How to Avoid Crime and Scams in Hungary

Not so petty when it happens to you, but watch out for these petty crimes and scams in Hungary.

Where To Beware

The most obvious time to be cautious is when travelling on public transport. Many of the metro stations are accessible by long escalators which give thieves the perfect view of the contents of your bag.

Numerous thefts have been reported on trains to and from Hungary, in particular at Keleti station. The most troublesome metro lines are one and three, tram lines two and four, and bus line seven.

The main tourist attractions where your belongings are likely to be nabbed are the Chain Bridge area on both sides of the Danube, and on the bridge itself, the Royal Palace Museum, Basilica, Heroes' Square, Fishermen's Bastion, and Matthias Church.

American fast food restaurants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut are also danger zones.

Pick pockets often work in groups, so, if you are approached by one or two dodgy looking locals, there are bound to be others lurking behind you while you attention is diverted.

Money Police

Just as common as pick pocketing are street scams. One which many tourists will warn about is the 'money changer' scam. You are approached by a man asking if you would like to change your currency, you say no and think that's the end of it. A short time later a pair of plain clothed men flashing police identification will ask to see your money. Once they have finished inspecting the contents of your wallet, they will return it, but there certainly won't be the same amount you started with.

The men, who are generally not small in demeanour will often use intimidation tactics, or even question you about drugs in order to make you hand over your wallet.

Hungarian police don't deal with tourist money changing issues and generally wear uniforms. If you are approached by these men walk in the other direction, try and find a police officer patrolling the area, or tell them you would like to consult your embassy.

(Expensive - dangerous only to your bank balance.)

Taxi Rip-off

If you use common sense then public transport is safe and efficient, so if you can, avoid using taxis altogether. If you don't speak Hungarian you are going to be completely ripped off. Even people who do speak Hungarian but happen to have an accent because it's not their first language end up paying an obscene amount to get from A to B.

If you must catch a taxi, try not to hail one on the street, find a way to order one in advance. Only use a taxi that has a yellow licence plate and a taxi sign on the roof and the side door. Unmarked cars with only a sign on the roof can often be dodgy. Also check for a sign which should be posted on the dashboard which outlines fares.

(Armed and sick of road rules.)

Road Sense

If you are using your own vehicle to get around, you also need to be cautious of peoples' intentions. There have been a number of incidences reported by people travelling on the motorways.

Your car will be flagged down by someone alerting you to a flat tire or smoke coming from the hood. When you pull over to inspect the possible problem, the scammers will steal your belongings and maybe even the car itself.

This kind of scam can happen at rest stops and petrol stations too. People resting in their car will be awoken by someone telling them they have a flat tire. The scammer may have actually slashed your tire himself. Again, when you go to check out the problem your unattended belongs will be stolen, or if you have left your keys in the ignition, say goodbye to your car.

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3 Comments

  • Paul said

    Related to the Taxi scams. The safest way to not get ripped off is to order a taxi via telephone. There are several taxi companies with good service, some of them even with English speaking phone controller (City Taxi, FoTaxi, etc).

    Also, if you think you are being scammed - even by this good companies, you can (threaten to) call back at the phone controller and complain. It's very hard for a driver to get into this companies and they handle complaints in a really strict manner.

    Another way to avoid the big taxi scamers (locally called hyenas) is to never use a taxi without a company logo. The "hyenas" are mostly located at the railway stations or tourist attractions.

  • Rishi Soni said

    A group of 20 of us visited Budapest, Hungary last month, and two of us were victim of theft. One of us had her purse picked in fraction of a second as soon as she bent to tie her shoe lace, likewise, for myself, the taxi guy fled with the bag. We filed police complaint for both these, and the cops were completely non-cooperative. In my case, the tax was only 10 steps away from the traffic CCTV. Our case was kept open for a few months, and arbitrarily closed by the police officers. My advice to fellow travelers, be extremely careful in Hungary, people are rude / non-friendly, and country is full of thieves/ fraudsters.

  • Tham said

    I was in budapest and my day bag is stolen while i am waiting inside the train waiting for the train to depart. I was asking train operator just outside the train cabin 5m away from my cabin on why my train is seat cabin but not the sleeper cabin. On a split second my bag was lost. All my money, passport, card, phone was lost. I hold account for my mistake. But it was definitely frustated with myself travel alone, while police, information counter and train operator dont understand english and do not interested on helping me. When your passport is lost, you need to get an emergency passport to exit the country. So I have to abandon all the rest of my trip to the other european country.

    No matter how discormfort is the money belt. Wear it. And never leave your baggage unattended. Misfortune+Careless can turn your happy holiday into nightmare.

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