The Hungarian capital draws countless travellers with its romantic charm and rich history. This city of two million is bisected by the blue Danube and is home to a wealth of architectural gems. Although not as cheap as it used to be, Budapest is excellent value in comparision to the big cities of western Europe and in summer the competition between hostels keeps prices low.
Budapest has a few English language newspapers such as Budapest Week and the Budapest Sun that are a good source of foriegn and local news and events listings. If you can read a little Hungarian it will pay to have a look at the weekly Pesti Est and Pesti Mûsor.
Budapest is divided into 23 kerület – administrative districts similar to Parisian arrondissements. Each kerület is designated by a Roman numeral which comes before the street address.
If you’re planning to spend a few days here, it is well worth buying the Budapest Card. The card costs 4500 HUF for 24 hours, 7500 HUF for 48 hours and 8900 HUF for 72 hours. The card entitles the holder to free travel on public transport, free or discounted entry to over 60 museums and discounts on many other attractions. The Budapest Card is available from metro stations, tourist information centres and hotels.
Budapest is well connected with frequent trains, buses and even ferries to destinations throughout Hungary and Central Europe.Local Transport
Budapest has an affordable and efficient public transport system made up of buses, trams, ferries, a metro and a suburban rail network.
Most public transport in Budapest finishes after 11pm with the exception of night buses and trams.
Continental Europe’s first underground railway system comprises four lines making it a fairly simple system, however it is extensive enough for most travellers, with stations near most major attractions.
There are no free transfers on the Budapest metro so you’ll need to validate a new ticket when transferring from one line to another.
Budapest’s suburban rail network is made up of four lines, although the only useful one is the line from Batthyány tér to Szentendre. You can use metro tickets on HÉV trains within the city limits, although you’ll need to buy a special ticket if you want to travel further afield.
Bus and tram
Buses, trolleybuses and trams cover all the bits missed out by the metro and HÉV trains.
A red route number indicates an express, while a black number is a local service. Night buses and trams are indicated by an É after the route number.
Tram 2 is the most scenic route, running along the banks of the Danube, passing most of the major attractions.
The ferry lines on the Danube are a pleasant way of getting around and a much better value alternative to the touristy river cruises. The Danube ferries only operate between May and September.
Tickets for buses, trams, metro and HÉV trains can be purchased at kiosks and metro stations.
The standard fare is HUF 350 HUF. You will need to validate a new ticket each time you change between buses, trams and even transfer between metro lines. However you can buy a HUF 530 metro ticket that allows for a change between two lines.
Travel passes are also available which are good value if you want to cover a lot of ground. Passes are good for travel on buses, trams, metro and HÉV services within the city limits. There are also good value multi-trip tickets. A 10-ride ticket is HUF 3000.
|1 day||HUF 1600|
|3 days||HUF 4150|
|7 days||HUF 4950|
Budapest’s taxis are notorious for overcharging and generally ripping you off. It’s best to avoid taking a taxi anywhere, however if you really need to take a taxi go with a reliable company such as Fõ (tel 222 2222) or City Taxi (tel 211 1111).
Eating and drinking
Cheap food in Budapest consists of a few old style self-service restaurants, pizza joints, western-style fast food outlets and butcher shops which sell cooked sausages. There are also fast food stalls at many of the big markets around town.
Budapest has a good drinking scene with plenty of bars and some classy, but affordable, cafés modelled on the Viennese coffee house.
Unfortunately a few bars and restaurants have given Budapest a bad reputation as a place where unscrupulous establishments rip off the unsuspecting traveller. The US embassy has released a list of places which have drawn the most complaints. It has been reported that these bars and restaurants are guilty of excessive billing and physical intimidation and violence to force customers to pay exhorbitant bills.
The establishments to avoid include:
- La Dolce Vita
- Nirvana Night Club
- Ti’Amo Bar
- Diamond Club
- Pigalle Night Club
It is a good idea to avoid any bar or restaurant that doesn’t provide a menu with prices. It is also a common practice for taxi drivers and local women to lure victims to bars and restaurants that charge exorbitant prices.
The Hungarian Ministry of Economic Affairs has set up a special hotline with English speaking operators for tourists that have been overcharged by bars and restaurants or who have been victim to other scams, theft and personal crimes. The number is 438 8080.
Despite this there are a lot of great places to go out drinking in Budapest. It is a good idea to start in the hostel bar and ask staff and other travellers about other places to go out to.
Always remember to never clink your beer glasses in Hungary. Many Hungarians find clinking glasses extremely offensive.