AUTUMN MIGRATION IN HUNGARY
SEPTEMBER 3-15, 2016
On this end-of-summer tour, we’ll discover the Eastern European country of Hungary, a place
unknown to many travelers, but one endowed with some of the finest birding and natural history
prowess on the European continent. For the birder and naturalist, the opportunity to observe
spectacular birds on the great Hungarian plains is an experience nonpareil. For the culturally
inclined, Hungary’s allure resides in the magnificent architecture, history, and culinary delights of
Budapest, one of the great cities of the world.
Commencing in Budapest, we’ll travel counterclockwise around the central and eastern parts of the
country visiting a multitude of habitats and landscapes at one of the most dynamic times of the year:
autumn migration, when resident birds are joined by thousands of southbound waterfowl, waders,
shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds. The mix of common and widespread birds with rare and
spectacular species can have a dazzling effect. Among the tour’s top attractions are raptors: Saker
and Red-footed falcons, and White-tailed, Imperial, Short-toed, and Lesser Spotted eagles, to name
a few; Great Bustards; up to eight species of woodpeckers; and Black Storks with a few lingering
Our travels will center on three famous national parks where multiple nights at each location lend
an even pace to the tour. We’ll spend most of three days exploring the steppes, alkaline lakes, and
ponds of Kiskunság National Park, home to Ferruginous Ducks, Great Bustards, White-tailed
Eagles, and a superb diversity of shorebirds and waders. To the east, we’ll have three nights at
legendary Hortobágy National Park, where vast expanses of grassland hold Common Cranes,
Imperial Eagles, Saker Falcons, European Rollers, European Bee-eaters, and, for a very special
treat, flocks of staging Eurasian Dotterels. We’ll then make our way north to Bükk National Park,
where undulating hills and picturesque valleys support beech woodlands interspersed with open
meadows and karst limestone formations. We’ll spend four nights in this important reserve seeking
such favorites as Ural Owl, Black Woodpecker, and Hawfinch.
For a touch of culture, we’ll journey to the historical town of Eger to visit a centuries-old castle and
a Baroque city center with churches and grandiose buildings. On one evening we will have a
traditional dinner in a wine cellar with tasting of local wines, while our trip culminates with a grand
finale tour of Budapest, the venerable Hungarian capital.
September 3, Day 1: Departure from home. Flights from the United States bound for Budapest, Hungary depart in the late afternoon or evening and arrive the following day. Note: Those concerned about the travel time getting to Hungary are encouraged to arrive a day early so as to be rested and better able to enjoy our activities.
September 4, Day 2: Arrival in Budapest and transfer to hotel. Upon arrival in Budapest, we’ll be met by our local operator who has arranged a group transfer to the Forster Palace Hotel, located in the village of Bugyi, 18 miles south of Budapest. Bugyi is a charming little community of about 5,000 residents. Situated off the main highway system, this location places us close to nature and our first major birding area of the trip—nearby Kiskunság National Park.
Less a palace than a quaint country inn, our home for these next three nights features tastefully appointed guest rooms and a dining room with a “woodsy” feel where traditional Hungarian dishes are served. Following check-in, we will have the remainder of the afternoon to relax before meeting the other trip participants. In the late afternoon we will likely enjoy a short optional birding outing on the hotel’s beautiful grounds where towering shade trees, park-like open spaces, and a water feature attract a variety of birds. Treading paths lined with oaks, sycamores, and chestnuts, we may encounter our first European birds including widespread residents such as Common Wood-Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great and Blue tits, Short-toed Tree-creeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, Black Redstart, Eurasian Robin, and Eurasian Blackbird. Our survey of the area may also produce migrant songbirds like Spotted Flycatcher and Common Chiffchaff, or perhaps a wayward Wood or Willow warbler.
This evening we will gather at 6:00 p.m. for a formal welcome and orientation followed by dinner. NIGHT: Forster Palace Hotel, Bugyi
September 5-6, Days 3-4: Kiskunság National Park. Lying a short distance south of Budapest, Kiskunság National Park is one of the true natural history jewels of Hungary. While not as famous as Hortobágy National Park, situated farther east, Kiskunság is a vitally important reserve whose myriad habitats host a great many birds year round. We will have more than two days to explore this dynamic region, visiting several unique areas within the widely spaced park.
Created in 1975 and declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Kiskunság National Park extends across a broad area between the Danube and Tisza rivers. Rather than a single vast area, the park consists of nine individual territories spread over 115,000 acres, encompassing a remarkable colleciton of habitats including alkaline plains, sandy lowlands, steppe grasslands, and agricultural areas as well as aquatic habitats such as salt lakes, the backwaters of the Tisza River, and a series of bogs and marshes. Interestingly, the park is inclusive of the region’s centuries-old pastoral traditions, which satisfies the needs of both wildlife and those who practice agriculture here.
On the first day we will spend time in the northern part of the park where we’ll seek the magnificent Great Bustard. Not only is this area the stronghold for the species in Hungary, but in all of Europe as well. At this time of year, the birds are less widely spaced and tend to feed in small flocks. We will explore fishponds for the scarce Ferruginous Duck, a variety of herons and egrets, White-tailed Eagle, Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, and many others. The nearby marshes and grasslands attract shorebirds and migrating raptors. These northern steppes are home to a small ground-squirrel called Souslik, which forms the primary prey base of many raptors, a sampling of which includes Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, and the rare Saker falcon. Montagu’s Harrier is regular here and Pallid Harrier is possible as well. The beautiful Red-footed Falcon gathers in groups, and we should be able to admire them in all plumages as they hunt insects over the grasslands.
On the second full day we will visit the park’s alkaline lakes to view waterfowl and shorebirds. Among the many possibilities are a range of birds whose migratory pathways take them right through Hungary including Marsh and Wood sandpipers, Little Stint, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, and Spotted Redshank. Migrating landbirds will also be much in evidence. Among the more widespread species, we hope to observe some of Europe’s most handsome birds including European Roller, European Bee-eater, Lesser Gray Shrike, and Eurasian Golden Oriole.
The Tiszaalpar marshes, meanwhile, will provide us with exceptional scenery and birding. Standing atop a small church hill, we will scan an oxbow lake where Pygmy Cormorant, Eurasian Spoonbill, and Purple and Squacco herons occur. The elegant White-tailed Eagle is regularly seen here, and at times may be seen harassing clusters of waterfowl.
NIGHTS: Forster Palace Hotel, Bugyi
September 7-9, Days 5-7: Hortobágy National Park. Depending on our success in the field, we may take more time this morning to continue our exploration of Kiskunság’s various environs. At some point, we will transfer to our next destination, legendary Hortobágy National Park where we will spend the next three nights. Situated in eastern Hungary, Hortobágy National Park is unequivocally Hungary’s greatest birding area and one of the most famous and important birding areas on the European continent. It is the largest protected area in Hungary, and the largest natural (more or less) semi-grassland in Europe. The park, part of the Great Hungarian Plain, or “Puszta,” is an enormous mosaic of natural grasslands, alkaline pastures, and large wetlands. Owing to a varied geography and high level of biodiversity, many important scientific discoveries have been made here. Hortobágy National Park, designated in 1973, is Hungary’s first national park. As with Kiskunság, Hortobágy’s fame is also attributable to the rich cultural traditions encompassed within the park’s management plan, a plan that respects pastoral customs dating back millennia. Particularly famous are the herds of horses, cattle, and sheep whose grazing areas form some of the many ecosystems included in the park. Hortobágy attained the status of World Heritage Site in 1999.
In the northern part of the park we’ll search the plains for Long-legged Buzzard—a species more characteristic of southeastern Europe but that occurs here in outlying populations—as well as Lesser Spotted Eagle and Saker falcon. We’ll also search for the beautiful Short-toed Eagle, a bird of drier country. In the evenings, we may also witness the wonderful spectacle of Red-footed Falcons flying into their roosts by the hundreds.
Among the marshes and fishponds we should see a White-tailed Eagle or two while Eurasian Marsh-Harrier will be impossible to miss. Wading birds and other aquatic specialists should be in evidence, and we’ll likely come across the lovely Common Crane, Little Egret, Squacco and Purple herons, Pygmy Cormorant, and waterfowl such as Common Pochard, Garganey, Tufted Duck, and Green-winged (“Common”) Teal. Drained ponds are ideal for migrating waders, from the most common species, like Ruff, Common Greenshank, Spotted and Common redshanks, and Little and Temminck’s stints, to rarer birds like Broad-billed and Marsh sandpipers. Flocks of Bearded Reedlings and Penduline Tits are common in the surrounding reedbeds. Early September is the peak of the warbler migration, and the bushes along the fishponds often teem with Greater and Lesser whitethroats, Common Chiffchaff, and Garden, Willow, and Wood warblers. Not to be overlooked, Pied and Red-breasted flycatchers occur here in varying numbers as well.
Of great interest is the presence of Eurasian Dotterel, a species always high on the “want list” of birders. Our chances of encountering this bird are high since they stage in flocks on the southern steppes of the national park for up to three months in the late summer and fall. Eurasian Stone-Curlews also gather before migrating and we will be on the watch for these as well. In wooded copses, a few Long-eared Owls often appear at this time of year at traditional roosts, where birds can often be seen during the day. European Roller, European Bee-eater and Eurasian Golden-Oriole should still be around before migrating, while Red-backed Shrike is often common and easy to see.
NIGHTS: Tisza Balneum Hotel, Tiszafüred
September 10-13, Days 8-11: Bükk National Park. We will depart the Hortobágy region this morning, transferring north to our next major destination, Bükk National Park.
Situated in the Bükk Mountains in northeastern Hungary, Bükk National Park was founded in 1976 as Hungary’s third and largest national park. It is known for its beautiful and remarkably varied landscapes
containing karst formations, rolling hills, meadows, and beech forest. Here, where the mountains meet the plains, Bükk National Park presents fantastic panoramic scenery, which adds a pleasing visual bonus to our birding endeavors.
On our way north form Hortobágy, we will cross more steppe lands and agricultural country, areas where we’ll watch for Black Stork, Imperial Eagle, and Saker falcon. All of these birds are uncommon, but we will dedicate time to tracking each of them down. We’ll reach the Bükk area in the afternoon and charming village of Noszvaj where we’ll reside for the next four nights. For a taste of local cuisine, it is worth pointing out that the food here is often regarded as a lifetime experience.
Over the ensuing days, pre-breakfast walks around the hotel may reveal a suite of woodpecker species. Middle Spotted Woodpecker is regular here while Black, Green, Syrian, and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are all possible. Inside the national park, we’ll visit beech and oak woodlands to search for Black, Gray-headed, and White-backed Woodpeckers, the latter species typically elusive. We’ll stroll through picturesque valleys and visit an abandoned quarry to search for woodland birds including Hawfinch and Rock Bunting. Ural Owl inhabits the most remote and undisturbed forests, and we will make an effort to see this powerful predator one evening. We will also visit a woodland pasture with centuries-old oak trees and grazing Hungarian Cattle, an excellent hunting area for birds of prey. Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Red-backed Shrike, and Hawfinch are representative of the many species of birds we could see here.
On one evening we will have a traditional dinner in a wine cellar where we’ll enjoy the opportunity to sample local wines including the famous “Bull’s Blood of Eger.” We’ll also visit the historical town of Eger, which boasts a centuries-old castle dating from the age of the Turkish control of southeastern Europe, as well as a baroque-style city center with many churches and grandiose buildings.
NIGHTS: Nomád Hotel, Noszvaj
September 14, Day 12: Budapest. Nearing the end of our tour, we will return to Budapest today to participate in a sightseeing tour of the marvelous historic Hungarian capital. For this activity, we will be joined by a licensed guide who will provide interpretation as we move around the city.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a city of 1.7 million people, and a major cultural and financial center of Europe. The city spans both banks of the mighty Danube River and presents beautiful settings on either side. The western side, called Buda, features rolling hills, the Gallért Hill Citadel with its commanding city views, and the old town. Narrow cobbled streets lined with old houses, the grandiose Matthias Church, and Royal Palace and capital are all worth a visit. Pest, on the eastern side, showcases Baroque and Classicistic architecture. Here we will walk along the magnificent Andrassy Boulevard, lined by palaces and villas, ending up at Heroes Square. We may also wander the streets of the Jewish quarter to see the beautiful synagogue. Among the many other architectural highlights from our time in the city include the famous Hungarian State Opera House, Fisherman’s Bastion, Market Hall, and Chain Bridge.
NIGHT: Art’otel, Budapest
September 15, Day 13: Departure for home. We will organize a group transfer to the airport this morning, but participants are free to depart Hungary at any time.
TOUR SIZE: This tour will be limited to 14 participants. TOUR LEADERS: Brian Gibbons and Atilla Steiner
Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough to cross paths with the Gibbons boys occupied his childhood. A wooden bird feeder kit sparked a flame that was stoked by a gift of the Golden Guide and
family camping trips to Texas state parks. Twenty-five years ago Brian attended two VENT camps for young birders. Birds are now his primary interest, but all things wild continue to captivate him. After college, Brian undertook a variety of field biology research jobs that have taken him to the Caribbean, the Bering Sea, and the land of the midnight sun, arctic Alaska. He enjoys working with kids, hoping to spark environmental awareness through birds. For many years Brian’s field research has involved bird banding. His most amazing recoveries were a female Wilson’s Warbler that had been banded in Alaska and was captured by Brian in Colorado, and a Sooty Tern that perished after a hurricane on the Texas coast; it had plied the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans of the world for 24 years. Brian’s recreational bird-seeking has taken him to Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Wall in China, the plains of East Africa, and the Himalayas in Nepal. Brian leads birding trips in the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe. As well as being a fanatical birder, he loves capturing birds with photography. He lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Lacrecia Johnson, and their son, Grayson.
Attila Steiner is a keen birdwatcher and naturalist. He worked for WWF on species conservation and wildlife trade before joining Ecotours Wildlife Holidays, for whom he leads tours to most countries in Eastern Europe, plus Ghana and Ethiopia. Attila has traveled extensively throughout most of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the American continent. He speaks English, German, and Spanish. His thorough knowledge of not only birds, but butterflies and dragonflies as well, is complemented by a special sense of humor.
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS: The fee for this tour is $4,195 per person in double occupancy. This includes all meals beginning with lunch on day 2 to breakfast on day 13, accommodations as stated in the itinerary, ground transportation during the tour, and guide services provided by the tour leaders and local guides. It does not include roundtrip airfare from your home to Budapest, extra hotel nights before day 2 or after day 12, meals before day 2 or after breakfast on day 13, land transfers on day 2 from airport to hotel except for the group transfer, and from the hotel to the airport on day 13 except for the group transfer, airport departure taxes, travel insurance, alcoholic beverages, phone calls, laundry, items of a personal nature (postage, telephone calls, emails), passport fees.
The single supplement for this tour is $285. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire single accommodations, or if you prefer to share but have no roommate and we cannot provide one for you.
REGISTRATION & DEPOSIT: To register for this tour, please contact the VENT office. The initial deposit for this tour is $500 per person. If you would like to pay your initial deposit by check, money order, or bank transfer, your tour space will be held for 10 days to allow time for the VENT office to receive your deposit and completed registration form. If you prefer to pay the initial deposit using a credit card, your deposit must be made with MasterCard, Visa or American Express at the time of registration. The VENT registration form (available from the VENT office or by download at www.ventbird.com) should then be completed, signed, and returned to the VENT office.
PAYMENTS: Initial tour deposits may be made by MasterCard, Visa, American Express, check, money order, or bank transfer. All other tour payments, including second deposits, interim payments, final balances, special arrangements, etc., must be made by check, money order, or bank transfer (contact the VENT office for bank transfer information). Full payment of the tour fee is due 120 days prior to the tour departure date.
CANCELLATION POLICY: Cancellation penalties and refunds are based on the following schedule: if cancellation is made 120 days or more before the tour departure date, a cancellation fee of $250 per person will be charged unless the deposit is transferred to a new registration for another VENT tour that will operate within the next 12 months, in which case the cancellation fee will be $100 per person. If cancellation is made fewer than 120 days before departure date, no refund is available. This policy and fee schedule also applies to pre-trip and post-trip extensions. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance for your protection.
If you cancel: Your refund will be:
Fewer than 120 days before departure date No refund available
*Unless the deposit is transferred to a new registration for another VENT tour that will operate within the next 12 months, in which case the cancellation fee will be $100 per person.
Upon cancellation of the transportation or travel services, where you, the customer, are not at fault and have not cancelled in violation of the terms and conditions of any of the contract for transportation or travel services, all sums paid to VENT for services not received by you will be promptly refunded by VENT to you unless you otherwise advise VENT in writing.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours is not a participant in the California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund. California law requires certain sellers of travel to have a trust account or bond. This business has a bond issued by Travelers in the amount of $50,000. CST #2014998-50.
EXCHANGE RATE SURCHARGES: In the erratic global financial markets of today, it is difficult to predict foreign currency exchange rates over the long term or at the time of operation of a tour or cruise departure. Tour prices are based upon the rate of exchange at the time of itinerary publication. If exchange rates change drastically, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount. In many cases, these additional foreign exchange rate surcharges are passed to VENT by its vendors and suppliers.
FUEL AND FUEL SURCHARGES: In the uncertain, often volatile oil market of late, it is difficult – if not impossible – to predict fuel costs over the long term, and more specifically, at the time of operation of this departure. Our prices are based upon the prevailing fuel rates at the time of itinerary publication. While we will do everything possible to maintain our prices, if the fuel rates increase significantly, it may be necessary to institute a fuel surcharge.
TRIP CANCELLATION & MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE: A brochure and application form for optional coverage for baggage, illness, and trip cancellation can be obtained through the VENT office. We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance as soon as possible to protect yourself against losses due to accidents or illness. VENT recommends Travel Insured International as our preferred insurance provider. Check with your insurance agent regarding coverage you may presently have via other insurance policies that may cover illness during your trip. Waiver for pre-existing conditions is available; however, stipulations apply, usually requiring the purchase of the insurance soon after registering. Optional expanded insurance coverage is available and includes items such as work-related cancellation, medical upgrade, and a “Cancel for Any Reason” clause among others. Contact Travel Insured International prior to registration for details. Not all insurance providers provide the same levels of coverage. If you purchase insurance through a company other than Travel Insured International, please be advised that rules and stipulations may be different.
AIR INFORMATION: Victor Emanuel Travel is a full-service travel agency and wholly owned subsidiary of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT). Victor Emanuel Travel will be happy to make any domestic or international air travel arrangements from your home and return. Please be sure to check with the VENT office prior to purchasing your air ticket to confirm that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate. VENT cannot be responsible for any air ticket penalties.
BAGGAGE: The airlines now strictly enforce baggage regulations. Excess baggage charges, which can be substantial, are the personal responsibility of each participant.
As a precaution against lost luggage, we suggest that you pack a change of clothes, toiletries, medications, important travel documents, optics, and any other essential items in your carry-on bag. Due to ever-changing
circumstances in the government’s attempts to improve airport security we recommend that you check the website of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for information pertaining to permissible carry-on items: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.
CLOTHING: This tour is a casual atmosphere, birding and natural history trip with doses of historical and cultural highlights included. We suggest you bring primarily field-type clothing, which are appropriate for all occasions. However when traveling, for evenings, and when in Budapest, you may wish to include a few items of “smart-casual” attire. The following items are recommended:
• Pants: A couple pairs of pants are essential. Many people prefer lightweight pants made of cotton or other material, but denim, though not as comfortable, is certainly acceptable.
• Field Clothing: Outdoor stores such as Cabela’s and REI carry field clothing that many birders find appealing. Pants and shirts made of lightweight, yet durable materials with multiple pockets and ventilated seams are popular.
• Shirts: Several t-shirts, (long and short-sleeved), in addition to other comfortable styles suitable for warm weather.
• Hat: A hat for protection from the sun is essential.
• Smart-Casual Attire: For women this includes casual dresses or skirts/slacks. For men this includes khakis/slacks and open-collared shirts.
• Sweaters and Coats: Warm weather is anticipated on this trip, but a sweater, fleece, or light coat or jacket will come in handy for the mornings and evenings, especially if we encounter an early cold front. In the event we have rain a water repellent jacket will prove essential.
FOOTWEAR: We recommend a good trail-walking shoe or light hiking boot when in the field. Athletic shoes are acceptable but will not keep your feet dry and can become soiled from muddy conditions. A good walking shoe (such as an athletic shoe), may be preferred when not in the field or when in Budapest at the end of the tour.
LAUNDRY SERVICE: Laundry service may be available for an extra charge at some of the hotels where we stay; however, you should bring enough clothing to get you through the trip in the event laundry service is unavailable.
EQUIPMENT: One of the most important aspects of having an enjoyable travel experience is being prepared with proper equipment. The following items will come in handy during your trip to Hungary:
• Backpack – good for carrying extra clothing, field guides, supplies, and optical equipment during all land excursions.
• Notebooks and pens • Travel alarm clock
• Polarized sunglasses with good UV protection • Sunscreen, lip balm, skin lotions
• Personal toiletries
• Cameras, lenses, memory cards, and extra batteries
• Collapsible walking stick – a highly recommended item for those who have trouble walking. • Tissue packs
BINOCULARS & SPOTTING SCOPES:
Binoculars – We strongly recommend good binoculars of at least 7x35, 8x42, 10x40, or 10x42 magnification. We recommend that you do NOT bring mini-binoculars of any kind. Some people like “minis” because they are small and lightweight; but they have an extremely small field of view and very poor light gathering power. Trying to find a bird in your binoculars using minis is like trying to read a book through a keyhole. You will be very frustrated, and even if you do manage to get the bird in your binoculars before it flies, you will have a poor view. You will find that 7x35 or 8x42 binoculars are compact and light enough.
Spotting Scopes – Your tour leaders will have scopes available for group use throughout the trip, but if you have one and wish to bring it, please feel free to do so.
CLIMATE & WEATHER: The climate in Hungary is traditionally characterized by cold winters and hot summers. The spring and autumn are transition times when the days are often mild and crisp. June is generally the rainiest month of the year while July is usually the warmest. This tour will operate at the very end of summer and the beginning of autumn, when peak summer temperatures will be behind us. At this time, high temperatures in Budapest average in the mid-70s (°F) with lows in the high 50s/low 60s. In the event of a heat-wave, highs could reach into the high 80s or even the low 90s. Temperatures will likely be a few degrees lower away from Budapest. Dry conditions are expected, but rain is definitely possible, usually in the form of thunderstorms.
CONDITIONS: Your trip to Hungary will be an enjoyable travel experience in which birding in Hungary’s top parks and preserves is the primary focus. Most days will be dedicated purely to birding and natural history pursuits while sightseeing will be included on parts of two days. As Budapest is widely considered among the great cities of the world, we will dedicate part of the final day to a guided tour of the Hungarian capital. Other cultural infusion comes in the form of an afternoon trip to the historic town of Eger and sampling Hungarian wines and cuisine. For the limited sightseeing endeavors, we will be joined by licensed local guides who will provide expert interpretation.
Physical demands will be easy to moderate, but please bear in mind that our tour of Budapest may involve a moderate amount of walking and standing. We emphasize that no one will be subjected to physical demands that exceed their capabilities. All walking will be done at a slow pace.
Extra time in Hungary –This program provides exposure to Hungary’s top birding sites and some of its archaeological and historical riches. Because our time in Budapest is limited, participants with an interest in enjoying more of the Hungarian capital or visiting other parts of the country should come early or stay after the tour ends.
DOCUMENTS: A passport valid for at least three months beyond your planned departure from Hungary is required. We recommend your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned departure. Visas are not required for entry by United States citizens. Non United States citizens should check with their consulate/embassy for instructions.
CURRENCY & MONEY MATTERS: Your trip to Hungary includes most necessary expenses. You will want to bring enough cash to cover personal expenses not included in the program, such as taxi rides, gifts, laundry, gratuities, meals on your own, and personal items. It is best to carry small denominations of cash as many places we visit may be unable to provide change for large bills. While U.S. dollars may be accepted in more populous areas, it is always convenient to have a supply of local currency for such items. It is best to acquire local currency before leaving home, or at the airport or a bank upon arrival in Budapest.
Should you extend your vacation in Hungary beyond what is offered in the program, you’ll want to obtain local currency. Please check with your bank and credit card issuer for more information regarding banking and the use of ATM and credit cards overseas.
The official currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). You can check the latest currency conversion rate by visiting “XE-The World’s Favorite Currency Site” at:http://www.xe.com/.
ELECTRICITY: The electrical current in Hungary is 220-240V (110-120V in the U.S.). Electrical outlets are one of the two European standard socket types: the "Type C" Europlug and the "Type F" Schuko. Both of these outlets are ungrounded with openings for two round pins. You will need an adapter to plug in your appliances as well as an all-purpose transformer if your appliances are not suitable for higher voltage.
INTERNET: WiFi is available at all hotels. At one location it may be limited to the reception area.
LANGUAGE: Hungarian is the primary language spoken in Hungary, although ethnic populations derived from surrounding countries speak their native language. Our local guides speak English.
TIME: At this time of year, Hungary is on Central European Summer Time (CEST), and is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
HEALTH: As of November 2015, no major shots or inoculations are required for entry into Hungary. As standard travel precautions, you should always be up to date with the “routine vaccines,” including influenza, chickenpox (varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (Tdap). Additionally, participants should strongly consider inoculations against Hepatitis types A and B. If you are taking personal medication, prescription or over-the-counter, be sure to bring an ample supply that will allow you to get through the trip safely. Please consult your physician as necessary. Remember to pack all medication in your carry-on baggage, preferably in original containers or packaging. As airline baggage restrictions can change without warning, please check with your airline for procedures for packing medication.
Those who are not fit for light to moderate physical activity, including those with physical disabilities that affect mobility and balance, heart or immune deficiencies, or other conditions associated with poor health, are advised not to join the trip. Comprehensive optional travel insurance is available and recommended. This coverage is available through your trip cancellation policy, if purchased through Travel Insured International. Please consult your insurance agent or existing policy, if in effect, for the terms and limitations of your existing coverage. Refer to the section on Trip Cancellation Insurance.
Sun Exposure – The sun’s ultraviolet rays are damaging to the eyes and skin with prolonged exposure. Anytime you are outdoors you will want to protect your skin, including your lips, eyes, nose, and ears. Severe sunburn is potentially very painful and will affect your level of enjoyment. Always protect yourself when outdoors and be sure to bring an ample supply of high SPF sunscreen and lip balm. We strongly recommend the use of ultra-violet blocking, polarized sunglasses.
In addition to your physician, a good source of general health information for travelers is the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta Georgia. The CDC operates a 24-hour recorded Travelers’ Information Line at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), or you can check their website at www.cdc.gov/travel. Canadian citizens should check the website of the Public Health Agency of Canada: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/new_e.html (click on travel health).
SUGGESTED READING: Our website, www.ventbird.com offers an affiliated online store that carries a wide variety of items for birding and nature lovers, including over 6,000 books. A portion of the sales from this store benefits the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You may also visit such other online stores such as www.amazon.com, and for those out-of-print or hard-to-find titles, www.abebooks.com or www.buteobooks.com which specializes in ornithology books.
Mullarney, Killian and Lars Svensson and Dan Zetterstrom. Birds of Europe. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press; Princeton, NJ, 1999. This is the most important natural history book for this trip. It is probably the best all around field guide to the birds of Europe.
MacDonald, David and Priscilla Barrett. Mammals of Europe. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1993.
A number of books have been written on the history of Hungary. While a person could research the topic indefinitely, the ones we’ve selected for this reading list are based on their thoroughness and “readability.” Cartledge, Bryan. The Will to Survive: A History of Hungary. Oxford University Press: USA, 2011. Molnár, Miklós and Anna Magyar. A Concise History of Hungary. Cambridge University Press:
TIPPING: Tipping (restaurants, porters, drivers and local guides) is included on VENT tours. However, if you feel one or both of your VENT leaders or any local guides or staff has given you exceptional service, it is entirely appropriate to tip. We emphasize that such tips are not expected and are entirely optional.
RESPONSIBILITY: Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, Inc. (VENT) and/or its Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel, whether by railroad, motorcar, motorcoach, boat, or airplane and assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the tour. VENT and its agents can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, quarantine, or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as tour rates provide for arrangements only for the time stated. The right is reserved to substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary where deemed necessary or caused by changes in air schedules. The right is reserved to cancel any tour prior to departure, in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. The right is reserved to substitute leaders on any tour. Where this is necessary, notification will be given to tour members. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made in sufficient time to avoid penalties. The prices of the tours are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect on December 7, 2015, and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. The right is reserved to decline to accept or to retain any person as a member of any tour. Baggage is at owner's risk entirely. The airlines concerned and their agents and affiliates are not to be held responsible for any act, omission, or event during the time passengers are not on board their aircraft. The passenger ticket in use by said airlines, when issued, shall constitute the sole contract between the airlines and the purchaser of these tickets and/or passenger. The services of any I.A.T.A.N. carrier may be used for these tours, and transportation within the United States may be provided by any member carrier of the Airline Reporting Corporation.