Everything you need to know about traveling through Hungary by car. Learn about borders, parking, toll roads for foreign-plated cars, where and how speeding fines will be issued, and whether you should make any stops at all.

General Information about traveling through Hungary by car

Here are some key points to help you better understand the issues about traveling through Hungary by car:

  • Hungary is a country in central Europe, a member of the EU and the Schengen Zone, but not yet part of the Eurozone. Yes, these are different unions.
  • Hungary is not a tiny country, but it’s relatively small in terms of land area. It’s approximately 270 km by 570 km in size.

Useful to know:

You can drive through Hungary by car in about 5-6 hours. The roads are excellent, with a speed limit of 130 km/h on the motorway. If you don’t plan to make stops, you may not even notice when you’ve crossed the entire country.
through Hungary by car
Toll roads in Hungary look like this: fast, smooth, and not free.

I’d also like to mention that gasoline in Hungary is slightly cheaper than in Croatia or Italy. You can pay with a card at any gas station. Whether you want to fill up your tank before crossing the border is up to you. But in Hungary, 95-octane fuel cost 1.7 euros per liter. In Italy, it was 1.85 euros

Toll Roads: Where to Buy the Vignette, Prices

All roads, both toll and toll-free, in Hungary are of excellent quality. Here’s what you need to know about the country’s toll roads if you’re driving with foreign license plates:

  • There are 2 or 3 lanes in each direction everywhere.
  • The speed limit is 110 or 130 km/h.
  • Even exceeding the speed by 1 km/h is considered a violation.

Useful to know:

The fines for speeding are very high. The minimum is 39,000 forints (about 105 euros), even for going over by 1 km/h. If a speed camera catches you, you don’t need to do anything; the fine will be automatically removed from the database after six months, assuming your car is not registered in Hungary. But if you’re caught by a police radar, you’ll have to pay the full fine. There aren’t many police officers, and radar devices are rarely used, but it can happen.
  • Everyone entering a toll road must purchase an electronic vignette.

Details on where to buy, prices, and nuances can be found in the article on traffic rules, roads, parking, and police in Hungary. There’s also a map of toll roads. These are the key points related to driving through Hungary.

  • At the moment the cheapest and shortest-term vignette is only available for 10 days. You can’t buy one for a shorter period. Even if you need to use a toll road for just 5 km, you still need to purchase a 10-day vignette.
  • The price of such a vignette is about 6400 forints (17 euros). There are also monthly and yearly options.
  • The rates for cars with Hungarian license plates and foreign plates are the same.
  • When entering a toll road, there’s only a sign like the one in the photo below, and there are no checkpoints. Everything works automatically. There are many cameras checking whether the vignette has been paid, and the fines are substantial, starting from 100 euros.

Good to know:

From March 1, 2024, there are plans to introduce 24-hour vignettes, priced at 5150 forints (around 13-15 euros).
driving around hungary by car
When driving through Hungary, make sure to purchase an electronic vignette in advance. Exiting onto toll roads looks like this. Only this sign (white in the center), as shown in the photo, indicates that a vignette is required for this road. You can accidentally enter without noticing, and then you’ll face a hefty fine.

It’s important to understand that

since there’s no way to send fines to vehicles with foreign plates, the transport police patrol the toll roads, catching non-Hungarian vehicles that haven’t purchased a vignette. It’s hard to get away with it for free, so I wouldn’t risk it.

And two more pieces of advice for those transiting through Hungary by car:

  • If desired, all toll roads can be bypassed using toll-free routes. However, the speed will be moderate, at best 60 km/h. There are many villages and populated areas. This is an adventure for the brave.
  • When buying a vignette online, remember that the database doesn’t update instantly. Your car will appear in the system within an hour. It’s better to purchase the vignette at least 2-3 hours before exiting the toll road, or you might end up with a fine.
  • Purchase the vignette only on the official website: https://toll-charge.hu/en

Important Information About Parking with Foreign License Plates

Regarding parking, parking meters, zones, prices, you can find detailed information in the link provided earlier in the article. There’s a lot of useful information. I’ll only tell you what drivers with foreign license plates need to know when driving through Hungary.

If you haven’t paid for parking, which is almost always paid, there are three possible outcomes:

  • Fine (the document will be placed under your windshield wiper)
  • Wheel clamp
  • Tow away
through hungary by car
The sign on the lower right indicates that wheel clamps are used for non-payers. It’s better to pay, even if you’re leaving your car for just 10 minutes.

In 95% of cases, it will be a document on your windshield that you can discard and do nothing about. Tow trucks operate only in the city centers and in areas where parking is not allowed at all. A savvy person wouldn’t leave their car there anyway. There are plenty of places in large cities where wheel clamps can be applied, and typically, there will be signs indicating this.

Here’s how I would handle parking when traveling through Hungary with a foreign-plated car:

In the center of Budapest and other major cities, I always pay for parking, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. In smaller towns, I check for signs and neighboring cars. If I see a car with a wheel clamp nearby, I prefer to pay. But if you’re parking outside the city or on the outskirts and not for long, in general, nothing should happen.

I’m not encouraging you to avoid paying for parking; situations can vary. Sometimes you need to leave your car for 5 minutes, or you don’t have coins, and the parking meter only accepts coins, and so on. It’s better to pay for parking always. Wheel clamp fines start from 50 euros, and towing fines can be over 100 euros.

Travel Route Through Hungary and Border Crossings

From the general points you need to know when crossing the border with Hungary:

  • If you’ve read the article about Hungary on the map of Europe, about the Schengen Zone, and its neighbors, you know that Hungary is part of the Schengen Zone, but not all its neighbors are.

Here are the key points about crossing the Hungarian border:

  • There is no customs or passport control at the borders between Hungary and Slovakia, Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia. There are no queues.
    • For example, at the Hungary-Slovakia border, there is some semblance of a border. They may even stop you just to check your passport, but it’s rare.
    • At the border with Austria, they may (and often do recently) stop vehicles to check passports. This is due to increased measures to prevent illegal migration.
  • However, the border with Serbia, Romania, and Ukraine is a full border with passport and customs controls. Since these countries are not part of the Schengen Zone, there is an entry simplified procedure, and there are usually no long queues. We typically don’t wait for more than 1-2 hours at the border. If you travel at night, it’s usually 15 minutes, and you’re through.

The Hungarian police website has an up-to-date block of information on all border crossings. You need to scroll down the page a bit, and the block will be on the right.

hungarian border
Look for a block like this on the Hungarian police website: it lists all border crossings and specifies the waiting times and directions for each type of vehicle. You can see that there are small queues (up to 1 hour) only at the borders with countries that are not in the Schengen Zone. The information is updated in real-time, well, almost.

The busiest and most popular roads for driving through Hungary are:

  • Budapest – Belgrade, through Szeged
  • Budapest – Vienna and Bratislava, where there is only one road
  • Budapest – Zagreb, through Lake Balaton. This is Route E71, and most people use it to go to the sea in Croatia.

Advice for those driving through Hungary:

Hungary is not just Budapest; there are many cool places to explore. Even if you’re in a rush to the mountains in Austria or the seaside in Croatia, make a stop for a day or a couple of hours in a Hungarian town. Not many know, but almost every town, not just Budapest, has outdoor thermal baths.

Here are three articles that will help you choose a stopping point when traveling through Hungary:

toll roads in hungary for foreigners
Driving through Hungary is not just about “filling up, getting coffee, and hitting the road again.” For informed travelers, it’s also about thermal baths. In the photo, the i’m searching for a worthy opponent at the chessboard in the Anna Thermal Bath in Szeged, which is located on the main road from Budapest to Belgrade, just 7 km from the Serbian border.

In conclusion, for most people, driving through Hungary takes about 4-5 hours without stops. In my opinion, this is a big mistake. I recommend taking a break at a thermal bath and simply relaxing for an evening, having some Hungarian wine, and enjoying the hot springs. But even if you don’t have time, don’t forget to pay for parking and buy a vignette in advance, or you’ll be on the free roads for an eternity.

IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel