Transportation and Life in Budapest
I’ve been living in Budapest for seven months. It’s been exciting, challenging and lately annoying with a variety of transportation issues. Budapest is not Berlin. Most transportation does not run all night long. One of the main tram lines, the 4 makes a ring around many city destinations. It stops at 11:23 pm and doesn’t resume until 4:53 am. Seriously? What is up with that? 11:23, as if everyone wants to be home before midnight…this is not Cinderella. This is real life, and that means taking a bus or a taxi for every event that doesn’t end by 11 pm. There are still late night and middle of the night connections on the tram 6, but that only covers portions of the city. Living off of that line means taking a bus or taxi.
The city transportation company bkv.hu does offer buses that run thoughout the night, these tend to run twice an hour. If you don’t hit it just right you’re waiting out in the dark, and or cold for 30 minutes late at night, fun stuff….. Taxi’s are plentiful and they can be reasonable if you’re sharing the fare with friends. If not, it can get costly. My average taxi ride is $20 US, though I have paid as much as $50 US a few times for a long taxi ride. The price is better if you call ahead and order the taxi. Flagging one down on the street in Budapest is costly. My co workers and I have also walked to major hotels in the city and ordered one from there. It’s simple, safe and offers you the option to wait inside the hotel until the taxi arrives.
I’M OVER IT
Photo Credit varadero1964
After seven months of trams, metro and buses I decided while I was on my winter vacation to lease a car. I’d had enough of winter, of waiting for late transportation and for late night buses that were running infrequently. I wanted simplicity and convenience. I have enough on my plate living and working in a foreign country. I also realized I was spending about four times longer to get everywhere than my coworkers with cars. A grocery trip that takes 10 minutes door to door by car, takes 35 on foot and by bus or tram. It’s crazy!
Mainly shopping is a challenge because the buses and trams only have certain stops, and the nearest large grocery is a ten minute walk from the tram. So first you walk a few blocks to the tram or bus stop, you catch the tram, you ride a few stops, you get off, you walk ten minutes. You’ve now managed to waste at least 35 minutes, more if you didn’t quite make your connections. Then there is the added cost of taxi’s to get large amounts of groceries and supplies home. It is both expensive and exhausting dealing with all of it. That was the clincher for me. I’d literally HAD ENOUGH, it was sucking away my energy, and precious time.
How Did I Lease a Car in Budapest?
I didn’t lease, I rented. A foreigner can’t lease a car in Hungary. This is because as foreigners we don’t receive a permanent living permit to stay in Hungary. You must have a permanent card to lease. (There may be ways to receive this card, such as foreigners married to Hungarian citizens. Though I don’t know for certain.)
My Decision To Rent a Car Long Term
I opted to rent a car for a long period of time. This is giving me a few important perks. It allowed me to negotiate a better price, and it gave me time to decide if I want to buy a car in Hungary. It is over $400 US a month to rent, (if you can negotiate and work out a deal as I did. Some agencies will quote you a cost far higher, initally.) My first quote came in at over 600 US, which was completely out of the question. I had to make compromises. I had to accept a standard car, with no automatic transmission, which was my last choice. I also chose to rent a sub compact to save money on fuel costs. Gas in Budapest (if I’ve done the correct conversion between dollars and forient and liters and gallons), comes in around $8.80 a gallon. At that price I want an economical car. Another perk of my long term rental is that the insurance is provided, and auto insurance in Hungary is expensive. In addition the rental agency takes care of checking and filling fluids on the car each month.
How Do I Feel Now, With a Car?
I’ve had the car only four days and it feels LIFE CHANGING. I am so much happier. It is so convenient and so much simplier. Wow, I wish I’d made this decision months ago. Yes, the cost is high, but my piece of mind, my time and my frustration at slogging through snow, ice and dragging groceries home on trams and buses is worth the cost. I am happy getting into my car, and getting where I need to be, on my time frame. That feels life changing in Budapest.