We had planned to spend a night in Hungary, but were so angry with a vignette seller, and the whole vignette purchase process that we passed straight through Hungary without stopping a single night.
A vignette is required in Hungary to use certain roads. The price is a modest 2,975 Ft (10 Euros) for 10 days. We were only going to be in Hungary for one day, but even for one day, compared to the tolling practice in France for example, 10 Euros is modest and reasonable.
After crossing the Romanian/Hungarian border we pulled into a service station to purchase a vignette. The seller wanted 5,975 Ft, a premium of €10, and the vignette was duely printed out showing this price. I handed over my credit card and was handed the terminal to enter my pin, and the price now showed 27 Euros – a premium of 17 Euros. I asked to pay the amount on the vignette, 5,975 Ft. This was refused and I was told to pay 27 Euros by credit card or 5,975 Ft cash. No way! The transaction was cancelled.
Back to the van and we tried to pay online. A clunky website added 190 Ft for an electronic vignette- but for some reason I couldn’t get the English translated site to work properly and did something incorrect in the registration process. I simply couldn’t work out how to buy the vignette. We drove on.
Clare found another site selling the vignettes for €11.23. She fared better than me but fell at the final hurdle and her card payment did not go through. The campsite warden in Pecs sounded very grumpy on the phone, suggesting we go to another site! It was then that we decided to pass straight through Hungary and go to Croatia. We’d pay for the vignette once we arrived at the Croatian campsite.
We turned off the motorway, and went by the most direct route to Croatia. From then our impression of Hungary changed. It is a tidy well-ordered country. Delightful towns and villages, and very clean. We crossed the Danube by ferry at Mohács, changing a small amount of Euros at a bar to pay for the passage. My mum likes photos of ferries, so here you are mum.
On board one of the ferrymen came to chat to us, with perfect English, and he asked about our travels around Europe. He described himself as a “seaman” which did lead me to ponder how many Hungarian seamen there really are, and what form a Hungarian navy might take.
Soon after the ferry, a high fence will rolls of barbed wire lined the border with Croatia to the right of the road, and then we were at the border. Our passports and car documents were all carefully checked by the Hungarian official, just as the Bulgarian border official did when we left Bulgaria for Romania.
Both Hungary and Croatia are noticeably richer than Bulgaria and Romania. The roads are all better maintained and the land appears tidier and better ordered.
We arrived at our campsite and were given a very warm welcome by the owner and our host. He immediately insisted I share a plum brandy with him, followed by a cool beer.