Thinking about renting a car in Budapest?
This article contains everything you need to know about renting a car in Budapest. It includes the best places to rent a car, what documents you will need to bring and day trip ideas once you have your rental car in Budapest.
We also offer helpful advice and useful tips on how to get around the city if you decide that hiring a car in Budapest is not right for you.
Budapest is a fascinating, year-round destination offering something for everyone. Whether you choose to cruise on the Danube, visit the National Gallery at Buda Castle, take the waters at Széchenyi Baths or explore the hip side of the city with its murals and flea markets, we guarantee you will find something to love in this eclectic and intriguing city.
Budapest is also an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding area. Visit fairytale castles and palaces, learn about Hungarian culture and history, enjoy lake watersports or challenge yourself on a hiking trail. One of the highlights of our trip to Budapest was our fun road trip to the beautiful wine region of Etyek, which is an easy day trip from the capital.
Is It A Good Idea To Rent A Car In Budapest?
There are pros and cons to renting a car in Budapest. Whether you decide to use a Budapest car rental depends on your travel style, your budget and your confidence as a driver.
Advantages of renting a car in Budapest
✅ Using a Budapest car rental provides the flexibility to go where you want when you want to.
✅ If you rent a car in Budapest, you will not have to use public transport and all that it entails – travelling to a schedule, queuing and lugging your luggage on and off buses.
✅ If you have mobility issues or are travelling with kids or elderly parents, using a Budapest rent a car will be easier using public transport. It will allow you to visit all the Budapest attractions on your list.
✅ Having your own car will enable you to take easy day trips from Budapest and to see and experience more of Hungary. Some of the day trip locations mentioned later in this article are inaccessible by car or would take too long to get to by public transport.
Disadvantages of a car rental Budapest Hungary
⚠️ It is important to know that if you want to rent a car Budapest traffic is challenging to drive in. You will experience congestion and slow-moving traffic at any time of the day. Driving in Budapest is not for inexperienced – or impatient – drivers.
⚠️ If you are a solo or budget traveller hoping to use a rental car Budapest prices may come as a shock. It may be more cost-effective for you to use the city’s cheap public transport.
⚠️ Like most European cities, parking in Budapest is limited and finding a parking space can be challenging. Hourly parking fees are cheap, but costs will quickly mount if you park somewhere overnight or embark on a full day’s sightseeing.
Budapest is divided into different parking zones, and each zone charges a different fee. You can expect to pay between HUF 175 (€0.45) and HUF 440 (€1.20) for parking. It is important to know that parking in the wrong place or paying the wrong fee could land you a fine of up to €200 or a wheel clamp on your car.
If you are only visiting Budapest, we feel that the disadvantages of using a car in Budapest outweigh the advantages.
For this reason, we recommend doing your Budapest city centre sightseeing without a car. Save your car rental for when you want to take day trips from the city or set off on a longer Hungarian road trip.
This is what we chose to do, and it worked perfectly for us.
Is It Safe To Drive In Hungary?
If you are planning on renting a car in Budapest, you will no doubt be wondering how safe it is to drive in Hungary.
In our experience, we found Hungary safe to drive in – or as safe as any other European country is. Road conditions are good with adequate and accurate signage (though the signs may be in Hungarian, especially outside of urban areas).
Watch out for aggressive drivers or for people trying to pull you over in isolated areas.
Hiring A Car In Budapest: Logistics
Is it easy to drive in Budapest?
Like any built-up European city, driving is not easy in Budapest.
Roads are in good condition and well organised, but there will inevitably be heavy, slow-moving traffic and limited parking options. This is why we think visitors are better off renting a car in Budapest once they are ready to leave the city to explore other parts of Hungary.
What’s the best way to rent a car in Budapest?
We think the best way of renting a car in Budapest is to use Discover Cars. We always use Discover Cars whenever we travel, and they haven’t disappointed us yet!
Discover Cars is an easy-to-use comparison website. It compares the different models of cars available for your travel dates and lists the cars in order of price and review ratings.
We find the detailed specifications useful for deciding which car to get, and we like knowing what to expect when we pick up our car. Other plus points are no hidden fees and free cancellation so that we can keep our travel plans flexible if needed.
As Budapest is a popular tourist destination all year round, we recommend booking a car with Discover Cars well in advance of your trip.
Shall I rent a car in Budapest Airport?
We only recommend car rental in Budapest airport if you are planning to leave the city immediately to start your Hungarian road trip. If you are staying in the city, you don’t need a car.
Car rental at Budapest airport is a similar price to city centre rental depots. If you rent a car in Budapest airport, you will have the added headache of having to drive the car into the city centre.
If you’re planning on spending a few days in Budapest, we recommend making your own way to the city centre by taxi, transfer or public transport. Do your sightseeing on foot or by public transport and then return to rent a car in Budapest Hungary airport when you are ready to leave the city.
However, if you must use one of the rental car Budapest Airport depots upon arrival, we recommend booking your car in advance. This will help to avoid queues on arrival and disappointment if the car you want is unavailable.
What type of rental car in Budapest shall I go for?
Before hiring a car in Budapest, you need to work out which car is the best for you. Think about how many passengers you have and how much luggage space you will need.
We advise booking a car similar to the type of car you drive at home. If you are not used to driving – or parking – large SUV cars – Budapest is not the time to start!
Similarly, if you only drive automatic cars at home, hire an automatic car in Budapest.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Budapest Hungary?
The cost of renting a car in Budapest will vary according to the type and size of the car you are renting. You will pay a little more if you are visiting around major holidays such as Christmas. Generally, renting a car in Hungary is super affordable.
For example, using Discover Cars, the cost of hiring a five-door Ford Focus for one week in the peak season month of August costs from £195 / €223.
If you were to hire the same car for one week over Christmas, you would pay from £201 / €231.
If you want to rent a luxury car in Budapest, you will need to pay a lot more. For example, a five-door Mercedes C Class will cost from £497 / €571 for one week over Christmas.
Extra charges to be aware of
If you are planning a one-way road trip, you will need to drop off your rental car at a different location from where you picked it up.
This gives you flexibility in your schedule and can save you valuable time, but the car hire company will penalise you for it (the extra charge is called “one-way fee”). The cheapest rental car prices are for a round-trip drop-off.
For example, a return pick up from one of the car rental Budapest airport depots costs from £194 / €223 in August. If you were to drop the car back to Debrecen Airport in Hungary, the same car for the same week would cost from £411 / €472. This is a massive price hike!
It is also essential that you fill up with petrol before dropping your car back at the rental depot. If you drop off your car with an empty tank – or with less petrol in the tank than what you started with – you will be charged a penalty fee in addition to the cost of refilling the tank.
This is the easiest charge to avoid but trust us, it can add a lot of stress at the last minute. We advise planning ahead; use an online map to find somewhere to fill up on the route back to the rental depot.
Plus, Budapest rent a car companies will charge an extra fee for additional drivers. We always pay for an additional driver when we travel. Sharing the driving allows each of us a chance to sit back and enjoy the scenery, and it also covers us should one of us be taken ill.
Finally, depending on your age, the rental company may charge an additional fee if you are under 25 and are classed as a ‘young driver.’
What are the best car rental companies in Budapest?
There are lots of companies from which you can pick up a rental car in Budapest. You can expect familiar brand names such as Thrifty, Alamo and Sixt. There are also lesser-known companies, such as Klass Wagen.
To save you time and stress – and to find you the best available car at the best price – we recommend booking in advance with Discover Cars.
Car Rental Budapest: Requirements
Can you rent a car in Budapest and drive abroad?
If you are visiting Hungary as part of a longer European road trip, you will be pleased to know that it is possible to hire a car in Budapest and take it across the border into other European countries.
However, you must get permission from your rent a car Budapest company, and we advise getting this permission by email or in writing. You will also be required to pay a ‘cross border fee’, which covers additional insurance and taxes for driving in other countries.
Can a US citizen rent a car in Hungary?
If you are hiring a car in Budapest and are a U.S. citizen, you must be over 18 and have had your license for one year. You can use a valid U.S. license, but only if you have a certified Hungarian translation attached to it.
For this reason, we advise getting an International Drivers Permit (IDP) in advance of your trip to Hungary.
More than 150 countries accept the International Driver’s Permit, so it is a perfect option for frequent travellers.
U.S. residents can get an International Driver’s Permit if they are over 18 years old and have a valid U.S. license. You can apply for an IDP online or at any AAA office in the United States.
Can a UK citizen rent a car in Hungary?
If you are a UK citizen who wishes to use a rental car Budapest you can hire a car and drive using solely a valid UK licence. You must be over 18 and have held your licence for one year.
International Drivers Permits are also accepted.
Do you need an international drivers license to rent a car in Hungary?
You don’t need an International Drivers Permit to rent a car in Hungary. But if you are a U.S. citizen, you will need a Hungarian translation of your licence. If you’re a driving licence holder from any other EU country, your licence is valid in Hungary, too.
It is simpler and less confusing to get an IDP in advance of your trip.
Do I need insurance when I hire a car in Budapest?
It is essential to take out insurance when renting a car in Budapest.
You may have insurance as part of your credit card contract, but we often find that these policies are insufficient for renting a car and driving abroad. If you choose to stick with your credit card car insurance, it is essential to check the small print so you know exactly what is – and what isn’t – included.
We always choose to take out full insurance coverage with Discover Cars. We like the peace of mind of knowing that we and the rental car are covered for all eventualities. Plus, we feel reassured that anyone, or any car or property, involved in an accident with us is also covered.
Do I need a vignette in Hungary?
A vignette is a digital toll ticket. It is compulsory for drivers to use a digital vignette (also called an e-Matrica) on all highways in Hungary.
The price of the vignette differs according to the vehicle you are driving and the duration of the pass you want. You can choose between 10 days, one month or one year.
You will need to check with your chosen rental company if your rental car comes with a vignette; some do, some don’t.
If the car doesn’t have a vignette, you will need to buy one from a local post office, petrol station or when crossing the border into Hungary. You can also buy a vignette online in advance from the e-Matrica website.
The cost of a 10-day vignette for a standard car is 5500 Ft (€14.23). The cost for a one-month pass is 8900 Ft (€23).
It is essential to display your ticket on your windscreen at all times to avoid fines. We also recommend keeping your purchase receipt safe in case you lose the vignette.
Practical Tips Before You Hire A Car In Budapest + Tips On Driving In Hungary
🚗 Pick up your car when you’re ready to leave Budapest
We recommend renting a car in Budapest when you have completed your city centre sightseeing and are ready to explore other parts of Hungary.
This will save you money, time and stress driving in busy Budapest and having to find limited parking.
You can use a Budapest airport car rental depot or a company based in the city centre.
🚗 Check if your rental car already has a vignette for Hungary
Before you buy your own vignette, double-check with your rental car company if your hire car has one. If it does, double-check the validity of the pass to avoid nasty surprises later on.
🚗 Get a full insurance cover
If you’re thinking of using a rental car in Budapest, we recommend getting full insurance coverage.
It may seem expensive, but it is a tiny fraction of your overall trip costs. When road traffic accidents are the leading cause of injury or death to travellers abroad, why take the risk of driving without full insurance? To us, the risk is simply not worth it.
We recommend and use Discover Cars full insurance policy.
🚗 Record the condition of the car
We are continually shocked by the number of times we witness people picking up a rental car and driving off without recording the condition of their rental car.
We think it is essential to carefully check and record the condition of your car before you leave the rental depot; otherwise, you have no backup if the company charges you a damage fee when you return the car.
Start by checking any damage that is already noted on the paperwork for the rental car. Is this accurately recorded both in the level of damage and location on the car? If not, ask a rental car employee to change the paperwork and sign it.
Then, slowly and carefully check the rest of the car (including the interior) for any damage that might have been missed.
Take close-up photos or videos, and don’t forget to focus on problem areas such as the front and rear bumpers, the windscreen and headlights.
If you see any damage, no matter how small, ask the rental agent to add it to the paperwork and to sign it. We always save a copy of our photos and videos, just in case.
🚗 Book your rental car in Budapest in advance
Budapest is a popular tourist destination, and many visitors plan on renting a car in Budapest to explore other regions of Hungary.
To avoid disappointment – and to avoid having to pay higher than expected prices for last-minute in-demand cars – always book your rental car in advance of your trip.
If you book with Discover Cars, you have the reassurance of free, no-fuss cancellations should your travel plans change.
🚗 Use your credit card
We recommend paying for your rental car with a credit card. Your credit card also acts as insurance or protection for the rental company should you return their car with any damage.
If you pay for your car hire with a debit card, this ‘insurance’ is taken as a blocking fee from your bank account. The blocking fee is taken in cash, which is returned to you when you return the car undamaged.
However, if you have a spending cap on your debit card, the blocking fee will count towards it. This happened to us, and it seriously affected our access to money for our trip.
🚗 Stay within speed limits
Safe, careful driving is encouraged in Hungary. That is why there is zero alcohol tolerance and why every driver must do a first aid course as part of their licence qualification. Driving misdemeanours in Hungary receive strict penalties and on-the-spot fines – and that includes tourists who speed.
It is essential to stick to national and local speed limits. There will be no leniency for tourists.
The speed limit in Hungary is 50 kph in built-up residential areas, 90 kph on open roads, 110 kph on major roads and 130 kph on highways.
🚗 In Hungary, there is zero alcohol tolerance
Hungary has a zero-alcohol policy when it comes to driving. You are not allowed to drink anything, no matter how small or how weak the alcohol content, before getting behind the wheel. It’s one of the reasons we felt safe driving in Hungary.
There are harsh penalties for anyone found drinking and driving.
🚗 Research where you can park in Budapest
As we mentioned earlier, Budapest is divided into different parking zones with different parking fees.
There are limited parking spots within each zone, so we think you are better off researching multi-storey or underground car parks before you set off on your journey. Knowing where you will park (and how much it will cost) will save you time and stress.
The Parkl app is a helpful tool to find parking in Budapest.
Best Places To Visit With A Rental Car In Budapest
Once you have organised renting a car in Budapest, you now need to decide where to drive it!
The following locations are our top recommendations of places to visit near Budapest with a rental car.
Lake Balaton is described as Hungary’s outdoor playground. It is the largest lake in central Europe (80 kilometres long) and its shallowest lake.
It lies southwest of the capital and is a popular destination with tourists and locals all year round. You could spend days exploring the lake and the surrounding countryside.
You can laze on artificial sandy beaches or spend the day cycling sections of the lakeside on designated, separate bike lanes.
In summer, you can enjoy watersports such as fishing, sailing and kayaking. Plus, with an average water temperature of 25 C in summer, the lake is perfect for swimming.
In winter, visitors can go ice fishing or, if the lake freezes over, ice skating or sledging.
Allocate time to wander the charming town of Tihany and its 11th-century Benedictine Abbey or the mediaeval Szigliget Castle.
The town of Visegrád, north of Budapest, was once the capital of Hungary in the 14th century. Sitting on the northern banks of the Danube, the town is today most famous for its mediaeval Citadel, which sits on top of a steep hill overlooking the Danube Bend.
Visitors can climb a long set of wooden stairs to reach the ruins of the Citadel, which houses displays about what life was like in Hungary in the mediaeval era.
The exhibits are interesting, but we think the highlight is undoubtedly the stunning views from the citadel over the Danube and the surrounding area.
A visit to Visegrád can be combined with a visit to the Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum, which is a short detour off the main driving route from Budapest to Visegrád.
The main attraction in Gödöllő to the east of Budapest is the 18th-century Royal Palace, the summer residence of the Hungarian Royal Family. Considered to be Hungary’s version of the Palace of Versailles, the Royal Palace is the second-largest Baroque castle in the world.
The palace and its grounds fell into disrepair during the communist era, but recent painstaking renovations have returned the palace and its beautiful grounds to its former glory.
Visitors can tour 31 fully furnished rooms charting the history of the castle – and its inhabitants – from the 18th century to the present day.
The pretty town of Tata northwest of Budapest is a laid-back, historic town set around a picturesque lake.
Its principal attractions include Tata Castle, the 25-hectare Agostyán Arboretum and the 18th-century Eszterházy Palace, as well as several churches, gardens and viewpoints.
If you like tranquil walks in nature, we recommend the two-hour Fényes Trail. The trail runs along wooden boardwalks through woodland and over swamps. Don’t forget your binoculars for spotting wildlife.
Tata is a good day or half-day trip to take a break from busy Budapest and to experience the small town of Hungary.
This stunning ravine and woodland hike is one of the most popular hiking trails in Hungary. It lies north of Budapest and can be combined with a visit to Visegrád.
Visitors must park in Dömös, where the trails start from. There are two trails – a 10-kilometre trail and a longer, challenging 17-kilometre trail, which should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
What to expect on the Rám-szakadék
The shorter 10-kilometre trail is doable by novice hikers, but it is still challenging in parts. It is essential to wear sturdy, waterproof, good-gripping shoes. You will also need to bring all your own food and drink as there are no facilities on the trail.
The trail is one way to avoid congestion in dangerous sections. From Dömös, it heads towards Dobogókő, eventually looping back to Dömös. Expect to clamber over rocks, walk through woodland and hike through rivers and waterfalls. You should expect to get wet feet!
The 10-kilometre trail includes a one-kilometre section climbing a volcanic gorge. Metal handrails and metal steps will help you, but you must take care. The cliff sides rise to 35 metres high in places and can narrow to just 4 metres, so rescuing you won’t be easy!
The trail is doable with children who are old enough and tall enough to use the handrails independently.
You should allocate between 3 – 6 hours for the trail. It is well-signposted, but we recommend picking up a map of the trail in Dömös.
📍Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum
This engaging open-air museum is the largest museum in Hungary.
Skanzan is a ‘living museum’ where you can visit houses and buildings from each region of Hungary and from different historical periods. Some of the buildings date back hundreds of years. Collecting 400 buildings together in one place showcases the rich cultural heritage of Hungary and shows visitors how diverse the country is.
There are exhibitions about Hungarian history, farming and folklore and you can also meet the people who ‘live’ in the houses who will tell you about their daily life and work. You can learn about life in rural and urban Hungary in both past and present.
We think it is a fascinating place to visit and a must-do attraction if you are travelling with kids.
Guided tours are available, plus there are guided bike tours. There is also a small railway to help visitors get from one part of the enormous site to another.
Best of all, the museum only costs €8 to enter. There are discounts available for students, children and families.
Best Day Trips From Budapest Without A Car
If renting a car in Budapest is not for you, don’t despair. There are several fantastic day trips you can take from the capital without the need for a rental car.
Wine Tasting Tour In Etyek
WHY TAKE THIS TOUR?
This half-day morning or afternoon tour will take you to one of the best wine regions in Hungary. Etyek is famous for its white and sparkling wines.
We loved our day trip to Etyek, but using our own car meant one of us was unable to sample all the delicious wines on offer. If we visit again, we will take a tour and let someone else do the driving whilst we enjoy the drinking!
This tour is limited to just 12 people and offers free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure.
After your Budapest hotel pick-up, it is a short 30-minute drive to the Etyek region. During your visits to the wine cellars, you learn about the soil of the region, the history of growing grapes here and how the wine is made and stored.
Each stop involves wine tasting and snacks. The final stop on the tour is for dinner.
Children are not allowed on the tour, and there is a required minimum number for the tour to run. We think this tour is good value for money for everything that is included in it.
Private Guided Tour To Szentendre & Visegrád Castle
WHY TAKE THIS TOUR?
This private tour to the area known as the Danube Bend includes Szentendre and Visegrad Citadel. The tour allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure, and unlike most tours, this tour is accessible by wheelchair users.
After departing Budapest, the first stop is Szentendre Skanzen’s open-air museum, where you will have two hours to explore. You will then continue to Visegrád, where you will tour the Citadel and have free time to explore the picturesque town before returning to Budapest.
Private Tour From Budapest To Lake Balaton
WHY TAKE THIS TOUR?
This personal, private group tour will allow you to see different locations around the lake, more than you would probably see on a large group coach tour. Plus, unlike many tours, it allows children and provides car seats.
The tour allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure.
The first stop on the tour is a short stop at a scenic viewpoint at Balatonakarattya overlooking the lake. You will then continue to the town of Balatonfüred, where you have 40 minutes to explore.
The next stop is a 1.5-hour stop at Tihany, where you can visit the 11th-century Benedictine Abbey. After that, you will take a short 8-minute ferry ride across the lake before returning to Budapest.
How To Get Around Budapest Without A Car
If this article has shown you that renting a car in Budapest is not the right choice for you, you can get around Budapest cheaply and easily by public transport.
By public transport
Budapest has a good metro, tram and bus system. You can also travel around by boat on the Danube during the spring and summer months.
Visitors can buy single tickets for uninterrupted trips or timed tickets, which give unlimited travel during a given time frame (usually 30 or 90 minutes).
You can also buy 24-hour or 72-hour travel passes, which give unlimited travel on all city centre public transport (except the Danube boats).
A solo 24-hour card costs 2,500 Ft (€6.50), or you can buy a group card for up to five people (ideal for families) for 5,000 Ft (€13). A solo 72-hour card costs 5,500 Ft (€14.20). As you can see, public transport in Budapest is very cost-effective compared to other European capitals.
Tourists also have the option to buy a Budapest Card, which gives free entry or discounts into over 30 city centre attractions as well as free travel on public transport for the duration of the card.
The Budapest Cards have different time periods and prices. For example, a 24-hour card costs €29, a 48-hour card costs €56, whilst a 72-hour card costs €87.
Is there Uber in Budapest?
Uber has been banned in Hungary since 2016; in fact, there are no unlicensed taxis in Hungary at all.
If you want to use a taxi, we recommend using the Bolt app to order and pay for your taxi.
Is Budapest walkable?
Budapest is a very walkable city; we would go so far as to say that walking is the best way to appreciate the character and architecture of this beautiful city.
Many city centre attractions are within walking distance of each other, and several pedestrianised streets make walking even easier.
Make sure you pack comfy shoes for your trip and watch out for bicycles on Budapest’s walkways.
However, if you want a change from walking, here are a couple of fun options you can try.
Budapest Bike Tour
Over the last few years, Budapest has emerged as a bike-friendly city. It is a clean, green and fun way to explore this lovely city.
This highly rated Budapest bike tour takes visitors on a 3-hour guided tour of the city. The group is limited to 15 people, so it is easy to cycle together.
This tour passes by all the major attractions and is a great way to get your bearings if you are new to the city. Plus, your English-speaking guide will introduce you to the history and culture of Budapest. The longer 4-hour tour includes a refuelling coffee and cake stop.
The tour price includes a bike and a helmet and allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before your tour. Note that the tour operates in all weather, so make sure you dress appropriately!
Some of the tour follows bike paths, but some will be on city streets, so it is important to be a confident cyclist.
Budapest Segway Tour
Segways are an increasingly popular form of transport in European cities, and Budapest is no exception. It is a fun way to explore a city with little physical effort!
This 2.5-hour tour will glide you past Budapest’s major attractions. The price includes a guide, your segway and a helmet. You can also pick your departure time, which we think is a huge bonus!
There are a total of 23 stops on this tour so that you will cover a lot of the city in a short time.
Renting A Car In Budapest: Final Thoughts
Renting a car in Budapest is best saved for when you have finished your city centre sightseeing and are ready to explore the rest of Hungary.
And we recommend you get out and explore. Hungary is so much more than just Budapest, and some of our best days on our trip to Hungary were spent discovering new places outside Budapest.
Hiring a car in Budapest is easy and relatively affordable, and with the right preparation, we found driving in Hungary safe and easy.
So, what are you waiting for? 🚗🌲