Budapest Parking Basics
Whether you thought you could get away with it, were running a little late, or have just forgotten, there’s a good chance that at some point in your stay in Budapest you’ll find a little red or blue plastic bag clipped under your car’s wiper. In it will be a receipt and a yellow bill (“csekk”) that you can use to pay the fine. In order to avoid the extra trip to the post office, here’s a guide to help you decipher the myriad of parking options in the city. And, since parking enforcement in the city is deadly efficient, here are also a few words on what steps to take when you do get that ticket.
For beginners: park it, pay it
Metered parking is available on most non-pedestrian streets in Budapest. Have plenty of coins ready, but beware…not all machines have been adjusted to take the relatively new 200 HUF coins, and you have to have at least enough to pay the minimum amount required (which varies according to region). Once you’ve reached the desired time (on the readout), press the green button and take the resulting receipt to your car. Place the paper on your dashboard, print-side up, so that it is visible by parking inspectors.
How much for how long
The hourly fee in the city limits varies greatly depending on where you park. Certain areas are off-limits, such as most of Margit Island and the Castle District. Click here for a map that defines the different zones and the parking fees charged.
Pay by phone
You can pay for parking using your mobile phone in many areas of the central city. Once you register your Hungarian mobile phone number and license plate with the parking authority (a one-off proposition, done by calling the number on the meter and following the phone tree) you can activate a paid period by ringing the number on the meter closest to your parking space. There is a minimal charge (75 HUF) for using the service each time, and a maximum amount of time that you can park without reactivation (usually three hours). Make sure to call the same number before driving off, otherwise you’ll be charged for the maximum time period.
Park and Ride (P+R)
These parking lots can usually be found close to metro or bus stations. Since driving downtown can be such a drag, this is an excellent way to take advantage of the public transportation options, even if you live out in the burbs. Click here for map of the P+R lots around the city.
Once you enter the mall with your car, you will get a ticket at the gates. You have to keep that ticket with you the whole time, and when you’re done shopping, validate your ticket at the parking machines before you get back to your car. The time period that you pay for covers the hours spent at the mall. Although license scanners are increasingly used to activate the exit gate, don’t assume that this is always the case, unless you want a significant bill for swing-gate repair. So if the arm doesn’t auto-magically open, insert the paid ticket into the machine at the exit.
Both Ferihegy 1 and 2 have long and short term parking. Neither is cheap, but both are close to the terminals and in ample supply. Ferihegy 2 recently installed coin changing machines next to its short term parking meters. This saves you the hassle of having to choose between the walk from long term parking and the extra suitcase previously needed to carry the necessary change. Guarded parking, which is also available, is another matter.
If your ticket has expired, and was originally for less than one hour, then you are given a 5 minute grace period. If you paid for more than an hour, then you’re allowed 15 extra minutes.
Meter out of service
If the meter closest your car is out of service, you are not off the hook. You still need to go find another one and purchase a ticket there. If you get a fine for not having a ticket, the company will not accept the excuse that the meter was not working.
So, You Finally Got a Ticket
You get back to your car only to find a red or blue little gift on your windshield. Inside, it has a small picture of your car with information and a bill, which you should pay as soon as possible. In general, the easiest, and most common way to pay is by dropping into a post office. You have to transfer the information from the readout slip to the yellow “csekk.” If your Hungarian isn’t up to the job, ask the clerk for help. You can also go to the central parking office and pay by cash or bank cards. If you don’t pay the fine within five days of incurring the violation, you will have to pay significantly more money. If you let it go past 30 days, forget sending the kids to college. It continues to increase periodically, and you may be taken to court.
Fővárosi Közterületi Parkolási Társulás (FKPT)
1054 Budapest, Vigyázó F. u. 2
Nailed, even though you had a valid permit
This sometimes happens when the inspector cannot see all the necessary information on your receipt. If you have a valid slip that proves you did in fact pay the appropriate parking fee, you can ask the metropolitan parking service to cancel your fine.
Note that it is always the owner of the car who has to pay the fine, even if that person wasn’t responsible for the parking violation.
Paying the inspector in cash
Nice try. Once the inspector has taken a picture of your car, they are not able to delete it. So if a he/she tells you that you can pay in cash to get rid of the problem, don’t believe them. You’re better off with getting the fine, and paying that amount instead of donating to the inspector’s smoking fund, then having to pay the fine as well.
Otherwise known as the Denver Boot, getting it hurts. The idea, though, is that you deserved it by parking where you shouldn’t have, validated ticket or not. The upside is that your car hasn’t been towed yet. There will be a notice on the driver’s side window indicating where you should call to get your car de-clamped. The fee costs 11,500HUF, and can be paid on the spot by cash. You can also pay the bill at a post office, or by bank transfer.
It gets worse: you’ve been towed
Here’s the same general scenario as the clampee; that is to say you’ve parked in a no-parking zone, but perhaps this time you’ve blocked the emergency drive to a kiddie hospital, or decided that Hero’s square is just too conveniently close to the Fine Arts museum. If you are lucky enough to find the sticker where your car used to be, call the number on it to start the process of retrieving your car. The fee can be anywhere from 14,500HUR to 20,000HUF. If you don’t fetch your car within six months, the government has the right to sell it.
Parking tickets and selling your car
While the overdue parking tickets don’t disappear from the system by virtue of a sale, a title transfer won’t adversely affect other parts of your life, like immigration. And conversely, since the tickets are tagged to the owner by the date received, you won’t be stuck with someone else’s unpaid fines. Read the detailed guide on dealing with speed tickets and parking fines here.
All in all, parking in the city isn’t as difficult as in many other major European cities. Spaces are wide enough for the average car, and are often available if you’re up for a short stroll. Parking fines are relatively cheap (around 1500HUF), granted you get to a post office within the first five days. If it’s still too daunting after reading this, consider public transport, which might just get you there faster anyway.