The ability to confidently navigate Budapest via its public transportation network is probably one of the most important skills you can carry in your locker. Public transportation will save you so much money and even more time. Plus, having a firm grasp on the various modes of getting around will enable the type of self-guided discovery and spontaneity and that we, at Like Locals, are really passionate about helping you pursue. In this Budapest transport guide, we’ll cover all of the different transport options to help you get around Budapest with ease. Helping you get the most out of your trip, minus the stress and confusion.
Getting From Budapest Airport to the City
So… you’ve landed at the airport and have collected your bags. Unfortunately, as is the case when flying to most major cities around the world, you are nowhere near downtown. About 20 km away to be exact. If you haven’t hired a car, then you have three main options for getting yourself to the city centre.
Public Shuttle Bus Service
The airport shuttle bus service is the cheapest option. There are two main lines that run into the city from Budapest airport: the 100E and the 200E.
The 100E runs on an express route to the centre of downtown Pest, making only three stops on its voyage at Kálvin tér, Astoria, and Deák Ferenc tér. For most of you, this will be the correct line to take. Unfortunately, conventional public transport tickets do not work on this special line. A special airport ticket can be bought at one of the purple ticket machines which are well marked outside the airport.
Single Ticket Price: 900 HUF (€3)
If you really, really want to stay on budget, or if you are staying somewhere on the periphery of the city, then the 200E is the correct bus to take. Unlike the 100E, a special ticket is unnecessary. In other words, your ride on the 200E will be included on any of the multi-pass tickets available (see below for more info). The terminus of the 200E is Nagyvárad tér in the heart of District VIII which will link you to the M3 underground. From there you can make your way further downtown, albeit less directly than on the 100E.
Single Ticket Price: 350HUF (€1)
Other Shuttle Bus Service Options
Various companies offer alternative shuttle rides in white mini-buses from the airport. The most prominent of these is MiniBud. You will immediately see their distinctive red and blue advertisements in the baggage claim area, where a MiniBud representative will likely be hustling you for patronage.
We don’t necessarily recommend using the shuttle, but it is a cheaper option than a cab. On the downside, however, this choice is more expensive than the bus and you will still have to share the service with other customers which means that it might take a while to get to your particular accommodation.
Price: Average of around 1900 HUF (€6).
Getting a Taxi In Budapest
Cab hire in Budapest is a crapshoot really. Unlike most Western European cities, it is ill-advised to pick up a cab from the street. Instead, you should call a particular cab company to reserve a ride.
Fő Taxi: +36 1 222 2 222
City Taxi: +36 1 2 111 111
You don’t need to call ahead of time at the airport as there will be a taxi rack waiting at somewhat reasonable prices. However, please be aware that if you pick up a taxi from the street anywhere outside of the airport without calling ahead, you will likely be ripped off.
Our advice is to use the BOLT app if you chose to take a taxi. It is essentially the same thing as UBER, which doesn’t operate in Hungary, and is your best bet for getting a fixed price with a convenient pick-up time. Usually, the airport fare will show up on your app between 6,000 and 9,000 HUF depending on where you are staying.
Price: In our experience, the average price for a BOLT to the 7th district is around 7,000 HUF (€20).
Public Transport in Budapest
There are five main modes of public transportation in Budapest: the multicoloured metro, the yellow trams, the blue busses, the red trolleys, and the green trains. They are all run and operated by Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (BKK), a company created by the municipal government back in 2010.
Buying a Ticket
Our recommendation is to buy either a 10-trip or 72-hour travel pass from the airport. If you are only in Budapest for a day then a 24-hour pass is also available. Public transport in Budapest is essentially run on the honour system, as very few ticket collectors are present on the main tram and bus lines. You’ll find that the ticker collectors at the entrance to the underground are lax, to say the least.
That being said, if you do end up getting caught without a ticket the fine is 8,000 forints which is a hefty price to pay. Just buy a ticket and breathe easier. Tickets can be purchased at the purple machines, ticket offices, or, as of recently, using the BKK mobile application.
- Single Ticket: 350 HUF (€1)
- Block of 10 Single Tickets: 3000 HUF (€9)
- 72 Hour Travel Card: 4150 HUF (€13)
- Monthly Pass: 9500 HUF (€28)
Validating Your Ticket
If you have a single ride ticket, as opposed to a time allocated pass, be sure to validate it at one of the ticket stamping machines. Depending on the mode of transportation involved, these will be either in the station or onboard.
If you are visiting the Budapest and planning to head out sightseeing, then the Budapest Card is a good option. Created by our friends at Budapest Info, this card enables you to travel for free on all forms of public transport. Not only that, but the card also covers access to 19 Museums, Lukács Bath and a whole host of other perks.
Etiquette on the Budapest Public Transport
Though not strictly expected, it is always polite to offer your seat to older residents in the city, use your judgment. Remember that certain seats on the tram are reserved for the elderly, the disabled and people with young children. These spots are marked clearly.
When boarding any mode of transport, please allow the departing passengers to get off before you get on. Most transportation in the city is equipped with audio commands. While many of these in English as well as Hungarian, some might not be. If you hear them say “végállomás” that means “last stop” and you should get off the tram.
The underground of Budapest has a long and storied history. There are four lines, conveniently named M1, M2, M3, and M4 and they are all good for servicing different areas of the city. You would be completely fine never taking the metro while in Budapest, but it’s super cheap and simple to figure out. It’s also especially good for avoiding inclement weather conditions.
The M1 is the oldest metro line in Budapest. In fact, it’s the oldest metro line in all of continental Europe, having been commissioned for the 1896 Hungarian Millenium Exhibition, and has been operating continuously ever since. The M1 runs down the spine of Pest, originating at Vörösmarty tér in the heart of downtown and rumbling up the treelined Andrássy út, the Champs–Élysées of Budapest. On its route, it services Heroe’s Square, Városliget (city park), and the glorious Széchenyi bathhouse.
The M2 is without a doubt the most useful metro line in the city for tourists. It links two of the three biggest train stations together. Servicing Keleti pályaudvar in Pest, and Déli pályudvar in Buda. This was the first underground line to link Buda and Pest, making stops at Széll Kálman tér, Batthyány tér, Kossuth Lajos tér, Deák Ferenc tér, Astoria, and Blaha Lujza tér on the way. Those are some of the most important metro stops in the city and will leave you well-positioned to explore many of the most prominent downtown destinations, such as Szent Iztván’s Basilica, the Hungarian Parliament building, Király bathhouse, and the Chain Bridge.
The M3 is a gritty, subterranean transportation circuit. It was completed in the 1970s, becoming Budapest’s third metro line. The M3 begins in District VIII at the aforementioned Nagyvárad tér and runs parallel to the Danube on the north-south Axis of Pest, finally terminating in Újpest aka New Pest. The M3 is a functional line for Hungarians, shepherding the populace of Pest between home and work each day. It does not stop at as many conventional tourist destinations as the M2 but is still a great option for getting around the city. Particularly if you are looking to get to some of the more offbeat destinations such as the luscious, dystopia-laced Népsziget island for a bit of summer fun.
The M4 is the newest line in Budapest having opened up in the autumn of 2014. It’s a controversial line amongst locals due to its exorbitant cost (1.5 billion euros), lengthy construction time (spanning three decades), and the perceived redundancy of its route (most of the stops are already serviced by trams and busses). Nonetheless, it is an aesthetically beautiful line featuring some incredible architecture at many of its stops (particularly at Rákóczi tér and Szent Gellért tér). Following completion, it became the second line to link Buda and Pest and is a good option if you want to visit anywhere in District XI, soak at the Gellért bathhouse, or climb up to the Citadella.
During your stay in Budapest, the yellows trams are likely to be your most vital mode of transportation. There are 36 lines in total sprawling throughout the city and on average these trams service 100 million more customers per year than the metro lines do. An additional advantage of taking the Tram is its overground route, which allows you to take in the wonderful sights and sounds of the city. There are too many lines to list but here are some of the most important lines…
The #4/6 Tram
This is really one tram line, the only deviation between the two occurring at the terminus of the route at Újbuda központ (4) and Morícz Zsigmond Körtér (6). Both lines originate at Széll Kálmán and snake across the Danube and through the heart of Pest along the Nagykörút aka Big Boulevard. This tram will leave you well-positioned if you are exploring any destination in Districts II, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX or XI, making it arguably the most functional mode of transportation in Budapest from a tourists perspective.
The #2 Tram
The skinny, old-school #2 tram operates along a glorious stretch of the Danube and was selected as one of the 10 most beautiful tram lines in the world by National Geographic. It’s 13 stops cover just about 6 kilometres of track and will provide unrivalled views of Parliament, the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, and Vigadó tér. Before ending at the Millenium Kulturális Központ, home of the National Theatre and the Palace of the Arts. Over the 20 minute ride, your windows will be serenaded with breathtaking views of the Buda hills as well as many of the cultural sites which helped qualify the Danubian banks of Budapest as a UNESCO world heritage site. A trip on the #2 tram is a tourist activity in its own right.
There are plenty of other trams servicing the city. The 1 and the 3 tram can be useful if you are navigating the outer rings of Pest, while the 19 tram will take you to Lukacs bathhouse. A litany of other routes is sprawled throughout the hills of Buda. They come in all different shapes and sizes and offer an incredibly enjoyable method for viewing the city from the window side.
Busses in Budapest
Busses are an absolutely essential component of public transportation in Budapest. You will see their blue frames rocketing around the city in all directions. All told there are over 200 bus lines operating through Budapest and several of these connect to surrounding suburbs if you are looking to travel further afield.
It would be redundant to list all the lines here as routes are easily searchable via Google Maps which offers up-to-date real-time information about bus lines and potential delays. This is the case for all public transportation in Budapest but is especially pertinent while trying to determine which of the various busses to board. At most of the bus stops, there are also electronic screens displaying when the busses will arrive, although these can sometimes be inaccurate. So be sure to stay alert.
Trolley Busses in Budapest
There are 16 red trolleybuses that service the city. These can be distinguished by their distinct colouring as well as the fact that they are attached to electric lines which criss-cross the city. The first trolley was put into place on December 21, 1949, for Joseph Stalin’s 70th birthday. That is the reason for the seemingly curious and random numbering of the trolleys which range from 70-83 (as well as a few supplementary lines).
The trolleys can be useful for navigating streets running perpendicular to the Nagykörút in Pest. Line 70 for example, runs up the length of Király utca, from Deák Ferenc tér to the Városliget while Line 74 makes a similar voyage up Dohány utca and Dob utca in the other direction. For the sake of the tourist, the trolleys are good for quick-hit transportation over short distances, though on the rare occasion one of your destinations may call for a longer ride.
Trains in Budapest
The green trains of the suburban rail network comprise what is known as Budapesti Helyiérdekű Vasút, colloquially known as the HEV. The 5 HEV lines continue the numbering system of the 4 metro lines as HEV5, HEV6, HEV7, HEV8, and HEV9. Most of you will not need to take the HEV while in Budapest, but they can be useful if you are planning to do any day trips to nearby areas of interest such as Szentendre or Gödöllő.
Certain areas of Budapest are also best reached by taking the HEV, such as the Roman ruins in Aquincum or the mysterious Csepel Island. Do note that while your transportation passes are valid inside the boundaries of Budapest, additional tickets will need to be purchased if you are using the HEV to head outside the city.
Self Guided Transportation
These have been popping up with increasing frequency around the city, and while some have equated them to a modern-day plague, others are happy for the convenience and thrill that they offer. Be careful with the Lime scooters as they are only returnable in certain areas of the city (pretty much nowhere in District V) and it is very easy to rack up a high fee if you take too long of a trip. They are decent options for getting from point A to point B, but not a good choice if you want a personal vehicle for the day. Also, please, please, please use these devices respectfully. Many people don’t.
Prices: 250HUF to Unlock + 50HUF Per Minute | Click Here For More Info
Donkey operates similarly to Lime, in that it is a global ride-sharing service that works through an app. Prices depend on how long you rent for, but usually, it’s about 2,000 forints or so if you’re taking the bike out for multiple hours. Even a 24-hour rental won’t run you more than 4,000. This differentiates the Donkey Republic from Lime where longer rental times can leave you hit with super-high fees.
Prices: 1050 HUF Per Hour | Click Here For More Info
Mol Bubi Bikes
A slightly cheaper option than Donkey Republic Bikes are the MOL Bubi bikes, which can be seen in their distinctive light green colouring throughout the city. This is the more ‘official’ bike-sharing service in Budapest. The Donkey Republic bikes are more ridable, however, and the renting service is more seamless. Nonetheless, MOL Bubi’s are a good budget option.
Prices: Around 500 HUF for 24 hours | Click Here For More Info
If you were feeling stressed about navigating your way around the maze of Budapest, this guide should put your worries at ease. So you can explore the amazing sights of the city without any problems. However, once you’re in Budapest and looking to find things to do, be sure to download the Like Locals app for unique local recommendations. Available for free on iOS and Android devices.
Words and Pics: Willie Gevertz