Budapest Bike BUBI: how to use BUBI bikes

The Budapest Bike (BUBI) network spreads across Budapest is handy for getting around, and costs little for short periods. Using a BUBI bike is quite straightforward once you are used to it, and the English-language user guide on the MOL Bubi webpage is detailed but there are a few quirks and tips we explain here:

BUBI bikes in brief:

  • Sturdy and quite heavy bikes (25kg)
  • BUBI bikes have just 3 gears, so not for the Hilly bits of Buda (No docking stations up there anyway)
  • Gears are on the right handgrip: twist forward to decrease, backwards to increase (opposite to most right-hand twist gears)
  • BUBI bikes are bright green and come with automatic lights front and back
  • The saddle can be raised or lowered with a handle underneath. A dip in the middle fills with a small puddle of water after rain, so wipe off before you sit!
  • Cannot be used by under-14s
  • A small bag-holding basket is oddly attached to the front of the frame, not the swivelling handlebars, which is good for heavy bags up to 12kg, but only if they are small. (otherwise they hinder the steering)
  • The bell has no external "pinger", twist it to make a sound.
  • They apparently have puncture-proof tyres


Tips and tricks

In theory, it is possible to register for a BUBI card, but this will entail visiting a BKK customer centre, compoleting a contract and paying a fee for a fixed period pass. In practice we do not believe this will be very popular with short-term visitors. Payment can also be made via bank card, which will probably be the more tourist-friendly option, despite rquiring a huge security deposit.

Quick version of Credit card usage:

  1. This only works at BUBI Registration terminal machines with a keypad and credit card slot  lower down - about  a metre off the ground (- about half of then- the ones marked in red on the map). No slot? check the map on the reverse of the machine and walk to one that has – it will normally only be 600m or so.
  2. Select English and follow the instructions- bear in mind that you will buy a cheap ticket and simultaneously allow the system to block on your bank account, large amount of cash (25,000 HUF per bike.) At the end of the ticket period (1/3/7 days, this block will be released.)
  3. Get your smart phone handy, as you will need it. When the authorisation is complete, and payment has been blocked, a message will be sent by SMS and email immediately. In the message is your telephone number and your pin.  Tip: write this down on your hand or something!
  4. Go to a bike which has a slowly flashing green light on the rear. Touch a key and bike's screen will say something like:

***T/VAGY KÓD*** (Enter your full telephone number as shown in the SMS/ mail, press OK)
**PIN** (Now enter your 6 digit pin code.) Beware – you only get a few seconds to do this before the bike switches off and you have to restart with the telephone number. Have the number and PIN ready: written on a piece of paper if possible.)
If you make a mistake, press P/C to cancel.

After entering anything the bike will say *VARJON* (please wait)

If you succeed, the message BIKE RENTED will flash up, and a green light will flash as the bike unlocks noisily.

If you mess it up, the message will flash BIKE NEM BERELHETŐ (Bike cannot be rented)

Why won't it work?
It can be a little stressful the first time but don't panic. If you mess up the code a few times, the bike will start flashing the red and green lights together. We found that you can simply move to another bike and try again. Check that you are entering the telephone number first (exactly as it was sent to you) and that you press OK after this number, then the PIN, and OK again.

Locking the bike up anywhere you like with the flexi-lock.
Bikes are secured by electronic locks at the stations, but if you stop somewhere else – in the park for example, you can also use the bike's built-in flexible cable-lock (swipe your card or enter your pin code and the P button to release the lock first. Remember that you are still paying for time when parked this way. To leave a bike for a longer period, find a docking station.

Ride for free:
During the validity period of the cards you can use the bikes free of charge for 30 minutes. After that you'll be charged a fee. We believe that there has to be at least 30 minutes between rentals, to avoid people leap-frogging from bike to bike to effectively cheat and ride for more than 30 minutes for free.

Have I returned it?
At any docking station, just walk the bike in, so that the metal disk runs into its slot on the dock. It will beep loudly and flash green for 4 seconds. Then the green light will go dark. Success!

More than 1 bike?
You can take out up to 4 bikes on one pass, or up to 4 bikes on one ticket, but with a ticket, the security deposit is 25,000 HUF and increases by 25,000 HUF with each bike (e.g. 100,000 HUF for 4 bikes.)

How much will it cost?
Fees can be found in English on the BUBI homepage and wikipedia. The amount blocked on your card seems exorbitant, but this is the deposit, remember, so most of that will be returned to you, minus the realtively small amount you actually use. When this will happen depends on the bank, but is said to be between 4-15 days after the end of the ticket period. (In our test, the deposit was successfully unblocked 5 days after the end of our 3-day ticket.)

EXAMPLE 1 – Normal use: Anna purchases a 24 hour ticket (presently 500 HUF) for the use of 1 bike. A security deposit of 25,000 HUF is blocked on her bankcard for that 24 hours. She travels for just over an hour in the morning (500 HUF) then a bit more than 90 minutes in the afternoon (1000 HUF.) After 24 hours, the amount of the security deposit is "unblocked", minus the initial ticket cost / access cost and minus any other costs for cycling over 30 minutes (in this case 1500HUF). Anna effectively "receives" back 23,000 HUF some 4-15 days later.
(25,000-500-500-1000=23,000 )

EXAMPLE 2 - Frugal use:  John purchases a 72 hour ticket (presently 1000 HUF) A security deposit of 25,000 HUF is blocked on his bankcard for that 72 hours. He rents a bike on several different occasions, but is always careful to only travel for 29 minutes or less at any time over those three days. After 72 hours, the amount of the security deposit is "unblocked", minus the initial ticket cost / access fee and minus the usage costs for cycling over 30 minutes (in this example, none). John effectively "receives" back 24,000 HUF some 4-15 days later.

Where should I go?
Well the freedom to go wherever you want is one of the advantages of the system. Having said that, it is based on the needs of the transport system in Budapest, so you find a lot of MOL BUBI docking stations near to transport hubs like Metro and railway stations. A notable few docking stations are near to attractions or tourist sights and these can be connected to make a few good BUBI cycle routes (see our separate article on where to go with BUBI)

Can't I just rent a bike for the whole day?
Of course you can. BUBI is huge, but is by no means the only option. In our article "Exploring on two wheels", we give lots more information, including a listing of several bicycle rental companies that can offer-all day rental in Budapest and beyond, and some can provide bicycle helmets, baby-seats and child-sized bikes.