Long-term residents of Hungary, be they expats or students, may wish to get a Hungarian driver’s licence. The process is straightforward, and takes around three months to complete. We sat down with several driving schools in Budapest to follow it from start to finish.
Driving in Hungary: How to get or naturalise your licence
János Anda, who runs the Szuper Jogsi Autósiskola with his wife, has been teaching drivers in the city for years. “Everyone who comes in here, I can teach them to drive,” he says with a big smile. “Whether they’re totally new, or they’ve driven in other countries!” His school offers instruction in English and Hungarian, with German as an additional option in e-learning materials developed by the school.
Naturalising your licence
Anyone living in Hungary longer than one year must naturalise their foreign licence to a Hungarian license in order to remain on the road.
1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
The Vienna Convention is an international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and safety by establishing standard rules of the road. There are currently 78 countries signed to the agreement, including the UK but not the USA, Canada or Australia. Persons holding a licence issued by any country in the Convention may exchange theirs for a Hungarian driver’s licence without the exam requirement, but any persons holding a licence outisde the Convention are required to pass the Hungarian driving test.
To naturalise your licence, you must follow these steps or meet these requirements:
- Foreign licences must be translated into Hungarian.
-This can be done by OFFI, the official translation service in Hungary, or by the embassy.
-Do note that expired licences will be accepted for translation. As long as it is in your name, it can be used to be naturalised to a Hungarian licence.
- Medical certificate for B category driving licence from your family doctor. Not a part of any insurance scheme, costs 7,000-7,500 forints.
- ID or passport.
- Lakcímkártya, or address registration card.
- Resident permit if applicable.
- Aged at least 17 years.
- *If you have an International Driver's license, you may be able to naturalise your license without taking the theory or practical exams, even if your license comes from a country not participating in the Vienna Convention. Ask the Central Office while applying to see if your country qualifies.
OFFI Translation Office
District VI. Bajza utca 52. Open: Mon & Wed 8am-6pm, Tue & Thur 8am-5pm, Fri 8am-2pm.
Applicants must then bring the above documents to the Central Registration Office. If you’re an EU citizen, any district office can process the application. If you’re a non-EU citizen, only the Central Registration Office can be used.
District XIII. Visegrádi utca 110-112. Open: Mon 8am-6pm, Tue-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-2pm, Sun 8am-2pm.
János stresses here that wait times are lengthy at the CRO. “You will go and they will give you a date to come back for an appointment,” he explains. Do not expect speedy service. It costs 9,000-10,000 forints.
You can also book an appointment by calling 1818 or visiting the following websites:
If calling from outside Hungary, use the number +36 1 550 1858.
The Registration Office will then make a decision on your license within 15 days. This decision paper can then be brought to your driving school of choice, to prepare for the exam.
“In some cases,” says János, “the Registration Office will give you the option to immediately take the theory and practical exams, and bypass lessons. However,” he adds with a knowing smile, “it’s very difficult, and we recommend at least ten classes if students want to pass.” This number is confirmed by other driving schools consulted for this article, as ideal for learning enough information to pass the exam.
International Driver's License
In some cases, even if your license comes from a country outside of the Vienna Convention, you may bypass the exams by having an International Driver's License. Bring this document to the Central Office while applying for your license.
Theory materials & exam
The theory exam is available in English, German, Romanian and Hungarian. Students have ten chances to pass the exam. The cost to take the online exam is 4,600 forints.
Those speaking a foreign language may book a translator, but these prices quickly skyrocket. It costs 10,000 forints to bring your own translator, and additional fees will begin to add up. János often advises students to take the test in English.
Once the decision paper has been issued to the applicant, they have nine months in which to take the test (pass or fail), and one year to pass. The decision paper does not expire. Following the successful passing of the theory exam, they have two years to pass the practical exam. The student then has five chances to pass the practical exam.
To take the exam, you must have a contract with one of the driving schools (see the list at the end of this article for some of the driving schools located here in Budapest).
THEORY EXAM OFFICE
District XI. Petzvál József utca 39. Open: Mon 9am-6pm, Tue-Thur 9am-3pm. Fri 9am-noon.
Like the theoretical exam, the applicant has nine months in which to take the practical exam (11,000 HUF) and two years to pass. Driving applicants outnumber driving instructors, so a failed test may mean waiting several weeks to try again.
Should the Registration Office require you to take lessons, or you decide to take them in order to pass the exam, then a contract must be drawn up between the student and the chosen driving school. Each has its own fees and guidelines. A list of Budapest-based schools is listed at the end of this article.
First-time driving applicants
If applying for a driver’s licence for the first time, much of the same information applies as the naturalisation process, as far as documents and translations. An additional 30 hours of practical training is required, completing 580 kilometres.
Tamás Kuti, who runs the appropriately named Driving School in English, explains that both online theory courses and in-classroom courses are available. This is an option offered by several of the schools, including János'. “If taking online,” Tamás says, “you can start any time after the first payment”. In-classroom lessons are organised by the school’s timetable. He further explains that the whole process takes anywhere from six weeks to three months, depending on the student.
A contract must be drawn up between the student and their school of choice. A Red Cross first aid exam is also required to receive your Hungarian driver’s licence. The First Aid course costs 10,000 forints and the exam fee is 8,200.
After the successful completion of learning materials and practical experience, the student may proceed to the exams with:
- Medical certificate (from your doctor)
- Any document which contains your mother’s name.
- Certificate of elementary or higher level qualification.
- Official translation to Hungarian from your elementary or higher-level qualification.
- Payment of the exam fee
(4,600 HUF theory exam, 11,000 HUF driving exam)
Within nine months of completing driver’s school, the theory exam must be taken – pass or fail, it does not matter. Within 12 months, the theory exam must be passed, the practical exam within two years. If the student does not attempt the theory exam within nine months of completing driver’s school, then the progress is nullified and the student must start from the beginning.