You can reach Budapest easily by plane from various destinations around the world, with the airport serving as an important connection point to other European towns and cities for travelers. For these connections, many people choose, what are called in Hungarian, the wooden bench airlines, including discount carriers such as Air Berlin, EasyJet, SkyEurope, and Wizzair. They provide you with a cheap way of travelling around Europe.
However, it makes sense to shop around. Prices vary considerably between the different airlines. Please keep in mind that, while connections to other European countries are abundant, there are no scheduled domestic flights within Hungary.
Budapest has one major airport, about 20km from the city center, serving both European and international airlines. Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (commonly known as Ferihegy) has three terminals, one for ‘discount airlines’, one for flights arriving from and departing to other Schengen countries, and one for non-Schengen and non-European airlines. Whether you are visiting the city for the first time, moving there for good or just want to get away to explore other European countries, chances are that you will have to go through Ferihegy International Airport.
Although there are no domestic flights in the country, Hungary used to have a national airline, Malév Hungarian Airlines, which offered connections to more than 50 cities in 34 countries. In 2012, the airline was declared insolvent and had to terminate all services. A new national airline, Sólyom Hungarian Airlines, was founded in 2013 but as of March 2016, was facing economic problems, meaning it still does not offer any flights. Luckily, there are a lot of other airlines to choose from, including British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Ryanair and many more.
An airport minibus service takes you from all three terminals directly to different hotels and hostels in the city center. Unfortunately, the vehicles make a lot of stops, making it a rather time-consuming way of getting to the airport. The same applies to the airport bus, which leaves from a stop marked “BKV Plusz Reptér Busz” between terminals 2A and 2B, with an information desk in arrivals, and travels all the way to Kobánya-Kispest metro station. If you are running late, a taxi might be the better choice.
The best way to explore Budapest is probably by bus, tram, or taxi, although the city center can also be easily explored on foot. An extensive bus system that extends throughout greater Budapest lets you reach all corners of the city. If you’re on a time crunch, pay special attention to the color of the numbers on the bus. Buses with red number signs are express buses that skip a few stops. In addition to the regular buses, there are night buses which take you home safely. Or you can, of course, also take the tram, which is a little bit faster, a more convenient way to get a first impression of the city and a great means to go sightseeing. Just remember that to use the public transport, you must purchase tickets at newsstands or ticket windows before your journey and validate them as soon as you board.
With the excellent public transportation system, you will hardly need to fall back on taxis to get around. When you do though, you will find that taking a taxi in Budapest is much cheaper than in other European countries. If you choose a reliable provider, that is. No-name taxis and those with removable headlights are private providers, a.k.a. some guy with a car who will, most likely, rip you off. Look for a yellow license plate, an identification badge displayed on the dashboard, a logo on the side doors, and a table of the fares to recognize a reputable taxi company. Keep in mind that even among the trustworthy taxi firms, fares may vary considerably. In any case, it is cheaper to book your taxi ahead of time, as is customary in Budapest, instead of flagging it down on the street. The most popular taxi companies in Budapest include Buda, City, Fö, Rádió, and Tele 5.
Driving in Budapest, while absolutely possible of course, is not exactly fun. Unless you are experienced with heavy traffic, jammed roads, and a parking situation that borders on the ridiculous, think twice before getting in your car. The public transportation system offers a much cheaper, safer, and more convenient way of getting around.
If you can’t do without your own four wheels, please remember that your foreign driving license is valid for one year from the date of your arrival. After that time, you will need to secure a Hungarian license. Also, remember to get third-party liability insurance for your vehicle, as it is compulsory in Hungary. If your car is registered in the EU, you will not have to show proof of insurance when you cross the border. However, other motorists will be checked more thoroughly.
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