Budapest is an emerging tourist destination, a fascinating alternative to those who have already been to Prague several times or already know Bratislava. Still maintaining the decadent charm of an Eastern European city, Budapest was born as two (or more correctly, three) cities divided by a river, which today unites it in an area declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and contains its most visited points.
To make the most of your escape to the Hungarian capital, here are our best tips for traveling to Budapest, grouped in 10 categories, ranging from when to visit Budapest to how to move around the city, the local currency to see or from tips for lunch and dinner in Budapest to tours from Budapest.
You can click on each section to go directly to it or continue reading to discover the best tips for travelling to Budapest.
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1.- When is the best time to visit Budapest
If we think about the climate, the best time to visit Budapest is between June and August. Obviously, this also means that there will be more people at tourist spots and on public transport and that accommodation is more expensive.
September to early November and Easter to early June is a better option if you don’t mind the not-so-good temperatures, have to layer and are exposed to the possibility of rain. On the other hand, there will be fewer tourists and prices will be lower when looking for accommodation.
The low season, from November to March, allows you to see Christmas markets and perhaps the city covered by a layer of snow, which also has its charm, although it forces you to wear a hat, gloves and thick clothing.
Another thing to keep in mind is the hours of daylight. We were in Budapest at the beginning of February and although it was dawn from 7 a.m. onwards, the sun set from 4.30 p.m. onwards. If you have any museums left to see, and they don’t close until 6 or 7pm, that’s the best time to do so.
Also in our trip we had two very good days, the one we arrived and the one we left, with two “less” good days, in which it rained occasionally and the sky was permanently gray. But 50% good time is an excellent percentage, in my opinion, to have traveled close to the end of the off-season.
2.- How to get to Budapest from the airport
Budapest’s airport is Ferenc Liszt International Airport, and is located about 22 km from the city centre. When you arrive in the country, you will only need your ID card or passport to enter, in case you are asked for documentation and if you are an EU citizen.
Besides taxi and Uber services (here called “Bolt”), a rental car (useful if you are going to move outside Budapest), the bus or the bus and subway combination are the other ways to get from the Budapest airport to the city center.
You can take the bus 200E to the metro station Kobanya-Kispesty, from there the blue line or M3 will take you to the center of Budapest. It is the cheapest way, with a combined ticket of 530 HUF, although you are exposed to incidents in not one but two means of transport and depending on the luggage is more or less annoying to transfer.
There is a direct express bus to the centre of Budapest, the 100E, which takes you to the city, where it makes only two stops, the last one being at Deák Ferenc tér. The cost of a ticket is 900 HUF and this is the most direct and frequent service between Budapest Airport and the city centre.
If you don’t want to complicate your life, here you can book directly your transfer from Budapest airport to your final destination:
If you want to know the transport and ticketing options in more detail, you can read our recent article on how to get to Budapest from the Airport.
3.- Advice on accommodation in Budapest
As a rule, accommodation is usually sought in Pest, in the more populated and flatter part, rather than in Buda, the district where the castle and bastion are located, on the other side of the Danube River.
Districts V to VIII and part of Districts IX, XIII and XIV are the recommended areas to stay in Budapest, being Districts V to VIII the ones that concentrate the most lively part of the city.
They include the Jewish Quarter, the Great Synagogue, the Parliament and other monuments of interest, such as the “House of Terror” museum, but also nightlife and “sleazy bars”. It is very well connected with the rest of the city by tram, metro and bus and it is in the area where we stay.
The part of Buda, to the west, is quieter, with little or no nightlife, although it has the best views if you get accommodations that look out over the Danube and Parliament. Take a look at the Novotel Budapest Danube, the art’otel budapest by park plaza and the palm-leafed lodge, the Hilton Budapest, overlooking the Parliament and the Bastion.
You can check more accommodation options in Budapest by entering your travel dates on this interactive map:
By the way, since we are talking about hotel rooms I am going to mention something essential in them: in Budapest the plugs are the same type as in Spain, so you will not need an adapter.
4.- Advice on security in Budapest
In general, Budapest is a fairly safe city for tourists and the precautions tourists have to take are based on a common sense that they should apply when travelling in their own country.
Caution should be taken with wallets and valuables in tourist places and on crowded public transport.
The good price of beer can make us drink too much. Beware of stumbling and falling, but also of losing sight of your wallet at a time when you are especially vulnerable.
If we use private transportation, such as taxi or airport transfers, always do it in properly licensed and well identified transports to avoid scams.
If you withdraw money from an ATM, cover the keypad when entering the PIN and check on screen that you will not be charged any additional fees when withdrawing the money (if so, as with Euronet Worldwide, cancel the transaction and find another ATM), in addition to those charged by your bank.
We recommend and use the free Bnext rechargeable card for our trips and the escape to Budapest was no exception. We use it at a Raiffeisen Bank ATM near the Deák Ferenc tér stop to withdraw money and on several occasions to pay for lunch and dinner with it. After the charges were made, in the app statement we saw, as always, that we were being reimbursed for the commission applied by the foreign bank. You have our opinion and experience in other trips in this article and if you book it from this link you get 5 eur in your first recharge.
If you are going to change money, it is not advisable to change at the airport because of its worse exchange rate but to do it in the city, comparing prices between money changers or bringing Hungarian money from Spain.
Take out travel insurance. Hungary is a member of the European Union, but even if you have the European Medical Card, travel insurance helps you with both a delayed flight and appendicitis. We use and recommend the IATI travel insurance with a 5% discount if you hire it through the link.
The generic emergency number in Hungary is 112, as in the whole territory of the Union. For specific cases, you can dial 104 to request an ambulance, 107 to call the police or 105 to contact the fire department.
Check with your Spanish operator that you are roaming in Hungary and activate it before you leave home.
If you are concerned about your phone company’s limited use of mobile data, the HolaFly data SIM card for Europe provides you with multiple Gb of Internet access, plus you get to keep your WhatsApp number and 24/7 Spanish language support. And if you buy it through this link, you get a 5% discount on its price.
5.- Advice on transport in Budapest
Budapest has a frequent tram, metro, boat and bus service to move between the monuments and points of interest on both sides of the river. The most usual thing we did in our trip to Budapest, is to go from our accommodation – by tram, bus or subway – to a point from which we started a visit or route, such as the Gellért spa from which we then went up on foot to see the Statue of Liberty and the Citadel, and after doing a walking tour route, take public transport to the beginning of another route, in this case at the foot of the Buda Castle Funicular.
Moving by public transport within an area of interest to go from one point to another, in the same area, is something that we did not do because in Budapest the visits within the same area of interest, are made on foot taking little more than a few minutes.
Tickets to move around on public transport in Budapest can be easily bought from vending machines, with Spanish as one of the languages offered on screen, present in the awnings or subway stations or through an official app. If you buy a single-use ticket, you have to validate it in the validators that you will find next to the doors of the bus or tram, or in the electronic posts when entering the subway.
The price of a single bus, metro or tram ticket is 350 HUF, although in some cases you can buy it from the driver for 450 HUF, while for 3000 HUF you get a pack of 10 single tickets. If you are going to use two different means of transport for one trip, you have to buy the Átszállójegy or transfer ticket for 530 HUF (instead of two individual tickets).
To simplify transport and tours in Budapest, we use the Budapest Card, which is sold in lengths of 24 (6,490 HUF), 48 (9,990 HUF), 72 (12,990 HUF), 72 plus (19,990 HUF), 96 (15,990 HUF) and 120 hours (18,990 HUF) and gives free or discounted access to many of Budapest’s major attractions. The free ticket is included in the entire Budapest public transport network on any of these modes.
Here you have a map of the underground, intercity railway and tram of Budapest (by clicking on it you can download the .pdf), and you can consult more maps on the BKK website.
Public transport in Budapest is managed by Budapesti Közlekedési Központ, or BKK, and on its website you can consult routes and timetables of transport services in Budapest (available in pdf in Hungarian and English languages), as well as a route planner (as a local alternative to Google Maps) and a complete list of all types of public transport tickets in Budapest.
Two curiosities about transport in Budapest: its underground dates from 1896 and is the second oldest in the world, only 6 years younger than the London Underground. The other curiosity is that drivers in Budapest are extremely attentive and careful with pedestrians (and, believe me, I have crossed some streets with traffic thinking it was impossible to get to the other side; and no, I was not in the zebra crossing).
6.- Advice on essential places to see in Budapest
Regardless of how long you are in Budapest, and I will devote more articles to that, for me in Budapest it is a must:
Walk in front of the Parliament, and in the square behind it, to appreciate its scale
Seeing Parliament from the other side of the Danube
Walking across the Széchenyi Bridge from Pest to Buda
Watching Pest from the arches of Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion)
Admire the interior of the Mátyás-templom (the Church of Matías) from the heights of its second floor
Walking in the Buda Castle district
Visit the largest synagogue in Europe, Dohány utcai zsinagóga (the Dohány Street Synagogue)
Visit the House of Terror, an impressive testimony of life, suffering and torture in Hungary during the year of the Nazi-Fascist regime and the forty years of Communist dictatorship
Walk along Andrássy út (Andrássy Avenue) admiring the neo-Renaissance facades that have included this area in Budapest’s World Heritage area
Take a thermal bath in one of the most famous spas in Budapest, such as Szechenyi, Gellért or Lukács
Having a beer in a sleazy pub, like the labyrinthine Szimpla Kert
7.- Tips on eating in Budapest
Budapest has restaurants of typical Hungarian food, international restaurants and modern and relaxed Hungarian cuisine. If you spend a few days in Budapest, you will not only live on Gulyás (Goulash, a hearty meat broth with vegetables), Lángos (a kind of bread, a flour dough with more ingredients, fried and with grated cheese or other variations on it) and drink Pálinka (the local liquor, white, peach, pear, etc.).
Regarding recommendations of where to eat in Budapest, our positive experiences were sitting at the table of the FIRST Local Craft Beer and Kitchen in Madách Imre tér 3 (gourmet burgers and wide selection of home-brewed beers), Bohémtanya in Paulay Ede u. 6 (the house specialty is a heat pump of chicken breast in potato batter), BB’z Bar & Grill at Király u. 15 (if you order the hot wings as “very hot”, you are warned that they will be very hot, I am telling you with tears of pleasure), Main Street 25 Breakfast & Coffee at Fő u. 25 (stop at noon to get our strength back, thanks to its freshly baked pastries, before the climb to the Bastion), Bistro Synago in Dohány u. 4 (where we had a coffee overlooking the Great Synagogue), Norberts Crystals in Andrássy út 76 (a tiny place but from which we took a comforting hot wine to drink on the way to the centre) and Pesti Vendéglő in Paulay Ede u. 5 (homely and intimate atmosphere with some rich pork medallions).
It’s important to know that not all places accept payment by credit card. This happened to us in two of the places where we had dinner and in a place in the Bastion that we didn’t enter (we hadn’t gone through the cash machine with our Bnext card yet). In other places, for example in a sleazy pub, the minimum card payment was 1000 HUF.
One thing to keep in mind when ordering food or drinks is that the price of the food or drink is always visible, on the outside, inside or on the menu, even if it seems like a truism to you, it will avoid misunderstandings or exorbitant expenses.
In Budapest a 10% tip is (almost) obligatory, you can get it from the waitress herself, it can appear warned on the menus or you can find it on the bill as “Felszolgálás” or “Szervizdij”. Look up those concepts to make sure it’s already included and not to make a double charge.
8.- Advice on what to buy in Budapest
In the Central Market, but also in the souvenir shops all over Budapest, you will find as typical Budapest gifts cups, T-shirts (around 3600 HUF), T-shirts of the Hungarian selection (6000 HUF), blouses and shirts with Hungarian colours and style, postcards (from 300 HUF, stamps to 600 HUF), bottles of Pálinka (about 6000 HUF), goose pâté (7590 HUF), oil with herbs and paprika, cubes of Rubik or small music boxes among many options.
My favourite souvenir was the retro style magnets (or “vintage” if you want to call them that), which started at 300 or 600 HUF for the small ones and at about 1200 HUF (although they were at 1500 HUF in the market) for the posters of the same style and medium size.
Also, you can buy paprika (hot paprika) if you like spicy food. I brought a couple of bags.
You will see on many sites signs indicating “300HUF = 1 EUR” as a price reference but also to indicate something else, that you can pay in euros although the return will be given in Hungarian guilders (forints).
9.- The best tours in Budapest
You can combine touring Budapest on your own with one of these tours, early tickets and no queues at attractions:
Budapest Tourist Bus
Free tour of Budapest
Guided tour of Budapest and Parliament
Get your Budapest Card at the best price
Boat trip at dusk
Guided tour of the Budapest Synagogue
Party tour of Budapest’s sleazy pubs
Széchenyi Spa, entrance without queues
Hungarian folklore at the Danube Palace
Tour of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest
Tour of Buda Castle
Guided visit (in Spanish) to the Parliament
Danube dinner cruise with live music
Budapest Mystery and Legends Tour
Gellért Spa, entrance without queues
10.- The best tours from Budapest
If you have time on your trip to Budapest and have already seen the main attractions of the city, you can take a look at these visits and excursions from Budapest:
Visit to the Sissi Palace
Excursion to the Puszta and horse show
Excursion to Szentendre
Excursion to Lake Balaton and Herend
Excursion to Eszetergom, Visegrad and Szenendre
Excursion to Vienna
Have you already traveled to Budapest? Do you have any additional recommendations or advice? Leave us your opinion in your comment, we will thank you and the readers of Viajablog.
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