Buda and Pest may be separated by the Danube River, but the city's well-established public transport system makes sure it's easy to stay connected. All by using the public transport network, you can whiz from your vacation rental in Gellért Hill to Parliament to the ruin bars of the Jewish District with no problem at all. Budapest is made up of 23 districts, but most of the tourist attractions are in the five districts of the inner city. The area is quite walkable, but nonetheless, public transportation options abound.
For official, up-to-date information, visit the site of Budapest's department of transportation, BKK.
So how do you use public transportation in Budapest? Read on to find out.
The classic approach is to buy a ticket from one of the purple kiosks. These are Budapest's answer to ticket offices and are easy and quick to use. You'll spot the ticket vending machines close to most transportation hubs. Most of them accept a bank card as well as cash.
If you prefer to keep things digital, you can download the Budapest Go Trip Planner, the BKK's official app. The app allows you to buy tickets and also provides up-to-date maps and route info.
You can buy a single ticket, a book of 10 single tickets, or, popularly, a 24/48/72 hour pass. If you want to take things to the next level, the Budapest Card combines unlimited transportation with 40+ services and free or discounted entry to sites all around the city. If you’re planning an extended stay in Budapest, the travel card is really convenient.
One of the most commonly used modes of transportation, bus routes spread extensively throughout the city. Some, but not all, buses are front-door loading only, even if the other doors open to let passengers off. Keep in mind though that even buses that aren’t front loading only require you to board via the front door on weekends and show your ticket/pass to the driver
The bus often won't leave the station until all boarding passengers use the front door and validate their ticket, so make sure to check if the bus is front-loading only or not before you get on (it should be noted in the virtual ticker tape).
These "yellow caterpillars'' keep the city connected. Most notably, the 4-6 line runs down one of Budapest's main boulevards, connects Buda and Pest, and runs 24 hours a day. The 4 and 6 tram lines share the same route (starting at Buda's Széll Kálmán ter), except for their final few stations.
Tram #6 ends at Móricz Zsigmond Körtér, while Tram #4 ends at Újbuda Központ. Unless you need to go to these specific destinations, the 4/6 trams should be interchangeable for you.
Pro Tip: Some of the older trams have a different validator system. Instead of inserting your ticket and it is automatically stamped, you have to insert it and pull the validator down yourself.
The #2 tram runs parallel to the river on the Pest side, giving you views of UNESCO World Heritage sights and landmarks such as Parliament, Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion, and more! Get on at Jászai Mari ter for the cheapest sightseeing tour of the city!
These cheerful red trolley buses mainly connect parts of Budapest that couldn't support metro construction. Eco-friendly and running on electricity, you may even get a trolley from the beginning of the post-communist era, making it a historical ride as well as a convenient one!
Budapest has quite the claim to fame as far as public transportation goes. In 1896, it became the location of the first subway system in continental Europe. It was preceded only by London's famous underground Tube which opened in 1863.
You can still ride the historic Metro 1 line today for a blast from the past, as well as an easy link between Vörösmarty tér and Heroes Square/City Park, which holds attractions such as the Budapest Zoo, Széchenyi Baths, and Vajdahunyad Castle.
In the present day, Budapest has four metro lines. The city is constantly renovating the metro stations, so you may need to use a replacement bus if it’s under construction during your visit. Make sure to view updated transport info before planning your trip.
In addition to the metro, buses, trolleys, and trams, you can also travel the Danube River on the public boat service of Budapest. The boats only run semi-frequently, but they're a wonderful way to take a cheap river cruise if you're not in a rush. Sail past Parliament, under the Chain Bridge, and past more landmarks of the city! Find the full route and schedule information here.
Connecting the city centre of Budapest with surrounding suburbs, the HÉV suburban train probably won't factor into your daily travels around the city. The most common exception is when visitors make the 40-minute commute north to visit the medieval village of Szentendre. With colorful buildings and winding alleys (not to mention a marzipan museum), it's one of the most popular Budapest day trips. However, if you want to go, your Budapest pass only lasts until Békásmegyer, you'll need to buy a transfer ticket to cover the remaining stops.
Most public transportation ceases just before or after midnight. However, Budapest has enough night services that you won't get stranded if you choose to have a late night out.
As mentioned before, the 4/6 tram runs 24 hours a day. However, it runs through more of Pest than Buda, so you may need to pair it with one of the night buses depending on where you're going. There is also an extensive night bus network, although some only come every half hour or so.
Beyond BKK, there are other options to get around the city. The pay-as-you-go MolBubi bikes or any of the various street scooter companies (you'll see scooters strewn across the sidewalks), give you a way to get up close and personal with the city.
It's quite straightforward to travel between the Budapest city center and Liszt Ferenc International Airport thanks to the shuttle bus. The bus leaves approximately every 7-10 minutes and has three pickup locations in the city. The journey takes around 40 minutes, but allow for extra time during rush hours. Find the shuttle's detailed schedule here.
Note that a typical transportation ticket or pass does not apply to the shuttle service. You will need to purchase a special ticket, which you can do via ticket kiosks, on the app, or on the bus itself.
It's very important to travel with a valid ticket, although the validation process varies slightly depending on the mode of transport. There are frequent ticket inspectors at the metros, but the trams and buses function more on the honor system.
Always validate your ticket! Budapest ticket controllers are well-known for having zero tolerance--even if you're a tourist. If you buy a paper ticket but fail to stamp/punch it, prepare yourself for the fine: 12,000 HUF/~30€ if you pay on the spot or 25,000 HUF/~60€ if you wait to pay until later). As mentioned above, pay special attention to the trams, as some of the older validators take a bit of elbow grease.
If you've purchased a pass, then there's no need to punch it in a validator (it won't fit anyways). Simply show it to the ticket controller if one comes your way.
As a major capital in Central Europe, Budapest is perfectly positioned for travel to the exciting neighboring capitals. If you want to travel to Prague, Vienna, or Bratislava, all you have to do is take a train. You'll likely catch an international train out of Keleti Railway Station or Déli Railway Station.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of transportation in Budapest, you're in luck! There are special sites set aside for learning, such as the Hungarian Railway Museum (at which you can walk among retired locomotives) and the Museum of Transport.
Getting around the capital of Hungary is no problem at all thanks to Budapest’s efficient transport services! With the help of Google maps and the official BKK route planning apps, public transportation in Budapest is your key to the city.