2 May 2010

Driving from Vienna to Budapest

Before we leave Vienna I should tell you that you need a good street map because signposting is virtually non-existent. I remember this was the case last time I drove in Vienna, about 30 years ago, and it hasn't got any better. Which is odd, because throughout the rest of Austria signage is good.

It was May Day when we left Vienna, so traffic was light and we were sorry not to be able to stay and enjoy the parades, but Budapest beckoned. I have never been to Hungary, let alone driven there. Of course Hungary is now part of the European Union, although, like the UK, they are not part of the Euro block.

So on arriving at the border Euros were changed to Forints and a vignette allowing travel on Hungarian motorways was purchased - about 7 euros for 4 days. These are available in garages on both sides of the border, as well as in well-marked booths alongside the motorway in Hungary. We bought ours in Austria, but could probably have saved the equivalent of a euro if we'd used Forints in Hungary.

Speed limits on Hungarian motorways are 130 km/h. The motorway is continuous between Vienna and Budapest and not particularly busy, so an easy journey taking about 2 and a half hours.

One mistake we made was to stop at a parking area and leave the car unattended for just a few minutes. When we returned a couple of guys were busy cleaning the windows. I let them finish and offered a Euro. They were clearly not happy with this but I remained polite but firm, and they grudgingly accepted. As I pointed out, I didn't ask them to do the job. From now on one of us will stay with the car!

There is zero tolerance of drink driving, and even a small amount of alcohol in the blood can result in severe penalties. Quite right too. Having said that, I don't think we've seen a single policeman or patrol car in Hungary so far.

Budapest is spectacularly beautiful, especially at night, when the castle, the amazingly ornate Parliament building and many other monuments are floodlit to great effect. Driving seems reasonable. Many streets are one way, even major routes. Often two way roads will forbid turns across oncoming traffic, and to make a turn across the traffic can involve a considerable detour around two blocks.

The city feels very safe, well lit and no evidence of anti-social behaviour. Budapest is however, not a cheap city. In fact food and drink are if anything more expensive than in Vienna, where prices were surprisingly moderate for a popular tourist destination and capital city.

We've made some progress with our video and have managed to download the images to the laptop and perform some basic editing. But I'm afraid the results are not ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

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