Budapest: 13 Things To Know Before You Go

In many ways, Budapest, Hungary’s capital is similar to other big European cities. Beautiful buildings stand astride grand boulevards whilst residents and tourists busy themselves with shopping, socialising and business lunches.

There are though some things that are unique to Budapest that we think visitors ought to be aware of. That’s we we’ve put together this list, based on our own experiences, of things we think you should know before you go to Budapest.

Let’s dive straight in!

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The Budapest Skyline – Photo by Anastasia Zhenina

1. How to pronounce Budapest

The first thing to get right is pronouncing the name of the place you’re visiting. If you’re saying ‘Boo-da-PEST’, you’re saying it wrong. It’s pronounced, Boo-da-PESHT.


The Budapest Metro is safe to use – Photo by Bence ▲ Boros

2. Budapest is safe and you’re unlikely to be hassled

It’s pretty easy to find stories from fellow travellers telling of scams and rip-offs in Budapest. While they may all be true, we don’t think Budapest has a problem with this kind of thing. On our visit, we weren’t scammed, ripped-off or approached by anyone. Even at 1am, we felt perfectly safe walking the streets. Budapest is just as safe, if not safer than most other European cities, so don’t worry.


Jade inspects the mero map at Vörösmarty utca station.

3. Validate your metro ticket

This is a tip you commonly come across in Budapest guidebooks. We can confirm ticket inspections are very common and we’ve heard on-the-spot fines can be issued if you’re travelling on an invalidated ticket.

To validate your ticket, simply stick it into one of the orange machines at metro station entrances for a few seconds. You’ll hear a validation mark being printed onto the ticket and then a beep. It’s as simple as that.


Photo by Roman Kraft

4. It’s cheaper to buy your bus/tram ticket before you board

If you see a self-service ticket machine at the station or stop you’re departing from, use it. It’s always cheaper to buy your tickets in advance than buying directly from the driver.


A busy junction in Budapest known locally as Oktogon.

5. Pedestrians have priority on crossings

I always wonder this when travelling to different parts of the world, so I’ve included this to keep you safe when crossing the road. Pedestrians have the right of way on zebra/pedestrian crossings in Hungary and generally, vehicles will give way to you. As always though, exercise caution!

As a side note, jaywalking is illegal in Hungary, so keep to the crossings.


Photo by Christian Dubovan

6. Pay in Forints, not Euros

The currency in Hungary is the Forint (shortened to HUF). Occasionally though, you might find prices in shops quoted in Euros (EUR). Don’t be tempted! The conversion rate is almost always poor and you end up paying more than you should. If you’re given the choice, always ask to pay in Forints (HUF).


Read the signs – Photo by Murat Bengisu

7. Budapest is very English-friendly

Against everything we’d read online, Budapest is great if you’re an English speaker. Almost everyone we encountered spoke English well or even fluently. Signs on the streets and in shops are generally in both Hungarian and English and every restaurant were visited had a menu in English.

That said, we always recommend you embrace the culture of the country you’re visiting by learning a few basic phrases. Here are a few to get you started.

EnglishHungarianPronunciation
HelloSzervuszser-vus
GoodbyeViszontlátásravi-sawnt-laa-taash-ro
Thank youKöszönömkeu-seu-neum
PleaseKéremkay-rem
Yes/NoIgen/Nemi-gen/nem
Excuse meElnézéstel-nay-zaysht
SorrySajnálomshoy-naa-lawm
Do you speak English?Beszélsz angolul?be-sayl on-gaw-lul

Don’t clink your glasses – Photo by Scott Warman

8. Don’t clink your glasses together

Thanks to an urban legend about Austrian generals allegedly clinking their beer glasses to celebrate the execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad in 1849, Hungarians don’t clink their glasses together when saying ‘cheers’. While the unofficial ban expired in 1999, many still uphold the tradition. Visitors are encouraged to do the same.


The grand foyer of Corinthia Hotel in Budapest

9. Look around for 5 star hotel deals

Accommodation in Budapest is cheaper on average than in other European capitals. We scored an excellent deal at the fabulous Corinthia Grand, so have a good look around for deals.


Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest’s City Park

10. Wear grippy shoes in winter

Bizarrely, we found the pavements in Budapest to be quite slippery after snowfall. If you’re visiting during Winter, we recommend wearing waterproof footwear with a decent grip.


Don’t forget to tip – Photo by Steve Johnson

11. Make sure you tip!

Unlike many other countries in Europe, Hungary has an active tipping culture. Generally speaking, 10% of the total is appreciated in all cases with higher percentages for exceptional service. For bell hops, give 300-400 HUF. If you’re in a cafe/restaurant, leaving the tip on the table is considered rude, so hand it to staff directly.


Budapest looks fabulous during the festive period.

12. Never hail a taxi off the street

It’s easy to find horror stories about people getting ripped off by taxi drivers in Budapest. But it’s simple to avoid becoming the lead role in the next one.

In short, always call a reputable taxi firm and ask to be picked up from where you are. Never hail a cab from the side of the street. Fõ Taxi and City Taxi are two firms we used on our trip and have good track records. Even if you use these companies though, just make sure the meter is running when you set off. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask your river to switch it on.


Ignore airport taxi touts – Photo by Peter Kasprzyk

13. Ignore taxi touts at the airport

There will be plenty of drivers touting for business at arrivals in Budapest Airport. Do as we did and ignore them. There’s an official taxi rank run by reputable firm Fõ Taxi just outside the arrivals hall. We have detailed advice about this in the HTT Guide to Budapest.

Do you have any other tips for visitors to Budapest? Share them in the comments box below.

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7 thoughts on “Budapest: 13 Things To Know Before You Go”

  1. For validating a metro ticket. Do you have to validate it each time you use the metro, bus, tram, etc? In Berlin for example, you only validate it once. If you validate it more than once it becomes invalid. Is this how it is in Budapest as well?

    Do you have to validate passes and travelcards?

    Reply
    • As far as I’m aware, you only validate paper tickets on entry to the station. In terms of travel passes, I’m afraid we don’t have any experience using those. Ask staff when you buy one and they’ll be able to advise.

      Reply
    • If you once validated your ticket, it becomes invalid in the moment you take off the bus/metro/tram. If you want to transfer, you have to have another ticket and validate it on the second vehicle. You can’t use a ticket multiple times. But if you’re staying in Budapest for a longer time, it’s cheaper to buy a weekly/monthly ticket. And if you don’t want to use the machines to get one, you can download the Simple mobile paying app, where you can buy bus tickets, parking tickets, even cinema/theatre tickets too.

      Reply
  2. Perfectly safe? I’m not sure. I live here for 20 years and even now there are some places I wouldn’t go to. For example, in the inner city there are Népszínház utca and Hős utca. My advice is: DO NOT go to district 8 if you don’t really have to. But the rest of the city is kinda safe

    Reply

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