BUDAPEST FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Budapest is served by two adjacent airports, Ferihegy 1 and Ferihegy 2, both located in the XVII district in southeastern Pest. Ferihegy 1 is the airport that the budget airlines use, while Ferihegy 2 (which has a Terminal A and a Terminal B) serves the flagship carrier (Malév Airlines) and other major airlines.

If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you have a few options. The airport contracts exclusively with Zóna Taxi services (tel. 1/365-5555), and is the official taxi service of both Budapest airports. The fares are fixed rates per cab, not per person, and adhere to predetermined zones within the city. Fares are from zones 1-4 and cost from 3,500 Ft to 5,400 Ft. These taxis are metered as well, so if the metered fare is less than the zone rate, you pay the reduced fare. By law, all taxis must give you a paper receipt for your fare.

There are also two public transportation options with a journey time of approximately one hour each. From Ferihegy 2, take bus no. 200E to the last stop, Kobánya-Kispest. From there, the Blue metro line runs to the Inner City of Pest. The cost is two transit tickets, which is 540 Ft for both; tickets can be bought from the automated vending machine at the bus stop (coins only, but not recommended) or from any newsstand in the airport. From Ferihegy 1, take bus no. 93 or 200E to the same metro stop as above.

There is an airport shuttle (tel. 1/296-8555) owned and operated by the Budapest Airport Authority with clearly visible kiosks in each terminal. The fares are the same for both airports; a round trip fare is 4,990 Ft per person and one way fare is 2,990 Ft per person. Depending on the number of people, you may find the taxi service to be less expensive. When you purchase your tickets for the shuttle, you'll be asked which district you are going to since many districts have streets with the same name. Once a minibus is sufficiently full, the driver will announce your destination, direct you to the vehicle and load your luggage. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to as much as one hour. The shuttle takes you directly to the door of any address in the city in 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic and how many stops are made.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Trains arrive regularly from Vienna, Bratislava, and other European cities. It will depend on where your journey began as to which of the three stations you arrive at; however most trains arrive at Budapest-Keleti Pályaudvar railway station, which is also a station of the M2 (East-West) line of the Budapest Metro. Buses operated by Hungary's national bus network, Volán Association, as well as taxis, are available outside the train station.

Please Note: In order to curb fare dodging, some of the tracks are barricaded by inspectors who will want to see your ticket when leaving a train as well as boarding it. Don't toss your tickets until you leave the station.

How do I get around the city using public transportation?

Budapest has an extensive, efficient, and inexpensive public transportation system. It is not without its glitches though, due to the construction of a fourth metro line that will continue for the next few years. There have been interruptions throughout parts of the city at various times, but buses have been provided to replace any tram or metro that has been disrupted by construction.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is that metros and tram routes stop running for the night at around 11:00pm - 11:30pm depending on the line. Some areas of the city, most notably the Buda Hills, are beyond the reach of some night bus services making taxi drivers happy to provide those late-night journeys. During rush hours, all forms of transport are crowded so it is best to plan your travel around these times. Especially important to visitors is that Castle Hill can be reached in only three ways by public transportation and all of these modes of transportation are quite crowded in the high seasons, making travelers highly likely to be targeted by Budapest's professional pickpockets.

Transport passes provide unlimited transportation on all forms of public transportation (metro, bus, tram, trolleybus) within Budapest city limits. If you are using individual tickets (vonaljegy), which cost 300 Ft apiece (children 5 and under travel for free), you are required to validate the tickets as soon as you get on the transport. Each time you change lines, you have to validate a new ticket. You can buy single tickets at metro ticket windows, newspaper kiosks, and the occasional tobacco shop. There are also automated machines in most stations and at major transportation hubs, but they aren't always reliable. You can also buy a transport pass, which does not require validation. They are available for 1 day (napijegy) for 1,550 Ft and are good for 24 hours from the date and time marked, 3 days (turistajegy) for 3,850 Ft - or for longer stays. Transportation tickets generally have an increase each January and June.

NOTE: Beware of transportation inspectors! The fines for not having a validated ticket or pass are 6,000 Ft if paid on the spot or 10,000 Ft if paid later. An inspector has the right to ask for your passport (you are legally required to carry it at all times) or ID and to call a police officer if the need arises. They do not have the authority to harm you or arrest you.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

There are plenty of honest taxi drivers in Budapest. The reliable ones are easy to identify as they will have a company logo and phone number and a working meter. If you hail one on the street, the base fare is generally 200 Ft, then 200 Ft each kilometer thereafter. When ordering a taxi by phone (all the companies here have English speaking operators), the rate begins around 450 Ft base fare, then 250 Ft - 280 Ft per kilometer.

I will have a car in Budapest, where can I park?

We do not recommend driving a car in Budapest. Driving in the city is hazardous as there are not as many stop signs as needed, there are many one-way streets and restrictions on making turns onto major roads; and public transportation is too convenient to endure the hassle of driving. If you are renting a car we suggest you pick it up as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses.

Is Budapest a walking city?

Although it is the union of three separate cities: Buda, Pest, and Óbuda (meaning Old Buda) and divided by the River Danube (Duna), Budapest is a city to explore and discover on foot. Pest is the heartbeat of the capital and has the majority of the sightseeing and nightlife while Buda and Óbuda, located in the hills on the left bank of the Danube, have the two most advantageous vista points in the city, on Castle Hill and the even higher Gellért Hill. Castle Hill is charming to stroll around and is one of the most beautiful parts of Budapest with its magnificent view of Pest. Budapest is architecturally stunning, a gem of Hapsburg splendor. Be sure to look up as you explore Budapest as some of the most fascinating architectural and ornamental details are on upper levels or atop the city's buildings.

Is Budapest a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Overall, Budapest is one of the safest cities in Europe. There are problems with pickpockets on crowded buses, trams, or metros and caution should also be taken in crowded shops. In addition, due to some political issues, there have been demonstrations that have takem place at various times of the year. For the most part, they are localized in the park in front of the U.S. Embassy, in front of Parliament and at Heroes Square. So far there have not been any threats to tourists, if you just stay clear of those areas on the day of the problems.

Also, the U.S. Embassy provides a list of restaurants in Budapest that engage in unethical business (such as excessive billing, physical intimidation and assaulting customers for nonpayment of excessive bills) although it is not comprehensive. We recommend you avoid these establishments.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Hungary is the Forint (Ft or HUF). US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.

I don't speak Hungarian. Will many people speak English?

English may be spoken at your hotel and in the tourist areas, but not everywhere. We suggest you familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, excuse me and numbers 1-10.

Where can I enjoy the thermal baths? What is the etiquette at the bath houses?

The baths of Budapest have a long history, dating back to Roman times, and thermal bathing is deeply embedded within the Hungarian culture. Széchenyi Baths in City Park, is the largest spa complex in Europe; but there are also the Gellért Baths and the Lukács Baths as well as the Rudas and Király baths.

Many visitors find a trip to the baths intimidating in the beginning. The most difficult part may be approaching the ticket window, with its long list of services and prices, often without English translations. And bathhouse employees tend to be unfriendly (most do not speak English), and have little patience. In general, buy a belépõ jegy (entrance ticket), which allows you to use both the thermal baths and the swimming pools and generally entitles you to a free locker in the locker room (öltözo); or, at some bathhouses, you can opt to pay an additional fee for a private cabin (kabin). Either way, an attendant will lock the door for you and give you a token on a string to keep getting back in. Signs posted in all thermal baths instruct you to shower before entering the water.

As a rule, bring shower shoes to all thermal baths and a towel. Swimsuits are required in mixed company and a bathing cap is required in most swimming pools. It's useful to bring your own shampoo, body lotion and toiletries for showering afterward, but most thermal baths have hair dryers. Locker room attendants appreciate tips - 200 Ft is typical, unless you have repeatedly returned to the locker, then make it a bit more.

There are drinking fountains in the bath areas, and it's a good idea to stay hydrated. Bathing on an empty stomach can cause nausea and light-headedness for those unaccustomed to the baths. Some of the pools will show that you should not stay in the hot water for more than 10 minutes at a time. Most bathhouses have snack bars in the lobbies where you can pick up a cold beverage or sandwich on your way in or out, but you must eat it there.