Where and What to Hire
There are plenty of options when it comes to hiring a car in Budapest. Major international car rental companies Sixt, Hertz, Europecar and Hungarorent Car are all available at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. In the city centre, Europecar and Sixt are available in district XIII in Pest, Aivs and Europecar in district VI in Pest and Fox AutoRent in district XXII, also in Pest. Across the water in Buda in Lagymanos is United Rent. A wide selection of cars are available for hire from two-door city cars, family four door vehicles with large boot space, 4x4’s, vans and even luxury limousines.
Driving in Budapest can be an unnerving experience due to the volume of traffic on the roads, the number of one way streets and rules different to UK roads such as giving way to cars coming from your right. Cycling has become a lot more common in Budapest over the years and the city and outskirts now have over 190km of cycle tracks. Some are integrated into the road system, some are on the pavements. Some bicycle lanes are shared with car lanes so it is best to stay vigilant for cyclists. Rush hour in Budapest is from 7.30am to 9.30am and from 4pm to 6.30pm. It is worth avoiding driving in the city at these times. If planning on using any of the motorways, drivers must have purchased a vignette, or sticker from their mobile, a post office of petrol station. They come in 4 day, 1 week, 1 month and 1 year denominations.
Parking in Budapest is divided into zones with different hourly fees, however all parking between 8am and 6pm incurs a charge. (This information is correct as of 7 April 2015) Zone 1 is 440 HUF per hour for a maximum of 3 hours, Zone 2 is 265 HUF per hour for a maximum of 3 hours and Zone 3 is 175 per hour for a maximum of 3 hours. Some areas, such as the Grand Boulevard and the Danube area charge for parking from 8am to 8pm. On weekends and bank holidays, parking is free but spaces fill up quickly. Park and Ride car parks are available for those who want to leave their cars for longer periods of time as on street parking is usually time limited. Multi-storey car parks and 24 hour ‘garages’ are also open 24 hours a day.
Where to Go and What to See
While a car may not be necessary in the city centre, it is excellent for seeing the surrounding area. A half an hour drive north of Budapest is the lovely village of Szentendre which has a Mediterranean feel, narrowing winding cobbled streets, museums, cafes, romantic Baroque architecture and a beautiful Serbian Orthodox church; perfect for couples wanting to escape the bustle of Budapest. For anyone with an interest in wine, the Etyek wine region is a must see. Just 17 miles from Budapest it can be reached by car in 30 minutes. Here, vintage wines and champagnes are locally made and can be tasted on site. To see the second largest Baroque palace in the world, make the 40 minute journey north east to Gödöllő where this exquisite former summer residence of Queen Elisabeth and Francis Joseph of the Hapsburg Empire, waits to be explored. For those who are happy to drive for an hour and a half, stunning Lake Balaton is approximately 83 miles from Budapest. Here, the whole family can enjoy the breath-taking surroundings of this giant freshwater lake. This hugely popular summer holiday resort offers spas, wine tasting, national parks, lake swimming, canoeing at sunset, windsurfing, sailing, horse riding and much more. In winter the lake freezes and attracts hundreds of skaters and ice hockey enthusiasts to its frozen facade.