Lake Balaton lies south-west of Budapest, halfway to the borders with Slovenia and Croatia. A journey from the capital to a lakeside resort takes anything from 80 minutes to nearly three hours.
Most travellers flying to Hungary arrive at Budapest Airport. For details of how to get into the city centre, see this article. Alternatively, you can rent a car at Budapest Airport from one of several companies.
Hévíz-Balaton airport at Sármellék, near Balatonszentgyörgy, only serves seasonal traffic from Germany. Summer routes include Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
Rail is the most popular choice of public transport from Budapest to Balaton, with more services and more direct options in summer.
The main train stations serving Balaton are Déli and Kelenföld, one at the southern end of red metro line M2, the other the terminus of the green M4.
Setting off from Déli and calling at Kelenföld, regular trains run by MÁV take 1hr 20min to Siófok (single 2,400 HUF), nearly 2hrs to Balatonboglár (2,800 HUF) and, sometimes requiring a change, nearly 3hrs to Keszthely (3,700 HUF).
For the north shore, some services in high season run direct to Balatonfüred (2hrs, 2,700 HUF) and Badacsony (2hrs 40min, 3,400 HUF), calling at resorts in between. Some journeys require a change at Székesfehérvár.
If you’re planning on cycling at Balaton, you can take your bike on most direct trains for a small fee. Hungarian-only details here.
Volánbusz provides direct services to destinations such as Keszthely (2hrs 20min, 3,700 HUF) from Népliget, Budapest’s main bus terminal with its own station on blue metro line M3. Other routes to popular resorts are quicker by train.
The M7 motorway links Budapest with Balaton. There are no toll gates – buy a permit online or at any petrol station. Minimum validity period is ten days (3,500 HUF). On summer weekends, traffic to and from Budapest can be heavy, so be prepared for a slow journey or set off early. Driving is otherwise the quickest option from Budapest.
Balatoni Hajózási Zrt serves some 20 resorts with ferries and fast boats. Most services start up in April, although the short hop between the south and north shores from Szántódrév to Tihanyrév (journey time 8mins, fare 700 HUF) is year-round.
Balaton is perfect for cyclists, with all kinds of tours and trails. The Balaton Bike Route circumnavigates the lake with signposted tracks. Cycle hire is possible all round the lake, with hotels and guesthouses a likely resource.