Uber and other rideshare apps are some of the most ubiquitous travel methods, especially when visiting a new city. They offer customers the significant convenience of requesting rides from anywhere to any location from their mobile phones. Of course, this goes a long way in helping tourists explore a city’s beauty.
Budapest, Hungary, is an excellent example of one of these beautiful cities. Many tourists flock to Budapest for its unique architecture at sites like the Buda Castle or the Hungarian Parliament Building, the third largest parliament building in the world. But does Budapest have Uber? Regardless of the sites chosen for a visit, Uber (and Lyft) unfortunately cannot service Budapest.
Why Is There No Uber in Budapest?
There is currently no Uber in Budapest. To make a long story short, Uber and Lyft were both banned from operating in Hungary in 2016. This is primarily because legislators in the country believed that Uber’s large-scale operations would hurt local transport providers, such as taxi drivers.
This belief came about because Uber did not have to abide by many of the same laws regulating transport providers in Hungary.
Uber got around specific Hungarian laws by claiming it was not a taxi company but a tech firm based on developing an app that connects customers and individual, self-employed drivers. As a result, Uber did not have to pay government deposits required of taxi companies, did not have to abide by environmental rules, and could claim no obligation toward its drivers.
Another factor in Uber’s ban from Hungary was that Uber drivers were not subject to the same government scrutiny and tests as Budapest taxi drivers since their drivers were “self-employed.” Of course, this gave Uber in Budapest an unfair advantage over the city’s established taxi drivers, leading to protests and demonstrations against Uber.
Alternative Budapest Travel Methods
Fortunately, you can use several alternative travel methods instead of Uber in Budapest. In addition, many experts agree that the Uber ban has benefited the city’s transit infrastructure through diversification and maintaining consistent quality standards.
Traveling on Foot – Yep, Get Walking!
Despite Budapest’s unfortunate ban on Uber, many tourists find Budapest a very walkable city. Walking around is a slower travel method than a vehicle, but this allows you more time to appreciate the city’s stunning architecture, friendly locals, and natural beauty. Additionally, you can stop at any shops, restaurants, or other businesses that capture your attention.
Walking around allows you to see and appreciate more of the subtle differences between the two sides of Budapest, aptly named Buda and Pest. They are divided by the bridge over the gorgeous Danube river, with Buda to the west and Pest to the east. A stroll through the Danube Promenade is a great way to spend a day in Budapest.
If walking is too slow for you, Budapest also offers bicycles for travel. You can download the MOL Bubi app on the Apple Store or Google Play to access the city’s bicycle network. This expansive network has over 140 stations and 1800 bicycles up for grabs. Of course, you can also enjoy many of the same aspects of on-foot travel while cycling.
For example, you can stop anytime to check out stores or businesses that intrigue you and appreciate the subtle differences between the Buda and Pest sides of the city. Buda has more elevation and varied landscapes than the flatter Pest side. Moreover, you’ll be able to get some exercise during your European vacation.
The public transit system is another great alternative to Uber in Budapest. The city’s public transit system is expansive, with various vehicles, including buses, trams, subways, and trolleys. In addition, many public transit routes offer beautiful scenery, especially when crossing the Danube River.
Additionally, the public transit system in Budapest provides specific routes specifically for sightseeing tours at very reasonable prices. You can purchase tickets directly from the drivers or download the BudapestGO app from the App Store or Google Play. This way, you can get anywhere in Budapest for an affordable price.
Traditional Yellow Taxis
The traditional yellow taxis in Budapest are what banned Uber in the first place and, therefore, are another great alternative to Uber in Budapest. Many taxi booking apps can simplify the booking process, with Bolt being the most ubiquitous. In addition, Bolt owns a company called Taxify, which began similar operations to Uber when it was banned.
That being said, the fact Bolt is still allowed in Hungary proves the company’s compliance with the Hungarian regulations that banned Uber in Budapest. In addition, Bolt is a trusted app with an interface and ride-hailing process similar to Uber; you can see your driver on a map and check rates before booking.
You can download Bolt from the App Store or Google Play. It follows a similar setup process to Uber, where you will be asked for your phone number, email address, and location access. Once confirmed, you can use the Bolt app to request cabs in Budapest, as well as other locations around the world.
Some rental car apps offer an alternative to Uber in Budapest if you would like to drive yourself. One great example of this is an app called GreenGo, which you can download from the App Store or Google Play. You simply open the app and follow the instructions and prompts. Soon, you will be driving an eco-friendly vehicle (hence the name) as your own Budapest taxi.
Another carsharing app specific to Budapest is called MOL LIMO. This app can be downloaded in the same ways as the others and works very similarly to GreenGo and Bubi. However, MOL Limo is unique because it’s not specific to eco-friendly vehicles, so you have more freedom of choice.
Remember that you will need to provide apps like GreenGo and MOL Limo with sensitive information, such as your bank card and driver’s license info. You will also need to be extra careful with these vehicles and follow specific opening and closing instructions since a third party owns them.
Lime has been operating electric scooters in Budapest since 2019 – and you’ll find them pretty much everywhere. All you need to do is sign up with the Lime app which you can download here to get scooting. As always, safety is an issue with these scooters, as they can reach pretty high speeds. Scoot carefully for your own safety, and especially for the pedestrians that share the sidewalk.
Using these e-scooters will cost around €1 per ride as an initial flat fee, then an additional 15c per minute. If you’re on a budget, you can calculate how much each trip on a scooter will cost you, so that you can log your ride off at a certain time and not overspend.
Where To Go in Budapest
Budapest is an incredibly beautiful city with a lot of gorgeous architecture and scenery to take in. There is a huge variety of places to go, things to see, and experiences. From rejuvenating thermal springs to fine art museums and monuments, Budapest offers a great travel experience for everyone.
Great Market Hall
Budapest’s Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest market in the city, built in 1897. Various shops, services, and stalls cover its multi-level, 10,000-square-foot expanse. Within this expanse, you can find street food, pastries, produce, coffee, and other goods. The establishments within are popular with everyone, from tourists to the most established locals.
The Great Market Hall is located very close to the Freedom Bridge, which connects the Buda and Pest sides of the city over the Danube River. This accessible location, multiple expansive levels, variety of products, and the place’s unique roofing style make the Great Market Hall an attraction you won’t want to miss.
Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden
Another great destination for a Budapest taxi is the Budapest zoo and botanical garden. Experts cite the zoo as one of the oldest still operating zoos in the world, and it houses over 1,000 species of animals. The zoo has been operating for over 150 years and is home to well-preserved animal housing, themed enclosures, and a nature reserve.
The zoo enjoys a central location, accessible from most parts of the city. People come from all over Budapest to see the variety of animal species, including monkeys, reptiles, venomous creatures, wombats, sea creatures, and elephants. A lot of these animals and experiences can make great conversation topics with your Budapest taxi or public transit drivers.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
One of the most relaxing destinations for your cab in Budapest is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath facility. This is the largest thermal bath facility in Europe and was established in 1913. The offerings here run the gamut from indoor and outdoor pools to saunas, steam rooms, and massages.
These attractions make the Széchenyi Thermal Baths a great place to let off some steam and enjoy a period of relaxation. Maybe you want to decompress after your long flight. Or you want to be more relaxed before your flight back home. Regardless, you should take a Budapest taxi to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
Final Thoughts – Uber In Budapest?
Uber was banned in Hungary for several reasons, many of which stem from Uber’s self-identification as a tech firm, not a taxi company. Under the tech firm classification, Uber did not have to pay the same taxes, conform to the same environmental regulations, could avoid obligations to drivers, as well as skirt government tests and certifications.
While it is quite unfortunate there is no Uber in Budapest, there are several great alternative travel methods, including walking, cycling, public transportation, regular yellow taxis, and rental car apps. Additionally, there is no shortage of interesting tourist attractions, from large market halls to zoos and botanical gardens, as well as thermal bath facilities.