Getting To And From The Airport
Budapest's airport shuttle bus (100E) connects the city center (Deák Ferenc Square) with Ferenc Liszt Airport. The trip takes about half an hour, and with a €3 (HUF900) one-way ticket, it's the cheapest way to get in and out of the airport. You can purchase a ticket ahead of your trip through an app, or at the vending machines by the stations, which accept both credit cards and Hungarian forint, except for the Kálvin Square station, where you can only pay with local currency.
The shuttle buses run every 10 minutes throughout the day. The only downside is that they can get uncomfortably crowded—on your way back to the airport, try leaving from the Deák Square station to increase your chances for an open seat or at least a half-decent spot.
As for taxis, note that there's no flat-rate service to and from the airport. All licensed cabs (see more below) will use a meter, and depending on your final destination, the fare will be anyhwere between €25 (HUF7,500) and €35 (HUF10,500). If you prefer the comforts of a scheduled pickup to or from the airport, you can book a taxi in advance from Taxi2Airport, which will cost around the same.
Exploring Budapest — Walking
Walking is the best way to discover a new city, and most tourist sites, restaurants, bars, and thermal baths in Budapest are easily within walking distance. Széchenyi Thermal Baths is one of the more far-flung destinations, but even that's only 40-minutes from downtown, and reaching it via the grand Andrássy Avenue is an experience in itself. Are you crossing to Buda? The bridges are shorter than they seem—the Chain Bridge is only 375 meters (1,230 ft.) long—and hiking trails lead up to both the Castle Hill and the Gellért Hill. This district-level overview can help you get to know the main pockets of Budapest.
An alternative to walking is BuBi, Budapest's bicycle sharing system. With 127 docking stations and over 1,500 bicycles, the network provides an excellent coverage of inner Pest, primarily within the Grand Boulevard. Although there are docking stations in Buda, too, its rolling hills are less biker-friendly than the flat terrain of Pest.
To rent a BuBi, you'll have to quickly register at one of the main docking stations (dots filled with red) or online. One-day (HUF500 or ~€1.5), three-day (HUF1,000 or ~€3), and weekly tickets (HUF2,000 or ~€7) are available. The system will charge you a fully-refundable security deposit of HUF25,000 (~€80) that's automatically released after your ticket expires. You can use the bikes for 30-minute intervals, over which additional fees apply. With plenty of docking stations scattered around the city, you shouldn’t need to exceed the time limit unless by conscious choice.
Budapest has an especially good public transportation system—buses, trolleys, and trams roam the city (subways too, but then you wouldn’t see as much). Good news for you if you're more than 65 years old and from an EU country: all publis transport in Budapest is free for you. For everyone else, the cost of a single fare is HUF 350 (~€1). One-day, three-day, and weekly tickets are also available, which you can purchase at subway stations and bus stops that have ticket vending machines. You can also buy tickets directly from the bus drivers, but those will be slightly more expensive and you will hold up traffic. For directions and schedules, rely on a most loyal friend: Google Maps (or download the notably excellent BKK FUTÁR app).
Several public transportation lines provide a memorable sightseeing tour for merely the cost of a fare. On tram #2, you will have plenty of opportunities to marvel at the Parliament building and the Buda Castle, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, as the tram rumbles along the Danube's bank. For the best experience, go from Jászai Mari tér to Fővám tér, and if you're curious about Budapest's National Theater and the Müpa cultural center (the home of the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art), take it all the way to Közvágóhíd.
The Millennium Underground dates back to 1896, making it the first subway line on the European continent (today it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It runs beneath Andrássy Avenue, passing the Opera house, the House of Terror Museum, and Széchenyi Thermal Baths—hop on at any of the stations for a few stops to experience this charming piece of living history (here you can learn about it).
Bus #16, also known as the Castle Bus, will take you from the city center at Deák Ferenc Square up to the historic Castle Hill. It crosses the Danube through the Chain Bridge, the first permanent bridge between Pest and Buda. Get off the bus at Dísz tér, and you're ready to roam the streets of the Old Town.
A trip on bus #105 offers a very different, but similarly unique experience with one of its endpoint being in the working class Angyalföld neighborhood, the other in the well-off Buda hills, piercing through the pristine inner city in-between. Take #105 from Deák Ferenc Square to Gyöngyösi utca for Angyalföld, or to Apor Vilmos tér for the Buda side. Sit back, relax, and take in the these different sides of Budapest.
Cab prices are regulated across all taxi operators in Budapest. The fare consists of a base fee of HUF 700 (~€2) plus a distance-based charge (HUF 300/km, or ~€1), irrespective of the time of day. Licensed cabs are yellow, and you can recognize them by the corporate logos appearing on both sides of the front doors, and the official prices displayed on one of the rear doors. I generally avoid freelance cabs; they're also yellow, but instead of the corporate logo, "freelance" and "független szolgáltató" are written in black on their front doors.
In theory, you should feel free to hail any yellow cab off the street without being overcharged, but I recommend that you use one of the mainstream providers. A company called Bolt is very popular as they have an easy-to-use app (Apple, Google Play). Bolt works like Uber or Lyft, except the drivers are licensed cabbies. Other reputable taxi companies include City Taxi (+36 1 211 1111), Főtaxi (+36 1 222 2222), or Tele 5 (+36 1 555 5555). All cabs are required by law to accept credit cards.
Uber & Lyft
Thanks to the lobbying power of local taxi drivers, Uber was banned in Hungary in 2016. Lyft doesn't operate in Budapest either.
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