Getting to Lake Balaton by car from Budapest is easiest by following the M7 motorway – but traffic jams can be heavy on summer weekends. Here are some lesser-known detours for when you've had enough of sitting in a hot car.
Whether you are travelling by train or car, getting to Lake Balaton can get pretty crowded in summer. These alternative routes are for those who are willing to leave the beaten path for an adventure. Many of these routes are picturesque, but they are also longer and you can’t drive as fast due to various built-up areas, and twist and turns. Still, you can save time by choosing them if the traffic jams on the M7 are severe – not to mention that Main Road 7 is usually also crowded with those trying to avoid the M7.
Important information: Click on the links in this article to see the routes on Google Maps.
The northern detour
One option is to turn off at the intersection of the M0 motorway. If you’re headed to the north shore, you have multiple options before reaching Székesfehérvár, all of which touch the M1 motorway at one point.
One option is to leave the M0 intersection and follow Main Road 1 until the roundabout at Biatorbágy. Go through the town in the direction of Etyek and Alcsútdoboz. This is a pretty route (check out the row of trees by the golf course in Alcsútdoboz) and it provides a great driving experience, albeit a bit of a rocky one.
You can also reach Alcsútdoboz by driving along the M1 until Bicske, then continue on Main Roads 1 and 811. The latter leads through a pretty undulating landscape, there’s barely any traffic and it’s renovated from Lovasberény onwards – and you only have to drive through a few built-up areas until Székesfehérvár.
This route also has an alternative: leave Main Road 811 before Felcsút, then drive through Vértesboglár, Csákvár and Zámoly until you reach Székesfehérvár. The road quality varies, but the landscape is pleasant.
From Székesfehérvár, you have two options. The quicker one is to follow Main Road 8, where you can drive at 110 kilometres/hour on two lanes even though it’s not a motorway (which in turn means you don’t need a permit) – but do keep in mind that it has sections where the speed limit is 70. In high season, the Veszprém ring road is its weak point with jams at each intersection. The other route is a much more romantic one that leads through villages from Székesfehérvár through Nádasdladány to Berhida and Balatonfűzfő.
Havens on the south
There aren’t many choices to the south. From Budapest, the M6 motorway is one of them, parallel to the M7 between Ercsi and Martonvásár. From then on, you'll need GPS.
It’s best to leave the M6 at the Iváncsa-Pusztaszabolcs-Adony intersection, then drive towards Szabadegyháza. From there, head through Sárosd to Káloz, parallel to the M7. Then either go to Dég, a bit of a detour, from where you can take Road 64 through Enying to Balatonvilágos, or from Szabadhídvég to Som, from where you can take Road 65 to Siófok.
These are roads that might help you out for a few kilometres, but they are still useful. For example, the road along the north shore of Lake Valence (Kápolnásnyék-Velence-Sukoró-Pákozd) is one of them, although it can get very crowded in summer. From Polgárdi you might try to reach Balatonakarattya through Füle and Balatonfőkajár.
Lake Balaton might be better connected to other Hungarian cities in the future, with Main Road 83 being converted into a high-speed motorway between Győr and Pápa. The refurbishment of the south section of the Veszprém ring road is also planned. The M76 expressway is under construction (which, unfortunately, is costing the lives of many trees) – this will connect Zalaegerszeg with the M7. Finally, Road 67 is being expanded with a lane in each direction, which will make travelling to Balaton from Kaposvár and Pécs much easier.