It’s a bold statement, I know, but I can’t think of a significant world capital that’s easier to get around than Budapest. The city’s split personality - flat, built-up Pest and green, hilly Buda - means that orientation is fairly simple. Sights are often in clusters that can be moved between on foot easily, and when you want to spare some shoe leather there are buses, trams, trolley-buses, taxis and a metro to choose from.
Tickets and timetables
Tickets for travel on Budapest’s public transport system are available at train stations, newsagents and hotels. The same tickets can be used on the metro, buses, trams and trolley-buses; one ticket permits you to travel for one journey without changing. You will need to validate your ticket at punching machines (at the entrances for the metro and on board the buses, trams and trolley-buses). Inspectors are common at the exits of metro stations, and if you don’t have a valid ticket you will have to pay a fine. There are various types of ticket available, but at the most simple level you can buy single tickets (320 forints), books of 10 (2,800 forints) or travel cards for one day (1,550 forints), three days (3,850 forints) or a week (4,600 forints). The Budapest Card (www.budapest-card.com) – which offers discounts all around the city – works as a travel card. Note that EU residents aged 65 or more can travel free anyway.
You'll find full timetable information for all modes of local public transport at www.bkv.hu.
There are three underground lines running through Budapest – the M1 (yellow), M2 (red) and M3 (blue) lines. A fourth is under construction. Metro trains run frequently from 4.30am until 11pm or so.
There is a good web of bus routes running to all corners of the city, and including standard buses and express services (with an ‘E’ suffix) that only go to main stops along the journey. During the day, buses operate between 5am and 11pm, after which you can take night buses (prefixed with the number ‘9’). The usual single transport tickets don’t apply on night buses – you can use the travel card, Budapest Card or pay the driver.
Trams and trolley-buses
Trams run along the main boulevards and the river promenade. The obvious ones to mention are trams 4 and 6, which go around the Great Boulevard, and tram 2, which offers a very picturesque journey next to the river and some of the city’s major sights. You’ll also find trolley-buses following their overhead cables. Both forms of transport operate between 5am and 11pm, and there are timetables at their stops.
Known as the HÉV, the suburban railway has four lines that carry passengers to the outer districts and onward to favourite towns such as Szentendre and Gödöllő. The usual transport tickets will be valid up to the administrative boundaries of Budapest, after which you need to pay a supplementary charge depending upon the additional distance you are travelling - from 155 forints (for 5km) to 550 forints (for 30km).
There’s no shortage of taxis in Budapest, but it’s the mode of transport about which you should be most careful because the overcharging of unwary tourists is very common. You should avoid hailing taxis in the street, and instead call a taxi company to arrange a pick-up and be sure to get a quote for the journey in advance. When you get into the taxi, be sure to check that the metre has been re-set to the minimum fee (of 300 forints). Tip 10% or just round up the fare to a convenient amount.
Some reliable firms include:
City Taxi: +36 1 211 1111
6x6 Taxi: +36 1 466 6666
Budapest Taxi: +36 1 433 3333
Fő Taxi: +36 1 222 2222
Buda Taxi: +36 1 233 3333
Tele 5 Taxi: +36 1 555 5555
Rádió Taxi: +36 1 377 7777