Hanna's Handy-Dandy Guide to Public Transport in Budapest
For anyone unfamiliar with the system of public transportation in Budapest, worry no more! I have compiled a guide that is a must-have for anyone making their way around Budapest. With this guide, you can minimize angry encounters with employees of public transport, grumpy elderly ladies, and you will be able to blend in perfectly with your fellow travelers. Enjoy!
1. When boarding the trolleybus/tram/metro, it is imperative that you board with the hastiest of hastiness! Those seats get taken quickly! And physically wrestling someone for a seat is not at all out of the question. Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest prevails in this rough-and-tumble world.2. If you should be unfortunate enough to NOT get a seat, HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE. The drivers are not there to make sure you don't fall and scrape your knee (or get a concussion from slamming into the walls and other people)...in fact, the drivers are amused by watching people bounce around and they will drive horribly to indulge this sick fetish.
3. The signs posted that warn against drinking, eating, and talking on your cell phone are more for the purpose of suggestion, rather than stating rules. If you are going to drink while commuting, there's also no need to be classy about it...drink straight out of the bottle/can if you wish. But God forbid, if you put your feet on the seats, prepare to die.
4. If you are the type of person that hates waiting for public transport, then Budapest transport will constantly make you angry. Expect to wait long and often for your transportation. And your bus/tram/metro WILL pull up to your stop and then drive away again when you are still waiting to cross the street or coming down the escalator to get to the stop...you can make your best attempt to chase after it, but don't be let down when you are left in the dust huffing and puffing. Let it go, you'll catch the next one...if it shows up.
5. If your bus should come to a sudden stop, and should the bus driver get off and return to the bus with an unknown part of the bus dripping in oil, that is the sign that you should disembark the bus and walk or wait for the next one. That bus ain't goin' anywhere no more.
6. For those couples out there who are still living at home with your parents and have nowhere to get cozy with your "honey", public transport is the perfect alternative! Find a cozy seat, lock lips, and completely disregard everyone around you. The more sounds you make, the better. People LOVE watching other people eat each others faces while traveling...and single people love it the most.
7. Avoid public transport officials at all costs. They WILL find a way to hassle you and take your money. You could have transportation passes stocked up for the next 6 months, and they will find something wrong and fine you. Should you have an encounter with one of these people, you might just end up having to pay...or if you are the athletic type, running away has been known to be effective on several occasions *see entry entitled "My first run in with the Hungarian authorities".
8. A note on night buses. The night bus is a great place to do some people watching, and you can even meet some pretty interesting characters...but the safest suggestion is to just sit and stare out the window. Do not make eye contact with anyone, particularly people who have crazy eyes or who cannot seem to keep themselves in a standing position. If someone looks pail and woozy, sit a few seats away, or preferably on the opposite side of the bus. Also, don't be surprised when your bus sometimes decides to take a different route than listed and then dump you at an unknown location in the middle of the dead night.
9. Whatever you do, DO NOT try to make conversation with people on public transportation in Budapest. The "F-U, don't bother me" look that everyone has on their face isn't just for show. This point is particularly imperative on morning commutes...should you speak to someone, they will not only scowl, but you will get a big whiff of morning breath that will haunt you throughout the day.
10. It is customary in Budapest to get up and stand anxiously at the door of the trolleybus/tram/metro at least two stops before you have to disembark. You may want to push others out of the way as well, even if they are getting off as well. No one knows why this custom has come into existence (or still exists at all), but if you really want to fit in, it is suggested you follow along.