Useful tips and information for people arriving and travelling from Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport.
At the beginning of this article I will introduce you to the 1938 construction and history of the Liszt Ferenc airport – or as us Hungarians call it, the “Ferihegy”. Later, I will provide you with useful tips and advice regarding travelling, parking, shopping, exchanging money and packages, to surely avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Table of content
The childhood dream
What child didn’t want to be a secret agent. Hiding behind a well thought out mask, spending our day as a boring shop assistant or a foreign language teacher, while blending in at the target country, gathering information, following people, planting bugs at homes and offices, exporting intel.
Yes, but even to begin this mission, we somehow have to get into the target country chosen by our agency. While under the cover of the night, through the borders in disguise or falling from the sky with a parachute is novelly intriguing ways to get in, but to make a round background story a more traditional, legal option is more suitable. For example, with airplane.
And what can prove the opinion of an amateur movie fan more than the whole CIA brochure, which was introduced to the world thanks to the leak of WikiLeaks. In this, the company gives detailed instructions to the disguised agents regarding how to get through problem free at airports’ secondary screenings.
They provide information about the avoidable behaviour, the characteristics of problematic passports, ticket types that may bring suspicion and the focus points of checking packages. In a few sentences they specifically highlight Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport’s special safety protocols: closed-circuit televisions (CCTV), from which the security watched the passengers, and the one way mirrors that helps them detect passengers that act strange.
However, don’t be sad if from our childhood dream, only the civil part came into play. It’s much more fun coming to Hungary as a tourist, then as a secret agent anyway. But of course, it also matters when… You can find out article about When to travel to Hungary here.
The country’s largest international airport welcomes flights from all around the world today, so we have the opportunity to check this ourselves. Although today, we consider the fact that we can fly here from basically anywhere natural, flying itself was considered a miracle a little over a century ago.
Once there was a winged one
The desire for man to raise into the sky like a bird is perhaps as old as humanity. One thing is for sure, the ancient Greeks were also interested in this, as according to the legends Icarus couldn’t resist the tempting height and paid for this with his life.
In the middle ages many tried to make this legend a reality, but the brave adventurers only managed to replicate the end results. Leonardo da Vinci was among the first who tried to solve the secret of flying through his scientific skill, and was quick to accept the fact that without the help of a machine people would never raise above the clouds.
They had to wait until the 18th century to get Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, the young doctor in the air for a longer time than just falling, which was done by the Montgolfier brother’s hot air balloon. The next step in development helped so that the horizontal movement of the hot air balloons wouldn’t depend on controlling the wind.
With the application of the motorized propeller, these air vehicles and its travellers weren’t as exposed to the mood of the air movements.
After that, on the 17th of December in 1903 the Kitty Hawk rose into the air, and miracilly remained there. The Wright brothers opened a whole new era with this in history. Six years later Louis Blériot flew over the English Channel between Dover and Calais. And after this there was no stopping.
In Hungary, flying didn’t excite people as much as elsewhere
Abroad the generous support of the nation and wealthy individuals formed the push-factor, but at home it wasn’t enough to become a hot topic. However, in 1909 Blériot came to Budapest and the society’s mood changed. Thousands of people watched in awe as the pilot flew over the channel, giving that push that began the development of the flying lifestyle in Hungary.
On the 10th of January, 1910 the first home-built plane departed from Rákos-mező, with János Adorján on board. In 1913, the Hungarian Aircraft Factory is established in the capital, which after the breakout of the First World War was able to meet the needs of the army. However, the Trianon Dictate after the World War ended flying: the winning parties destroyed the complete civilian and military stock and forbade its construction. At the end of 1922 the plane construction was allowed again in the country, but strictly for civilian use.
World War II
Hungary came out bad from the second World War too, and it was flying again that pulled the short straw: the allies destroyed 100% of the country’s fleet. After the war the country became part of the Soviet influence sphere and in 1946 a Soveit-Hungarian joint air-traffic venture began, thus reviving flying in Hungary.
In 1954, as part of an intergovernmental treaty the Hungarian nation bought the Soviet shares in the business, establishing the Hungarian Airlines, in short Malév. The adventurous story of the Hungarian airlines unpleasantly ended on the 3rd of February, 2012: it ended its operation due to bankruptcy. The end of Malév, while its effect could be felt in the data from airlines, it didn’t permanently held back the development of Ferihegy Airport.
Need a place – The birth of the Liszt Ferenc Airport
According to the saying, what once goes up, must come down, in a happier version, fly down. This goes for airplanes as well. A large portion of the international flights arriving in Hungary, since May, 1950, lands in Ferihegy, or as it is called today Liszt Ferenc International Airport.
Before this, there was an international airport at Mátyásföld and Budaörs, but even during their opening the experts considered both of them inadequate to handle complicated air traffic, so they constantly searched for a suitable alternative.
In 1938, they found the ideal location at the border of Pestszentlőrinc, Rákoshegy and Vecsés, at Ferihegy. It got its name after the wealthy brewer, Mayerffy Xavér Ferenc, nicknamed Feri, who lent out fields in Budapest in the 18th century.
The construction of the airport began in 1942, which was interrupted by the second World War. The original plans, which were drastically revamped by the tons of bombs, were taken out again in 1947, when they began to rebuild, which culminated on the 7th of May, 1950, during the opening ceremony.
Liszt Ferenc Airport – the construction of Terminal 2B
By 1960, Ferihegy became Central-Europe’s most modern airport, but development stopped after this and only began again after the state intervention in 1976. There was a need to intervene, as flying became a more important role in the international economic life, and gaining ground in the transport sector was untenable.
The only terminal couldn’t cater for this expansion, so in 1985 they opened another one. But, when a business kicks in! And air transport is a business that kicks in quicker than the hormones of a teenage guy at the Balaton Sound, and they had to react.
And the reaction was the construction of Terminal 2B, which opened its doors in 1998 and became the headquarters of all foreign airlines in Ferihegy. In the meantime, due to the foreign traffic being diverted Terminal 1 became less and less used, and despite the full renovation in 2005 – which actually won a construction prize – closed in 2012. However, the monumental building doesn’t just stand there empty, it’s the location for movies, gives place to many offices, and during highlighted sport events this is where the teams, sportsmen arrive at and depart from.
The airports got its name in 2011, after the world famous Hungarian musician Liszt Ferenc’s 200th birthday, and although many years have passed since, the Ferihegy name doesn’t seem to fade.
Over 50 airlines deliver millions of travellers yearly to Hungary (In 2018 over 14 million people landed at Ferihegy), who depending on where they departed from, arrive at Terminal 2A or 2B. Both terminals are two storeys, the arrivals can step on Hungarian soil for the first time at the bottom floor. Both terminals receive passengers from the Schengen area and outside of it. People arriving from outside the Schengen Zone prepare to have their passports checked, which happens at the checking panels dedicated for European Union citizens.
Check the suitcases conditions
After landing both terminals bring you to the baggage collection halls, where we can pick up our suitcases from the carousel. It’s very important to check the condition of our bags and if you notice any abnormalities, with the help of staff report any damage or any possible missing items.
If we are hungry – thirsty
After a long trip it’s only natural that we get hungry, and also, that we would like to get to our accommodation as soon as possible. We don’t need to make any detours to get some food or drink, on the arrival floor of Terminal 2B a supermarket takes care of our needs. Mainly premium category food is available, freshly baked pastry and instantly available dishes are among what’s offered, but it is a heaven for cheese-lovers.
Exchanging money at the Liszt Ferenc Airport?
If we didn’t acquire forint (Ft) prior to travelling, if it’s possible, don’t exchange at the airport! The country’s usurps are so cheeky they go to the exchanging places for further education, so don’t be fooled! Thankfully most places accept bank cards in Budapest, so there is no need to keep more cash than what you need on you. The airport’s taxis also have POS terminals, but to avoid any misunderstanding, before getting in, let the driver know that you can only pay by card.
How to get from Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport to city centre
Official airport taxi
Speaking of official airport taxi: if we chose this method to get into the city, only get into taxis that are in official contract with the airport. The airport operator has been battling these so called taxi hyenas for a long time, who are individuals who don’t belong to any taxi companies, but always fool their passengers, especially if they are foreign tourists.
The fare can be several times higher than the normal tariff, the taxi clocks spin quicker than the downtown at night, and in an argument there is no point for asking for the complaint book, and it comes in handy if you can protect yourself.
How to avoid scamming taxi drivers? We already wrote a useful article about this, which you can find here.
No matter what, don’t let yourself be taken hostage by the unpleasant individuals, who often wait at the arrival hall, are too excited to help us with our packages, and attack with the sound of “Taxi, taxi!”!
We can acquire a taxi even at the baggage collection hall through the taxi ordering terminal, which allows us to secure a taxi from the airport’s contracted fleet. The official taxi station can be found right next to the Terminal’s exit, and if you get a taxi from here, we can get the number of the taxi assigned to us from the dispatcher.
We can inform them about our destination and receive an estimated fare, so the driver departs with us knowing all these informations. Since May this year (2019), the airport’s security has been much more forceful against the hyenas that lurk at the airport, so we can expect to see less of them.
Car rental at the Liszt Ferenc Airport
Alternatively, we can rent a car, at the airport many companies operate a branch, so we can take our pick among the offers. We can choose from many different car categories, tariffs depending on this and the length of time we plan to use them, but we can take a smaller car for around 10,000Ft daily. (How much is that exactly? You can find the current exchange rates here.)
In addition, there is a full flexibility, as with our own car we don’t have to adapt to anything or anyone else, in time or space.
Another practical option is using the airport’s official transport services. It provides a quick and comfortable solution to reaching the city. If we are travelling with a larger group, and the destination is the same, we can reach the city cheaper this way.
Public transport to the city
The most wallet friendly method to get out from the airport is public transport. BKK – “Centre of Budapest Transport” operates an information desk at the Liszt Ferenc airport, where not only can we acquire timetables, we can buy tickets and passes as well.
It operates from 5am until 1.20am departing every 10-20 minutes. Budapest-passes are not valid for this bus, you need to get a separate ticket to use it, which currently costs 900Ft.
Timetable of Bus 100E
The bus 200E transports travellers between 4:00am and 0:20am from Terminal 2 to Kőbánya-Kispest, but due to the renovation of the south section of metro line 3, the final stop is temporarily Nagyvárad tér. These depart every 6-10 minutes.
Different Budapest passes and line tickets are valid for this bus. We can get on the metro from Nagyvárad tér, and from here we can reach the centre underground.
With bus 200E we can go past the metro, one of its stops is the Ferihegy railway station. Almost fifty vehicles leave from here daily to the Nyugati Railway Terminal.
The section between the airport and the Nyugati Railway station can be used by 24- and 74- hour, weekly or monthly BKV passes, so if we purchase one of these at the Liszt Ferenc airport for during our stay, we don’t need to buy a separate ticket for this railway section.
However, if we would like to purchase a train ticket only, we can also do this at the station, at the ticket office, or at the ticket machine located at the platform.
If Budapest isn’t your final destination
If Budapest isn’t our destination, but due to a delay or cancellation we are stuck here, or perhaps our connection only leaves tomorrow, the Ibis Styles Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport is quickly accessible, comfortable accommodation option, located only 200m from Terminal 2. This three-star hotel, opened in 2018, welcomes visitors with modern design, 145 rooms, conference rooms and an all day long open restaurant.
Relaxation is provided by soundproof rooms, black curtains, as well as the carpeted floor that provides soundless steps. We can get to the airport building directly through the covered footpath, so even on this short route we aren’t exposed to the weather.
If we have 6-8 hours until our connection, it’s worth to make a quick visit to Kossuth tér, where within a few hours we can see the Parliament, the Chain Bridge and the banks of the Danube.
To do all of this comfortably, it’s worth to leave our luggage at the airports 24/7 luggage storage. The luggage storage can be found at the SkyCourt ground floor corridor, next to the entrance to H porta.
The prices of the luggage storage in 2019:
|1 hour||€ 4|
|3 hours||€ 8|
|6 hours||€ 16|
|12 hours||€ 27|
|24 hours||€ 38|
Each started hour counts as a complete hour. Only cash acceppted.
To infinity and beyond – Going home from the Liszt Ferenc Airport
They say it’s good everywhere, but it’s best at home (I would love to read a representative study of this about tourists who are packing to go back home). One thing is for sure, everything good must come to an end: the all around exciting arrival, a bit lethargic way to home – let’s just say – is exciting in a different way.
It helps to mitigate these excitements, if we stick to the general rule which states it’s best to arrive at the airport at least two hours before our plane leaves. Using any of the above mentioned travelling methods keep in mind to head towards Liszt Ferenc airport.
The map of Liszt Ferenc International Airport
Tap to enlarge maps
Parking at the Liszt Ferenc Airport
If we arrive by car, we have plenty of options to park at the airport. It’s important to note though, that due to the construction of the six-storey parking garage suitable for 2500 vehicles, changed the parking at Liszt Ferenc Airport somewhat.
This parking garage will be built at the Terminal Car Park, where short-term parking was available, so we can’t use this parking area at the moment, I mean we can, just at a different location: it replaced the Holiday Plus Car Park, which closed due to this, and is a short walk from Terminal 2A. If we would like to leave the car for a longer time, the Holiday Car Park near Terminal 2B is still at our service.
Tip: At the Premium Car Park of Terminal 2 and at the Terminal Car Park parking is free of charge without validation for 5 minutes, maximum twice a day.
You can book your parking spot at the airport here.
Handing over rental cars at the airport
Rental cars can be handed back at the Central Car Park which operates behind the Airport Hotel, and where the previous passenger function has ceased due to this. The Premium Car Park right in front of the terminal buildings operates the same. We can receive the real premium service at the Business Car Park, where not only security and cameras watch over the vehicles, but we can also get into the free mini buses which will drop us at the entrance of the terminals. In this situation the free price is sorted here, as the premium service doesn’t come free.
Whether we are leaving from Terminal 2A or 2B, our trip will begin with checking in ourselves and our baggage. Today, it’s completely natural to use online check-in, which saves us a bit of time. Many airlines provide the option to self check-in at the spot with the help of the airport’s kiosks, where we can even pick our seats.
Safety is a priority!
There is a Hungarian proverb that says: “The devil does not sleep”. This is especially true, if there are many valuables at the bottom of our luggage.
Before we hand in our suitcase at the airport’s check-in desk, it’s good to use some extra safety measures, such as the bag wraps which are available at multiple spots at the airport.
Why am I telling you this?
It’s not only the foil that grows our sense of safety: we also get additional package insurance for the minimal half price.
Well, both in 2017 and 2018 a number of theft happened at the Liszt Ferenc Airport. A “whitty” gang went through a lot of luggage. Although the airport’s operator along with the police completely eliminated (put in jail) the gang that was enjoying the checked-in luggage, a single lone wolf can still separate us from our valuables, but with this little additional attention, we can be sure about the safety of our luggage. They don’t care about luggage, which opening takes minutes.
The price of bag wraps in 2019:
- Basic (without insurance) 2500 HUF
- Classic (300.000 HUF with insurance) 3500 HUF
- Ultra (600.000 HUF with insurance) 4000 HUF
Before we fly away
Passengers heading to a non Schengen zone have to go through a passport check, and it’s best to have your boarding pass at hand as well, as they might ask for it. It’s good to keep in mind, that the check-in desks close half an hour before the plane’s scheduled departure, after this we will be forced to reschedule our trip.
Safety check at the Liszt Ferenc Airport
Once we get rid of our luggage, the real airport “fun” can begin, the safety check. It’s the same process at Terminal 2A and 2B, which is used to guarantee a safe flight, so no matter what inconveniences we may go through, there is nothing more inconvenient than falling to our atoms at 12 km height.
With an x-ray they shine through our hand-bags, so if we don’t wish the whole security team to gather up at our screen, it’s best to leave our sexual aids at the bag that we check-in. We go through a detector gate, where they determine, do we have any hidden/forgotten metal items on us (or in us, such as a knee prosthesis). These need to go into a separate tray, just like our laptops, where they examine them with the same machine that checked the hand-bags.
If we are wearing shoes that have metal in them, they make us take those off. If they find everything in order we are free to go, if they find anything suspicious, then they may take us out of the line and ask us a few questions, but don’t fret, they don’t usually use Guantánamo Bay’s highly efficient interrogation methods.
Especially during peak times can the queues be large at the safety check, so it can’t hurt to check online where does most of the flights depart from around the time of our one, and go ahead with the safety check at the terminal with the expectedly less travellers. Since the route between the two terminals is fairly short it only requires minimal effort from our tired feet, and the walk is worth it as not only will we save time but also many nerve cells.
Tip: If the airport is filled with passengers, and we really don’t want to wait, for 1600HUF we can buy a priority coupon, with which we can get through the safety procedures in the fast track line.
After the check we reach the transit zone officially leaving Hungary. But before actually rising above the clouds, we can already feel ourselves in the sky at the passenger hall (pleasure terminal), SkyCourt which opened at the Liszt Ferenc International Airport in 2011. It isn’t an exaggeration to call the structure connecting Terminal 2A and 2B a pleasure terminal: they didn’t want to just place the constantly growing number of passengers.
The goal was, that the time spent here wouldn’t be a decided pause in travelling, but a part of it. This is what the 24 thousand square meter, modern – multiple award winning – styled structure’s large, light halls, where the passengers don’t have to step on each other, serves. It’s not only light that comes through the huge glass windows, but we can also gain insight in the airport’s never stopping outside life. We can get some rest at many spots, and not only us, but our devices can recharge as well through the public plugs.
Souvenirs for those at home
If you forgot to get presents for those at home, or simply didn’t feel like carrying everything around, you can comfortably shop at SkyCourt’s stores, whether you’re thinking about souvenirs, clothes or tasty wines. Right after the safety check, the opposite of the serious security men, kind, smiling hostesses are welcoming us at the duty-free shop.
The traditional Hungarian food, wine, desserts and the international fashion brand’s accessories and perfumes fit well together here. They await passersby with constant tastings, so you don’t have to buy a pig in a poke.
Pro tip: often enough you can try burnt spirits, those with a fear of travelling might get a second dose with a few kind words, a wide smile and by sharing their fears.
Walking through the shop we get to the large hall, from where heading towards the right and left we reach the departure sides. Don’t rush – unless you’re late, then really do – through the large hall, as many stores await discovery. If we would like to sweeten the memories of our stay, we only have to take a few steps forward and we arrive at the famous Hungarian chocolate – and marzipan maker’s stand, where we can fill our handbags with hand-made bonbons, liquors, dessert boxes.
The ladies won’t leave empty handed either: many cosmetics store can be found at SkyCourt, so they can even eliminate the strong physical signs of hangover, there is plenty of equipment. Both men and ladies should be prepared for the unfortunate possibility that they lose their luggage, or they divert the flight, as many world famous brand’s store represents itself at the terminal. 🙂
It’s no problem if we don’t want to carry it around, we can put on the jewellery ourselves, and can browse to our liking at the stores located here. We also don’t have to worry if we lose a thing or two while staying here. Headphones, chargers, mobile phone accessories, mobile phones and even electronic toothbrushes can be bought at the stores specializing in these.
It’s no surprise if we think souvenir equals junk, unfortunately many places sell poor quality and weak souvenirs. This is not the case at the memory-shop in the passenger hall, where we can purchase the most unique Hungary-pieces, from traditional to modern. Attention: it’s not a junk store!
We won’t be without useful or perhaps fun shopping options near Terminal 2A either. Almost everybody knows the exasperating feeling of relief, when they find the sunglasses they looked for everywhere on the tip of their nose. And of course the frustrating anger, when it’s nowhere.
At Terminal 2A we can replace this oh-so-important accessory during summer in many optician stores, moreover, seeing the opportunity in this loss, trying something completely new and unexpected. The more musical passengers can find real treasure at the souvenir store in 2A transits, where they can find CD-s, DVD-s, instruments or music boxes or other souvenirs related to the musicality of Budapest.
They also thought of the little one when planning the stores. With the presents bought at the toy-stores that can be found her, we can entertain our children during travelling (I believe I don’t have to get into too much detail about the importance of this), but we can also surprise those at home, to raise agio between our nephews and nieces.
We don’t have to give up reading either, a selection of international magazines, foreign language books can be found at the store in the transit corridor.
Precision is the virtue of kings, why would we give any less so. Today everybody carries a smartphone, which of course shows the correct time, and while this is very practical, it’s not very king-like. A watch-salon is at our service at Terminal 2B, in case we want to take care of this royale characteristics with a level of sophistication.
As it isn’t a small area to explore to properly spoil ourselves with the most of the offers, it’s natural that we get hungry. The FoodCourt established at the SkyCourt’s gallery level is a haven for the hungry traveller, there is everything that your eyes and stomach could wish for. Many fast food chains, bio-restaurant, tapas- and sushi-bars are there.
We can dine at a more exclusive restaurant, or we can pop in at a more laid-back, atmospheric sport-pub as well. There is Greek kitchen, Italian tastes and a restaurant that lets you put together a meal. We can find a sandwich place as well (don’t think of that fried chicken roll), but a smoothie bar also awaits those who are interested. After a filling dinner a coffee is welcome, which we can enjoy at the cafe supported by the airport panorama. If we can’t find a seat here, we can surely find a spot at the other two cafes in Terminal 2B.
Smoking at the Liszt Ferenc Airport
If we want to enjoy a cigarette after all this, nothing is stopping us. We can smoke to quicken our digestion at the designated smoking area at the SkyCourt terrace, while enjoying the view. Getting cigarettes in Hungary isn’t so simple.
In place of these, having the rights, or buying those at the spot, we can decide that we would like to wait for departure one of the many airport lounges. These await passengers, other than a few small differences, with similar services: wifi, business corner, snack, alcohol- and soft drinks, cold and/or warm food, TV, free foreign newspapers, mobile chargers.
The Budapest Airport VIP Service & Lounge service is also available, which besides the exclusive waiting room includes the VIP hostess assisting, the private security checking, as well as the luxury transfer to the plane.
Before departing, if we don’t trust pilots, we can spend time at Terminal 2B on the gallery level’s prayer room/chapel, saying a few prayers according to our beliefs. The prayer room awaits its visitors regardless of religion or confession.
And as time flew with us at the Liszt Ferenc Airport, so will our flight as well. 30 minutes before departure the gates open, and through the loudspeakers they notify travellers about the beginning of boarding. I really recommend to keep an eye on the screens displaying the information for passengers in transit, so we won’t get a surprise when they decide to change the gate to a different one from the one on our boarding tickets.
When getting on have your personal documents ready, as well as the printed or digital boarding ticket too, as they can ask to check these again. On the plane, after we kindly ask the one sitting behind us to remove their knees from our kidneys, sit down comfortably, relax and rely on this huge machine bird’s wings and the routines of our pilots. We don’t have another choice anyway.
The sky’s the limit
With its size and its services, the Liszt Ferenc International Airport has been constantly striving to keep pace with the continuously developing civil and commercial flights. The more and more accessible flying, the fast-paced expansion of its essential role played by international economic circulation, it’s not a choice to follow. In this large race, those who fall behind, stay left behind.
The outstanding regional importance of Ferihegy can only be kept through constant investment. The development plan BUD:2020 was made to stay ahead of the competition years ago, which resulted for example in the construction of the SkyCourt, or the 10,000 square meter of new passenger service area at Terminal 2B.
All this is only the beginning though: part of the development plan is a car park that would fit 2500, and its construction has already begun; launching new flights, mainly with Far-East orientation, a new cargo handling centre, the construction of Cargo City; a completely new terminal, the construction of T3.
A deviation from the name is purposeful symbol, that this will be a new generation building, which will try to meet the technical background and services of this era’s newest, most modern standards. Also among the plans is the construction of an airport railway, which would connect the city center with the airport.
Thus, the Hungarian hub of international flying is looking forward to an exciting period, and both the travellers and the country will benefit from the succession of these plans. Until then, be a visitor at Liszt Ferenc International Airport many times, let’s experience the excitement of development together!