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Budapest Hop On Hop Off

We had a really bad experience with the HOHO, aka Official (Giraffe) HOHO. Paid way too much, and their maps were not accurate. The first stop after getting on was to go up to the Citadel where the bus sat for 35 minutes. The driver did tell us that there was another bus leaving soon, so we all got off of our choice seats and got on the other bus where we had to fight for good seats.

Then we went to the Hero Square, where the bus sat for another 15 minutes. We were on the top, open level and fried in the sun.

At one point we got off the bus, and stood at one of their stops for twenty minutes waiting for a bus to take us on the yellow route. After watching all the buses go by, we finally flagged one down and found that the yellow bus doesn't run after 4:00. Unfortunately, neither the map nor the sign we were standing under said anything about that. We ended up walking to the metro and taking that back to our hotel.

BTW, we are not unfamiliar with using a HOHO. Used one in Bath and thoroughly enjoyed the exerience.

Wish we had read the TA reviews first! Use the other HOHO company!

Posted by
10715 posts

That's too bad. I've never ridden on one of those things. I looked at their map just now and there wasn't any thing on their route worth seeing that cant be done with public transport. And I mean easy, direct, public transport. But I am glad you got back to your hotel okay and I hope the rest of the experience went well.

Posted by
144 posts

Thanks, James. We did take the excellent public transportation there, including the metro. As you know, the metro is underground, and we wanted to see all of the beautiful buildings.

Posted by
10715 posts

I'm not criticizing you, but for the next person:

If you choose your hotel location wisely the only underground you would ever need is the M1 to Heros Square or the bath house, and even then, it's a one way trip as the walk back is worth the effort.

Everything else on the usual tourist circuit is located along one of 3 tram lines. The trams are as convenient if not more convenient than the HOHO. The 3 lines cross at one point or another so it's as simple as hopping off one and hoping on the next. Buda just requires a walk across the Chain Bridge from the 2 Tram or there are 2 other ways to get there by tram.

If going to Budapest, learn the tram lines and get a TravelCard and it's an easy town to get around, above ground, and with spectacular views.

Posted by
1895 posts

I second James E's very clear directions. Note one important fact: Using a transit pass in Budapest requires that you retain your ID - passport. The transit cops will fine you for not having ID - in the case of one group, it was $26/person or $78 total. So, keep your passport on you for identification. Unlike some cities, checking of transit passes in Budapest is routine. On the subway, you can't get on without a check. On the trams and trains, sometimes there is no check, but transit costs are low and fines are high.

While you can use the M1 for many things, using the M4 is a good way to get from Pest to Buda, and takes to directly to the regional trains to go to Szentendre and points north. To go to Godollo, use the M2 and another local train.

Posted by
10715 posts

I second James E's very clear directions. Note one important fact:
Using a transit pass in Budapest requires that you retain your ID -
passport. The transit cops will fine you for not having ID

The 24 hour and 72 hour Budapest-Travelcards (what they are called in English in Budapest) do not require identification. The 7 day and longer duration Travelcards do require identification and that identification number will be printed on the back of the card (really just a slip of paper about the size of a credit card). OH! But do be aware, Hungary like every other Eastern European country (last time I checked) does require visitors to have their passport at all times.

Unlike some cities, checking of transit passes in Budapest is routine.
On the subway, you can't get on without a check. On the trams and
trains, sometimes there is no check, but transit costs are low and
fines are high.

Ticket checks at the underground metro lines can be random. I've been there for days and not seen anyone checking. Other times they are there all day long & at the exits too. If you use individual tickets, hold your ticket until you get off and you are several hundred feet from the metro station. Same with the trams. There are plain clothes inspectors that will put on an arm band in the middle of a moving tram car and start checking; sometimes on the metro too. I was also once followed about 100 feet from the metro stop and checked. The fine is 8.000 forints on the spot.

While you can use the M1 for many things, using the M4 is a good way
to get from Pest to Buda, and takes to directly to the regional trains
to go to Szentendre and points north. To go to Godollo, use the M2 and
another local train.

The M1 runs the length for Andrassy ut and down to Vorosmarty ter near the river. Along Andrassy ut are the Opera, House, Operett Theater, House of Terror, Szechenyi Baths, Ice Rink/Lake (depending on time of year), Castle Vajdahunyad
, Hero's Square, City Park and the Zoo and some pretty spectacular residential and commercial architecture. Ride up, walk back.

The M4 is the newest line and it connects Keleti train station to Kelenfold train station (tourists rarely use Kelenfold and its of no great architectural significance). Unless you have a day to kill and want to see the "other side" of pest (the further end of District VIII), or you are staying near Kálvin tér and taking the train out of Keleti you will probably not ever need to use it. BUT, the new subway stations that it serves are pretty amazing modern architecture and worth ducking into if you like such things; check out the one at Kálvin tér.

The M2 does get used a bit more by tourists. It crosses the M1 and M3 at Deák Ferenc tér which is sort of Ground Zero for tourism in Pest. At one end is Keleti Station and in the other direction it stops at the Parliament and then at Batthyány tér where you can, as was pointed out, connect to the H5 Commuter Train to Szentendre. You can also take the 4/6 Tram around to the Margit híd stop and catch the Commuter Train at that point; and not be underground on the way there.

I guess that only leaves the M3 to describe. Naaa, really doesnt serve tourism well unless you are going to the West End Mall or the Nyugati Train Station. OH, but if you do go to the Nyugati station, do check out the underground. Its "amazing".

The metro is good, BUT, its a beautiful city and you dont want to spend it underground. The nice things about the M1 is its history (oldest on the continent of Europe) and the fact that it runs directly under Andrassy ut, so you can ride it up and walk back down the Champs-Élysées of Budapest on your return. Otherwise every place described (except Keleti Station) along the M2 and M4 can be accessed by Tram so you can see the beautiful city. How beautiful? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nd9DuDGCz0

Posted by
10715 posts

M4 is a good way to get from Pest to Buda, and takes to directly to
the regional trains to go to Szentendre and points north.

Oh, and for clarification. The M4 does not connect to a rail line to Szentendre. For that you would need the M2 or the 4/6 Tram which connect to the H5 Commuter line (then take the boat back for a great trip). And to the best of my knowledge all of the international trains that leave out of Kelenföld Station originate at the more central Keleti Station (when all of the tracks are working and in good repair)

Posted by
144 posts

As the original poster, I want to clarify my intent of my post. We did not intend to use the HOHO as a means of transportation around Budapest. Our RS tour guide did a great job of explaining how to use the metro and buses, which we used numerous times to navigate from place to place. However, as I stated, the metro is underground, and we wanted to do a sightseeing tour above ground. That's the only reason we did the HOHO tour. We've done the same thing in other cities; it usually gives a good spatial overview of the city after which we come back to the sites that we want to visit.

Posted by
10715 posts

naalehuretiree, I understood and nothing was intended to be criticism. I just didn't want to leave readers with the impression that the only alternative to the underground metro system was the HOHO. In fact as I think two of us have pointed out, other that one quick run on the M1, the underground metro is not the solution to sightseeing. Everything is above ground on the trams, they have large windows, they move relatively slowly, you can HOHO at will with a Travelcard and they run on time with no more than a 3 or 4 minute wait all day long. If you look at the HOHO bus route, to a significant degree they follow the tram routes. The only advantage to the HOHO is they tell you want you are driving past; and i guess if you are worried about getting lost or uncomfortable with out a guide, or just never been on public transport before it might be more comfortable for some. So no criticism.

Posted by
90 posts

The tram ride along the river on the Pest side of the city is also spectacular. It takes you past the Houses of Parliament and you can get off at the end and walk across a bridge and onto Margaret Island.
Public transport in Budapest is excellent and cheap. When I was there in early June nearly every time I entered a metro station I had to show my ticket.

Posted by
10715 posts

Here's what happens if you don't have a ticket: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LDyRQNDJks Even today the metro cops still put on their arm band at the last minute to catch jumpers.
Here's the trailer for the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMkkJbRJdiA from 2003 all about the Budapest metro system. Sort of a cult movie. It really looks like this, so dont worry: https://youtu.be/8U77qg6gFEQ

Here's some poop on the 2 Tram (the one that runs along the river noted above): https://monkeysandmountains.com/budapest-tram-2-europes-scenic-tram-journey/
And I like this video from the 2 Tram, cause i am in it briefly: https://1drv.ms/v/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJhYQS583Edsadati3rg