the 1956 Revolution)

November 1 (All Saints' Day)

December 24 (half-day holiday)

December 25 & 26 (Christmas)

On Hungarian National Holidays, most national museums and important buildings are usually free to visit ! They might be a bit crowded or you may have to stand in line for entry, but many times they even offer special programs for visitors.

On these dates, there are quite often cultural programs on the streets and for this we have sections of the city closed to traffic, transforming downtown streets to pedestrian zones. (Tip: always pay attention to the information boards, as above-ground public transportation lines might be redirected.)

August 20 - St. Stephen's Day

The most important of the dates listed above is the 20th of August. This is the celebration of our first king, Stephen, and of the founding of the state of Hungary.

Life in Budapest completely changes for a couple of days around this national holiday: street festivals take over downtown, the river banks and the castle area. National museums and the Parliament are free to visit. And fireworks help