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Think gorgeous baroque-era architecture, and you’re probably thinking of Budapest. Central Europe’s diamond in the rough, Budapest provides the perfect balance between the natural environment and man’s structural and technological endeavours. Many a day can be spent strolling through the city’s historic streets, but there is much to be seen on the outskirts as well. Only an hour away are some of the world’s oldest castles, as well as great restaurants where visitors can dine on a few of the country’s most staple dishes. The network of roads in the country is developed enough to make daytripping by car a breeze.
Who to Book With
Popular international rental companies, including Budget and Sixt, make their services available in the city, although there are also a few local agencies as well. Online booking is the best way to avoid disappointment and ensure that a vehicle is secured. Most car rental agencies can be found at the airport, at the railway station and at large hotels.
Best time to go
The climate in the city can best be described as temperate, boasting hot summers and wet winters. Summer peaks in July and August with the mercury rising to highs of 30°C. This is also the peak tourism season, and prices at this time are quite high. Advanced bookings are recommended. Drivers should be particularly careful during November, when the city sees the highest volume of rain.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your car, don’t forget to bring along the following items:
The credit card used to make the booking
A national driving licence or an International Driving Permit
A comprehensive insurance policy, although this can be arranged when picking up the vehicle
Budapest is not the easiest of cities to drive around, as the city centre is certainly not vehicle-friendly. Road works are unfortunately common in the CBD, and some areas, including the Castle District, are off limits to vehicles without permits. Travellers who are insistent on driving in the centre should carry a reliable map and perhaps even a GPS system. The best way to get around the city centre is by the reliable public transport system. Getting around the outskirts of the city is much better done by self-drive, however.
Parking in the city can be just as frustrating as driving itself. There is very little street parking, although there are many large car parks. Popular parks include V Szervita tér 8 and VIII Kálvin tér. Drivers are only permitted to park their car for three hours in many of the parks, and those who go overtime could have their vehicles towed. Rates are calculated according to the hour.
While driving in the city centre can be quite difficult, the public transport system is the complete opposite. Operated by BKV, the integrated network of buses, trams, metro and trains is cheap and efficient. The best way of exploring the roads less travelled, however, is still by car.
The metro is an underground train network that consists of three lines – red, which connects the Southern Railway Station to Eastern Pest, yellow, which connects the City Park to Pest city centre, and blue, which goes to the airport. Travellers have the choice of purchasing single journey tickets, day passes (valid for 24 hours) or a ticket booklet valid for the passengers’ chosen number of days.
Buses and Trams
The bus system in Budapest is quite comprehensive, reaching many areas the city. Tickets can be bought from kiosks or on the buses themselves. The tram network in the city consists of 25 lines and runs at a much slower place. This is the ideal mode of transport for travellers who want to take in the sites of the city.
Taxis are found all over the city and, for the most part, can be flagged down from the side of the road. There are many scams, however, so always look out for an official taxi logo on the doors, the legally-required yellow licence plate and a table of fares. Taxis can, however, also be booked in advance with reputable companies such as Radio Taxi and Fotaxi.
A treat for visitors to the city in summer is the passenger ferry services on the Danube River. The service, also operated by BKV, is only available between the months of May and September. Journeys start at IX Boráros tér and finish at Csillaghegy, making several stops along the way. The average one-way journey costs about 600Ft for an adult.
While central Budapest is a fascinating city to explore, there are many great landmarks on the city’s outskirts as well. Located right on the banks of the Majestic Danube River and surrounded by the gorgeous Buda Hills, Budapest is well situated as a base from which to do some intrepid exploring.
Kecskemét - Budapest is surrounded by several charming, but often overlooked, towns and cities. One such city is Kecskemét, best known for its many examples of baroque architecture. This small city is located only an hour away from Budapest’s CBD by road, making for a completely achievable daytrip.
Szentendre - Popular with both lovers of art and artists themselves, Szentendre is greatly underappreciated. Here, travellers can tour the independently-run museums and galleries that line the streets of this quaint village. Szentendre is located near the Danube River and even closer to the city of Budapest.
Baroque-era palaces - Only half an hour outside of the city is one of the largest baroque-era palaces in the world. Located in the town of Godollo, the palace was the summer getaway of the Hungarian King who reigned during the 1800s. Travellers can take a comprehensive tour of the complex.