One of the most challenging aspects of visiting Budapest is experiencing the unique Hungarian language, including the intricacies of its unfamiliar letters, peculiar vocabulary, and often-puzzling pronunciation. While newcomers may be forgiven for not even attempting to master Hungary’s one-of-a-kind native tongue, it’s well worthwhile to acquire a few basic local phrases, ranging from greetings to directions to ordering a drink. Learn these handy expressions to not only navigate Hungary’s capital with ease, but also to earn the appreciation of locals that you encounter out and about.
A friendly “hi” or “bye” to one person/to more than one person. Between friends this greeting form is often doubled up by saying “szia-szia”.
“Good morning/afternoon/evening” Hungarians use these expressions as formal ways of greeting at different times of day.
“Good night” You can use this both in a formal or informal conversation.
“Goodbye” A formal term for farewell. In friendly company, you can simply say “szia”, as explained above.
“Kiss (on the cheek)” – so it’s not what you might have thought about first! Upon concluding a face-to-face meeting or a phone call, close friends simply use this word to say goodbye. If you perk up your ears, oftentimes you can hear “puszi” combined with “szia”, creating the phrase “szia-szia, puszi-puszi”.
(hoj-dj vah-dj )
“How are you doing?” Right after greeting a friend, Hungarians usually ask about each other’s well being, which is oftentimes followed by a lengthy response, whether it’s good or bad, starting with:
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“I’m not well.”
(mi aw neh-ved)
“What’s your name?” An informal way of asking about someone’s name.
“My name is…” Then fill in the blank with your name.
“Where are you coming from?” An informal way of asking about your place of origin.
(Hauwn eh-vehs vah-dj)
“How old are you?” Note that not everyone is keen on sharing the secret of their age with you.
“Do you speak Hungarian/English?” An informal way of trying to find a common language to interconnect.
(nem bass-ale-lack ma-ja-rule/on-goh-lool)
“I don’t speak Hungarian/English.” In this case you might want to find someone who can help with translating, or start using gestures to explain what you are up to.
“I would like a…”. Use this expression when you want to purchase something.
(eh-dj yej-et keh-rack)
“A ticket please.” When you buy a public-transport ticket or you want to enter a museum.
“How much does it cost?”
“Bankcard” Most shops and restaurants accept card payment in Budapest.
“Cash” While most places accept bankcards or credit cards, there are still a few spots where you can only pay with cash.
“I’m just looking.” If you enter a shop just to browse around.
Bars and restaurants
(keh-rack eh-dj pah-lin-cat/bore-t/shirt)
“I would like a pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy)/wine/beer” Certainly this will be one of your most extensively used expressions during your stay in the Hungarian capital.
“Cheers!” Say this when you clink your wine glasses, and don’t forget to look into the other person’s eyes. You can also use this as “bless you” if someone sneezes. No kidding!
“Enjoy your meal!” Hungarians always say ‘jó étvágyat” to each other before they start devouring their meal.
(aw sam-lat keh-rem)
“The bill, please!” Common term for getting the bill in a bar or restaurant. Don’t forget to check if the tip is included. Read our guidelines on tipping here.
(hol vahn aw)
“Where is the…?” Depending on what you are looking for, fill in the blank.
“At the corner”
Other essentials to help you get around
“I don’t understand/I don’t know”
“Thank you” You will often hear the short form of this as “köszi” (koh-see)
“Excuse me” You can open with this phrase if you want to approach a person on the street with a question, or if somebody stands in your way.
“Wait!” You will not only hear this if you have to wait for something, but also instead of “one moment, please”.