Exploring Budapest via public transport is a convenient and budget-friendly way to see the Hungarian capital, all the while keeping your carbon footprint in check.
While the centre of Budapest is fairly walkable, the Hungarian capital also boasts a comprehensive public transport network, including a metro, buses, trams and bike sharing schemes – ideal for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint and save money. What’s more, the metro, buses and trams can all be accessed using the same ticket or travel card.
As in many cities, travelling by metro is among the most efficient ways of getting around in Budapest. Ticket machines are located in every metro station, and offer a range of ticket types. Choose from a single ticket, a block of 10 tickets, a 24-hour travel card, or more flexible ticket types if you’re planning to stay longer.
The Hungarian capital is home to four metro lines, spanning the entire city; the M1 metro line was built in 1896, making it one of Europe’s oldest underground lines. Starting from Vörösmarty Square and stopping at important landmarks like the Opera House, Heroes’ Square and the City Park, this line offers the perfect route for a self-guided Budapest tour.
The newest of the metro lines, M4, links the Kelenföld station in southern Buda with the Keleti train station. The line also stops at well-known tourist attractions, including the Great Market Hall and the Gellért Spa.
Whether you’re travelling short or long distances in Budapest, bus is one of the easiest methods of public transport to get from point A to point B. There are over 200 routes in total, connecting the city centre to the Castle District and areas in the outskirts of the city, including the Verdant Buda Hills.
A single bus ticket costs 450 HUF ($1.50) if it’s purchased onboard from the driver, or 350 HUF ($1.20) if you buy before you board from one of the purple ticket machines situated next to most major bus stops. Just insert your ticket into the orange validation machine on the bus (with the numbers first), and you’re good to go. The bus is also the most popular way for tourists to travel from the airport into the city centre, with this ticket costing 900 HUF ($3).
If you’re planning on travelling by bus for the entirety of your trip, it might be more cost effective to buy a travel pass from one of the ticket machines, or from the Customer Service Points situated in the arrival halls at the airport. Choose from a 24-hour, 72-hour or 7-day Travelcard if you’re planning a longer trip.
For an even more user-friendly experience, and to take the stress out of sightseeing, consider taking one of Budapest’s hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Choose between the Big Bus Budapest tour or the City Sightseeing tour, both of which include audio commentary and stop at the city’s best loved landmarks. For a fresh perspective on the city, book a ticket for the RiverRide, the iconic bus which tours the city’s streets and iconic landmarks, and suddenly turns into a boat, taking the tour into the River Danube for a whole new angle.
You’ll also notice the bright yellow trams – both communist-era trams and more modern ones – when wandering around Budapest. The city has more than 30 tram routes, the majority of which start running as early as 4.30am. Like bus journeys, passengers need to purchase their tickets beforehand and validate them by slotting them into the orange or red ticket machines onboard.
Budapest’s number 2 tram route is particularly picturesque, and a must-do if only for the exceptional views it offers of the River Danube, Castle Hill, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, and the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament. The tram itself is a living piece of Budapest history – a retro vehicle dating back to Hungary’s communist era.
Budapest is becoming an ever more bike-friendly city. For those travelling on a budget who want to make an extra effort to reduce their carbon footprint (or perhaps to work off some of Budapest’s finest sweet treats), the MOL BuBi bike-sharing scheme is a great option for getting around. You can become a user if you first pay an access fee, and then choose from a 24-hour, 72-hour, or 7-day ticket. You can do this on the handy MOL BuBi app, or by following the instructions on the green ticket machines at the docking stations dotted throughout the city. If you simply want to get from point A to point B, take note that the first 30 minutes of each ride is free of charge (while your ticket is active).
Budapest’s public transport offering extends to boats on the River Danube. There are four boat lines in total – lines D11 and D12 depart from Kopaszi gat pier in the south and head to Rómaifürdő pier in the north of the city, passing underneath seven bridges and offering breathtaking views in the process. Passengers can depart from major landmarks on this route, including the Hungarian Parliament building, the foot of Gellért Hill and Margaret Island. Alternatively, the river-crossing boat service D2 connects passengers to the central spot Batthyány tér in Buda to Kossuth Lajos tér in Pest. Ferry service D14 travels to the south of the city centre. Tickets costs 750 HUF ($2.50).
For a journey rich in both Budapest history and novelty, hop aboard the Gyermekvasút. Stretching for seven miles through the Buda Hills, the Gyermekvasút (Children’s railway) line is a communist-era train line staffed almost exclusively by children aged 10-14. Dating back to 1948, and inspired by the ‘Pioneer trains’ in the Soviet Union, the Gyermekvasút is the world’s largest children’s railway and runs a scenic route that both serves the transport needs of local residents and is attracting a growing number of visitors. The easiest way to get to this most unusual of trains is to take tram number 60 to the train’s terminus at Széchenyi-hegy, or jump on the number 56, 56A, 59B or 61 trams to the other end of the line at Hűvösvölgy.