Budapest is small enough to be explored on foot but, if the weather is particularly cold or warm you might die doing so.
The continental weather can be very chilly, like the first time I visited the city when I had to stop at every fast food to warm up, or when we visited it in late spring when, with 37°C, we struggled to drag ourselves from shade to shade in the muggy air.
The transport system is very efficient: three underground lines and a good tram and bus network cover the whole of Pest, reaching a couple of strategic point across the river, at the feet of Buda Hill.
The tram is quite easy to understand as the lines run along the two circular roads around the very heart of town, joining the most important spots, including the train station.
One of these bus lines (marked as 16, 16A and 116) run around the hills of Buda belching thick black smoke, shredding the peaceful silence with their engine roar and threatening pedestrians’ lives.
Pretty functional climbing the steep side of the hill and also pretty attractive is the Budavári Sikló, the funicular. Leaving the square Clark Ádám tér, located at the end of Szecheny Hid (Chains Bridge), it climbs all the way up to the Buda Castle. A single ticket is 900HUF, return 1500HUF and the money will not only save you the pain of walking but also buy you an experience of a ride in the past.
Tickets and Pass prices
The single ticket fare is 320 HUF (1,10€ / £0.85), but if you’re planning to travel not more than three stops on the underground, ask for the “Kassa” ticket specifying where you want to go, it comes at a reduced fare of 260 HUF. Yes, that means saving 0.20€, which won’t pay for your future kids’ university, but at least it buys you a Túró Rudi
Other options, for a more expansive use of the transport network, are:
- Block of 10 tickets (2800 HUF)
- 24 hours pass (1550 HUF)
- 72 hours pass (3850 HUF)
During our 2 days in Budapest we only bought 3 tickets each. I reckon that for a 2-3 days stay a 10 tickets block to share is the ideal solution, if you’re keen on exploring and saving.
There is a wide variety of means of transport, offering unusual options such as boats on the Danube and a chairlift
(which, sadly, I’ve never seen), you can find them all here
When the weather is pleasant and mild, cycling could be the best way around Budapest, or at least Pest which is all flat. Nearly all major hostels offer a bike rental service. Expect to spend 10-15€ per day.
On each guide and leaflet offered by the tourist information centre, the Budapest Card is mentioned as a valid travel option, as it offers unlimited travel, guided tours and discounts.
Considering the prices I think it’s quite a rip-off. It’s only convenient if you’re not planning to walk at all, and have a tight schedule of several museums per day. It’s like a travel pass offering, on top of that, discounts of 10-20% on museums entrances. It might be only worth considering if you’re interested in guided tours, here you can find the details so you can do your maths:
How to get from the airport
The airport is very close to the city centre and there are three main ways to get to and from town:
- Taxi (3800 huf on our 2012 trip)
- Train (370 HUF)
- Bus (standard ticket)
The train is definitely my favourite choice as it connects the airport with Nyugati station in only 25 minutes. If travelling in more “extreme” hours or with some heavy luggage, the taxi is an affordable option, especially if split between 3-4 people.
I found the bus quite inconvenient as it goes from the airport to the end of the blue line (Kőbánya-Kispest, pay attention to the voice announcing the station in English, as the stop before that is called pretty much the same). That means that you will need another ticket and another ride to get anywhere, taking double the time of the train for double the cost.
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After being in Rome a few times without even looking at the Coliseum I realised that there's more to travel than sightseeing: meeting the local culture is what, 10 years later, determined the birth of this blog.