Budapest is a compact city relatively easy to move. Most public transportation runs from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., but with a complex night bus system, plus the 24-hour tram on the Grand Boulevard, you should have no problem getting home at any time.
The city’s transport network is managed by the BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Közpönt). You can either buy a single ticket for 350 HUF (no transfer, unless you are on the metro) or 24 hours (1650 HUF), 72 hours (4150 HUF), weekly (4950 HUF) or monthly (9500 HUF) pass . If you have a single ticket, make sure to validate it at one of the tram or bus machines, or at the metro entrance. Tickets and passes are available from purple machines on the platforms of metro stations or in dedicated kiosks in major transport centers.
Budapest’s public transport system operates on a “trust” system. So there is usually no ticket check on arrival, but sometimes an inspector who checks at random. If you don’t have a valid pass or ticket, the fines are severe and no matter how many great sites and attractions you check, this interaction could basicaly ruin your vacation.
Our essential advice? Download the BKK app on your phone for live timetables, so you know exactly when (and where) the next tram, bus or metro will arrive.
Budapest has four metro lines (and a fifth in the pipeline). Metro 1 (also known as the yellow metro) is the oldest on continental Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you take a mode of transportation, do so. The line can take you from Vörösmarty Tér to City Park.
Metro 2 (red) connects Széll Kálmán to Buda to Örs Vezér Tér in Pest and stops at the Hungarian Parliament, Astoria and Keleti station.
Metro 3 (blue) has retained its granularity from the communist era and extends from Újpest to Kőbánya-Kispest on the Pest side
The tram is the easiest and best way to get around town. Lines 4 and 6 run on the Grand Boulevard from Széll Kálmán tér to Újbuda Központ and Móricz Zsigmond Körtér respectively. Tram 6 runs all night. For a scenic route, take tram 2 on the Pest side of the river, which will take you past the Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament, or 41 or 19 to Buda. Tickets are validated on an on-board machine.
Buses can be the busiest form of transportation in Budapest. These are standard blue vehicles or red trolleybuses that operate on a cable. These only work in Pest, and generally head to more residential areas, but you will sometimes also see them in the city center.
Blue buses, on the other hand, are everywhere. Some work like the tram – you can get to any entrance and validate your ticket – but others may ask you to get on the front of the bus and show your ticket or drop by the driver. Standard day services end around 11:30 p.m., but if you’re still on the go, there’s also a decent night bus system (vehicles are numbered in the 900s).
The best way to see the Danube is to travel on it – obviously – and with the BKK boat you can do it on a limited budget. Single tickets cost HUF 750 (passes are generally accepted on weekdays), and you can travel from the Kopaszi Dam in the south to Római Part in the north. The boat docks at some of the most famous monuments, such as the Hungarian Parliament, Margaret Island and the Gellért Hotel. Just buy your ticket when you get on the boat. Services are not that frequent and sometimes unreliable, so check out the BKK boat website.
5. Cogwheel Railway and Chairlift
If you want to climb the Buda Hills but don’t want to climb, you should take one. The rack railway is billed like tram number 60, but it is actually a rack train from Szent János Hospital to Széchenyi-hegy (where the children’s railway begins).
It’s a fun walk, with breathtaking views all along. Alternatively, you can take the Zugliget chairlift. A one-way ticket will cost HUF 1,200 – worth it for the panoramas – and you will find yourself in János-hegy, the highest point in Budapest.