Here's How To Get Around Budapest

Walking, biking, and public transportation are the best ways to discover Budapest. See some specific recommendations below.

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 €3 (HUF900) one-way ticket, it's the cheapest way to get into and out of the airport. You can purchase a ticket ahead of your trip through a clunky but operational 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. The only downside is that they can get uncomfortably crowded — on your way back to the airport, try to get on at the Deák Ferenc tér 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 cost anywhere 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 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 grand 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. Our district-level overviews can help you get to know the main pockets of Budapest.

Biking: BuBi

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.

To rent a BuBi bike, 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.

Electric scooters

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.

Public transport

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 at subway stations and bus stops with ticket vending machines (most of them) or at said app. 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, or download the notably excellent BKK FUTÁR app available in English and operated by the Center for Budapest Transport.

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 (here you can learn more about it).

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. Get off the bus at Dísz tér, and you're ready to roam the streets of the old town.

The two busiest tram lines in Budapest, #4 and #6, happen to offer panoramic vistas while they cross the Danube River. 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 cross-section of Budapest residents, go for a journey from Széll Kálmán tér and 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.

Taxis

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 of HUF 300 per km (~€1). 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.

licensed-budapest-cab
A licensed Budapest cab with the corporate logo and the official price listed on its 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.

If you've found this useful, please consider supporting Offbeat. Our content is free, so your contributions go a long way toward maintaining and growing the website.