Getting Around Budapest
The best ways to get around Budapest are on foot and by public transit. The city's neighborhoods are walkable, and you'll be able to admire the historic architecture as you stroll. But when it comes to getting across town, rely on Budapest's extensive public transportation system. However, if you're making your way home after a night out, avoid getting lost by simply taking a taxi or an Uber.
The city is serviced by the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), which is located roughly 15 miles southeast of downtown. Taxis are the quickest way to get from the airport to your hotel, but they are also the most expensive – expect to pay about 6,500 forints (about $25) for a ride. Airport miniBUD shuttle service is cheaper but isn't as efficient. The most affordable (and most time-consuming mode of transportation) from the airport to the city is the 200E bus, which drops passengers off at the Kobánya-Kispest metro station and costs 350 forints (less than $1.50) per person. There's also the direct (but pricier) 100E bus. Another popular option is the train. Many of them make the three-hour connection through Vienna.
There is only one way to effectively see the vibrant life and population of this city and that is walking through its streets. The entertaining pedestrian traffic can even garner its own photographs. Another bonus: Many of the city's top sights – especially those in the Buda region – are within walking distance of each other. Just make sure to have a map handy.
With various forms of efficient public transport, Budapest feels a lot smaller than it is. Spring for a taxi when convenient, but avoid renting a car. Driving here tends to be stressful and more hassle than it's worth. If you do decide to drive, you can rent a vehicle from one of several vendors at the airport. An international driving permit is not needed to drive in Budapest so long as you have a valid U.S. driver's license and a certified Hungarian translation.
Budapest's transportation system, Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (BKK), offers cheap and efficient bus, tram, train, funicular and metro services throughout the city. Make sure to validate your tickets before you get on the metro and as soon as you get on buses and trams, as plain-clothed inspectors can show up out of nowhere, and the fines for not validating can be pretty hefty. Get your tickets ahead of time at a metro station or newsstand, as you're not guaranteed to find them for sale on board. One-way tickets (excluding those for the 100E bus, the Buda Castle Funicular and Heritage trams and buses) cost between 250 and 450 forints (roughly $1 to $2) per person. Passes valid for 24 or 72 consecutive hours are available as well for 1,650 to 4,150 forints (or $6.50 to $16). Travelers who purchase a Budapest Card receive complimentary rides on most public transportation routes for as long as their card is valid.
Taxis are widely available for those few occasions where public transport won't be convenient. Make sure you are using a legitimate taxi – one with a yellow license plate, a yellow taxi sign and an ID badge on the dashboard – as there are many stories of unauthorized taxi drivers hustling naïve tourists. To avoid possible scams, do as the Budapesters do and call ahead for a taxi. Starting rates for all cab meters are no more than 450 forints (roughly $2), but an additional 280 forints is charged for each kilometer traveled (or about $2 per mile). The Uber ride-hailing service also operates in Budapest.
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