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How safe and easy to rent a car and drive in Hungary and Poland?


How safe and easy to rent a car and drive in Hungary and Poland?

Old Feb 6th, 2013, 02:55 PM
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How safe and easy to rent a car and drive in Hungary and Poland?

We have heard horror stories about driving in these two countries but we really like to travel through the rural areas.
Thank you
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Old Feb 6th, 2013, 03:43 PM
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I have done in both countries in the last couple of years. Basically no different from anywhere else in Europe. All major multinationals are there, plus a number of local ones, which are generally cheaper. Get a number of quotes, as cost varies. You are generally allowed to drive into all other Schengen countries, but not Ukraine, Belarus, Russia etc. US driver's license is generally accepted but international driving permit is recommended.
Roads vary in quality, and minor and some major roads can be in poor quality, so drive with caution. I've found driving in Hungary generally hassle-free, and traffic level was generally light. You have few problems with parking etc, except in Budapest (but paid parking is widely available). Motorway tolls (matrica) is by a vignette, but a virtual one, not a sticker. Arrange it through your rental agent.

In Poland, there is more traffic, and a lot of commercial traffic (trucks etc) can clog major highways. There isn't much motorways (divided highways), and physical tolls are levied on some East-West routes from the German border. Again minor roads can have poor surface. I saw a lot of accidents, so drive with care. Parking in major cities like Krakow can be difficult, so make sure your hotel has own parking, or stay on the outskirts and use bus or tram into the centre. There is generally no problems about rural driving, except for some poor roads, confusing road signs and lack of fuel stations (fill up in towns and cities). My Garmin sat nav generally worked well in both countries. Make sure you download latest lmaps.
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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6 years ago, we drove from Vienna to Budapest on an expressway...light traffic, good road. Budapest has excellent public transportation, no car needed. We then drove to Eger on an expressway...traffic so light it seemed it had just opened an hour ago. Drove from Eger north into Slovakia on a good two lane road, light traffic. Into Poland, to Tarnow, on a secondary two lane, no different than in US. From Tarnow to Krakow on a four lane, lots of construction, no nutcases or speed-demons as on I-95. Alec, above, described well.
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 07:33 PM
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Verify with the rental agency/broker, before renting, that you can take the car into the countries in which you wish to travel.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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I've only driven in Poland and agree with what Alec said. My experience in Poland was that the highways were in good shape but under a lot of construction which made things very tricky at times (exit ramps were moved, signage wasn't very good, etc.). I found driving in Krakow to be relatively easy so long as we stayed out of the old town. We chose to stay at a hotel that was across the river from old town to avoid having to drive and park there.

And definitely confirm with your rental agency that the car can be taken into these countries. I seem to recall Poland being an exception on some rental agreements.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 10:54 AM
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Here's the biggest issue: dropping off the car. If you rent in one country and drop in another, you will incur a VERY large drop off fee. If you rent in each country and travel between them by some other means of transport (train, flight) you can avoid the charge. Determine what the charge will be to assess how the inter-country transport cost (e.g., train tickets) compares to the drop charge.

And determine where you need to buy a vignette (if you rent in Hungary, the car should have a valid Hungarian vignette, but if you travel through Slovakia or Austria en route to Poland, you need to get a vignette in those countries; Krakow is almost due north of Budapest, through Slovakia). Fines for not having a valid vignette are very high.
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Old Feb 14th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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You might want to take a look at my trip reports on Hungary & Romania, and on Poland. The former is a little old, the latter is from last summer. Click on my name to find them.
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Old Mar 29th, 2013, 10:47 PM
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Last summer I rented a car in Poland for two days, picking up and returning the car at the Warsaw Airport. My destination was several small towns in the far northeast corner of Poland.

I was also somewhat apprehensive having read horror stories and even seen YouTube videos of people attempting to pass vehicles when there was barely enough room to do so. However, I had no difficulty at all. The roads were in good shape (whether they were main or secondary highways), signage was as good as any western European country and I didn't see more crazy drivers than anywhere else. However, I would keep the following in mind:

1. Give yourself plenty of time if you are using two-lane roads. As one reader pointed out, you may run into construction as the roads are being upgraded. If you are on two lane roads, you may also find yourself stuck behind a slow moving truck for several miles. Estimate about 60 km/hr average.

2. While hotels and restaurants were a fraction of the cost in Western Europe (especially in rural areas), the car was expensive (though I suspect it would have been cheaper per day if I had a longer rental) and gasoline was very expensive. I found AutoEurope got the best rates.

3. A dictionary might help you with some common words you see on road signs. For example, "Koniec" under a blue P parking sign means "end" (of the parking area).

4. There may be problems in bringing the vehicle across any border or using a one-way rental. Be sure to check with the rental agent. For example, my contract required that the car not leave Poland.
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