Budapest. Or the Uselessness of the GPS (other than just a beautiful city)

Whenever I have to go on a long drive, especially to a region that is unfamiliar to me, I feel the pressure of getting a GPS. I myself do not own a Global Positioning System device, but I do have friends who jump to my rescue to lend me one of their own.

So I drove to Budapest, the Hungarian capital, and was equipped with the evidence that technological developments improve the quality of driving. I did not have any problems whatsoever getting there. Despite their positioning as an eastern European county, and despite the fact that it is not considered as well developed as France, Great Britain, Germany or other Western European states, Hungary is a nice country. It is clean, safe and well developed, especially in terms of its infrastructure (and not to mention the great food and Hungarian wine, but that would be a different article).

As I mentioned before, getting to Budapest was not challenging at all. They have constructed reliable highways, and I also enjoyed the benefit of the advice as to where to take a turn or where to switch lanes. Getting around the city, or getting out of it, was however the most difficult task of the weekend.

The streets are mostly narrow, except for the ones in the center of the city. Then, some of them are closed for reconstruction. Others are closed as the old buildings in their vicinity are being restored. Smaller streets had been closed altogether and transformed into pedestrian areas. Others had been transformed into one way streets. To the first time driver through Budapest, it is definitely chaos. In my last day there, I realized that it was a chaos that did make some sort of sense: the one way streets, for example, are thus made so as to make traffic more fluid and reduce the risk of the center area getting clogged. However, you don’t seem to realize the logic in it when you are swearing at your GPS.

This was because the GPS had no idea of the state of these streets. It sent me to drive in pedestrian areas or expected me to enter one way streets at the wrong end (which made me think of that piece of news announcing that the GPS user was eventually guide onto the railroad and barely missed the oncoming train).

I eventually turned the GPS off and guided myself by the signs, in a banal and insipid rediscovery of the times before the GPS. So there you have it, the whole meaning and scope of this post – only use the GPS in Budapest for out of city roads and around Hungary, and make sure that you update its maps before getting on the road. Otherwise, just remember that the traditional traffic signs remain your best friend, especially in beautiful Budapest. So, before you go there, maybe a 15-minutes crash course on what each sign means (note especially the one with a white rectangular on the red circle background).