It was the family’s first trip to Europe!
Exciting. Exhausting. Exhilarating!
Budapest was a great first choice for us in terms of being introduced to European countries and culture. I was just thinking that if we had gone to Italy or to France then went to Hungary, I don’t think it would have the same impact when we first stepped on to the city.
From the Liszt Ferenc Airport (Franz Liszt, the musician and composer) we landed on Terminal 2B at 8:00 a.m. We were tired and hungry as we had traveled by land first to a provincial airport (as they had cheaper tickets compared to the main city’s airport), then a two-and-a-half hour plane ride to Budapest, capital city of Hungary. We flew in by Hungary’s budget airline, Wizz Air, where you pay for everything else (including check-in baggage and checking in at the airport, if you choose to).
The airport is outside of Budapest, but you can get to the city center easily either by taxi or by the city’s efficient transport system.
By taxi: There’s a booth right outside Terminal 2B. It’s called Fotaxi. Yes, they accept credit/debit cards so you don’t have to change your money from the airport. It’s a bit pricey, but it was well worth it as it takes you straight to your destination. Just show the person manning the booth your hotel or apartment address. For us, the cost of the taxi was about 7500 HUF (Hungarian Forints), about 26 USD (October 2016). Again, expensive! But there were five of us (including two small children, a hungry teenager, and tired adults with luggage!), and we wanted to get in the city center as soon as possible.
If you are the adventurous type, then by all means use their public transport (BKK – Budaesti Kozlokdesi Kozpont). To get into the city center, you need to ride: the long blue bus, 200E route. Then you get to the end of the route, which is Kobanya-Kispest. Take the Metro (M3 line or the blue route), which will take you to Deak Ferenc ter station. This is the city center station. Once you alight from the station, you will see that you have access to trams, buses, and switching Metro lines. You could also switch Metro lines, depending on your destination.
To get the tickets, you need one of these purple bad boys here:
Take note that you need to pay in HUF. Make sure when you exchange money you have change as the machines usually go only as high as 5000 HUF. The machine gives change so there are no worries about that. You can change the language of the machine to help you dispense what you need. If you are planning to go around the city using public transport, then buy the block of 10 tickets (if you are traveling as a group of three or more and only one person is paying) or the travel card (for the smart solo or couple travelers). This is not to be mistaken for the Budapest Card (which, in my opinion, is a rip-off). To find out more about the public transportation ticket rates, please click here.
Once you board any public transportation, your ticket needs to be validated. They have small orange or red machines in the buses or right before you ride the escalators to the Metro. Insert your ticket grid first, then you will hear a punch or a printing sound. There is a fine if you ride public transport with an unvalidated ticket.The old trams do not have an automatic validating machine. Instead, you have to insert the ticket (grid first) and pull the black puncher (?!) towards you. It will place holes on your ticket.
Google Maps is your friend. And also try the BKK app (available on Google Play and iOS), which helps you plan your trip via your smart phone. It needs a wi-fi connection, but you can leave the app open on the details of your trip when you don’t have access to wi-fi.
Speaking of wi-fi, I rented a pocket wi-fi for about 6 EUR per day (with a 100 EUR deposit, ouch!). It can support up to 10 devices and comes with a charger. The company’s name is Wi4Go. I couldn’t find it at the airpot so I had to go to a hotel in the city center to rent it. I know, so much effort. The hotel’s name is Zenit Hotel, which is behind a cafe called Cafe Anna and H&M in Vaci utca (a shopping district). I used it all the time for social media and finding my place in this busy city using the BKK app.
Next post will be about the places we visited in the city. I hope I didn’t overload you with information and found this TL;DR.