Hungary has grown more popular with tourists in recent years, attractive to both backpackers and those with a few more forint in their wallets. While tourism is picking up across the country, Budapest is still where most travelers spend much of their time.
A city of 1.7 million, the capital is both lively and beautiful, as famous for its “ruin pub” nightlife as its sophisticated wine and cocktail scene.
When the sun comes up, Budapest has plenty to keep you busy, from hikes in the Buda hills to spa baths across the city and a range of museums and historical sites. Besides the wealth of things to do, Hungary is popular for its prices, far lower than in Western European cities.
Picking up a SIM card is both simple and affordable, although it does require you bring official ID and complete some paperwork. Coverage and speeds are excellent in the major cities.
Here’s what you need to know about buying a SIM card in Hungary.
There are four cell networks in Hungary: the three established carriers Telekom (formerly T-Mobile), Telenor, and Vodafone; and Digi, a relative newcomer that doesn’t offer prepaid plans.
While there are several resellers as well, they require registration by phone in Hungarian and a follow-up letter to a Hungarian address. Therefore, the primary providers listed above are the most convenient choices for travelers.
Telekom has the largest market share in Hungary. It has the best coverage on 2G and 4G/LTE networks, but the worst 3G coverage. LTE covers almost all of the population, but you’ll still drop down to slower speeds in remote areas.
Within the capital and other large cities, Telekom and Telenor both have good service. Vodafone has the least coverage of the three main carriers, and while I’ve used it on past visits to Budapest, I now go for Telenor due to better coverage and value. Vodafone also has a reputation for being difficult for non-resident foreigners to deal with.
I chose Telenor over Telekom because of the companies’ customer service reputation, and slightly lower pricing when I bought it.
How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Hungary
Vodafone used to be the only provider offering SIMs at Budapest airport, but we’ve had a report that post-pandemic, the store there no longer exists. Now, you’ll need to purchase when you reach the city.
Getting from the airport to the city without being connected is easy if you use the miniBud shuttle, which you can arrange on arrival in the arrivals hall. Public transport is also fairly straightforward, but requires a transfer.
The transportation desk at Budapest airport can sell you tickets and offer instructions for getting to the city via public transport.
If you’re arriving in Budapest by train, the Arena Plaza shopping mall is about a 10-minute walk from Keleti pályaudvar train station. It has Telenor, Telekom, and Vodafone shops, as well as a Media Markt store that also sells SIM cards.
If you’re arriving by air and decide to purchase your SIM in the city, I recommend going to WestEnd City Centre in Budapest. This large shopping mall is attached to Nyugati pályaudvar train station, and connected to public transport via metro and the 4/6 trams.
WestEnd has Telekom, Vodafone and Telenor shops, as well as a Media Markt and Digi shop.
At all of these shops, there will likely be a staff member who speaks English and is able to help you. You’ll be able to pay with cash, a PIN-enabled card, and (often) contactless debit or credit cards.
Purchasing a SIM card will take about 30 minutes due to the paperwork required. While it’s not at all difficult, anti-terrorism legislation increased the information required to get a SIM from 2017 onward, so it takes slightly longer than before.
You will need to provide photo identification, such as a passport or ID card, and sign a bit of paperwork. You may also be required to provide a Hungarian address, so be sure to note down your hotel/apartment details beforehand.
Prefer to spend your vacation sightseeing instead of buying SIM cards? Grab one in advance to stay connected in Hungary and across Europe.
This Orange SIM includes 20GB of data, 1000 international texts, and two hours of international calls. The price includes US delivery, and it's valid for two weeks in 30 European countries. Use the code SIMOFF20 at checkout to get 20% off!
Other options are available if you're traveling for longer, need a portable hotspot, or want a different mix of calls, texts, and data. You can also get affordable eSIMs for recent iPhones and other supported devices. No matter how you do it, you'll be connected with a minimum of fuss before you've left the airport.
Prepaid SIM Costs
Vodafone outlines pre-paid options on the English version of its website. As an example, in May 2022, a ‘Tuti100’ plan with 100GB of data valid for 30 days cost 6990 HUF (~$20). You’re able to use 15GB of that in other EU countries. Calls and texts cost HUF 19 (6c) per minute.
As mentioned, however, I went with Telenor. If you mostly need data, a SIM and 1GB data package costs HUF 1100 ($3), valid for 30 days. The 3GB version costs HUF 2500 (~$7), while 5GB costs HUF 3300 ($9). You’ll pay HUF 25 per minute or text, with a small free call/text allowance on the 5GB plan.
If you’ll be calling or texting regularly, “2in1” package prices range from HUF 1000-3800, depending on the amount of calls, texts, and data included. Telenor’s plans can be found on the English version of its website.
Telekom typically has similar pricing to Telenor: sometimes it’s a little more expensive, sometimes it’s cheaper. An English version of its website outlines current offerings.
Topping up is very easy, and there are a number of options.
For many visitors, the easiest option for top-up is to simply return to the telecom shop where you purchased the SIM card, give them your phone number, and let them know how much you want to top-up.
Alternatively, all three major providers also offer online top-up options. It may not work with all international credit cards, but I’ve never had a problem paying bills or completing top-ups online when using one.
Telenor offers online top-up here, Telekom’s version is here, and Vodafone’s is here.
You can also purchase top-up cards at news kiosks (such as Relay), gas/petrol stations, and post offices. It’s often harder to find English-speaking staff in these shops, however.
Coverage and Data Speeds
Coverage is excellent in Budapest and every city we’ve visited outside of the capital. Data speeds are generally extremely fast.
Within Budapest, I get speeds of 147Mbps download and 39Mbps upload. I’ve had similar coverage in Pest, in the south, and have been told speeds are much the same in other cities.
I’ve experienced reduced coverage on train trips, including temporary black spots that haven’t lasted more than 15 minutes. The problem you’re more likely to have is poor signal in some old buildings, which often have thick stone walls.
Hungary is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages. Double-check the exact details at time of purchase.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.
I spent 3 months of last year in Budapest. I’m glad you wrote this and wish I’d read it before my first SIM experience in Hungary. I would definitely have picked Vodafone the first time. A much better experience than the first company I was with… I can’t remember the name for some reason.
Sorry you missed out during your visit, Ryan, and glad to hear this is helpful. You’ll have to come back now to test out Vodafone 🙂
I will be traveling to Cluj and Budapest in a couple of months. I fly into Cluj and will be spending most of my time in Romania but plan a visit to Budapest for a few days. If I buy a SIM in Romanian, will I also be able to use the phone in Budapest? Which company is recommended? Thanks!
We also have a post on buying a SIM card in Romania, that you may find useful. It will also work in Hungary, at no extra cost, after changes to EU roaming laws last month.
Sou do Brazil, e viajo em 18/11/2017 , para Budapeste, Viena, Praga, Berlim e Paris.
Gostaria de sua ajuda para saber qual cartão pré-pago internacional devo comprar para usar internet, e ligacões para o Brazil.
Se comprar um cartao pre pago internacional, perco meu numero de celular no Brazil!
Do you know if the Telenor phones have a virtual US number available for incoming calls?
It amazes me that you can buy a 10GB roaming plan for just USD 21, and that it works throughout Europe. Do you know if you get 4G speeds throughout Europe under the roam like home arrangement (where available)?
Finally, I would love to be able to purchase a SIM like this in advance, and go through all the identification, etc at home before leaving. Are there any services like that today, after the new European registration rules have gone into effect?
Do you know what company’s SIM is the best if I travel both to Budapest and to Vienna ?
thanks in advance
I don’t know if things may have changed, but I tried to get a card today, and both Telekom and Telenor were very adamant that they needed an “official” address in Hungary, which their system actually verifies – I know because I do have a Hungarian passport, but not an address in Hungary nowadays, and the online system failed the verification. I ended up getting a Domino card, and registered it under a relative’s name, which is not something most tourists could do.
Maybe because I tried in a smaller city where tourists are less frequent? Anyone encountered similar situation and found a solution?
Hi, thank you for all the information! I need a Hungarian mobile number only. I see that Telenor sells the sim card alone but do I need to put money like every month in order to keep it active? I need it just in order to receive texts, not really sending.
Thank you in advance 🙂
You won’t need to put money on it every month, but you will need to top it up occasionally to stop it from expiring. I don’t know the exact period, unfortunately — you’ll need to check with whoever you buy the card from.
We flew into Budapest Airport on 6th May 2022 and there is no longer a Vodafone office at the airport. We couldn’t find it, and we asked at one of the shops and they said there was not one. We did get a SIM in Budapest itself and bought a Tuti100 plan for 6990 HUF. This comes with 100GB for 30 days of which 15GB can be used in other EU countries.
Thanks for the update Simon – I’ll update the article accordingly.
I’m really sorry to update you. You can’t buy anymore a SIM card with number in Hungary as a foreigner. As a Romanian living in Hungary since 2008. They are not only requesting an Hungarian address but also a Hungarian ID/Passport. Nonetheless if you’ll manage somehow to buy a Simcard with Nr from a cheap shop, you’ll not be able to activate it due to your own ID card/Passport not being Hungarian. Yes I know, it’s discrimination, but it is what it is.