Riding the Rails in Budapest
Learning to use the public transportation is important in any European city, and definitely in Budapest, a sprawling city where distances can be huge (for walkers).
Public transport in Budapest is good, once you figure it out—it’s a great network of Metro lines, buses and trams that can get visitors and locals basically anywhere they need to be. We found it best to buy a 3-day ticket for unlimited use on all forms of transport, but one-day and weekly tickets are also available. A 3-day ticket for one adult cost us 4150 forint (about US$14.75 at the time).
The trams that run along the edge of the River Danube are fun, as you get a great view of both the river and the city. But perhaps more fun (but at first more challenging) is riding the Metro. Everything is pretty well signposted, but not always in English, so keep a map handy. Many locals use the Metro, and it was interesting for us to “people watch” a bit as we rode along.
There are 3 lines (with a 4th to open sometime soon). The M1/Yellow line is the oldest metro line in Europe—it opened in 1896 and is a very shallow line, hardly more than 20 steps below street level.
The M2/Red was built during the Communist days and is very deep, at least 115 feet below street level, as it was designed to be a bomb shelter too. It’s been renovated, so stations look new and shiny. This is the only line that runs under the Danube. Going down or up on those escalators does give one the feeling of going deep in to the bowels of the earth! Paris has some rather deep Metro stations too, but some of these in Budapest seem deeper (don’t know actual stats though!)
The M3/Blue is also quite deep and hasn’t been renovated yet, so looks older. Kalvin ter (Square) is a useful stop for the huge Market Hall and also for us, as our hotel was close to the Market on Raday Utca (Hotel Ibis, very good).