Being sick when you’re abroad is no fun at all—you’re in a foreign country, you don’t speak the language, and you need to navigate an unknown healthcare system while you’re not feeling your best. It’s a nightmare scenario!
This handy guide seeks to simplify the process and offer important facts about Hungary’s public and private healthcare systems, so you can decide the best place to go for treatment or advice should an illness or injury occur.
How does the healthcare system in Hungary works?
Hungary provides good medical care to foreigners visiting the country. If you fall ill or get injured during your visit, the Hungarian government will cover the cost of your treatment at state-owned medical institutions. It’s important to note that this applies only if your home country has a special agreement with Hungary. Without international health insurance or travel insurance, you will need to pay out-of-pocket for your treatment.
About the Hungarian state healthcare system
Hungary’s healthcare system is a state-run program financed through social security contributions that are similar to taxes. Therefore, Hungarian citizens—as well as expats employed by a local company or students—don’t have to pay for their treatment at government-owned healthcare institutions. However, there may be costs associated with certain medicines, medical equipment, or extra services.
If you are an EU citizen visiting Hungary for a short time, you can also obtain medically necessary treatment free of charge at public healthcare institutions by presenting your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It only covers urgent and emergency health issues that cannot wait for your return home, such as an acute illness or injury.
The EHIC also covers medical care related to pregnancy and childbirth or chronic illness. It is not a substitute for travel insurance and does not cover private hospitals or other types of treatments – it only includes medically necessary services provided by state facilities. Thanks to this, if you have an accident or get seriously ill while in Budapest and meet the above conditions, you will be treated by a state hospital without charge.
Foreigners ineligible for free public healthcare services through a home-country agreement—or those who do not have an international insurance policy—should purchase private travel insurance before entering Hungary, or prepare to pay out-of-pocket for unforeseen medical expenses. If you’re visiting Hungary from a non-European Union country and need to see a doctor, check if your travel insurance policy covers medical treatment beyond emergency first aid.
Getting medical treatment in Budapest
In the event of illness or injury, you can be cared for at various public and private healthcare facilities in Budapest. Access to public medical institutions is free for locals and travel insurers typically cover emergency or urgent treatment at these facilities—as a result, these are often overcrowded.
In addition to state-owned medical providers, a wide range of private clinics offer reliable services in Budapest for those who prefer it, or whose private health insurance policies cover the cost. You might be wondering why even more locals decide to pay for private medical treatment in Budapest rather than obtaining free care through the public system.
What are the benefits of private healthcare in Hungary?
At a private healthcare institution, you may benefit from much shorter waiting times, access to a wider range of specialists, and more comfortable, modern facilities. In Budapest, many private clinics provide outpatient services or even inpatient care. This is narrowed, however, when you’re seeking English-speaking treatment.
Key points to consider when choosing your provider are detailed below.
Remove the language barrier
How are you going to make it clear what your symptoms are? You can hardly find English-speaking staff at Hungary’s public healthcare institutions. If you’re a foreigner visiting Budapest, this part could be what makes you the most anxious. If you don’t speak the language, even making an appointment can seem daunting. You may have trouble describing your problem to the doctor and getting them to understand you completely. Even if you are eventually able to communicate, you want to know the exact evaluation and advice.
At FirstMed, everyone speaks fluent English which makes it easy to get the care you need from scheduling a visit to a complex medical examination. If your English could use some improvement, inquire – we may have an on-staff doctor who speaks your language! You can discuss your concerns freely and your issues will be examined thoroughly. Your doctor will take the time to explain your diagnosis and treatment plan, and he/she will answer your questions in a language you can understand.
Find a doctor you trust
When your primary care physician refers you to a specialist or prescribes further diagnostic services, you may need to visit another facility to fulfill the request. In the public system, free care only allows you to visit the local doctor or hospital to which your doctor referred you.
At a private clinic, you can find the care that suits you the most and decide which doctor you feel most comfortable with. At FirstMed, beyond just general practitioners, you can access English-speaking doctors for 20+ specialty practices and various in-house screenings provided for adults and children.
Should you get a bad feeling from a medical provider or want to seek a second opinion, FirstMed can get you the best and most accurate possible treatment according to your needs. We care about your concerns and making sure you maintain or improve your health.
Reduced waiting time
At public medical centers in Hungary, you can count on long waiting lists to get an appointment. The necessary waiting time might even exceed two months depending on the specialty, according to recent surveys. When it comes to specialist care, the private sector can get you in to see the provider in almost a third of the time it would take in the public sector. In 2022, the average waiting time for specialist and diagnostic exams is 8 days in private centers, while it is 30 days in the public sector. (1)
Furthermore, at a public center, even if you have a scheduled appointment, this does not necessarily mean you will get into the doctor’s office on time. In public healthcare, you might have to sit in the waiting room for more than 25 minutes on average, to be treated for only 13 minutes. Compare this to private healthcare, where patients wait about 10 minutes before their actual appointments with doctors, who then treat them for over 20 minutes. (2)
Waiting can cost you time and may mean you should come back another day. This could delay valuable diagnoses and treatments. This is another reason why foreigners and locals alike prefer private healthcare providers in Hungary.
When you’re looking for medical treatment in Budapest, you want to get the best possible care. With the wide variety of private healthcare providers’ facilities, you can be sure that your needs will be met.
Private clinics have more advanced equipment and facilities than those in public medical care because they can afford to invest in cutting-edge technology. Their doctors and nurses can therefore better treat patients because of the high-quality medical equipment they use.
Although government-owned medical institutions are generally well equipped, not all facilities are as modern as private clinics. The government has more financial constraints, and so it cannot afford to build as many hospitals or buy as many medical machines as private companies that have more money at their disposal than the government.
At FirstMed, we know that when it comes to your health, it’s important to feel comfortable so you can focus on healing. We’ve made it our mission to provide you with the best facilities and treatments possible. For this reason, we’ve equipped our clinic with state-of-the-art machinery with which you can get the most effective treatment.
Cut your healthcare costs
While public healthcare may be free for you if you meet certain conditions, private care can present a cost barrier. This cost can be significantly reduced through a private health insurance policy.
Benefits of private health insurance
A private healthcare provider can help you organize fast, high-quality medical care in a smooth manner, for which your private health insurance may even cover the entire cost! When choosing an insurance plan, always verify which benefits it offers and whether you need more or less coverage. Some policies will cover you fully, whereas others may require a copay or deductible.
All you have to do is let the clinic know if you have a private health insurance policy when booking your appointment. Give them the name of your insurance company and send a copy of your insurance card and date of birth so they can verify whether they can accept your insurance.
At FirstMed Budapest we have established agreements with over 110 private insurance providers. This means we can bill directly to your insurance company, so you may leave without needing to open your wallet! In case we cannot accept your insurance, we will provide you with the necessary documents to file a reimbursement claim on your own.
If you don’t have private health insurance or have a high deductible or co-pay, FirstMed offers cost-effective solutions to access a wide range of medical treatments provided by English-speaking doctors. If you are staying in Hungary for a longer time, we can take care of your health for an annual lump sum with our healthcare plans. We also provide packages for prenatal care and first-year infant health checks.
When you’re far from your home country, it may be hard to know where to go for medical treatment. If you need to see a doctor, there’s no time to worry about whether they speak English or not. You want to talk freely about your symptoms and be certain that you’re understood. Speaking a common language can make all the difference in whether or not you get the right treatment for your needs. Breathe easier knowing that FirstMed, our full-service, English-speaking, outpatient clinic, has you covered while you’re abroad. Be prepared for anything that might happen away from home—no matter what it is!
Ask for more information about our services and request an appointment here.