Everything About Budapest Public Transport: A Brief Guide for Tourists. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of Budapest’s public transportation system, providing tourists with essential information on ticket purchase, passes, validation, and cost-saving tips during transfers. Prepare to discover a wealth of valuable insights, advice, and life hacks. We’ll also introduce you to the fantastic Hop on/Hop off sightseeing bus.

Budapest Public Transport: General Information

Here are the key points every tourist should know about Budapest public transport:

  • The transportation network in the capital city is exceptionally well-developed. It includes four metro lines, buses, trolleybuses, and trams. Getting to any part of Budapest via public transport is a breeze. If you need a step-by-step guide on taking a bus to or from the airport in Budapest, check out the article linked here.
  • There’s plenty of transportation available, and it operates frequently.
  • The Budapest metro starts running at 4:30 AM and closes at 11:40 PM.
  • Despite the metro closing before midnight, Budapest has several night buses that run throughout the night until the metro reopens. Regular tickets for all public transportation in the city are valid for these night buses.
  • Budapest public transport, including the metro, is clean, modern, and a pleasure to use. While not all buses are state-of-the-art, the overall transportation network has seen significant upgrades in recent years.
Budapest metro
Metro map of Budapest. In general, only by metro you can get to almost any attraction in the city

Useful to know:

For schedules, routes, prices, and tickets for all of Budapest’s public transport, it’s most convenient to use the BUDAPEST GO app. I’ll provide information on various options below, but this app stands out. Download it in advance – it’s free, available for both Android and iOS, and be sure to register. You’ll thank me later. More details about this app will be covered in the article.

Types of Tickets and Passes for Budapest Transport for Tourists

Budapest Public Transport
Regular Bus in Budapest

Important to note:

A single ticket for all of Budapest public transport, including the metro, buses, trams, and trolleybuses, is available. This is the standard practice in every city in Hungary. When you purchase a ticket, it doesn’t matter which mode of transport you use; it’s valid for any route within the city. However, a ticket bought for Budapest’s transportation system won’t be suitable, for instance, for a bus in Debrecen. Different cities have different pricing and their own tickets. In Debrecen, they have buses and trams, and they have their own tickets. These tickets are also valid for all modes of transportation within their respective city.

Since this is a guide for tourists, I won’t go into detail about monthly passes for Budapest public transport. That’s more relevant for local residents and expats. I will focus on the types of tickets available to tourists, how to purchase them, validate them, make transfers, and more.

Tourists have access to the following ticket options:

  • Single ticket for 1 journey – 450 forints (approximately 1.2 euros)
  • 30-minute ticket – 530 forints (about 1.4 euros)
  • 90-minute ticket – 750 forints (around 2 euros)
  • Bus 100E ticket, an express shuttle from the center of Budapest to the airport – 2200 forints (approximately 6 euros). This is the only city bus in Budapest for which you need to purchase a separate ticket.

Additionally, there are three types of daily tourist passes, known as Daily Travelcards. These provide unlimited travel on all modes of public transport within the city, excluding bus 100E. There are three types available:

  • 24-hour pass for one person – 2500 forints (about 7 euros)
  • 24-hour group pass (up to 5 people) – 5000 forints (around 14 euros)
  • 72-hour pass for one person – 5500 forints (approximately 15 euros)
prices and tickets for transport in Budapest
In the app, which will be discussed further in the article, it’s easy to purchase a ticket with a single touch for any mode of transport in Budapest.

Here are some important details you should know:

  • Always validate your ticket when entering a bus, metro, or tram. For paper tickets, there are yellow validating machines on every bus and at metro entrances. For tickets purchased through the app, there’s a QR code at the entrance of buses. More on this in the section below. After your journey, you can dispose of the ticket as it’s for one-time use.
  • Tickets for 30 and 90 minutes are also for single use, but you can make unlimited transfers to any mode of transport within that time frame. It’s essential to remember that when you validate your ticket, say, at the metro entrance, the timer starts. Your goal is to validate the same ticket in another mode of transport before the time runs out, even if the journey extends beyond that time.
  • What you need to know about travelcards: Validate them each time you board any mode of transport. When it comes to exiting, you don’t need to do anything with any type of ticket. If you purchase a travelcard at a machine, it activates immediately, but if you use the app, you can select the activation time. Keep in mind that a passport or ID card is required for a travelcard. You can either enter the document’s series and number or take a photo. All travelcards are personalized and not transferable to third parties.
validate ticket budapest
These validating machines are installed at metro entrances. I’ve marked them with numbers: 1 – for passes used by local residents. 2 – for paper single-use tickets. 3 – QR code for those using the BudapestGO app. Validators on buses are similar.

How to Purchase Tickets for Buses, Trams, and the Metro in Budapest

There are four ways:

  • From November 15, 2023, the M1 metro line (yellow line) has launched a test mode for paying fares using a bank card or a phone. When you tap, the cost of one ride, 450 forints, is deducted from the card. I think that in about six months, card payments will be possible throughout the entire metro system.
  • And on the 100E bus, payment by card is also possible.
  • At ticket counters: These are becoming rarer by the day. You’ll find them only in underground passages at major metro interchange stations. If you refer to the map above, these stations include Deak Ferenc ter and Kalvin ter. I believe they will eventually disappear as well.
  • Via the Budapest GO app – the most convenient and straightforward method. I highly recommend this to everyone. It’s user-friendly and easy to understand. The only requirement is that you must always have an active internet connection on your phone, both for purchasing and validating the ticket. I’ve covered everything about mobile internet in Hungary, including prices, operators, and rates.
  • At ticket machines: These machines are available at every metro station, some stops, and the airport. They accept coins (forints), banknotes (forints), cards, and provide change. You can purchase any type of ticket mentioned earlier. Some terminals only accept cards, but there’s always at least one nearby that takes both coins and banknotes.
How to Purchase Tickets for Metro in Budapest
These are the types of machines you’ll find at every metro station. Here, you can purchase tickets for any mode of transport in Budapest. Take note that, if you look closely, the machine on the left accepts only cards, while the one on the right has both banknote and coin slots and gives change.
Here’s a 30-second video showing how to purchase a ticket for Budapest’s public transport using a ticket machine. It’s actually quite intuitive, especially if you choose the English language.

The Budapest GO App

The entire transportation network in Budapest is managed by a single municipal transportation company, BKK. A couple of years ago, the Budapest GO app was introduced.

This app has everything you might need regarding transportation. It provides maps, schedules, stops, routes, and real-time tracking for buses and trams. You can even plan your route to your desired location, and the app will guide you, including transfer points. Additionally, you can purchase any type of ticket as previously discussed.

budapest go download
You should install this app – it will solve all your problems!

In the app, you can also purchase tickets for intercity buses. However, these tickets are not specific to a particular route or the standard tickets I mentioned earlier. Instead, they are based on the distance in kilometers. For more details, read the article: Intercity Buses and Trains in Hungary: How to Purchase Tickets.

Useful to know:

In the app, you can buy multiple single tickets at once and use them as needed, as they have no expiration date. There’s no need for each traveler to install the app separately. If you’re not traveling alone, installing the app on one device is sufficient. Each individual ticket will need to be validated separately upon boarding. Only the group ticket can be validated for the entire party of up to 5 people at once.

A quick note on how to validate a ticket purchased through the Budapest GO app:

  • Once you’ve purchased a ticket, look for the ‘My Tickets’ button at the bottom of the screen. This section will display all your unused tickets.
  • When boarding, find the QR code sticker. In the metro, you’ll find it at the entrance of every station (yellow validators, as shown in the previous photo), featuring a unique QR code. On buses and trams, it’s placed outside at each door entrance (see the photo below). QR codes stickers are also present inside buses and trams, allowing you to board first and then validate your ticket.
  • Open your ticket in the app and scan the QR code – the process is intuitive. You’ll immediately receive a message with a green checkmark, indicating that the ticket has been successfully validated. The ticket will automatically move to your ‘Used’ section.
buses in Budapest how to buy a ticket
There’s a QR code like this one next to all the doors of buses, trams, and more. It’s for validating tickets purchased through the BudapestGO app.

Sightseeing Bus in Budapest – Hop On/Hop Off

Let’s delve into another mode of transportation in Budapest that’s especially captivating for tourists. Those who have experienced this concept in other world capitals know how remarkable and convenient it can be. The concept is more or less the same everywhere. Here’s how the Big Bus (Hop On/Hop Off) works in Budapest:

  • It’s a double-decker tourist bus with an open-top.
  • The route covers the heart of Budapest and includes all the major landmarks of the capital. You’ll find details about these landmarks in the article on ‘Top 30 Attractions of Budapest.’
  • This bus has 20 stops along its route. You can see the complete route with all the stops here.
  • These buses run along the route from 9 AM to 6 PM with a frequency of 10-20 minutes.
big bus tour in budapest
This is how the Hop On/Hop Off sightseeing buses in Budapest look. I recommend the BIGBUS company; they offer the best conditions, more frequent bus services, a complimentary river cruise along the Danube, and multilingual audio guides in 14 languages.

Useful to know:

The essence of this bus service is that you purchase a ticket for the entire day on a specific date. You are free to hop on and off at any stop an unlimited number of times throughout the day. It’s an incredibly convenient way to explore the entire Budapest in a day without even descending into the metro.

Several companies in Budapest operate along these lines, but the top choice is BIGBUS. Their basic ticket also includes a river cruise along the Danube, passing by the Parliament and Buda Castle. They provide free Wi-Fi in all buses. You can find more information on tours and excursions in Hungary and Budapest.

  • For tickets, visit the official BIGBUS Budapest website. If you buy online, it’s 4 euros cheaper than purchasing in person at their office. You can simply show your online tickets to the driver; there’s no need to print them, and no need to visit an office. All instructions will be sent to your email.

In conclusion: Budapest’s transportation network is excellently developed, and you can reach all the major attractions in the city via the metro. Buying tickets is a breeze, whether at the ticket machine or through the app. For those with just one day in Budapest who want to see as much as possible, I highly recommend the BIGBUS tour. Step out, explore, hop back on the bus, and repeat – it’s that simple. If you’re not interested in a particular attraction the bus passes by, you can simply stay on board. It’s a fantastic way to make the most of your visit to Budapest.

IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel