Yes, you definitely — and easily — can get mobile phone service in Hungary.
A number of different options are available, and what you choose depends on how long you’re going to be in the country (and abroad in general).
If your stay in Hungary will be short, first check with your current provider to determine how much it’ll cost to use cell data and phone service abroad. Many services (Google Fi, for example) offer international service at the same or slightly higher cost as domestic service.
But many other companies will charge you roaming fees or require steep daily payments for using your phone abroad. In those cases — even if you’ll only be here for a few days — it definitely can make sense to purchase cell service in Hungary.
We use Vodafone, but other common options include Telenor, T-Mobile and UPC. For less than 4000 HUF, you can get 100 minutes and 1GB of data ($14.50 USD or €13) from Vodafone on a monthly pay-as-you-go basis. No contract, cancel any time. That could easily be less expensive than your current provider will charge you for international usage.
If your stay in Hungary will be longer than a few weeks, you definitely want to look at getting Hungarian cell service.
For starters, a Hungarian phone number is required for a lot of things. We needed one to sign up for Internet service, for example. We’ve needed a Hungarian phone number to order takeout from the pizza and Thai food places down the street. And our lawyer here didn’t answer my phone call once because he thought it was spam (which can be a big problem here, apparently). His advice: Get a Hungarian number, ASAP.
We visited the Vodafone store near Deák Ferenc tér and chatted with a very nice sales agent who spoke great English. We signed up for the Go EU package on a one-year contract. The plan gives us more than enough minutes and SMS per month and 200 MB of data (it’s not a lot of data, but since we’re almost always on wifi, it works out OK). For the two of us, we pay roughly 8500 HUF per month (around $30 USD or €28).
One huge benefit of this plan is that there are no roaming charges anywhere in Europe. So when we travel within the continent, we can use our service as if we were in Hungary.
By the way, it’s worth noting that Vodafone’s mobile app, through which you can pay your bill, top up service, etc., is only in Hungarian. But if you have prepaid service, you can also use the iCsekk app, which we also use to pay our utility bills, to top up your cell-service account, whether it’s with Vodafone or someone else.