Public transport in Hungary (and especially in Budapest) is very extensive, fast and convenient. However, if you are coming from a city with less options, Budapest public transport can be overwhelming at first. Let’s look at the basics, so you can navigate among your options easily.
When you arrive in Hungary
Chances are, you’ll arrive in Hungary by plane, thus landing at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD). Once you land and want to get to the city centre, you have 2 public transport options:
- Bus 100E (airport express) – city center (2200HUF, around 6 EUR)
- Bus 200E – Kőbánya-Kispest and then transfer to metro line 3 to Deák Ferenc tér station. (350HUF, around 1 EUR. You have to buy 2 tickets, one for the bus and one for the metro)
Airport express tickets can be purchased at the Budapest Pay & Go Devices in the bus (see pic). Regular bus tickets can be purchased at BKK Ticket Machines. (BKK is short for the Budapest public transport company.)
Alternatively, you can also get into the city center by taxi. At the airport, you can only use Főtaxi (the largest taxi company in Budapest). Once you exit the terminal, you must look for the Főtaxi booth (see picture), where you can tell the cashier your final destination. They’ll give you a taxi number, and the right taxi with that number will pick you up right next to the booth. The driver will already know your destination and the approximate price of your trip. You can pay your trip in the taxi both by card or cash once you arrive to your destination. A trip to the city will be approximately 10-12.000 HUF (around 25-35 EUR).
How to use public transport in Budapest- the lines
In Budapest, there are 4 metro lines, multiple suburban railway lines, dozens of tram & bus & trolley lines and even a public boat line. All of them can be used with a single ticket time-specific passes (there are no special tickets for specific lines within Budapest- except from the airport express bus). Also, there are no regions within Budapest- no matter how close or how far you go, the same tickets are valid. Make sure to check the closest lines to your appartment & to your school.
How to use public transport in Budapest- planning your route
There are several ways to figure out wich lines you need to take to get where you want to be.
- Budapest Go App- the Budapest public transport company has a fantastic app for planning routes, seeing vehicle pisitions in real time and even for buying and validating tickets. In this app, you can provide your final destination, and the app will tell you which lines to take.
- Google Maps- this is probably the most used planner app in Budapest. You just have to provide your destination, choose the public transport option and it will show you where the stop is, which line to take and when the vehicle is coming. It’s super convenient and reliable
How to use public transport in Budapest- how to buy and validate tickets and passes
As we mentioned, there are several ticket types you can choose from (see the official page HERE).
According to our experience, you’ll use monthly passes or single tickets most regularly. You can buy both of them in the Budapest Go app or in the BBK ticket machines. (Please note that once you are enrolled to a university and obtained your student card, you can buy a discounted monthly student pass. As long as you are a BIC foundation student, you must buy the full-price monthly pass.)
If you buy tickets and passes in the app, you’ll always need your phone with you when you travel, as you will have your tickets only in a digital version within the app. If you buy the tickers and passes in the machine, you must always have the physical tickets with you.
If you buy single tickets, you must validate them before your travel. If you have a digital ticket, you must go to the app, choose your ticket, and click on validate. Then your phone camera opens up. You must use your camera to screen the QR code on the vehicle door (in case of buses, trams and trolleys) or on the ticket validation gate (in case of metros). Don’t worry, the scan only takes a second, it won’t slow you down, just make sure to already have your app open so you can scan quickly. Once you scanned, a confirmation will pop up on your screen stating that you successfully validated your ticket.
If you buy a physical ticket from the machine, you must punch the ticket inside the vehicle or in case of metros at the validating gate before your board the metro.
If you buy a monthly pass, you don’t need to validate it every single time you board a vehicle. When you buy the monthly pass, you will be asked which date you want the pass to be valid from. You must provide the proper date and then it will be valid for a month.
How to use public transport in Budapest- let’s see an example!
Let’s say you live at Astoria and you want to go to BIC located at Kerepesi út 87 (CEU Conference and Residence Center). How to check the route?
- Let’s use Google Maps. Go to Google Maps, choose “Directions” and click on Publick transport options.
- Provide your location and your destination.
- Now check out your options. In this case, the best thing is to take Metro line 2 and then change to a busline.
- The little blue dots show the parts you have to make on foot. It will also help you understand where the stop is.
- If you click on details, you can check exactly which lines and vehicles to take, to which direction and where to transfer.
- Zoom in to the map to understand better where you are.
- Swith on GPS on your phone so you can always see your exact location in real time and you can see if you are going to the wrong direction by chance.
Public transport outside of Budapest
Once you leave Budapest, you’ll most likely use the national bus and train lines. The national bus company is called VOLÁN, the national train company is called MÁV. Once you leave Budapest, you must buy destination-specific tickets or passes. This will be particularly important when you travel to the countryside (or if you study there).
There are multiple bus and train stations and terminals in Budapest. When you leave the city, you must check which terminal will be good for you (Google Maps public transport planner works here too.) You can buy tickets both online and in ticket machines for long-distance lines too. (For this, you need to use the Volán and MÁV websites).