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Trams (villamos) and buses (autóbusz) are abundant and convenient, covering the entire city from around 5 AM to 11 PM or a bit later, after which time there are special all-night runs on key thoroughfares (some every 15 minutes, others only once an hour). Though trams and buses are comfortable, you might well have to remain standing and grab a handhold for lack of a seat; both can get crowded, particularly after around 7 AM and then throughout the day until early evening (some downtown routes, in particular those along the ring boulevards, can get crowded even in the evening, when younger people in particular are out and about). Trolley-bus stops are marked with red, rectangular signs that list the route stops; regular bus stops are marked with similar light blue signs. (The trolley buses and regular buses themselves are red and blue, respectively.) Tram stops are marked by light blue or yellow signs. When getting on a bus or tram, if the doors don't open automatically right away, press the green or red button next to the door to open it.
A one-fare ticket (185 HUF) is valid for only one ride in one direction on any form of public transportation, including the metro; a "transfer ticket" (320 HUF) allows you to make one transfer. ("Ticket," by the way, is jegy, pronounced "yedy" in one quick syllable. Try English if that doesn't work.) You can also purchase a day ticket (napijegy, pronounced "nup-ee-yedy" for 1,150 HUF, a three-day "tourist ticket" (három-napos bérlet, pronounced "hahr-ome nup-oshe bare-let") for 2,500 HUF, or a one-week ticket (egy-hetes bérlet,) for 3,400 HUF, all of which allow unlimited travel on all services within the city limits. Bulk ticket books in 10- and 20-piece (tízes tömb or huszas tömb at 1,665 HUF and 3,145 HUF, respectively) units are also available; don't tear the tickets from their binding after validating them or else you'll run into trouble with the undercover checkers. Most lines run from 5 AM and stop operating at 11 PM, but there is all-night service on certain key routes. Consult the separate night-bus map posted in most metro stations for all-night service.
Schedules, though not available in printed form (unless you print out from the Web site of the Budapest Transport Company, commonly known by its Hungarian acronym BKV), are posted at stops, and buses and trams generally stick to them, although rush-hour traffic and occasional breakdowns do sometimes throw a wrench into the otherwise smoothly functioning mechanism of public transport in the capital.
In Budapest tickets are widely available in metro stations and at many newsstands and (sometimes malfunctioning) sidewalk automats. The accepted method of payment is cash. Your best bet is simply to buy a pass, which you can do at a metro station. If you do opt to buy individual tickets instead (do so if you'll take only a handful of rides during the day and saving a couple of dollars is an issue), each ticket must be validated on board by inserting it, downward-facing, into the little device provided for that purpose, then pulling the knob; with newer devices, just insert the ticket. (When you do so, some locals on board who are riding without validating their tickets—there are always a few of them—may become alarmed, thinking that you've seen a ticket checker, or that you are the ticket checker. But that's life.) Hold on to whatever ticket you have throughout the length of the ride; spot checks by undercover checkers—who slip on red armbands just before getting down to their highly unpopular task—are numerous and often target tourists.
Paying on board is possible only on a few bus and tram lines in Budapest, and even on those it may be unreliable, as drivers occasionally run out of tickets; at this writing the cost was 210 HUF a ticket, compared to 185 HUF tickets purchased in advance. In many smaller Hungarian cities on-board ticket purchasing is a good alternative, though likewise a bit more expensive than buying a ticket beforehand.
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