Validating your tickets on Budapest Public Transport is of utmost importance. Crucial, and not to be shrugged upon. Unless you deliberately wish to spoil your Budapest stay. This means that buying your ticket is not enough, you need to push your ticket in a punch machine to validate your trip on a given route in the city.
You cannot travel on Budapest Public Transport vehicles without a ticket, or you will be fined automatically. Ticket inspectors in Budapest can be very unpleasant, really unpleasant – with anyone, not just with dodgers. If you don’t have a ticket, you cannot say that ‘I am a tourist, sorry. Can I buy a ticket now?’ Or ‘Can you just show me how to validate my ticket?’ Ticket inspectors mostly do not speak (good) English, do not sell tickets, and are not nicer with tourists. Based on tourists’ feedback it seems that ticket inspectors can be really offensive in Budapest, so I hope you are prepared now to avoid any conflict with them. And I hope you will meet the nicer ones. :)
It is very important to buy a ticket (there are ticket vending machines at every major metro station subways, and at major tram or bus stops). And then validate your ticket anywhere you go using public transport.
Validating tickets in the Metro in Budapest
In the metro, you must validate the tickets before stepping on the escalators, which will take you down to the metro vehicle. You can see little punch machines in front of the escalators, that’s where you can validate them. These days ticket inspectors often flank the escalators, and only let in people who have valid passes / tickets. But they do not always stand there, or not at every station. So unknowingly, you can get on the metro without a ticket, and then be fined at the end of your trip. If you are in doubt, ask someone (many Hungarians speak English, mostly people aged about 15-35) what to do, how to validate, what ticket to buy.
The best thing is to buy a multi-day pass, or a Budapest Card (tourist card with Budapest coupons) less expensive and less hassle (no photo needed for the daily and weekly passes, unless you stay for a whole month or more – in this case you will need to have a special photo pass issued by BKV).
If you have a single metro ticket and want to change metro lines once (e.g. from the blue to the red, or from the yellow to the blue), you don’t need two tickets, and you can validate your ticket only once. This only applies to metro-metro rides, not to trams or buses. The metro ticket is only OK for a trip within 1 hour from validation.
Validating tickets on Buses in Budapest
Buses have punch machines at the doors, the electronic (or electric?) punch machines should be used for 1 ride on 1 route. Please keep your ticket until you get off.
Validating tickets on Trams in Budapest
Trams, like buses, have punch machines at the doors. The punch machines should be used to validate your ticket for 1 ride on 1 route. There are no ticket inspectors on trams either. Please keep your ticket until you get off.