Traffic and Transport in Budapest – Warnings
Crossing the road in Budapest – be careful as a pedestrian
Even though you will use the pedestrian crossings, you may wish to look around before crossing the road on a ‘zebra crossing’. Polite and careful car drivers are rare. Drivers tend to drive faster than the speed limit and act impatiently (that’s why biking in Budapest is also a mid risk). Some of the drivers do not know that they have to yield to pedestrians if they turn on the road you are just about to cross (seriously!). So look around, make sure the cars are slowing down, especially if the crossing has no traffic lights only the zebra stripes painted on the road.
Using public transport cautiously
Even if we take pride in our efficient and somewhat old public transport system, we love complaining about it (dirty buses, no AC on subways, impolite ticket inspectors). The truth is, you can get almost anywhere very quickly in Budapest, you do not wait for hours, but you may travel in a shabby bus, with a big crowd. What you as a tourist need to pay attention to is the TICKET issue. First and foremost, always buy a ticket before entering the metro zone or getting on a bus, streetcar, etc. You will be expected to have a ticket, what is more, you need to have an already validated ticket. If you only buy the ticket but do not punch it with the punch machine, you will be considered a dodger. In addition, check what the ticket is valid for (how many trips, can you freely change metro / subway lines, etc. ) If you are not sure and there is no-one to help you, it is safer to punch a new ticket for every new vehicle or every new metro line no matter which zone you are staying in. We have put together a simple but thorough guide on Budapest Public Transport with detailed info on How to Buy Metro / Bus / Tram Tickets in Budapest? or a useful guide for what kind of tickets or passes are worth buying depending on how many days you are staying in Budapest: Tickets or Passes in Budapest?
Here comes a tourist story to keep in mind (Imb1009 from NYC) “Our first trip on the subway we bought tickets at the station when we got on, and when we got off we saw two officers waiting to check your ticket, so both of us took out our tickets to show the guard. As soon as we showed them, the guard pulled us aside and started yelling at us in Hungarian. After a bit of confusion, we learned that we had not validated the tickets, and he charged each of us USD70 American!!!! So that put a bad taste in our mouth right from the start.”
What a shame! Sorry folks, being a public transport inspector is usually looked down on in Hungary, it is a badly paid job (unless the inspector scares tourists to death), low requirements. There are quite a few complaints from local people about public transport inspectors, we still need to learn about better communication. Until we do, please prepare for the worst, buy your tickets / passes and validate them. If you need help, ask for help before entering the subway zone or getting on the trolley, bus, streetcar. It is not worth having three ticket inspectors around you, speaking Hungarian and demanding a big charge from you…
Do not rent a car for a short stay in Budapest
Unless it is of utmost importance to you, there is no need to rent a car in Budapest. Why not? See some of the reasons:
- As a tourist, who only stays for 3-10 days in Budapest, you would most probably visit places, go to attractions in the city center. Thy city center is the most difficult place to find parking space. The city center tends to be the most plagued by traffic jams. And the city center has the best public transport vehicles (especially metro lines and streetcars are recommended, which are better in peak hours).
- Budapest is a big city with 2 million inhabitants. Consequently, you can expect considerable frustration if you do not know the city, do not know the map, do not expect lots of cars, do not know the local driving style, etc. Why would you spoil your great trip to Budapest with getting lost in a car?
- Budapest has a really good public transportation system, which is used by 1.5 million people of all social strata. What is more, vehicles run very frequently. True, you may need to stand on the bus, or subway for a couple of stops, but standing about 5-10 min on the trolley or sitting 45 min in a traffic jam is a strikingly different experience.
- Quite a few of the attractions are in clusters, which makes them easier to approach on foot, e.g. the Castle District on the Buda Castle Hill, or the Chain Bridge cluster with the Gresham Palace, and Vaci utca shopping street, or the City Park cluster with the Szechenyi Baths, the magnificent equestrian statues with the tribe leaders on Heroes square, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Budapest Palace of Arts (MUPA), Vajdahunyad Castle, the Budapest Zoo – they are all within a 0.1-1 mile radius from each other within each cluster. Oftentimes, there is no parking lot between them, which would make you walk anyway.
- Car theft – admittedly, the car will be insured whether you have your own, or you wish to use one of the Budapest car rental services. Still, car theft could be an annoyance to deal with (especially in the middle of the night) – it is a fact that one of the most typical crimes against foreigners is car theft.
- Attractions in the country side? Are you thinking of renting a car to get to other parts of Hungary? Again, we would suggest using the efficient public transport – buses, trains run every 20-40 min to major cities in the countryside on weekdays, and every hour on weekends. Intercity trains are of good quality and clean (non intercity trains are neglected and worn down). Buses are usually good.
Definitely DO NOT DO: Further Budapest warnings
- Do not have valuables with you. Learn from general Budapest warnings.
- Do not travel unprepared. Save the Budapest crime emergency phone numbers to learn how to contact the Hungarian Police just in case.
- Do not stay near the Parliament and the Heroes’ Square on Hungarian national holidays
- Do not take marijuana, drugs in Budapest. What about alcohol?
- Do not go to dangerous night clubs in Budapest.
- Do not hail down a taxi in Budapest.
- Do not buy HUF / Forint from a street vendor in Budapest.
- Do not board Budapest public transport vehicles without a ticket.
- Do not cross the road without checking the traffic in Budapest.
- Do not expect some cultural conveniences in Budapest
- Do not take valuables with you to Baths in Budapest – or preferably in the city.
- Do not go to Budapest Airport unprepared – there are 2 Budapest terminals – approx. 5 min car travel from each other: even though T1 is getting closed, T2 is a bus stop away from T1 train station.
- Do not go to touristy restaurants in Budapest – to eat pricey food of lower quality.
Check out Budapest FAQ for more useful tips!
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