Tips and tricks for navigating Budapest’s public transport system
Photo : oSpi Photography
05/11/2014, 4:22 PM●5-minute article
Each city has its own public transport system with its own way of working, a unique ticketing structure and shortcuts. Before you find your way in the urban jungle of Budapest, you’ll surely get on a bus that goes the wrong way, miss the metro in a critical situation and maybe you’ll get caught by a ticket inspector – which is one of the worst things that can happen during your stay. To help prevent these situations, we’ve come up with a list of tips and tricks that will surely come in handy if you’re living like a local in Budapest.
‘I am the passenger and I ride and I ride…’ – sang Iggy Pop. But even legendary musicians like him need a ticket if they want to use Budapest’s transport system, and so do you. A single ticket (350 HUF) is valid for one uninterrupted trip without changing lines and is good for everything from buses to trams.
Pro tip: if you want to travel only up to three stops by metro, ask for a short section ticket (300 HUF) – not only because it’s cheaper, but because this ticket allows you to change between lines as well.
Another way of saving money is to buy a block of ten single tickets (3000 HUF). This means that you save 50 HUF on the price of each single ticket. This block of 10 is especially good if you are planning to use the transport system plenty of times during your stay.
If you are staying only for a day, we advise you to buy a 24-hour travelcard (1650 HUF), which grants you an unlimited number of trips within Budapest. There is also a 72-hour travelcard (4150 HUF) and a 7 day travelcard (4950 HUF), which could be cost-effective for you depending on how long you stay and how much public transport you use.
If you are a student in Budapest and you have a valid student pass with you, then – jackpot! Ask for a monthly student pass (3450 HUF), which grants you the same thing a travelcard but for a longer period. It’s also more cost-effective than a block of tickets and lasts longer – a win-win situation, isn’t it?
If you’re not a student but you plan on using Budapest’s public transport services more than 31 times in one month then the most cost-effective option is to buy a monthly pass. It’s 9500 HUF and will save you money if you’re using the metro, buses, night buses, trams and trolleys regularly.
Also, if you change from metro to bus or from tram to trolley, you might think that you need two single tickets, but that’s not true. There is a special kind of ticket for these situations – a transfer ticket (530 HUF)! Keep in mind that it lets you change lines only once. But hey, it’s still cheaper than two single tickets. You can buy tickets from the ticket vending machines (check out where there are ticket machines or offices here. There are some places where you can find both ticket machines and offices, but some locations only have one or the other. By the way there’s a full list of ticket options and prices here.
If you happen to be a night owl, we have some bad news for you: the public transport in Budapest is not like it is in cities like Vienna. The metro closes just before midnight (the exact time depends on the station) and opens again around 5am. The same goes for trolleys and most of the tram lines.
All day and all night
The only exception is tram line 6, which goes from Móricz Zsigmond Square to Széll Kálmán Square and back all day and all night. As far as buses are concerned, most of the regular buses are replaced by night buses after midnight. Search for the black-and white owl symbol – these buses run until 5am. The night bus numbers always start with 9 (from 900 to 999). Be warned, if you miss your night bus, you might need to wait 30 minutes or more for the next one.
The BKK app so you'll (almost) always be on time
Before your brain explodes from all the information, here is another pro trip: download the BKK Info app to your phone. It’s great for a number of reasons: it’s available in English, it always provides you with up-to-the-minute public transport information, it can send you push notifications if something happened that impacts your favourite routes and you can switch off, for example, bus notifications if you never travel by bus. The application also contains a timetable, so you’ll never miss the last train or tam. Okay, so maybe sometimes it’ll happen, but who could refuse another round of beer?
Some words about ticket inspectors: if they catch you using public transport without a valid ticket or pass, you’ll have to pay 8000 HUF. If you don’t have that much money with you or you just don’t want to pay the fine for some reason, they’ll send you a cheque – but then you have to pay 16 000 HUF.
How to spot a ticket inspector
You can easily spot ticket inspectors, because they are usually wearing an armband with a BKK logo on it – and the same goes for the sweater they usually wear. You cannot access the metro without meeting them as they are guarding the escalators that take you down to the platforms. There’s no way you can bypass them if you don’t have a valid ticket or pass when using the metro. Apart from the metro, they can often be found on night buses and on trams too.
Why is everybody getting off the tram?
If you notice that everybody is getting off the tram or bus, it can be for many reasons: perhaps the vehicle just broke down, perhaps it’s a main stop that’s popular with a lot of people or perhaps the carriage smells bad, but most of the time it’s because there is a ticket inspector on board.