So you’ve arrived probably at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD) and wanted to get in the city – as the airport is around 15 kilometers from the center. You should request an Uber cab obviously as it is available in the town and it’s your best option. You can also get a cab but beware of hyenas: the official taxi office is right outside the arrival terminal, and the price is fixed. If you’re short on budget and more adventurous to dive deep immediately, you can look for the bus stop (also in front of the arrival gates) and get the bus 200E which takes you to the nearest metro station where you can get to the city center.
The city has a very diverse and busy public transportation system called BKK. Metro/subway stations are all over the major points of the city. Trams and buses (and even trolley buses) help you reach almost all neighborhoods in the city within 10-20 minutes. Uber is available and commonly used but beware of traditional taxies as they target foreigners with cash-dump prices (always watch the taximeter). Budapest has an international airport from where you can fly to any European cities within 2-3 hours. Bicycles are widely used with tailored cycle roads and rentable cycle plans in the central areas.
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Put it simply, Budapest has 4 subway lines and plenty of trams, trolleybus and bus lines, plus suburban train routes. The center of Budapest is in the 5th district, and it’s called Deak Ferenc Square (Deák Ferenc tér). This is where almost all the metro lines collide, and it’s literally the heart of the city. From Deak Ferenc Square there’s the Andrassy Avenue (Andrássy út) running straight down to a famous landmark: Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere). Andrassy Avenue crosses the so-called Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) which transports people in a half-circle around the city center on the Pest side. This is the real heart of Budapest as all the important places are located inside the semicircle of the boulevard.
Important metro/subway lines
Line 1 (Yellow line) is the oldest and smallest line that follows a northeast route along Andrassy Avenue in the city center from Deak Ferenc Square to the City Park (Városliget). Famous landmarks on this line: Hungarian State Opera House, Heroes’ Square, the City Park and the Oktogon intersection where the subway catches up with the most critical tramline (4-6) and the Grand Boulevard.
Line 2 (Red line) is the first modern line, connecting the East and the West side of the city. This line has a station at Kossuth Lajos Square (Kossuth Lajos tér) where you can find the Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház), and it crosses Line 1 and 3 on Deak Ferenc Square.
Line 3 (Blue line) is the longest line connecting the North and the South side of Budapest, linking major city points outside the center, most importantly the Western Square (Nyugati tér) where it crosses the 4-6 tram line and the Grand Boulevard. It also crosses Line 1 and 2 on the Deak Ferenc Square hub.
Line 4 (Green line) is a shorter line connecting mostly central locations together,, and it also transports people to the Buda areas. The Green line is the newest and most modern line. It catches up with Fovam Square (Fővám tér) where the famous Great Market Hall stands.
Important tram lines
Line 4-6 is a 0-24 operating tram line running on the Grand Boulevard. You can easily reach all the famous destinations by traveling on this line.
Line 2 rides parallel with the Danube offering a panoramic view,, and it is also a significant line. The ‘sightseeing tram’ stops next to famous landmarks like the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Palace of Arts (Művészetek Palotája), the National Theatre (Nemzeti Színház), the Margaret Bridge (Margit híd), the Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) and the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd).
Line 47-49 goes along the Small Boulevard (Kiskörút), the very center of the inner city. Taking a ride on these nostalgic lines is like having your own excursion tour around the city.
The interweaving tram network (Fonódó) routes across the Buda area, and it serves as the most important backbone of the transit system on that side.
Other important routes and lines
The bus line 16 starts from Deak Ferenc Square and goes up straight to the Buda Castle (Budavári Palota), saving you tons of taxi fares.
Public Ferry is also a great option to see the city from the Danube. It costs way less than tourist sightseeing boats as they are free if you have a pass or ticket.
Budapest operates a severe number of night buses mainly because of the extensive nightlife that the city has. Night buses have 900-999 digits and are running from stops marked with a black-and-white owl symbol.
You can take a bus which costs way less than a taxi from and to the airport. Get to the 200E line which departs from Liszt Ferenc Airport and drops you at ‘Kőbánya-Kispest’ station which is the end of Line 3 (Blue line) subway. With that, you can reach the center of Budapest and other subway lines.
BUBI bike sharing system
The BUBI public bike-sharing system is also available for those who want to cycle around the city. The system has around 100 docking stations mainly in the central areas of Budapest. It has 0-24 access, users can purchase tickets including small access and usage fee from docking stations.
Tickets and prices
To use the public transportation system, you need to have a pass or a card, like in any other cities. You can find ticket machines on primary bus and tram stations, while BKK counters are available on subway stations. You can pay by cash or card. English speaking customer service points are also possible at the airport, on the central Deak Ferenc Square station, on Keleti and Deli railway stations and on several other stations as well. In general, there are single tickets for one-off travels,, and there are passes (daily, 72 hours, weekly and monthly). Tickets must be validated before the journey; passes are valid for their time of purchase. Ticket inspectors are all around the city and can ask you to present your ticket or pass, so keep them with you all the time. An electronic travel card system is currently under development.
BKK Futár is a mobile app developed by the public transportation company, and it is available for everyone for free. It presents real-time information on routes and lines and also a great way to plan your journey.
Other transportation options
Taxis are also an option. Cars are marked with the word “Taxi,” often accompanied by a company name or logo and have a yellow registration plate. All taxis have the same fares, a basic fare (450 HUF) and a per kilometer charge (280 HUF). All taxis are equipped with taximeter that displays the current fees charged. Fees from the airport to the city is based on your destination, but it is usually around 4-7.000 HUF. All taxis accept cash, and almost all accept cards as well, worth to ask the availability before jumping in. Getting a cab is possible via telephone or just wave them on the streets or get in at the taxi stands that are across the central areas.
Bicycles are also an option. Budapest has been voted as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Europe. Cycle roads are marked and most of them separated from regular routes. Most of the touristic hotspots feature cycle roads, and in the central areas of the city, cycling is more effective than taking the public transportation or getting into a car.
10 tips on transportation in Budapest
1. Beware of taxi hyenas as they tend not to use the taximeter
2. Use the BKK Futár mobile app, it is viral among locals as well
3. Cycling is very popular, use the BUBI bike-sharing service
4. General rule: everything inside the Grand Boulevard is considered central, everything outside of the Grand Boulevard is deemed to be non-central with only a few exceptions
5. The Buda side is less connected to the public transportation routes due to its hilly landscape and fewer attractions, but the city life happens on the Pest side anyway
6. If you use your own car, parking inside the Grand Boulevard is more expensive than in other locations and getting a parking lot is harder to find
7. If you’re planning to stay more than 2 weeks, buy a monthly BKK pass and renew it in every month
8. You can purchase tickets from the bus drivers if the ticket machine doesn’t work
9. Tram line 2 offers the best view in the city, must try!
10. Subway line 4 was finished in 2014 and is one of the newest subway lines in the world and has won several architecture awards, check the stations just for the sake of it!