The objective of this paper is to study the short-term effects of the introduction of the visit fee in Hungary in 2007 on informal patient payments. We present the pattern of informal payments in primary, out-patient specialist and in in-patient care in the period before and shortly after the visit fee was introduced. We also analyse whether in the short run, the introduction of visit fee decreased the probability of paying informally. For the analysis, we use a dataset for a representative sample of 2500 respondents collected in 2007 shortly after the introduction of the visit fee, which contains data on informal payments for healthcare services. According to our results, 9% of the patients paid informally during their last visit to GP (2 Euros on average), 14% paid informally for specialist care (35 Euros on average) and 50% paid informally for hospitalisation (58 Euros on average). We find a significant reduction in the probability of paying informally only for elderly patients in case of in-patient care. Our results suggest that informal payments are widely spread in Hungary, especially in in-patient care. The short run potential of the introduction of the visit fee to reduce informal payments seems to be minor. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.