When I’m planning a trip, I’m usually overwhelmed by the local public transport. I often have no idea how to look up where and when a bus or tram is leaving. Sometimes there are a ton of options, and (the worst), sometimes the information isn’t available in English. Half the time I just end up walking everywhere! After living in Budapest for five months, I think I’ve pretty much figured out the public transport. So here it is (in English!): your complete guide to public transport in Budapest.
There are many different kinds of public transport in Budapest: metros, trams, buses, and trolley buses, ferries. And then there’s also bikes, taxis, and trains to other cities in Hungary. It can be quite challenging! I’ve done the research for you, and you can find some useful tips and apps at the end of this post.
Public transport in Budapest
Public transport in Budapest is available 24/7. Yes, also during the night, on weekdays and on the weekend. There’s a daily schedule between 04.30 am and 11.50 pm, in between there are night buses and trams.
Each kind of transportation has its own color. That way it’s easy to recognize if you’re stepping into a bus or trolley bus and if you’re hopping onto metro 2 or 3. The trams are yellow, the trolley buses are red, and the normal buses are a light blue. Metro line 1 is yellow, metro line 2 is red, metro line 3 is dark blue, and metro line 4 is green.
Budapest has four train stations. The most important stations are Nyugati Pályaudvar, Keleti Pályaudvar, and Déli Pályaudvar. Budapest is connected to a large part of Hungary from these stations, and also to many cities in other countries. Because you won’t be taking the train within Budapest and you need other tickets for it, I didn’t write about the trains in this guide.
Didn’t validate your ticket and got caught? Oops, that’s going to cost you. 8000 HUF (around €25,85) to be exact, to be paid in cash on the spot. If you’re paying later at a register, you’ll have to pay double. So make sure to either bring 8000 HUF, or a validated ticket. (I recommend the latter). Not very expensive, but a waste of money.
Tickets for public transport in Budapest
They don’t have anything similar to London’s Oyster card in Budapest, yet. But they’re working on it! Until then, there are the paper tickets. You can buy those at offices at the train stations, many metro stations, and the airport, open between 5 am and 10 pm. Besides that, practically every metro- and tram stop has a ticket machine where you can pay with cash, wireless, and debit/credit cards.
Single tickets cost 350 HUF (around €1,15), but you can also buy 10 tickets for 3000 HUF (around €9,70). If you buy a single ticket from the driver, you’ll pay 450 HUF (around €1,45) and you have to pay this in exact change.
You can take one transport with a single ticket, you have to stamp a new ticket with every transfer. This means from metro to tram or bus to boat, but also when transferring from one bus, tram, etc. to another. Not for the metro though, you can use the metro system for 80 minutes after validating your single ticket at a metro station.
Validating your ticket is super easy: stick your ticket into one of the orange/red machines in the trams, buses, and at the metro stations, get your stamp, and you’re all done! The (trolley)buses and trams have machines hanging near the entrances, the metro stations have them before stepping onto the escalators or near the entrance for metro line 1.
BKK (Budapest’s public transport organization) also sells tickets that are valid for 24 hours, 72 hours or 7 days. A day ticket is 1650 HUF (around €5,35), 72 hours will cost you 4150 HUF (around €13,40), and a weekly ticket costs 4950 HUF (around €16).
These tickets allow you to use unlimited public transport in Budapest, both during the day and the night. A day ticket is cheaper than single tickets when you make 5 trips or more in a day.
Day tickets do not have to be validated since they have dates on them. You will have to show them before hopping on the metro, so keep it within reach.
You can also choose to pick up a one, two, or three-day Budapest Card. If you have one of these, you can use the public transport in Budapest without limitations, but you also get many extras, such as entry to museums and baths, tours through the city, and discounts at attractions and restaurants.
How does the metro in Budapest work?
There are four metro lines in Budapest. During rush hour, metros ride approximately every three minutes. Early in the morning and late in the evening, about every 10 minutes.
Metro line 1
M1 (yellow) is the second oldest metro line in the world (1896), only the one in London is older. The whole line lies under Pest and connects the city center with Városliget, the City Park. M1 goes under Andrássy út, one of the most important streets in Budapest. The metro line will take you to many sights, from shopping street Váci utca, the Opera House, the House of Terror, and Heroes Square, to the City Park and Széchenyi baths.
M1 is known by different names. It’s also called the Millenium Underground. This is because the Hungarians celebrated 1000 years of the Kingdom in Városliget, but back then the park was far from the center. The government had spent a lot of money on Andrássy út, so they didn’t want to ride a tram through the street. That’s why they built the metro, so the Budapestians could easily reach the festivities in the park. Another name is ‘földalatti’, meaning ‘underground’. Since it was the first and only one, M1 is the one meant when saying ‘underground’. It’s still used that way in Hungarian.
Metro line 2
You won’t use M2 (red) a lot as a tourist unless your hotel is located along the line. M2 goes from Déli Pályaudvar (train station) in Buda, along Deák Ferenc tér (the central square), Keleti Pályaudvar (another train station), the arena, all the way to Örs Vezér tere. There’s an Ikea and a big mall at the final stop.
Metro line 3
M3 (blue) is probably the most important metro line in Budapest for both tourists and locals. It connects the airport bus 200E with the city center but is also the longest line with the most stops. M3 goes straight through the middle of the city, along some of the most important junctions in the city: Corvin-negyed, Kálvin tér, Deák Ferenc tér and Nyugati Pályaudvar.
This line still has metros from the communist era. Budapestians would really like to get rid of these metros since they don’t like to be reminded of this time. The first new metros started riding the line in March 2017, but a few technical difficulties have delayed further replacements.
Metro line 4
M4 (green) is the youngest line: it’s been active since March 2014. The most important sights along the green line are the Great Market Hall, Gellért baths, and Gellért Hill.
The stops along M4 are little sights on their own: they’re a lot more modern than the stops along the other lines. This metro is self-driving: there are no drivers. Fun fact: M4 is the only metro that doesn’t stop at Deák Ferenc tér.
How does the tram in Budapest work?
Budapest has over 30 tram lines throughout the city, but you won’t be using most of them. The most important trams for tourists are tram lines 2, 4, and 6.
Tram 2 is like a tourist train; it goes along the Danube on the Pest-side and will show you views of the Gellért Hill, Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, and the Parliament. During the day, the tram will go every 3 to 5 minutes, every 10 minutes in the evening. It operates less often during the weekend and holidays.
Tram 4 and 6 go along the Nagykőrut, or Grand Boulevard: a ring in/around the center of Budapest. The trams stop at Corvin-negyed, Nyugati Pályaudvar, and the island Margit-sziget. A tram goes every 5 minutes during the day, every 10 minutes in the evening. Tram 6 is a 24-hour service, it goes around every 10 minutes during the night.
How does the bus work in Budapest?
There’s an extensive (trolley) bus infrastructure in Budapest. Some places in Budapest can’t be reached without a bus (or car), such as the Buda hills. The buses in Budapest go every 10 to 15 minutes, so you never have to wait long.
In some buses (mostly airport buses 100E and 200E) you’re expected to board at the front door, most other buses allow you to board at every door. Keep in mind that the driver won’t always open the door for you, newer buses have a button next to the door that you have to press.
The difference between trolley buses and normal buses is that the trolley buses more environmentally-friendly: they ride on electricity and make less noise. The buses are blue, the trolley buses are red.
How do the ferries in Budapest work?
There are ferries between the south and the north of Budapest. There are several stops in Buda as well as in Pest. During the week you can use your normal public transport tickets, you need a special ticket during the weekend. These are 750 HUF (around €2,45) for adults (you don’t have to pay extra with a Budapest Card).
When taking the ferry from the beginning to the end (2 hours to the north, 1,5 hours to the south) you have a cheaper river cruise, something many tourists pay thousands of forints for. Take some drinks and snacks, and you really won’t need the live music and fancy dinners the river cruises offer.
The boat goes under all the bridges in the city center and you have a view of all the sights along the river, such as the Parliament, Buda Castle, and Gellért Hill. The boat even goes to Rómaifürdő, where you’ll find a beach along the river (hotspot during the summer).
Biking in Budapest
If I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of biking abroad. Just because I’m so spoiled with a biking focused country like the Netherlands. When I think about biking abroad, I worry that the drivers won’t see me because they’re not used to bikers. So I haven’t tried this (yet)!
There are several bike rental places in Budapest, all throughout the city. You can rent a bike at a shop for an hour, two hours, a day, and bring it back there. But like many capitals, Budapest also has a bike sharing system: the MOL Bubi bike. There are over 100 stations in the city and over 1200 bikes.
Most people bike on the roads, between the cars. There are bicycle paths in some places in the city. It seems like it’s also allowed to bike on the sidewalk, but with respect for pedestrians of course.
Mol Bubi cards are available for 24 hours, 72 hours, and 7 days (with a deposit of 25 000 HUF (around €80)), there are also cards for 3, 6 or 12 months. The first 30 minutes are free, after that, you pay 500 HUF (around €1,60) per half hour. You can buy tickets through their app, website or at the bike stations.
Taxis in Budapest
There are several taxi companies in Budapest. In general, it’s better to call a cab than hail one on the streets. There are rules about the costs in Budapest, but just like everywhere, Budapest also has drivers using gullible tourists.
Főtaxi is seen as the most trustworthy company. It’s also the official partner of Budapest Airport. They promise to pick you up in 5 to 10 minutes.
International Budapestians love the Taxify app. Just like with Uber, you can order (and pay) a taxi through the app, and you can see where the taxi is and what car you have to look out for.
Trains in Budapest
There are four train stations in Budapest. As a tourist, you probably won’t be using trains, unless you are traveling to a destination outside of Budapest. Like Lake Balaton from Déli Pályaudvar, or if you’re traveling from Budapest to Vienna from Keleti Pálayaudvar, for example. You can buy tickets at the register or at the ticket machines at the stations. For international trains, you can often buy tickets online.
There are several ways to get to and from Budapest airport from the city center. The easiest option is a taxi, but if you want to use public transport, these are your best options (during the day):
Take bus 200E to Kőbanya-Kispest from the airport, this is the final stop of the bus. Then hop on metro 3. Don’t worry about which way you’re going, it only goes to the city center from here. The rest depends on your destination.
Another option is bus 100E. This one goes straight from the airport to Deák Ferenc tér, the central square in the city. No transfers in between, but you’ll need a special ticket. It costs 900 HUF (ca. €2,95) and you can buy tickets at the register as well as at the ticket machines.
Etiquette in the public transport in Budapest
There are some social norms in the public transport in Budapest, just like in other countries.
- Give up your seat for elderly, pregnant women, and people with small children.
- Some of the escalators are really fast, so make sure to get ready to get on and off. Also: stand on the right, walk on the left.
- Loud music, smelly food, talking loud… People hate it in Amsterdam, London, Berlin; they hate it here too.
- Dogs are allowed with a special ticket, but they do need to be leashed and wear a muzzle.
- Smoking in public transport is forbidden (of course), but in Budapest, you also can’t smoke at the stops. Not everybody complies, but officially it’s a rule.
- Bikes can’t be brought onto public transport in Budapest, with exception of a couple trams and buses that you probably won’t use as a tourist anyway.
Google Maps – Google Maps is my life saver. It helps me figure out how to walk everywhere, I saved all my favorite hotspots as well as go-to spots, and it can tell me exactly which bus/tram/metro to get and where the station is: with real time information.
Taxify – As I said: Taxify is popular among international Budapestians. It works the same as Uber: order a cab, get a confirmation, and wait for your taxi to show up. You can pay with cash or through the app. The biggest advantage of Taxify compared to Főtaxi? You can use the app in English. When you call, you never know if the person picking up will speak English.
BKK Futár – BKK Futár is the official app to plan your public transport in Budapest (BKK is the public transport office). I personally don’t like this app, but it’s widely used.
Budapest Menetrend – The same goes for Budapest Menetrend: not the best app to plan your travels with, but widely used. This was the app my friends recommended to me and I used it for months before the EU canceled roaming costs and I started using Google Maps. The best thing is that you can save routes you often take and you can use it offline.
MOL Bubi Bike – The official MOL Bubi bike app. You can find the docking stations and see how many bikes are available, but you can also use it to buy cards.
Wow, that took a while to put together. But I think I have a pretty complete guide to public transport in Budapest! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!