Vörösmarty square metro station

Practical information about Budapest

Here’s a selection of useful information to make your trip to Budapest as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Budapest is the capital and the biggest and most populous city of Hungary. It is the hub of the political, cultural and commercial life of the country.

The city has 23 districts, which are signified using Roman numerals before the street name.

You won’t be interested in many of them. You might find my post about the neighborhoods of Budapest and the 6 best neighborhoods to stay in Budapest interesting.

Neighborhood names are also written on street signs.

A Budapest address is usually written with the district number placed first and the street number comes after the street name – for example: V. Váci utca 4.

If you see a four-digit postal code, just know that:

1= Budapest

second and third digits = the number of the district

the last digit = a smaller area in that district

For example 1052 is Budapest, District V…

and 1186 is Budapest, District XVIII …

The city has two parts that are distinct from one another, divided by the Danube as it flows southwards.

Buda is on the western side of the Danube, with it’s lush green hills and upper-middle class residents. The historic centre of Castle Hill can be found here.

Pest is on the right side, that is not as flat as it seems to be, it just rises slowly and steadily. Believe or not, Kőbánya district, is at the same level as the Castle Hill. 

The city centre or downtown is located on the Pest side, as well as the promenade, the Jewish District,  Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica for example. 

Budapest Timezone

Budapest uses Central European time: it is 2 hours ahead of GMT in the summer and 1 hour in winter.

Time difference examples:

London: -1 hour

New York: -6 hours

Los Angeles: -9 hours

Perth: +6 hours

Sydney: +8 hours

Auckland: +10 hours

Hungarian Currency

Forint is the Hungarian currency.

You can find the best places to change in the city center. Try to avoid changing at the airport and try to avoid paying in Euros in shops because the currency at these places is really bad.

Credit cards (especially Visa and Mastercard) are widely accepted in Budapest. You can use your credit card almost everywhere, but there are quite a lot cash-based businesses outside Budapest.

Do I need cash in Budapest?

I would suggest to have some.

If you would like to use an ATM, choose a local bank’s machine and not the blue Euronet’s because they charge a lot for transactions.

Can I use euros in Hungary?

Euros and USD may be accepted but rarely and the exchange rate is terrible, so I do not recommend using them.

How to use public transportation in Budapest?

1. you must have a valid ticket, pass or travel card.

2. validate your ticket before starting your trip or immediately after boarding

When and where should I validate my ticket?

Bus and tram: tickets must be validated by stamping or punching on the vehicle, after boarding. The machines are right at the doors.

Metro: tickets must be validated as soon ad you enter the territory of the network. You will find the validating machines between the entrance and the escalators. The row of these machines is also the boundary line (usually there is also a white painted line there), so do not cross it without a validated ticket.

Please note: Return trips (including changing your mind or getting lost and going back in the opposite direction) and interruptions (leaving the metro area) are not permitted with the same single ticket, you need to validate a new one.

Boats, ferries: ticket are validated by the crew.

How to validate my ticket?

On one end of the single ticket there is a number grid: insert this end into the machine for validation. If the ticket has no grid like this, then the empty area needs to be inserted.

If you need to transfer from one vehicle to a replacement service, then on the replacement vehicle you need to validate your original, validated ticket on the other side (the one without the number grid).

Traveling with a pass

Passes are valid only together with a photo ID such as passport of card-format driving license. The number of the ID must be written on the pass upon purchase. You also need to show your ID for control together with the pass.

Traveling with a travel card

They are valid for 24, 72 hours or 7 days and grant an unlimited number of trips within the administrative boundaries of Budapest.

Most of them do not need to be validated (exception: 5/30 24-hour travel card).

I recommend purchasing a travel card as this is the most convenient form. If you do not plan to use public transportation often, then buy a block of 10 single tickets or single tickets but be sure to validate them and pay attention to their validity (time and route). Budapest card is also a convenient option.

Where to buy public transportation tickets and travel cards?

BKK ticket vending machines can be found at every metro station and they accept both cash and bankcards. There are also Public Transport Customer Service Centers where you can purchase them.

What happens if I travel without valid ticket or pass?

You will be heavily fined.

16,000 HUF cheque or 8,000 HUF on spot (only Hungarian Forints are accepted). Paying on the spot is the best option as this way you pay less and you do not need to present a photo ID.

Also, if you pay the fine in two days in one of the offices, the amount is “only” 8,000 HUF. But in this case you must visit one of the dedicated offices and wait for your turn.

I strongly recommend to have a validated ticket or pass with you!

Please be sure to read my post about what you should not do in Budapest, too.

Important phone numbers

112 is the main help number

Others

  • Ambulance: 104
  • Police: 107
  • Fire service: 105
  • Tourist Police (0-24): 06-1-438-8080

Phone numbers of the Airport:

  • Airport Ferihegy – general (flight information) number: 06-1-296-7155
  • Lost and found-terminal 2A: 06-1-296-8108, 06-1-296-7217
  • Lost and fund-terminal 2B: 06-1-296-7690, 06-1-295-3480
  • Airport Ferihegy Terminal 2A – information about arrivals: 06-1-296-8000
  • Airport Ferihegy Terminal 2A – information about departures: 06-1-296-7000
  • Airport Ferihegy Terminal 2B – information about arrivals: 06-1-296-5052
  • Airport Ferihegy Terminal 2B – information about departures: 06-1-296-5883

Electricity

Sockets are rounded two-pin Type C (Euro). The voltage is 230V at 50Hz.

Safety in Budapest

Violent crime is rare in Budapest, but of course use your common sense. Theft is part of a big city life, unfortunately. There are also parts of Budapest where you should not walk around alone at night, for example VIII. district, Józsefváros outside the Grand Boulevard.

Read my tips on what you should avoid doing in Budapest.

Tap water

Can you drink tap water in Budapest?

With very few exceptions (public toilets, etc.) it is not only possible to drink tap water but also advised. Hungarian water is clean and it tastes really good. Try it! 🙂

If you would like to taste some Hungarian mineral waters (called “ásványvíz” in Hungarian), try

Szentkirályi Ásványvíz (from Szentkirály, that is a village in the Southern Great Plain region of southern Hungary)

Margitszigeti Ásványvíz (from the fountain of Margaret island).

Theodora Ásványvíz (from Balaton Uplands)

They can be bought in every shop or supermarket.

Also, fresh water directly from the fountains can be bought at the baths of Budapest. For example there is a drinking hall at the foot of Elisabeth bridge on the Buda side. These are usually medical waters.

Tipping in Budapest

How much do you tip in Budapest?

Tipping is a standard practice when paying for taxis, meals and drinks.

10% or 15% for an exceptional service. Some restaurant charge a 12.5% service charge on the bill, in this case you don’t need to leave extra.

In baths it is customary to tip the attendant who unlocks your cubicle (100-200 HUF).

Don’t leave the tip on the table, include the tip when you pay – just tell the amount you want to pay and you will get the change accordingly.

Tip: if you expect change back, don’t say “köszönöm” (thank you) when handing over payment, as it means that you want the change to be kept.

For taxi drivers a 10% tip is enough.

Healthcare in Budapest

What should I do if I feel unwell?

First aid and ambulance services in Hungary are free for citizens of the UK and most other European countries. Before arriving to Hungary from the EU, obtain a European Health Insurance Card that allows you to access state-provided healthcare at a significantly reduced cost. (Sometimes you need to pay for the medical service and you will get your money back at home – keep all the receipts.)

There are also a number of international clinics, such as the First Med Centre and Főnix-Med Medical Service with English speaking staff, but these are expensive.

Pharmacies (gyógyszertár or patika; their sign is a green cross) are easy to find in Budapest. They are will stocked and the chemists are usually able to recommend suitable treatments.

24-hour pharmacy: District 6, Teréz krt 41. (telephone: 06-1-311-4439) near Oktogon

(During the night or holidays it is not possible to enter this pharmacy. Search for a small window just a few steps away from Teréz krt, in Szondi street. Ring the bell and a chemist will come to help you. You will be served through the window).

Hopefully you will not need healthcare service but I recommend buying travel insurance before leaving home. Even European citizens are only entitled to free medical help in emergencies, such as accidents or sudden illness that requires immediate medical intervention. Every other medical care must be paid for. The cost depends on the relevant agreement between Hungary and the visitor’s home country.

Do I need any special vaccinations to visit Hungary?

No, you will not need anything. Also, the general standard of hygiene in Hungary is good.

I hope you will have a good and interesting time here. 😊 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me! 

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