Driving in Hungary

by Réka Morvay on September 2, 2010

If you’re new to driving in Hungary, it pays to keep in mind that some things are different from home (wherever home may be).

SOME MAJOR FEATURES

Most Hungarian signs are picture signs, not written signs. This actually makes things easier for foreigners because you don’t have to try to decipher Hungarian code when you’re driving. Most picture signs are self-evident, but here are a few you really should memorize.

The thing that gets most people (myself included) when driving in Hungary, is the yielding rule. By default, you should always yield to the car coming from your right. Can’t tell you how many near-scrapes I escaped because I followed the American rule of “first to the intersection has right of way” rule. No. Even if  you arrived first at the intersection, the car coming from your right always has the right of way in an otherwise unmarked intersection. This was thoroughly explained to me by my One Sure Insurance agent.

No turning on red. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget that a red means red in Hungary. So no right turns on a red light, unless you have a separate green arrow light.

Zero tolerance on alcohol. Can’t get away with having a beer or wine with dinner,  and then driving home. You can lose your license this way. It’s not just a fine, it’s losing your license.

Adults and children must wear a seat belt, both in the front and in the back. Children shorter than 150 cm and younger than 12 years old may not sit in the front passenger seat. Children under 12 and shorter than 150 cm should be seated in an appropriate car seat or booster seat in the back.

You must have your drivers license, car registration papers and proof of insurance with you at all times.

Only hands-free cell phones may be used while driving. You can’t have a cell phone in your hand while driving.

When using the highways (designated with an M, such as M1, M7, M5, M3, M0, etc), you must purchase a vignette or sticker before driving onto the highway. These “stickers” a virtual these days, so you don’t actually get a sticker to put on your windshield. You can purchase virtual stickers at gas stations, post offices or through your cell phone. They are available for 4 days, 1 week, 1 month and 1 year periods. Retain your invoice for the virtual sticker in the car for 1 year, as this is your proof of purchase. Exception: All of these highways have segments (around major cities like Budapest or Székesfehérvár) where the stickers are not necessary. So when driving around Budapest suburbs, you don’t need to get a sticker until you see the sign on the right.

Finally, invest in a good GPS system when driving around Hungary. Streets are not clearly marked, and getting around often depends on a intimate understanding of local conditions. Directions from locals often sound like “and then you will see a red storefront on the right, bear left and when you come to the powder blue house, turn left. You can’t miss it.” You will save yourself a lot of grief with a good GPS.

What Hungarian driving rules do YOU wish you had known before you started driving here?

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