Getting to and from the airport
Budapest's airport shuttle bus (100E) connects the city center (Deák Ferenc tér) with the Ferenc Liszt International Airport. The trip takes about half an hour, and with a €4 (HUF1,500) one-way ticket, it's a cheap and quick way to get into and out of the airport. You can purchase a ticket ahead of your trip through the user-friendly BudapestGO app or at the vending machines by the stations, which accept both credit cards and Hungarian forint. The shuttle buses run every ten minutes throughout the day (detailed schedules: from and to the airport).
As for taxis, note that there's no flat-rate service to and from the airport. To take a licensed cab, you'll need to go to the taxi booth at the airport located just outside the arrivals, provide your destination, then give the printout to the cab driver. Depending on your final destination, the ride will cost anywhere between the local equivalent of €30 and €40.
Exploring Budapest on foot
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 of the city center. Széchenyi Thermal Baths is one of the more far-flung destinations, but even that's only a 40-minute walk from downtown, and reaching it via the striking Andrássy Avenue is an experience in itself.
Are you crossing over to the Buda side? 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. My district-level overviews can help you get to know the main pockets of Budapest.
An alternative to walking is using BuBi, Budapest's bicycle sharing system. With more than 140 docking stations and 1,800 bicycles, the network provides an excellent coverage of the inner parts of Pest, primarily within the Grand Boulevard. Although there are docking stations on the other side of the Danube too, Buda's rolling hills are less biker-friendly than the flat terrain of Pest.
You can rent a BuBi bike through the BuBi app. Unless you have a Hungarian residency card, you'll need to use the "Pay-as-you-go" option which charges by the minute; a half-hour bike ride costs, for example, HUF600 or less than €2.
Since 2019, Lime electric scooters have flooded Budapest. This isn't surprising since they're easy to get around with and to sign up for through an app. As in other major cities, however, electric scooters aren't properly regulated in Budapest, and safety is an issue, especially for pedestrians on the sidewalk.
The cost of using Lime e-scooters consists of a base charge of ~€1 per ride and an additional 15 cents per minute. Note that there are several so called "no parking zones" that include parts of downtown (District 5), Margaret Island, and the Castle District. The app has all the details.
Budapest has an especially good public transportation system — buses, trolleys, and trams roam the city (subways do too, but then you wouldn’t see as much of it). Good news if you're older than 65 and from an EU country: all public 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 on the same BudapestGO app used for the the airport shuttle (there are also ticket vending machines at many bus stations). You can also buy tickets directly from the bus drivers, but those will be slightly more expensive and you'll hold up traffic. For directions and schedules, rely on a most loyal friend: Google Maps.
Several public transportation lines provide a memorable sightseeing tour for merely the cost of a fare. On tram #2, you'll 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 (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.
Bus #16, also known as the Castle Bus, will take you from the city center at Deák Ferenc tér up to the historic Castle Hill. The bus crosses the Danube through the Chain Bridge, the first permanent bridge between Pest and Buda (note that it's currently under construction). Get off the bus at Dísz tér, and you're ready to roam the streets of the old town.
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The two busiest tram lines in Budapest, #4 and #6, offer panoramic vistas while they cross the Danube. The trams travel through the Grand Boulevard, the dividing line between inner and outer Pest. Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life take these trams every day, so for a true cross-section of Budapest residents, go for a journey from Széll Kálmán tér to Boráros tér.
A trip on bus #105 offers a different experience with one of its endpoints being in the working class Angyalföld neighborhood, the other in the well-off Buda hills, piercing through the city center in between. Take #105 from Deák Ferenc tér to Gyöngyösi utca for Angyalföld, or to Apor Vilmos tér for the Buda side. Sit back, relax, and take in Budapest in its entirety.
Cab prices are regulated across all taxi operators in Budapest. The fare consists of a base fee of HUF 1,000 (€3) plus a distance-based charge of HUF 400 per km (€1.25). 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.
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. Bolt has an easy-to-use app (Apple, Google Play) and works like an Uber or a 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.
You should try to 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.
Uber & Lyft
Thanks to the local taxi driver lobby, Uber was banned in Hungary in 2016. Lyft and other ridesharing companies don't operate in Budapest either. The Bolt app provides the most comparable service (Apple, Google Play) to those.