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Budapest has an extensive transport system consisting of buses, trolley-buses, trams, a metro system and taxis. It is therefore fairly easy for expats to get around in Budapest, which is split by the Danube River into two areas, Buda and Pest. There are numerous landmarks in the city, which expats can use to orient themselves, including the Royal Castle and the various bridges crossing the Danube.
Public transport in Budapest
Public transport in Budapest is managed by the Budapest Transport Limited Company (BKV). Their website provides useful information on ticketing, schedules and routes for all the city’s public transport. Different modes of transport are assigned different colours: trams are yellow, trolley-buses are red, buses are blue and trains are green.
Tickets for public transport in Budapest are valid for all means of public transport, including the metro, buses, trams, trolley-buses and trains. There are different ticket options available, from single to multiple-journey tickets, which are often the cost-effective option. Discounts apply to certain passenger groups, such as pensioners and students. Tickets can be purchased at ticket kiosks at metro and train stations, newspaper stands and ticket-vending machines.
Budapest’s suburban railway lines (HÉV) connect central Budapest with several suburbs. Regular public transport tickets are only available on trains within the city limits; those planning to travel to the outskirts of Budapest are advised to purchase a supplementary ticket at the train station.
Budapest has an extensive bus network connecting the city’s suburbs with several metro and train stations as well as the city centre. Buses in Budapest are a particularly popular form of transport, and there are also several night routes.
Budapest has more than 25 tram lines. While these are a slower means of getting around Budapest than alternative public transport options, they do offer a more scenic trip around the city. Some tram lines operate throughout the night.
There are trolley-bus routes operating in northeast and central Pest. Trolley-buses look much like normal buses but are powered by electrical lines. Trolley-buses in Budapest are all numbered and offer passengers a picturesque and eco-friendly journey.
Taxis in Budapest
There are several taxi companies operating in the city. Taxis offer a fast and affordable way of getting around Budapest. Not all taxi drivers will be able to speak English, so it’s a good idea for expats to have their destination written down in Hungarian to show the driver and avoid any confusion. Although taxis can be hailed on the street, it often works out cheaper to call ahead and order a taxi in advance.
Hungarian legislature has suspended ridesharing apps such as Uber. However, app-based transport services such as Fotaxi, City Taxi and Bolt operate in Budapest. As these services follow Hungarian regulations, fares are the same as traditional taxi services.
Driving in Budapest
Traffic in Budapest is often heavy and parking can be a problem. It’s not always easy for expats driving in Budapest to find their way around the city, and it may take some time to become orientated with the road system. With the extensive and effective public transport system, expats living in Budapest may find it altogether unnecessary to even own a car.
Expats who do decide to drive will eventually need to secure a Hungarian licence and budget for Budapest's tolled motorways. EU citizens can drive in Budapest with their national driving licence. Non-EU nationals can drive in Budapest for a year with an international driving licence and their national driving licence, after which they will need to apply for a Hungarian licence.
Cars in Hungary drive on the right-hand side of the road. Hungary has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving, so road blocks and checks by traffic police are fairly common.
Cycling in Budapest
Cycling, both as a form of recreation and personal transport, is becoming more popular in Budapest. There are many scenic routes and beautiful hilly areas, mostly in Buda, that can be explored by bicycle, including a cycle-friendly route running alongside the Danube River. Pest is mostly flat, which makes urban cycling an easy and convenient way of getting between places.
Budapest also has a successful bike-share system in place, and the city has nearly 125 miles (200km) of bike lanes and cycle paths. Bicycles can be transported on selected trains (those marked with a bicycle icon on the timetable) for an extra fee.
Walking in Budapest
As a largely flat and pedestrianised city, Budapest is ideal for exploring on foot, with many of its most famous attractions within easy walking distance of one another. However, for longer distances, expats may need to use another mode of transport.
Pedestrians should note that many sidewalks are shared with cyclists. If a pedestrian is obstructing a cyclist's path, the cyclist will usually alert them by ringing their bicycle bell. Cars are generally respectful of pedestrians, but caution should nonetheless be taken.
Most people who visit Budapest find it a safe environment for walking around, even after dark, but expats should nevertheless remain on the lookout for pickpockets and always keep their valuables out of sight.