To a great extent, the rules for operating a motor vehicle in this country are quite similar to most other civilized nations, but all drivers here should know about a few peculiar Hungarian traffic regulations that can make all the difference between a smooth journey and a pile-up of crumpled steel. While this guide is a not a comprehensive review of driving laws in Hungary, these pointers (and your wits) will certainly help you navigate the sometimes-confusing roadways of Budapest and beyond.
If renting a car in Hungary, your agency should provide you will the essential items necessary to have in the vehicle at all times (registration, proof of insurance, and emergency equipment). Contact your embassy or consulate to find out specific regulations that apply to citizens of your native country for driving in Hungary.
Like everywhere else throughout Continental Europe, we drive on the right side of the road in Hungary. Speed limits are posted in kilometers-per-hour, with 50kph being the maximum speed within towns and cities (except in marked zones); countryside speed limits vary, but there are no autobahn-style highways without a maximum speed. Most foreign motorists are allowed on the road with a valid driver’s license from their home country during visits to Hungary, but foreigners who take up residence here are obliged to obtain a Hungarian driver’s license.
The classic red-and-white “do not enter” sign is commonplace in Hungary but without any text, as seen above. At traffic lights, there is no “right on red” rule; no matter what lane drivers are in, they must wait until the light changes to green before proceeding (the yellow light will flash once prior to the green light). Within Budapest, there are no roadway tolls, but drivers who use Hungary’s motorway network must pay for a pass (available at gas stations), with enforcement regulated by video cameras – if you pass by a “MATRICA VIGNETTE” sign and have no pass, exit the highway as soon as possible.
Stop signs are not frequently posted in Hungary (although where they are posted, drivers should come to a full stop regardless of the presence of other cars) – instead, triangular red-and-white yield signs are commonly found at intersections, often along with arrow signs indicating the direction(s) that drivers may take.
If you are approaching an intersection and encounter one of these signs, it is your responsibility to check for oncoming traffic to the left and right; if there are any cars coming from either direction, you should let them pass through the intersection before proceeding. However, if there are no other cars approaching the intersection from the left or right, you do not need to stop (although you should slow down). However, if there are no yield signs at an intersection at all, then any drivers approaching the intersection on the road to the right have right-of-way priority, and you must stop your car to let them proceed.
This yellow-and-white diamond-shaped sign indicates that you are driving on a main road, in which case you do not have to yield to other cars at intersections, but look out for the yellow-and-white diamond-shaped sign with a black bar through it – this indicates that the main road is now concluded, and drivers should again yield to cars approaching from right-side intersections with no yield sign.
Like in many countries, parking zones in Hungary are identified with blue signs emblazoned with a white “P” – however, if you see a circular blue sign with a red “X” through it, that means there is no parking until the next corner.
The same circular blue sign with only one line through it means that parking is restricted from that point on, but sometimes it is allowed; generally these signs are accompanied by other signs with information about when public parking is permitted on that block.
In most central-Budapest districts, drivers must pay for street parking between 8:30am and 8pm on weekdays in any designated parking zone, while it is free to park during nights and weekends. Parking zones always have payment machines with English-language information – parking fees can be paid electronically or by feeding coins to the machine and placing the receipt on the dashboard of your car so that it can be viewed through the windshield.
Budapest parking enforcement is notoriously strict, with inspectors continually patrolling parking zones on the lookout for offenders, so make sure that you are parked legally, or face the possibility of having a boot put on one of your wheels, or the car being impounded.
Finally but significantly, Hungary has a zero-tolerance policy toward drinking and driving – if police pull you over and detect so much as a small trace of alcohol on your breath, you will be subject to expensive fines and the possible revocation of your Hungarian driver’s license. Police have the authority to pull over drivers even if they do not commit an infraction, and they rarely speak good English. Happy motoring!