‘Hungarians go out of their way to accommodate the whims and fancies of the visitor’

Hungary is a very popular and safe tourist destination in Eastern Europe. The country has an unmatched rich cultural and historical heritage, coupled with amazing natural beauty and wildlife. Hungarians are very hospitable and welcoming people, who go out of their way to accommodate the whims and fancies of the visitors. The country is an ideal destination for family travellers. Hungary’s landscape is dotted with many beautiful fortresses, palaces and castle hotels. In an exclusve interview with TnH, H.E. Mr. Gyula Pethő, Hungary’s Ambassador to India, speaks about significance and uniqueness of the country as a tourist destination.

Q. What is extraordinary about Hungary as tourist destination?

“Hungary has an unparalleled rich cultural and historical heritage, coupled with natural beauty and wildlife that will amaze all visitors. Rolling green hills, medieval castles, raging and serene rivers alike, the vast spaces of the ‘puszta’ and countless spas will all impress the guests.” GYULA PETHŐ, HUNGARY’S AMBASSADOR TO INDIA

Almost in the centre of Europe hides a country, where the sea is waving under the earth and erupts to the surface hot and healing. Where the sweetest grapes are harvested during autumn, from which mellifluous wine is produced. Where on hilltops, deep in the valleys and on endless plains, the hustle of centuries created quiet villages, charming small towns, luxurious castles and a lively metropolis. During our thousand-year history, we have appealed to many, even to those not arriving with peaceful intentions. Tatars, Turks, Habsburgs have left their footprints in the Carpathian Basin and dozens of people have lived together creating the colourful culture that exists in Hungary today.

So Hungary is not only history. See the footprints of a thriving modernism as well as the 21st century. Hungary is a country where the locals are rediscovering their environment thus making their cities and the country lively and welcoming to guests as well.

In short: Hungary has an unparalleled rich cultural and historical heritage, coupled with natural beauty and wildlife that will amaze all visitors. Rolling green hills, medieval castles, raging and serene rivers alike, the vast spaces of the “puszta”, countless spas will all impress the guests. The vibrant cities offer fine dining, shopping for all budgets, lively night-life, concerts for all tastes (classical and contemporary) and many festivals to celebrate life.

Q. Why do you think that Hungary is good destination for Indian visitors?

Hungary is one of the 15 most popular tourist destinations in the world, with a capital regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. Despite its relatively small size, Hungary has numerous World Heritage Sites, UNESCO Biosphere reserves, the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grassland in Europe (Hortobágy). In terms of buildings, Hungary has the largest synagogue in Europe (Great Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), the third largest church in Europe (Esztergom Basilica), the second largest territorial abbey in the world (Pannonhalma Benedictine Archabbey), the second largest Baroque castle in the world (Gödöllő), and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy (Pécs), the second underground in Europe and the third all over the world after New York and London (Millennium Underground).

Indian tourists will find that Hungarians are very hospitable and will go out of their way to accommodate the whims and fancies of the visitor. Hungary is a very safe country. Vacationers will feel secure wherever they will be visiting. Hungarian cuisine is spicy and very tasteful for the Indian palate, but should anyone wish, there are many truly excellent Indian restaurants to choose from. Shopping is excellent and very affordable. Everyone will have their suitcases full to the brim. Holidays are for the whole family, children are not only very welcome, but will find a myriad of things to occupy themselves with. And for couples, there are beautiful places to plan a romantic getaway, be it an 18th century castle-hotel or a wellness spa to pamper the senses.

Q. How simple is the visa process of Hungary for Indian travellers? How about the first time travellers?

Our consulate asks to submit the supporting documents required by the Schengen Visa Code (Regulation EC No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council). As it is stipulated in the Visa Code, applicants are supposed to submit documents indicating that they have sufficient means to cover their costs while being a tourist in Hungary and they are invited to provide documents in relation to their accommodation and travel plans as well as to their travel medical insurance. As far as first time travellers are concerned, we are pleased that they choose Hungary as their first tourist destination in the Schengen territory and we are glad to process their visa application.

Q. How does the Hungary’s visa service remain competitive?

We have good experiences, well established, smooth practices, well and extensively experienced staff to process the applications at our consulate. We strengthened our presence in India by opening a consulate general in Mumbai and having included all 16 VFS Global visa application centres in our agreement with VFS as the external service provider.

Q. What tips can you offer to Indian nationals applying for the Hungarian visas?

I suggest that applicants avoid applying for their visas in the last minute. Schengen regulations allow the applicants to submit their visa application three months before the planned date of their arrival in the Schengen territory. Our consulate has 15 days to process any visa application on the basis of the Schengen Visa Code. However we are able to process the applications much faster. We try to do so especially for tourists. The other advice I would give to applicants is to submit all the required correct supporting documents with their visa application so there is no need to issue a call for action for missing or inadequate documents.

Q. How important is the Indian outbound market for Hungary? How many Indian tourists visited Hungary last year?

Last year we received 2383 tourist applications in Delhi. We also received around 1000 applications in Mumbai at our consulate general. We are pleased to see that the figure has doubled in comparison to the previous year when we received 1460 tourist applications. This is a promising trend and we hope to see more Indian tourists to travel to Hungary.

Q. How is the air-connectivity between the two countries?

Budapest is easily reachable from any major capital in Europe.There are daily flights also from Dubai, Qatar and Istanbul. Moreover Air India is about to start a new flight from Delhi to Vienna three times a week. There are several buses commuting every day between Vienna Airport and Budapest. Travelling time is about two and a half hours.

Q. How will you describe the relationship between India and Hungary?

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who visited Hungary in 1926, wrote:

“I have seen almost all the countries of the world but I saw nowhere such a beautiful harmony of the sky and the water than that I had the privilege to enjoy on the shore of Balatonfüred filling my soul with rapture.”

The relations between Hungary and India go back hundreds of years. Many famous Hungarian orientalists made India their home and many Indians visited Hungary, most notably Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote the following about Hungary:

“I have seen almost all the countries of the world but I saw nowhere such a beautiful harmony of the sky and the water than that I had the privilege to enjoy on the shore of Balatonfüred filling my soul with rapture.”

Hungary has a lot to offer to India, which is facing lots of challenges. The growing population, the aspirations of the new emerging middle class, the imperative of new job opportunities, the quickly dwindling water supply, the alarmingly high levels of pollution in some cities – all these call for immediate solutions in which Hungary can readily assist. Many of the countries in our region have undergone tumultuous change in the last 25 years. Using these changes as leverage to growth, these countries have succeeded to transform their economies with very little social unrest, partly due to our rich heritage. And I am not referring only to cultural heritage here. Hungary – for example – has a very long history of innovation in many fields (agriculture, food processing, engineering, water management etc.). It is perhaps enough to mention the Rubik’s Cube as the best example of out-of-the-box thinking.

India and Hungary have had a long history of cooperation, beginning in earnest at the end of the eighteen hundreds, intensifying during India’s non-aligned days, waning in the 1990s, but growing stronger again in the 21st century. Many Indian large corporates have a strong presence in Hungary. The latest additions are Apollo Tyres’s first green-field investment outside India and a brand new factory to be built by the Sumi Motherson group. But we should also mention companies which have been present and steadily growing for a long time in my country – Tata Consulting Systems, for example, has a large delivery centre in Budapest, employing over 1500 associates.

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