Budapest by Car
Before we get started with parking in Budapest, I would like to speak a little bit about the basic rules of driving in Hungary.
The following documents are required for driving: driving license, liability insurance, green card, registration certificate. Road signs are the same as in other European countries.
However, there are some important traffic rules that have to be followed by tourists coming to Hungary:
Seat belts: Seat belts shall be used in both front and rear seats.
Phone call: You are only allowed to talk with a speakerphone when driving, if you don’t have any, it is recommended pulling over before making a phone call to avoid penalties.
Speed: Speed limit is 50 km/h inside built-up areas, 90 km/h on road, 110 km/h on semi-motorways, and 130 km/h on motorways.
There is zero tolerance in Hungary, so the driver cannot consume any amount of alcohol. Drivers will immediately lose their license for drunk driving, and the imposed fine can exceed 300,000 HUF.
Therefore, it’s not worth driving to our accommodation even two blocks away if we had drunk alcohol, because if a cop catches us, the punishment will be just as severe as if we’ve been drunk driving around the town for hours.
Parking in Budapest
In Budapest, parking is difficult to say the least. The capital is home to nearly two million people, has plenty of cars and few free parking spaces. Drivers often get pissed off when they can’t find any parking space after 30 minutes of search. By knowing our options for parking we can save ourselves a lot of annoyance, that’s why I want to give you a few tips on how parking works in Budapest.
Where can I park in Budapest?
Parking on the Street:
After double-checking if parking is allowed in the designated area and if we had not accidentally parked in a disabled parking place, we need to buy a parking ticket.
Pay close attention not to park in a disabled parking place! It’s a serious offense, you will be penalized immediately, even with a wheel clamp!
Parking Tickets from the Parking Meter
There are different parking meters in each district of Budapest. Parking meters usually accept cash only, so you’d rather have some change with you. Parking tickets can be bought for a maximum of 3 hours, and the price of one-hour parking in the city center ranges from 470–525 HUF, that is approx. 1.3 to 1.5 euros.
The use of the parking meter is relatively easy and simple: after throwing in the money, you usually have to press the green button and it issues a parking ticket stating the date until which it is valid.
You have to place the ticket under the windshield, to a clearly visible place, so that the parking lot attendant can easily find it.
After parking, tickets must be purchased as soon as possible, which is not always easy, as you may only find a parking meter farther away. After our ticket has expired, we have 5 minutes to buy a new one.
You don’t necessarily need to buy a ticket for that few minutes when you take your luggage to your accommodation, because if someone stays in the car, he or she can run to the parking meter and buy a ticket in case a fine is issued, but the ticket must be purchased within 5 minutes of the issue of the fine.
Tricks: Unfortunately, there aren’t any. In case of a fine the check awaits us in a red bag, which is called a “package from Santa” by the Hungarians. The check must be paid in a post office within 8 days. Don’t forget to keep the delivery note, or even take photos, just in case.
A car with a foreign license plate may get a wheel clamp, so make sure to have a valid parking ticket. This is not because parking lot attendants don’t like foreigners, but because this way they will be able to enforce the penalty.
If we get a wheel clamp, we need to call the number that was placed on the car and wait for the inspectors to arrive. The penalty must be paid to them. In this case, it is worth asking for help from our host or acquaintance.
On the street, you usually have to pay for parking between 8 am and 8 pm, in some places only until 6 pm. Parking is free on weekends and on public holidays, so check which public holidays are in Hungary and which weekends are working days.
Underground Car Park or Parking Garage:
Underground Car Parks usually offer a 24-hour ticket, but in some of them the day ticket is valid until midnight.
There are two types of underground garage, automated and normal. In an automated garage you need to park in a booth and the machine will take your car and then bring it back when you need it.
I think parking garage is the best choice. Here we can pay either an hourly or a daily fee.
Always inquire about the tickets in advance or ask your host for help. You may want to contact the dispatcher service – which is a small office usually next to the entrance – before driving in or immediately after driving in and ask for daily parking. Otherwise, you will have to pay based on the ticket you get at the entrance, which can be very expensive.
If we pay a daily fee in the parking garage, we usually get an access card that we can take in and out at any time. The access card may have a deposit cost, which we will get back after use, of course.
This is, for example, a prohibition sign indicating that within 15 meters you can only stop on weekdays after 6 pm and on weekends after 2 pm:
Let’s park carefully in Budapest, a penalty or a wheel clamp can cause a lot of annoyance.