Budapest, the stunning capital of Hungary, is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and modernity. From its majestic architecture to its vibrant street life, Budapest has something to offer every traveler. I’ve visited Budapest 5 or 6 times already, but I wouldn’t say no to another trip to the Pearl of the Danube. Of course, living in Bucharest helps. If you want to know more about the two cities, read my article on the differences between Budapest and Bucharest.

To make the most of your trip, it’s essential to know how to get around Budapest efficiently. In this guide, I will provide you with valuable insights, local tips, and a detailed outline of the best ways of getting around in Budapest.

If you’re here for the Danube cruises, check out this article about Budapest boat tours.

Getting Around in Budapest

Whether you’re traveling solo, with friends, or as a family, Budapest offers a wide range of transportation options to take you from point A to point B is the most efficient way. From Budapest taxis to traditional trams and scenic cruises, here are the best ways to get around the city:

1. Budapest Metro System: Efficient Underground Travel

The Budapest Metro System is one of the oldest in Europe and an efficient way to navigate the city. With four lines (M1, M2, M3, and M4), it covers major attractions and key areas.

The M1 line, a UNESCO World Heritage site, takes you through historic landmarks like Heroes’ Square and the State Opera House. This is also the metro line that takes you to the wonderful Szechenyi Bath, arguably the best spa experience in Budapest.

budapest yellow tram

2. Iconic Trams: Experience Budapest’s Charm

Budapest’s iconic trams are not only a convenient mode of transportation but also an experience in themselves.

Tram 2, along the Danube River, provides breathtaking views of the Buda Castle and the Parliament Building, making it a must-try route. If, however, you want to take photos of the river banks and the lovely buildings lined up on the shores, I’d recommend you to walk instead of taking the yellow tram.

3. Buses: Well-Organized Network for Easy Commutes

The city’s extensive bus network complements the metro and tram lines, connecting areas beyond the reach of the rail system.

Buses offer a cost-effective way to reach attractions such as Buda Castle Hill and Gellért Hill. If for some reason you don’t want to climb, take a bus to get closer to these tourist attractions.

4. Suburban Railway (HÉV): Exploring the Outskirts

If you wish to venture into the charming outskirts of Budapest, the HÉV suburban railway is your best bet. It takes you to beautiful places like Szentendre and Gödöllő, where you can get a glimpse into Hungarian traditions and lifestyle.

I didn’t use this railway, as I was driving my own car during my extensive stay in Budapest. The other trips were way too short for me to venture to the outskirts.

5. Biking: Eco-Friendly Sightseeing

Explore Budapest like a local by renting a bike from various bike-sharing services. The city’s flat terrain and bike lanes make it a bike-friendly destination. Cycle along the Danube or through Margaret Island’s lush greenery for a unique experience.

I’ve seen many tourists and locals alike using these rental bikes and electric scooters. They are everywhere, so you won’t have a hard time at finding one just when and where you need it.

6. Walking: Discovering Hidden Gems

Budapest’s compact city center is perfect for exploring on foot. Wander through charming neighborhoods, stumble upon hidden gems, and take in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

Most travel guides to Budapest recommend strolling across the iconic Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest. While this is a great idea, as of July 2023 the Chain Bridge is closed to pedestrians, due to renovation works. The cool thing is that you can take any bus to cross the Danube on the Chain Bridge without having to pay. Try to stand in the front of the bus, in order to be able to take some photos of this beautiful bridge.

budapest amphibious bus

Do you see the amphibious bus in front of the parliament building?

7. Danube River Cruises: Scenic and Relaxing

To witness Budapest’s beauty from a different perspective, embark on a Danube River cruise.

Here are some of the best Danube river cruises for you to take a closer look at:

Danube Day & Night Cruise – This is perhaps the best choice available. Your ticket for a 45-minute Danube cruise will be valid for 24 hours. You can use it multiple times. This can be a great idea for those who want to capture photos of Budapest by different moment of the day (golden hour, sunset, night time).

1-Hour Private Boat Cruise – this is a 60-minute private boat cruise tour of downtown Budapest that will take you through the inner city in an elegant and spacious setting. This tour is suitable for groups of 1 – 10 persons.

1.5 Hour Budapest Dinner Cruise by Night – This cruise with dinner by candlelight is a great opportunity to enjoy Hungarian traditional dishes and live Hungarian music while cruising along the Danube by night. This tour includes pick up from your accommodation. It is wheelchair accessible.

Whether it’s a daytime cruise or a romantic evening affair, the stunning panorama of the city’s landmarks will leave you enchanted.

I had a late afternoon cruise and I loved the warm light of the golden hour.

budapest funicular

The funicular to the Royal Castle in Budapest

8. Funiculars: Classic and Fun Rides

For a touch of nostalgia, take a ride on Budapest’s historic funiculars.

The Castle Hill Funicular offers a short but exciting journey to Buda Castle, offering picturesque views along the way. It is rather busy, though, so brace yourself for waiting in line for quite a while.

9. Budapest Taxis and Bolt Rideshares: Convenient Door-to-Door Service

Taxis and Bolt rides are readily available in Budapest, providing convenient door-to-door transportation, especially for late-night outings or when you prefer a more private commute.

There’s no Uber in Budapest, but Bolt covers all areas at any time of the day (or night, thereof).

10. Budapest Card: Your All-in-One Pass

Consider purchasing a Budapest Card, which provides unlimited access to public transportation, including buses, trams, and the metro. It also offers free entry or discounts to several attractions, making it a cost-effective option.

If you don’t want to visit any of the attractions included with the Budapest card, you can buy a pack of 10 bus tickets to get them at a discounted price.

budapest taxis

Budapest taxis and Bolt cars are yellow and easy to notice

FAQs About Getting Around in Budapest

Q: What is the best time to visit Budapest?

A: The best time to visit Budapest is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are not overwhelming. July may do, as well, but you need to check some weather forecasts before booking your trip.

Q: Are there any special tickets for tourists on public transportation?

A: Yes, Budapest offers various ticket options for tourists, including the Budapest Card, which provides unlimited public transportation access and free entry to several attractions.

Q: Is English widely spoken in Budapest?

A: Yes, English is widely spoken in Budapest, especially in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants. Most signage and public transport announcements are also in English.

Q: How much should I tip in Budapest?

A: Tipping in Budapest is customary but not obligatory. It’s customary to round up the bill or leave a tip of about 10% in restaurants and cafes if you are satisfied with the service. As of July 2023, I noticed that most restaurants include the 10% service fee in the bill. That can be annoying, should you dislike the food or the service.

Q: Can I use Euros in Budapest?

A: While Hungary is a part of the European Union, the official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Euros are not widely accepted, so it’s best to exchange your currency for Forints upon arrival or use your card to pay for your purchases.

Q: Is Budapest a safe city for tourists?

A: Budapest is generally a safe city for tourists. However, like any other major city, it’s essential to stay vigilant, especially in crowded places, and be cautious of pickpockets.

budapest horsemen

No, you can’t ride horses in Budapest.

Conclusion

Getting around in Budapest is an adventure in itself, as the city offers an array of transportation options to explore its rich history and vibrant culture. From the iconic landmarks to the lesser-known gems, Budapest’s beauty will captivate your heart. I know it captivated mine.

So, hop on a tram, take a stroll along the Danube, or soak in the thermal waters — the city is yours to discover. I highly recommend walking, but make sure you do wear good shoes, sunscreen and a hat.

Violeta Matei
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