Budapest is the largest city in Hungary, and it serves as a major European tourist destination. It is rich in history and tradition, with beautiful architecture in an amazing and vibrant setting. If you are visiting Budapest, it is worth spending some time to explore and soak it all in. As in many popular tourist destinations around the world, the official Visit Budapest tourism office offers a package deal. It’s called the Budapest Card and it gives the card holder the option to save money when exploring the city and using  public transportation. But is it worth your time and money to get the Budapest Card for your next visit to Budapest?

Here’s what we think.

budapest parliament building
Budapest Parliament Building at night

What is the Budapest Card?

The Budapest Card is the official City Pass card that may be the perfect product for your Budapest holiday. It’s a tool you can use to fulfill your list of things to do in Budapest. With it, you can use the main Budapest public transportation for free, as well as get free admission and discounts on several main Budapest attractions. If you are a budget conscious traveler, this card may be a good product to save money while checking out top things to do in Budapest.

There are a few different Budapest City products that you can choose from. The only difference between these options is the length of validity of the card. As of November 2017, here are the Budapest Card options and their prices:

  • 24h (1 Day) for EUR 19
  • 48h (2 Days) for EUR 29
  • 72h (3 Days) for EUR 37
  • 72h junior (3 Days, for kids age 6-18) for EUR 30 – discounted price
  • 96h (4 Days) for EUR 47
  • 120h (5 Days) for EUR 56

Worth mentioning is that the only option you can buy for kids is the 72h Budapest Card. You can purchase these cards online at the official Budapest Tourism Office page.

What’s included?

There are a lot of benefits included with the Budapest Card. If you are wondering  what to do in Budapest, check the  Budapest Card official page for the most current benefits list, as it may be updated periodically.

While it is impossible to mention them all in one post, here are some of the main benefits and highlights of what you can do with Budapest tourism card.

budapest suburban railway HEV
Budapest HEV train, or suburban railway system
  • Unlimited use of Budapest Public Transportation: The Budapest Card allows you to use the city’s main public transportation, including buses, light train, subways, and HEV suburban railways to get around Budapest and beyond. The pass holder also receives a small booklet with a Budapest map that includes public transportation routes. There are only a few exceptions where you will need to pay an additional fare.
  • Free guided walking tours: Two comprehensive and free guided walking tours are included with the Budapest Card. The Pest Walking tour is offered at 10 each morning, and the Buda Walking Tour starts at 2 PM.
  • Free Admission to Budapest Museums: At the time of writing, the card gets you into 13 museums in the capital area.
  • Discounted Admission to Budapest Attractions: You can get discounted admission prices, up to 50% off, on many of Budapest’s top destinations.
  • Discounted Food and Drinks: Several Budapest restaurants and cafés accept the Budapest Cards as a way to receive a discounted price.
budapest_bestia_sweet_potato
The innovative sweet potato dish at Bestia – Budapest

Where to purchase the Budapest Card

The main Budapest Tourism Office sells them, and can assist you with a lost or damaged card. They can also advise you on what to see in Budapest. We highly recommended purchasing it online. This gives you a small discount for your Budapest Card, and they can be delivered to your choice of hotels or accommodation in the city.


Booking.com

On a different note, it is highly suggested to register your card online. It covers any potential loss or damage to the card during the validity of service. The online service to register your card is free and simple. It is really useful as a backup plan. You simply never know!

There are a few other locations where you can purchase the Budapest Card, including in the arrival hall at Budapest International Airport – both Terminals 2A and 2B. If you opt to do this, you can use your newly activated card for transportation to Budapest’s city center via bus 200E and Metro line. Keep in mind that the Budapest Card does not include the 100E Express bus that can transport you directly to the Deák Ferenc square – Budapest’s main city center square.

Another place to purchase the card is at the Great Market Hall Budapest and several other Budapest tourist destinations around the city.

budapest great market hall
Great Market Hall

Budapest Tourism Office

The official Budapest Festival and Tourism Center is located in the city center, a few minutes walking distance from the Deák Ferenc – Budapest main city center square. At this office, you can ask questions about Budapest top attractions. The friendly staff will help you with your travel itinerary and to figure out what to do in Budapest. They can arrange any guided tours and Budapest activities.

You can purchase your Budapest Card from this location, too. The Tourist Information Budapest office is located here:

BUDAPESTINFO POINTS.
1052 Budapest, Sütő u. 2.
(Deák Ferenc Square)

They can also offer you suggestions on Budapest accommodation to suits your specific needs and budget – from the Boutique Hotel Budapest to the cheap hotels in Budapest.

While in Budapest, we stayed in three Budapest budget hostels – Baroque Hostel Budapest, the Maverick Lodge Hostel, and the Full Moon Design Hostel.

budapest tourist info
The Budapest Info Office

Is the Budapest Card worth it?

I have heard arguments on both sides when it comes to purchasing City Passes. The bottom line is that it really depends on what are you trying to accomplish in the city. There are so many things to do in Budapest that suit everybody’s style and budget.

Here are some of the pros and cons of obtaining the Budapest Card (or any official city pass).

Pros
  • It can be a money saving tool: If you’re on a budget, having the Budapest CityPass could be a money saver, as many Budapest tourist attractions offers free admission or discounted price for pass holders. Strictly speaking, you will save money if you are planning on purchasing at least two full admissions and taking a few public transportation rides per day.
  • No worries about Budapest public transport: The Budapest City Card covers all major transportation within the city, including from the Budapest Airport to City center.
  • Someone else has helped you make your plans: Arriving here without knowledge of what to do in Budapest can be a daunting situation. Like any official City Pass, it gives you a list of top attractions that you can do for free or discounted price. It basically makes what to do in Budapest an easier decision.
Cons
  • It can be restricting: To justify the cost, you may feel obligated to do as much as you can within the validity of your card.
  • What if you lose the card?: Although you can register your card online for protection by Budapest Tourism Office, it still can be a hassle to try to replace it.
budapest-gellert-baths
Gellert Thermal Baths

Things to Consider Before Purchasing

  • What kind of traveler are you? If you want to experience the big touristy things Budapest offers, the Budapest Card is most likely for you. You will be able to save money on admissions. You’ll also save time from not having to purchase the tickets in some places. They will provide you with a small Budapest travel guide booklet.
  • What do you want to do in Budapest? If you are a museum person, the Budapest Card is great. It offers many free admissions and discounted prices. Some of the free or discounted admissions include the famous Budapest Thermal Baths – one of the top things to do in Budapest.
  • Are you traveling in a group? Kids age 6-18 can get a discounted price for a 72-hour pass.
  • How long are you staying in Budapest? The longer the validity of the Budapest Card you purchase, the better the deal is.
  • What’s your travel style/pace? Some visitors like to explore the city slower and prefer to get lost in the city. If you are this kind of independent traveler, the Budapest Card may not be a good option. You may end up paying more for the card compared to purchasing tickets individually. All you may need is a Budapest tourist map and a great travel attitude!

Card Activation and  technical issues

To start the benefit of the Budapest Card, you need to validate it by signing the back. They will not accept any errors or corrections made after the initial sign, so make sure that you won’t be making any changes afterwards. Let the Budapest Tourism Office know if you do, and they may be able to replace or to assist you with your Budapest Card.

Don’t forget to register your Card online to protect it in case of loss or damage.

budapest card back
Budapest Card

Budapest Card Highlights and Tips

With so many different options and possibilities, Budapest offers plenty of things to keep you busy. Make sure to check out the updated list of benefits in their official website, or printed in the booklet provided when you pick up your Budapest Card. Here are some of the highlights of what you can get from having a valid Budapest Card:

Unlimited use of Budapest Public Transportation

The network of BKK buses, trolleys, trams, boats, and metro subway and HEV suburban railways are included with the Budapest Card. This pretty much covers any place from Budapest center to beyond the city limit that you want to explore, including the Budapest Airport. Night buses, as well as the Tram 6 night service, are included.

budapest light rail
Light Rail

Don’t miss Tram no. 60 which is a cog-wheel railway up to the Buda Hills.

You can also use the Budapest Card to travel back to  Ferenc Liszt Budapest International Airport with bus 200E. The only exclusion is the direct airport service 100E bus and the Chairlift or Buda Castle Funicular.

Free Guided Walking Tours

We enjoy exploring a city with guided walking tours, and have done a few free walking tours around the world. The Budapest Card includes two free guided walking tours by Citirama Sightseeing Tours, which are more mature and concentrated than the free walking tours. It is possible to do these two tours in one day. You can join the Pest Walking Tour in the morning at 10 and the Buda Walking Tour at 2. Each of these tours, guided by a knowledgeable and friendly Budapest guide, last two hours. You will learn about the city’s history and customs and visit many places in the city

The Buda walking tour is highly recommended. It will take you to some of the city’s most beautiful places, including Budapest Castle.

budapest-fishermans-bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda
Other Tours

In addition to these tours, the Budapest Card  offers a discounted rate for other Budapest Tours:

  • the popular Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour (20-30% discount)
  • the amphibious Riverride Tour (10% discount)
  • Budapest Tuk tuk Tour (20% discount)
  • IC Tour Bicycle/Roller/Segway Tours (50% discount)

…and more.

If you opt to do an Italian Tour, you can also do one for a 40% discount. My favorite is the Cityrame Tour, where you can join  the guided bus tour, as well as the Eat Hungarian Walking Tourm where you sample 8 different unique Hungarian cuisines.

Budapest Thermal Baths

Budapest medicinal thermal baths are considered among the best things to do in Budapest. With the Budapest travel card, you can visit one of Budapest’s spa pools, the Lukács Thermal Baths, for free. In addition to free Lukács Baths, you can visit three other major Budapest baths with a 20% discounted rate: the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths, Rudas Thermal Baths, and the Gellért Baths, which is part of the luxurious Danubius Hotel Budapest. These are only valid for the day passes. You need to purchase a different ticket if you want to experience the Budapest nightlife experience of SPArty at the Széchenyi or Lukács baths.

budapest-szechenyi-baths
Szechenyi Baths main pool
Free Museum Admissions

If you’re up for experiencing some of Budapest’s top spots, there are 13 museums you can visit for free with the Budapest Card. Roman History Buffs can visit the highly-recommended Aquincum Museum. Here, you’ll see many ancient Roman artifacts and learn about the starting point of Budapest’s love affair with thermal baths. In addition to these two Budapest tourist attractions, you can  visit some of the major Budapest Museums, such as the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and the Hungarian National Museum. My favorite is  Memento Statue Park, which is the resting place for many of the Budapest Soviet era communist statues. This museum is a half hour bus ride from Budapest city center.

budapest memento park
Memento Park, a Soviet statue relics collection
Discounted Museums

In addition to  free admissions, you can get discounts to several Budapest points of interest. Many visitors use the card to get 30% off the popular Hospital in the Rock. Also known as the Nuclear Bunker Museum, it highlights Budapest’s resistance during the Second World War and the 1956 Revolution War. This museum was classified top secret until as recently as 2002. Another highlight is the 25% discount at the Hungarian Jewish Museum, and the Dohány Street Synagogue, one of Europe’s major synagogues. The Budapest Jewish quarter is one of top 10 things to do in Budapest. Don’t forget to visit the Innercity Parish Church, where you’ll find remnants of an ancient Roman wall from 2,000 years ago. Finally, you should check out the unique Budapest Pinball Museum.

Food and Drink

The card also gets you discounted rates in Budapest’s many cafes and restaurants. Some include the Hard Rock Café Budapest, Café Astoria, and the Gellert Panorama Restaurant inside the Gellert Hotel Budapest. It’s where you’ll see breathtaking views of the Danube River. In addition, you can attend a cooking class, or visit the famous Szamos Chocolate Museum, as well as the Dinner Cruise Legenda for a romantic evening event on the Danube.

budapest great market hall vegetable
Colorful vegetable at the Budapest Great Market Hall

You can also use the Budapest Card for discounts in several stores throughout the city while exploring the Budapest shopping scene.

“City Lounge” and luggage storage

You can get 4 hours of free of access to the BPKoffer in the middle of Budapest. Here, you can safely store your luggage while you’re out and about doing your Budapest sightseeing or having a drink and snack for a small break. You can also take a refreshing shower and enjoy some contemporary art inside the café. Need to print your boarding pass before your flight? Do it here. It is within walking distance to the Metro Station that connects you to the bus route that takes you back to Budapest International Airport.

Conclusion

In our opinion, the Budapest Card is worth having when you stay in Budapest for a few days. The 24 hour Budapest Card is not the most cost effective of the options though. You would barely scratch the surface. Plus, you would feel rushed from trying to do as much as you can to get your money’s worth.

On the other hand, the best value is probably the 120 our card. In five days, you can easily double the value of the money spent on the Budapest Card.

Budapest Parliament Building

Disclaimer

Many thanks to the Budapest Festival and Tourism Center. They provided us with the 72 hour Budapest Card and welcome kit. Even though this is a sponsored visit, the post is written with my own honest opinion. There are no affiliate links on this page related to the Budapest Festival and Tourism Center.


For More on Hungary and Budapest: When we travel, we use Lonely Planet. By buying a book at one of the Amazon.com links below, we get a small referral fee at no additional cost to you.


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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn't looked back. He's been to over forty countries and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. He's a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.

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