Budapest's transport system, run by BKK, is one of the most comprehensive in Europe. Travel passes valid for one day to one month are valid on all trams, buses, trolleybuses, HÉV suburban trains (within the city limits) and metro lines.
- Metro The quickest but least scenic way to get around. Runs 4.30am to about 11.50pm.
- Bus Extensive network of regular buses runs from around 4.30am to between 9pm and 11.50pm; from 11.50pm to 4.30am a network of 40 night buses (three digits beginning with '9' – 901 to 999) kicks in.
- Tram Faster and more pleasant for sightseeing than buses. Tram 6 on the Big Ring Road runs overnight.
- Trolleybus Mostly useful for getting to and around City Park in Pest.
More and more cyclists can be seen on the streets of Budapest, taking advantage of the city’s ever-growing network of dedicated bike lanes. Some of the main roads might be a bit too busy for enjoyable cycling, but the side streets are fine and there are some areas (eg City Park, Margaret Island) where cycling is positively ideal. You can hire bicycles from Yellow Zebra Bikes as well as the following outfits:
Bubi Bikes Budapest's bicycle-sharing scheme has 1526 bikes available at 126 docking stations across the city. You can collect your bike at any docking station and return it at any of the others. The first 30 minutes are free. Hire is available for a maximum of 24 hours at a time – you must allow five minutes between each access.
Bike Base Bike Base has bikes available from April to October.
Budapest Bike Budapest Bike has bikes available year-round.
Dynamo Bike & Bake A fantastic little cake shop–bike-hire place, Dynamo is run by a keen cycling guide who appreciates the value of good equipment. The hybrid urban bikes and mountain bikes are new and meticulously maintained; rental includes safety gear.
BKK passenger ferries D11 and D12 depart from alongside Kopaszi-gát below Rákóczi Bridge on the Pest side once or twice an hour, Monday to Saturday (daily between March and October), and head for IV Árpád út in north Pest or Rómaifürdő in northern Buda, a one-hour trip with some dozen stops along the way. Tickets (adult/under 15 years 170/110Ft) are sold on board. Transporting a bicycle costs an extra 170Ft. The ferry stop closest to the Castle District is I Batthyány tér, and V Petőfi tér is not far from the pier just west of Vörösmarty tér.
An extensive system of buses running on some 268 routes day and night serves greater Budapest. On certain bus lines the same bus may have an ‘E’ after the number, meaning it is express and makes limited stops.
Buses run from around 4.30am to between 9pm and 11.50pm, depending on the line. From 11.50pm to 4.30am a network of 40 night buses (always with three digits and beginning with 9) operates every 15 to 60 minutes, again depending on the route.
The following are bus routes (shown with blue lines on most Budapest maps) that you might find useful:
7 Cuts across a large swath of central Pest from XIV Bosnyák tér and down VII Rákóczi út before crossing Elizabeth Bridge to southern Buda. The 7E makes limited stops on the same route.
15 Takes in most of the Inner Town from IX Boráros tér to XIII Lehel tér north of Nyugati train station.
105 Goes from V Deák Ferenc tér to XII Apor Vilmos tér in central Buda.
Car & Motorcycle
Driving in Budapest can be a nightmare: ongoing roadworks reduce traffic to a snail’s pace; there are more serious accidents than fender benders; and parking spots are near impossible to find in some neighbourhoods. The public-transport system is good and very inexpensive. Use it.
For information on traffic and road conditions in the capital, check the BKK road information website (https://kozut.bkkinfo.hu).
All the international car-hire firms have offices in Budapest, and online rates, particularly if you choose the 'pay now' option, are very reasonable. A Suzuki Swift from Avis, for example, costs €45/205 per day/week, with unlimited kilometres, collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft protection (TP) insurance.
Major international car-rental agencies in Budapest include Europcar.
Arguably the best independent car-rental agency is the long-established Fox Autorent, located directly behind the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, with its excellent service and very competitive rates (compacts from €40/180 per day/week). There’s also an office near the airport.
For something really different consider renting an electric smart car/scooter hybrid called a Twizy from Moove.
Parking, should you be lucky enough to find a spot, costs between 175Ft and 440Ft per hour on the streets of Budapest (more on Castle Hill), generally between 8am and 6pm (sometimes 8pm) Monday to Friday and 8am and noon Saturday. Illegally parked cars are usually clamped or towed. Parking garages cost 240Ft to 750Ft per hour.
The Ring Roads
If you look at a map of Budapest you will see that two ring roads – the big one (Nagykörút) and the semicircular Kiskörút (the 'little ring road') – link three of the bridges across the Danube and essentially define central Pest. The Big Ring Rd consists of Szent István körút, Teréz körút, Erzsébet körút, József körút and Ferenc körút. The Little Ring Rd comprises Károly körút, Múzeum körút and Vámház körút. Important boulevards such as Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, leafy Andrássy út, Rákóczi út and Üllői út fan out from the ring roads, creating large squares and circles.
Taxis in Budapest are cheap by European standards, and are – at long last – fully regulated, with uniform flagfall (700Ft) and per-kilometre charges (300Ft). Waiting time is 75Ft per minute.
Be careful when hailing a taxi on the street, though. Avoid at all costs ‘taxis’ with no name on the door. Never get into a taxi that does not have a yellow licence plate and an identification badge displayed on the dashboard (as required by law), plus the logo of one of the reputable taxi firms on the outside of the side doors and a table of fares clearly visible on the right-side back door.
Reputable taxi firms:
Tickets & Passes
- To ride the metro, trams, trolleybuses, buses and the HÉV suburban train line as far as the city limits, you must have a valid ticket (which you can buy at kiosks, newsstands, metro entrances, machines and, in some cases, on the bus for an extra charge) or travel pass.
- Life will most likely be simpler if you buy a travel pass, and you won’t have to worry about validating your ticket each time you board. The most central place to buy them is the slick new ticket office at the Deák Ferenc tér metro station, open from 5.30am to 10pm daily.
- Children aged under six and EU seniors over 65 travel free.
- Bicycles can be transported only on the HÉV suburban train and BKK ferries.
- The basic fare for all forms of transport is 350Ft (3000Ft for a block of 10 tickets), allowing you to travel as far as you like on the same metro, bus, trolleybus or tram line without changing/transferring. A ‘transfer ticket’ allowing unlimited stations with one change within one hour costs 530Ft. On the metro exclusively, the base fare drops to 300Ft if you are just going three stops within 30 minutes. Tickets bought on the bus and all night buses cost 450Ft.
- You must always travel in one continuous direction on any one ticket; return trips are not allowed. Tickets have to be validated in machines at metro entrances and aboard other vehicles – inspectors will fine you for not doing so.
- A 24-hour travel card is poor value at 1650Ft, but the 72-hour one for 4150Ft and the seven-day pass for 4950Ft are worthwhile for most visitors. You’ll need a photo to buy the 15-day/monthly pass (6300/9500Ft). Make sure you to input your name and signature on the back.
- Travelling without a valid ticket or pass is foolhardy; with what seems like constant surveillance (especially in the metro), there’s an excellent chance you’ll get caught. The on-the-spot fine is 8000Ft, which doubles if you pay it at the BKK penalty office up to 30 days later. After that date it goes up to 32,500Ft.
- If you’ve left something on any form of public transport, contact the BKK lost & found office.
Budapest has four underground metro lines. Three of them converge at Deák Ferenc tér (only): the little yellow (or Millennium) line designated the M1 that runs from Vörösmarty tér to Mexikói út in Pest; the red M2 line from Déli train station in Buda to Örs vezér tere in Pest; and the blue M3 line from Újpest-Központ to Kőbánya-Kispest in Pest. The new green M4 metro runs from Kelenföldi train station in southern Buda to Keleti train station in Pest, where it links with the M2. It links with the M3 at Kálvin tér. All four metro lines run from 4.30am and begin their last journey at around 11.30pm.
The HÉV suburban train line, which runs on five lines (north from Batthyány tér in Buda via Óbuda and Aquincum to Szentendre, south to both Csepel and Ráckeve, and east to Gödöllő), is almost like a fifth, above-ground metro line. Lines are designated H5 to H9
Trams are often faster and generally more pleasant for sightseeing than buses. There are 32 lines in total.
Important tram lines (always marked with a red line on a Budapest map) are as follows:
2 Scenic tram that travels along the Pest side of the Danube from V Jászai Mari tér to IX Boráros tér and beyond.
4 and 6 Extremely useful trams that start at XI Fehérvári út and XI Móricz Zsigmond körtér in south Buda, respectively, and follow the entire length of the Big Ring Rd in Pest before terminating at II Széll Kálmán tér in Buda. Tram 6 runs every 10 to 15 minutes round the clock.
19 Runs from southern Buda along XI Bartók Béla út through the Tabán and along the Danube to I Batthyány tér.
47, 48 and 49 Link V Deák Ferenc tér in Pest with points in southern Buda via the Little Ring Rd.
61 Connects XI Móricz Zsigmond körtér with Déli train station and II Széll Kálmán tér in Buda.
Trolleybuses on 15 lines go along cross streets in central Pest. They are usually of little use to visitors, but the lines to, from and around City Park (70, 72 and 74) and down to Puskás Ferenc Stadion metro station (75 and 77). A red line on a map indicates a trolleybus route.