Hungary Winter Drive – Driving in Hungary as a Tourist

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My wonderful rented Toyota RAV4, so smart that it can warn you when you are drifting out of lane or when you are about to crash into the car in front of you.

In this post I share about my experience of driving in Hungary as a foreigner.

Car Rental – One of the biggest worries was if the car rental would be a smooth process. I rented my car with U-Save Car Rental from the Rentalcars.com website after reading some mixed reviews about the company. Upon arrival at the Budapest Listz Ferenc Airport, we were glad to see a lady from the rental company holding up a card with my name, as promised. We then got a lift from the airport to the U-Save premises just a 5 minute drive away from the airport. The required documents were (1) Your driving license (2) A credit card for your deposit. I used my International Driving Permit as I had this done for my trip to Japan the month before, but this would not be necessary as long as your driving license is in English.

Highway Tolls – In Hungary, highway tolls are collected via the E-Vignette system. The roads from the airport to Budapest are toll free, but if you are intending to venture out of Budapest, it would be hard to avoid purchasing a permit. This can be done at petrol stations near to the motorways, but the great thing for us was that our car rental company settled this for us and we did not have to worry about the administrative hassle of getting this done in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar language.

Driving on the Right Side of the Road – This was an interesting experience for me as someone who has driving on the left side for my whole life. It certainly takes some getting used to and you have to consciously check if you are getting your bearings right, especially when making turns. The great thing was that my Toyota RAV4 car was pretty smart and naggy. Whenever I started drifting too much to the right, the warning lights would flash.

Traffic Police and Speed Limits – You have to be a bit careful of this especially when driving on the motorway. The speed limits are not standard and can vary quite dramatically for different portions of the motorway. The traffic police are also very vigilant and in my 10 days of driving, I spotted no less than 5 traffic police speed traps stationed either on the viaducts above, at the central divider, or at the slip roads at the side.

Child Seats – I read that children would require age-appropriate child seats or booster seats. I decided to bring my own booster seat from home for my daughter as it wasn’t too heavy or bulky and easily fitted into my luggage.

Refueling – My first experience at the petrol kiosks was a bit uncertain, but the process was easy enough to pick up quickly. Just identity the correct fuel (the labeling was simple enough) pump it, and proceed to the cashier inside the shop to pay with cash or credit card. The price of petrol and diesel was pretty similar about S$1.75 – S$2.00 per litre. I was rather impressed with the fuel economy of my RAV4, which averaged about 6 litres per 100 km on a powerful diesel engine.

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Pump black for diesel!

Parking Charges – Parking is chargeable at most of the major city and town centres. Look out for parking meters where you have to drop in your coins and to display the dispensed parking slips on your vehicle dashboards. Most of the parking meters have information in English, but not all, so you might have to get some help from the local people if need be. The good thing is that parking is free most of the time in the evenings and weekends. Do pay your parking though, as it is generally inexpensive and it is not worth the trouble of getting a ticket.

On the last night of our trip, I was unlucky and received a parking ticket just being 15 minutes away from my car when checking into my hotel, not knowing at first that the spaces in front of my hotel were public parking spaces and not owned by my hotel. I had to make my way to the nearest Post Office to pay the fine which worked out to be about S$11.

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I immersed myself so much into the culture of the land that I even got myself a parking ticket. I then had to figure out how to pay the fine at the nearby Post Office.


This is part 3 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for Part 4 as I share about our first taste of Hungarian cuisine, delicious but salty!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

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2016 Road Trip from Singapore to Thailand – Day 2 – Crossing the Border at Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao

This is the second part of my blog series that details our road trip from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand and offers some advice to would-be travellers who might like to attempt a similar journey. The first part can be found here.

This leg of the journey from Alor Star to Phuket is the exciting one, especially because it takes many of our Singapore drivers out of our comfort zone. We have to cross an unfamiliar border at Bukit Kayu Hitam (Malaysia side) / Sadao (Thai side). We also have to grapple with road conditions quite different from what we are used to along the brilliantly well-maintained North South Expressway (NSE) in Malaysia.

The border is not open 24 hours, only from 6am – 12 midnight Singapore/Malaysia Time. No point going too early anyway, cause many of the shops that do the Thailand 3rd party vehicle insurance do not open so early (There could be some that open early, so if you have the info do let me know).

The Thailand 3rd party insurance is quite cheap (less than SGD$15 for 19 days of cover) and can be done at the following places:

  • Shops in Changlun, before the Malaysian immigration
  • Duty-Free complex, in no-man’s land between the Malaysian and Thai immigration
  • Shops in Sadao-Dannok, just after the Thai immigration

For my first trip last year, I got my insurance at Sadao-Dannok, and this year at the Duty-Free complex. Both are quite fuss-free but they were not open in the early mornings. I think around 9am Malaysia time is fine, but I’m not 100% sure about this. The immigration officials didn’t seem that interested in looking at my insurance papers though, so you might be able to just get your passports chopped and settle your vehicle customs first, then worry about getting the vehicle insurance done.

Now we will run you through the actual border crossing process, which should take around 1 to 2 hours depending on the crowd:

The Bukit Kayu Hitam immigration on the Malaysia side is relatively simple, and quite like what we are used to at Tuas or Woodlands. Just drive straight to the booth and hand over your passports. No real issues here.

The Sadao immigration on the Thailand side is more messy and confusing. You will need to park your car somewhere along the road just before the customs compound which you can see in the photo below (The big carpark to the left of the immigration compound is gone! I believe they are working on building a new immigration complex. Once that is done then things will change again.)

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Sadao border crossing

You also need Thailand immigration cards, which you can get for RM2 per card at the Duty-Free complex in no-man’s land (please don’t get fleeced here like I did!), or for free at the Sadao border at the immigration office inside the building on the left side. They are likely to only give you one card per passport so be prepared to show the passports of everyone in your party.

Fill up the immigration forms and queue up at one of the immigration counters to get your passports chopped. These immigration counters are all over the place, so if you are observant, you can actually find one with a much shorter queue. At the immigration counter, please be prepared to pay (a bribe?) of RM1 or RM2 per passport. Last year we “acted blur” and got through without having to pay this at all. This year I was charged RM2 and my wife and kids were more fortunate to be charged RM1 per passport at their counter.

After you get your passports chopped, you need to line up at the counter shown:

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Customs booth for the temporary import of your car into Thailand

There are two parts to this counter, the first one to get the temporary vehicle import form (where you see people queuing in the picture). Here you will need to present your vehicle log card printed from onemotoring (to prove that you are the legal owner of the vehicle) as well as your chopped passport.

The second booth is immediately after the first one where they will chop the form, and you will have to sign on it. They will hand you one copy of the processed form and will keep one copy for themselves. Please do not lose this form because if you do you will have trouble getting your car back through the customs when you return from Thailand!

After getting all this paperwork done, you can get back to your parked car and proceed to drive through border crossing. As you drive through, the border police will check again that you have your vehicle import form done.

Once all this is done, welcome to Thailand!

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After the Sadao border

Click here for Part 3 of this series which touches on the driving conditions in Thailand from Sadao to Phuket .

Finally, my wife and I also enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series