The most fun way to travel around Budapest is in a Trabant -- the old communist car that used to be a joke but is now a reverse status symbol. Travelers can also rely on the efficient Budapest Public transportation system (www.bkv.hu), which covers the city's prime sightseeing attractions.
The BKV network includes buses, trolley buses, trams, subways, and suburban trains, which run daily from 4:30am-11pm. (After 11pm, several lines run special evening routes.) Be sure to buy a ticket before you board; there are ticket controllers everywhere! Or get a Budapest Card (www.budapest-card.com) for 2 or 3 days of unlimited public transportation and other discounts.
Timea Kovacs -- a Budapest native and owner of Rent-a-Trabant (www.rentatrabantbudapest.com) -- recommends using the BKV system to sightsee. You can also take a taxi, ride a bike, or drive a Trabant.
1. Földalatti (Subway): Constructed in 1896, this is the 2nd oldest subway in the world; only the London Underground is older.
M1 Subway: This Yellow line runs through the center of Pest. Use it to go to the renowned Café Gerbeaud (stop: Vörösmarty tér), the Hungarian State Opera (stop: Opera) or to the historic Heroes' Square (stop: Hösök tere).
2. Metro: The M2 and M3 are two modern subway lines. Here's a good map of all three lines: www.metros.hu
M2: This is an East-West line, also called the Red line. Take it to the Parliament (stop: Kossuth Lajos tér) on the Pest side or get a view of the Parliament from the Buda side (stop: Batthyány tér).
M3: This is the North-South line, called the Blue line. Take it to the impressive St. Stephen's Basilica (stop: Arany János utca) or to the pedestrian shopping street Váci utca (stop: Ferenciek tere).
3. Villamos (Streetcar Tram): There are more than 30 lines of bright yellow trams.
Tram #2: This line runs along the Danube on the Pest side and provides great views of the city sights, the river, and the bridges. You can stop at the Parliament, Dunakorzó (the Danube Promenade, stop: Vigado) or go to the Central Market Hall (stop: Fõvám tér) for produce in the three-level building.
Tram #19: Budapest is famous for its baths. Take this line to the Rudas Baths (stop: Rudas fürdõ) and the Gellért Baths (stop: Gellért tér).
Tram #47: You can also get to the Gellért Baths on this line. It crosses over to Pest via the Liberty Bridge passing by the National Museum (stop: Kálvin tér) and Europe's largest synagogue, Dohány Synagogue (stop: Astoria).
4. Trollibusz (Trolley Bus): There are around 14 lines of bright red trolleys (buses with overhead wires).
Trolley #70: Enjoy a nice ride to the city park, Városliget, go for a stroll and check out Vajdahunyad Castle, built for the 1896 Millennium celebration; it houses the Agricultural Museum (stop: Olof Palme sétány).
5. Autobus (Bus): There's an extensive route of blue buses. Some parts of the city, such as the Buda Hills, are only served by buses.
Bus #16: Take this to the Buda Castle (stop: Szentháromság tér or Dísz tér); it goes over the famous Chain Bridge.
6. Vizibusz (Waterbus): There are two options for hydrobuses:
RiverRide (tel. 01/332-2555; www.riverride.com) is an amphibious vehicle -- a bus that turns into a boat -- that runs year-round with service three times a day.
Sailor (tel. 20/934-2610; www.sailor.hu) is a boat that makes scenic "bus stops" in the summer months (May-August).
7. Rent-a-Trabant (Car) (tel. 30/989-0531; www.rentatrabantbudapest.com)
Trabants were made in the former East Germany and driven begrudgingly throughout the communist bloc. Today, they're status symbols. For some fitting irony, drive (or be driven) in a Trabant to the Socialist Statue Park, the resting place for Communist sculptures torn down to denote the end of the regime.
Other Ways to Sightsee In and Around Budapest
1. Bike: Since downtown Pest is currently under extensive reconstruction, this is an excellent mode of transportation. Go on a sightseeing tour or just explore on your own.
Budapest Bike (Wesselényi utca 13; tel. 30/944-5533; www.budapestbike.hu; Metro: M2 -- Astoria or Deák tér)
Bikebase (Podmanizcky utca 19; tel. 70/625-8501; www.bikebase.hu; Metro: M3 -- Oktogon)
2. Taxi: You do have to be careful. Before hopping into a cab, be sure it's from a reputable company.
Minimobil (tel. 01/333-2222; www.mobiltaxi.hu) is reliable and cheap, but always busy; be sure to call about a half hour before departure.
6X6 (tel. 01/666-6666; www.6x6taxi.softipo.hu) is one of the largest and most trustworthy taxi companies.
3. HÉV (Suburban Train): Board one of these green-colored, light-rail trains for day trips to towns outside Budapest, such as the picturesque Szentendre (from: Batthyány tér) or Gödöllo (from Örs vezér tere), home to the largest Baroque palace in Hungary.
4. Hop-On-Hop Off Buses: There are two companies -- an orange line and a red line -- that basically make the same run to all the highlights from Heroes' Square to the Buda Castle. If you stay on the bus for an overview of the city, the trip is about two hours. If you want to hop off, the buses run from 10am-5pm; the ticket is valid for a 24-hour period.
City Tour (tel. 01/327-6690; www.hoponhopoff.hu) The red line makes 15 stops.
Budapest Circle Sightseeing (tel. 20/944-9091; www.programcentrum.hu) The orange line makes 13 stops; the price includes a river cruise and walking tours.
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