Slovakians coming to fill their tanks with petrol in Hungary can save up to 200 HUF (EUR 0.52) on each litre. Therefore, it is not surprising that petrol tourism is at its peak near the northern and western borders. A petrol station owner in Balassagyarmat (Slovakian- Hungarian border) loses 5 million HUF (EUR 13, 054) per month because of the price cap introduced by the state and the government’s support scheme does not compensate for that.
According to rtl.hu, one of their favourite evening magazines, Fókusz, visited the Slovakian-Hungarian border to gather information on the current situation. The direct reason was a letter stating that half of the cars arriving at local petrol stations are Slovakian.
The magazine’s experience in Balassagyarmat supports the writer’s claim. The 480 HUF per litre (EUR 1.25 EUR) price is very attractive for Slovakian customers. Currently, they can save up to 200 HUF (EUR 0.52) on each litre. András Tóth, a petrol station owner, said he has been losing 5 million HUF (EUR 13, 054) per month because of the price cap despite the government’s 16 HUF ( EUR 0.042) per litre subsidy.
There were times when his company had to operate with a purchase limit: people could buy only 10 litres per day because they had less than 2,500 litres of fuel, while other stations had none in the Northern Hungarian city of 15, 000 residents. Furthermore, they received no news about supply.
Eszter Bujdos, an expert of holtankoljak.hu, foreign customers drive even 10-15 kilometres from the border to buy cheaper petrol. In Sopron, locals have been complaining for months that Austrian petrol tourists made their city uninhabitable. Ms Bujdos estimates the increase in traffic around 15 percent because of the petrol tourism.
Interestingly enough, petrol importers temporarily ceased operation in order not to accumulate further losses. Therefore, only Hungarian MOL supplies the petrol stations. That is the reason why stations may run out of petrol even in Budapest.
The government prolonged the price cap until mid-July. András Tóth believes that sooner or later, Hungary will return to global market prices. “I think we will adapt to the prices of the neighbouring countries, whether we like it or not” – he said. Mr Tóth added that the government should have helped only the people in need of cheaper petrol instead of all customers, including foreigners and luxury car owners.
There is not much ground for hope if we look at the current European petrol prices. In Austria, 95 petrol costs 670 HUF (EUR 1.75), in Croatia, that is 630 HUF (EUR 1.64). Meanwhile, in Greece, Denmark, Finland or Norway, we would have to pay 800-900 HUF (EUR 2.09-2.35) per litre. Compared to that, Hungarian car owners are in favorable positions.
Fókusz compared current average petrol prices in Europe, here is their chart on which the second column indicates the price of the 95 petrol while the third shows the price of the diesel: