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Hungary - Overview

Capital: Budapest

Population: 10,006,835 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Hungarian 93.6%, other or unspecified 6.4% (2001 census)

Religions: Roman Catholic 51.9%, Calvinist 15.9%, Lutheran 3%, Greek Catholic 2.6%, other Christian 1%, other or unspecified 11.1%, unaffiliated 14.5% (2001 census)

Currency: forint (HUF)

Timezone: GMT+1

Hungary is situated in central Europe. It is a landlocked country and has borders with Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia & Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. Previously a communist state, it now has a vibrant market economy, with high levels of foreign ownership and investment and strong economic growth rates. Hungary acceded to the EU in May 2004.

Geographically, much of the country is low-lying, with the 'Great Plain' to the east of the country, and the 'Little Plain' in the northwest. There is a wild, mountainous region in the northeast, and the hilly Transdanubia region in the west and south-west. The Danube and Tisza rivers divide the country into thirds. Hungary has over 1000 lakes, including Europe's biggest freshwater lake, Balaton, which has many thermal springs.

Hungary has a rich historical past, having been part of the Ottoman, the Hapsburg and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. It has a rich cultural heritage, being particularly renewed for its classical and folk music. It is also known famed for its healing thermal springs, and there are many resort spas throughout the country.

Tourism is slowly developing in Hungary, but much of the countryside is still very rustic and traditional. In contrast, the sophisticated capital of Budapest is a popular tourist centre with a lively arts, cultural and social scene. Budapest, which really consists of the separate cities of Buda and Pest on opposite sides of the Danube, boasts many grand historical buildings, along with the modern parts of the city which were rebuilt after the city was bombed heavily during WW2.

More than a quarter of the population of Hungary live in Budapest and the surrounding region. Most of the Hungary's expatriate community also live in Budapest, and are employed mainly by the foreign diplomatic missions and the overseas companies which operate there.

On the whole, Hungary seems to be a popular expatriate destination, with a relatively high standard of living available at relatively low cost of living. There is a lower risk to personal security than in some other ex-Communist countries. Although pick-pocketing, petty crime and various scams are quite common in Hungary, violent crime is rare.

Read more about this country

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