Although Budapest is a walkable city, it’s easy to get around thanks to its excellent public transport network operated by the BKK (Budapest Center of Transport). If you’re not planning to go outside the Hungarian capital, it’s best not to rent a car as you’ll get around the city more quickly and easily with its extensive metro, tram, and bus system. This guide will help you prepare for your trip to Budapest, so you’ll be riding the subway and the tram like a local in no time.
How to Ride the Budapest Metro
Although buses and trams are the primary forms of transport in Budapest, the metro is the easiest way to get around the city for a first-timer. It is also the quickest way to get around the city. There are currently four metro lines, so it’s simple to navigate the city. Not to mention, metro line 1 is the oldest subway in continental Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Fares: Single tickets cost 350 Hungarian forints and you can change metro lines with a single ticket. Travel passes are also available for 24 hours (1,650 forints), 72 hours (4,150 forints), or a week (4,950 forints), which cover all modes of transportation. If you get a Budapest Card, you can have unlimited transport for the period you choose. If you have a single ticket, validate it in one of the validation boxes at the metro entrance—usually by the escalators—and keep it with you until the end of the journey.
- Routes and Hours: The metro runs daily from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. from the first stop of each line, with trains coming every 2 to 5 minutes during the day and every 10 minutes during early morning and late evenings. There are four metro lines, line 1 (yellow) runs from Vörösmarty tér to Mexikói út. Line 2 (red) goes from Széll Kálmán tér in Buda to Örs Vezér tere in Pest, and line 3 (blue) runs between Újpest-Központ and Kőbánya-Kispest on the Pest side of the river. Line 4 (green) is the newest and goes between the Kelenföld train station in Buda and the Keleti train station in Pest.
- Service Alerts: The metro, in general, is pretty reliable, but occasionally there are delays or closures, especially on metro line 3, which is undergoing renovation. Replacement buses run when the metro isn’t operational. You can check any updates at bkkinfo.hu or download the BKK app, which shows the estimated time for the next mode of transport.
- Accessibility: Metro line 4 is fully accessible, with elevators even running up to the platform. Line 1 is only accessible by stairs, line 3 has an elevator only at Kőbánya-Kispest station, and there are only three stations (Örs Vezér tere, Pillangó utca, and Puskás Ferenc stadion) that are fully accessible on line 2. You can read more about the accessible transport options on the BKK website.
Riding the Tram
Budapest’s tram network is extensive. More than 390 million passengers take the tram yearly, which is almost 100 million more than the metro.
- Routes: There are more than 30 routes operating on nearly 100 miles of track across Budapest. The most popular lines are the 4 and 6, which run along the Grand Boulevard, connecting Buda and Pest. Tram line 2 offers the most scenic route, as this takes you along the Pest embankment, with the 41 and 19 running parallel on the Buda side. The 47 and 49 trams operate on Small Boulevard to transport hub Deák Ferenc tér.
- Hours: Trams generally run between 4:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. from the end of the line. The tram line 6 runs 24 hours a day, every day.
- Fares: Fares for the tram are the same as for the metro. You will need to validate your ticket on board. Modern trams punch the ticket automatically. On older trams you will need to put the ticket in the validation box and pull the slot you put the ticket in hard to punch the ticket. Random ticket inspections are common, and if you are caught without a valid ticket, you will be fined. You can only use one ticket on one tram, so if you change lines, you will need to use another ticket.
How to Pay for Budapest’s BKK Network
There are many ways to buy a ticket or a pass. You can get them at the ticket offices in most metro stations, some newsagents or post offices, or from ticket vending machines. You can take a look at the interactive BKK map, which gives you all the sales points in the city, but the easiest ways to buy a ticket are:
- At the ticket office: You can usually find a ticket office in most metro stations. You can pay with cash or card.
- From the BKK Ticket vending machine: Most tram or bus stops, and metro stations, will have a purple ticket machine where you can buy tickets and passes any time of day. These accept both card and cash (even notes, you will get the change back in coins). All machines have the option to switch to an English language version.
- From the bus driver: If you need to take a bus, you can buy tickets directly from the driver (tickets cost 450 forints), and you must pay in cash.
- Via the Mobiljegy app: You can buy passes on the BKK mobile ticket app. You can read more about how this works on their website.
There are different bus services operating within Budapest. There are the standard blue buses and the red trolleybuses, which use overhead cables. While buses cross the city center, they are also best way to reach neighborhoods further into the suburbs, like the Buda Hills. Some buses require you to board at the front and show your ticket or pass to the driver. There are night bus services that run once the metro, tram, and regular buses shut down for the night.
HÉV Suburban Train
There is a suburban train network, called the HÉV, which takes you to the outer limits of the city and beyond. Most visitors will take the HÉV to the town of Szentendre for the day. Your tickets and passes are valid on these within the city limits. However, if you are planning to go beyond, you’ll need an extension ticket you can buy from the ticket offices or the purple machines.
The 100E airport bus offers a direct link to the city center, running between the airport to Kálvin tér and Deák Ferenc tér, and takes 40 minutes. Buses run every 10 to 20 minutes from 3:40 a.m. to 12:40 a.m. Single tickets cost 900 forints.
If you need a taxi, there are plenty of options. Never hail a cab from the street, as many companies are looking to scam foreign visitors, but call a reputable company like Főtaxi, City Taxi, or 6X6. Alternatively, you can also download the Bolt app and order a cab that way (if you’re used to Uber, Bolt operates more or less the same way).
Anyone can use this bike-sharing system. Just walk around the city and look out for the lime green BuBi bikes. They can be rented for 24 hours, 72 hours, seven days, or get longer-term passes. Once you’ve got your time ticket, you can use the bike for free for the first 30 minutes, after which you’ll be charged an additional 500 forints for every 30 minutes used. You can buy the tickets using a bank card from the touchscreen terminals at the docking station, or on the website. There is a deposit of 25,000 forints, which is returned when you return the bike.
The BKK Boat
The best way to see Budapest is to go by boat, and if you’re on a budget, you can take the BKK boat service for a couple of dollars. Tickets on the boat cost 750 forints one way, and in the summer, some of the boat lines run from Kopaszi Gát to Római Part. In the winter, there are fewer services and shorter routes. You can see more about the boat services on the BKK website.
Tips for Getting Around Budapest
Transport in Budapest is affordable and convenient, but you can make life a little easier by following a few tips.
- Validate and keep your ticket. If you are not using a pass, make sure you validate the ticket and keep it on you at all times. Sometimes plain clothes inspectors get on the tram or bus to check at random, and it’s also possible inspectors check tickets as you leave the metro. Getting caught without a valid ticket means a hefty fine and an unpleasant encounter that ruins your trip.
- Don’t travel at rush hour. The tram, metro, and bus buses can get pretty packed between 8 and 9 a.m., and between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Try to avoid traveling during those times if possible.
- Keep an eye on your belongings. Budapest is generally a safe city, but like any capital, you have a risk of pickpockets. It’s possible to put your phone in your pocket for 30 seconds only to find it gone when you reach back in.
- Download the BKK App. The BKK Futár app will tell you when all modes of transport run to real time, and it can make it so much easier to plan your trip.
- Use Bolt if you need a taxi. Bolt is so easy to use, especially if you’re worried about the language barrier or getting taken advantage of. You can see your route in live time, get fare estimates, and see where your driver is while you wait.