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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Hungary > Budapest

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Travel to Budapest

Flying to Budapest

Airlines offering flights to Budapest from the UK include British Airways, easyJet, LOT, Ryanair and Wizz Air. You can find cheaper flights in spring, with March, April and May typically the most wallet-friendly times to travel. If booked in advance, June can be inexpensive too. With short breaks to Budapest becoming increasingly popular, weekend travel is best avoided if you're on a budget.

Flight times

From London - 2 hours 25 minutes; New York - 11 hours (including stopover); Los Angeles - 13 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 10 hours (including stopover); Sydney - 24 hours (including stopover).

Travel by road

The quality of roads in Budapest is generally good. Traffic drives on the right and the minimum driving age is 17 years. Speed limits are 130kph (80mph) on motorways, 90kph (55mph) on main roads and 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas.

The pink format EU driving licence is accepted, but an International Driving Permit (IDP) is appreciated if you have an older, green UK licence or if you hold a licence from outside the EU. A car registration document, country sticker and third-party liability insurance are compulsory.

Motorway e-vignettes (passes) are required for certain expressways in Hungary, including the M1, M3 and M7. On-the-spot fines are issued for those who travel without one. You must buy these in advance from www.toll-charge.hu.

The Hungarian Automobile Club, Magyar Autóklub (tel: +36 1 345 1800; www.autoklub.hu), has reciprocal agreements with many automobile associations and provides a 24-hour breakdown service.

Emergency breakdown services

Magyar Autóklub (tel: 188, in Hungary only).

Routes

Hungary has eight main routes, seven of which start from Budapest. Approaching Budapest, the two main highways are the M1 from Györ and Vienna, and the M7 along Lake Balaton. The A4 from Vienna leads to the Austro/Hungarian frontier at Hegyeshalom, where the M1 continues onto Budapest. The M3 connects Budapest with eastern Hungary. Warsaw is reachable on the E77.

Coaches

Volánbusz (tel: +36 1 382 0888; www.volanbusz.hu) operates international services to several countries in Europe, including the UK. International buses leave from Népliget coach station, IX Üllöi út 131.

Volánbusz also operates domestic services to Hungarian towns and resorts. Services to the southwest of the country leave from Népliget coach station, while coaches to the east of Hungary are from Stadion coach station, Hungária körút 48-52. Routes to the Danube Bend depart from Árpád híd coach station, Árboc utca 1-3.

Széna tér coach station, Széna tér, runs routes to the Zsámbéki basin region, while lines to Biatorbágy, Érd, Százhalombatta and surrounding areas leave from Etele tér coach station, Etele tér.

Time to city

From Prague - 5 hours; Vienna - 2 hours 30 minutes; Warsaw - 8 hours 30 minutes.

Travel by Rail

Services

Rail services from Budapest are relatively clean and modern. IC (InterCity) routes have first-class (elso osztály) carriages and restaurant carts.

There are three, large international railway stations in Budapest: Keleti (eastern station), on VIII Baross tér, Nyugati (western station) at VI Nyugati tér, and Déli (southern station) located at I Krisztina körút. Keleti is the principal terminus for international rail services from Western Europe and Nyugati is the main terminus for trains heading to Eastern Europe.

Direct rail links connect Budapest to plenty of other European cities including Belgrade, Berlin, Bucharest, Krakow, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb.

Operators

Trains are run by Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) (tel: 06 40 494 949, in Hungary only or +36 1 444 4499; www.mav.hu) and reservations are compulsory on IC and IP (InterPici) routes. EC (EuroCity) trains serve domestic destinations and reservations on these are optional.

You can buy tickets for all journeys online at the MÁV website or in person at any of the city’s railway stations. Alternatively, there are a number of outlets selling train tickets around the city. Check the MÁV website for a full list of ticket offices. Reservations for international journeys should be purchased 24 to 36 hours in advance and picked up at the railway station's ticket collection point.

Journey times

From Debrecen - 2 hours 35 minutes; Szeged - 2 hours 25 minutes; Belgrade - 8 hours; Berlin - 11 hours 50 minutes; Vienna - 2 hours 35 minutes.

Travel by boat

From mid-May to September, a hydrofoil ferry connects Budapest and Vienna, Austria. Ferries run three times a week each way.

Ferry operators

Boats, which are run by MAHART PassNave (tel: +36 1 484 4013; www.mahartpassnave.hu), dock at the International Landing Stage (Nemzetközi hajóállomás), V Belgrád rakpart, in the heart of the city. The journey takes 6 hours 30 minutes from Budapest to Vienna and 5 hours 30 minutes in the opposite direction.

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Continental Hotel Zara

With 272 rooms to pick from, the Continental Hotel Zara isn't shy on size. Between the tall windows and chic, chocolate-coloured design of the sleeping quarters, it doesn't lack style either. All rooms have satellite TVs, soundproof windows and air-conditioning, with Continental Suites and Executive Rooms available for the extra extravagant explorer. The hotel's lavish restaurant and cool little café are worth checking out too, or swap both for a chilled beer on its rooftop garden. Its wellness centre should help with any hangovers or well-travelled legs.

Hotel Palazzo Zichy

Originally built as the residence of Count Nándor Zichy, a 19th century nobleman, the hotel that shares his surname now has ample space for 80, well-proportioned rooms. Held in Pest's palace quarter, the modern simplistic style of the bedrooms has everything the modern traveller could desire from satellite TV and soundproof windows to internet access and large, laptop-sized safes. The hotel also has a gym, sauna and concierge service.

Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

With unparalleled panoramas across the mighty Danube, the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge is a hotel that's all about the details. While location may be its first selling point, through its doors it offers a terrace bar, chintzy cocktails and a tinkling pianist in the Bibliotek Lounge. The centrally-located spot also has a serene spa and gives visitors the choice of 301 soft linen sleeping chambers with marble bath tubs, flatscreen TVs and free Wi-Fi in most rooms.

Hotel Parliament

As new boutique hotels carry on cropping up around the Hungarian capital city, the minimal décor of Hotel Parliament continues to stand out. With 64 double rooms to decide on, each comes with air-conditioning, soundproof windows, Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Its lobby, wellness retreat and onsite Htel Bar are more modern in design with their sharply-coloured sofas, chandeliers and sleek simplicity, while its Parliament Suite is suited to those on longer sojourns.

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace

Many hotels use the 'palace' moniker without justification, but not the Gresham. Built in 1906, this architectural delight is a masterpiece of art nouveau design, both inside and out. Many of the fittings, including Zsolany ceramics and a stained glass window by Miksa Róth, are original, while the rest were lovingly restored in 2004 when the palace received a glorious makeover. The Gresham has all the trappings of a 5-star Budapest hotel, including a fitness and wellness centre.

Mercure Budapest Korona Hotel

A relaxed saunter from Budapest's pedestrianised shopping area between Váci and Ráday street, the 4-star Mercure Budapest Korona Hotel has all the touches of comfort and quality expected from a chain of this stature. Generous-sized rooms come with air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and tea and coffee making facilities, while a heated indoor swimming pool, sauna and masseuses are available too.