If you would like to know what not to do in Budapest, let me summarize: do use your common sense!
It is a big city with all of it’s good and bad people and stuff. Most of them are good. 😉
- Do not hail down a taxi in Budapest. Use only official taxis, the name of their company and the rate must be clearly visible on the side of the car and inside on the dashboard. Taxis are much more regulated now but avoid the ‘freelancers’ with no company name on the door; these are just guys with cars and more likely to rip you off.
- Never buy stuff on street – you may meet “interesting” faces – from God knows what countries they are from – trying to sell you phones, clothes or their own mother’s liver.
- Don’t change your money on the street – it seems to be common sense but it is not. I regularly see tourists who simply don’t use their brain. You will be scammed this way, for sure.
- Guys, those ladies speaking English with Hungarian, Ukrainian, Russian accent or even surprisingly good English are not cute because they fell in love with you at the first sight. If it was surprisingly easy to start a sparkling conversation with them (on the street or in bars) it’s not because they are extraordinarily good company but because they have years of practice in speaking to guys like you until you open your wallet. Also, let’s face it, very few people are irresistible at first sight, attracting beautiful girls like lightbulbs attract moths. If girls seem to be crazy about you in an instant, you should find it strange. Don’t let your egos (“ooh, these local girls love me because I’m the best guy in this hellhole”) get in the way of your commonsense. If you realize it too late, their “boyfriends” will make you pay. Beware. Believe me, normal Hungarian girls will not join a total unknown man on the street for a drink. That is a very unusual behavior.
- Watch out for pickpockets – don’t make the mistake I made in Barcelona. I was trying to help a Spanish speaking “lost tourist” and one of the backpacks (yes, a whole backpack) was stolen with all the IDs, flight tickets and the camera, etc. Right before the flight back home. It was not fun. But at least the other backpacks stayed with me, packed with flip-flops, towels and unwashed clothes. I had to learn the hard way, you should learn from my mistake: if a LOCAL person asks a TOURIST where something is, it sounds fishy from the start. 🙂
- There is a game on streets (for example at Citadel), I think it’s called “Shell game” (in Hungarian: Here is the red, where is the red? 😀 ). Even if you think that you are very eagle eyed, and you know exactly where that small bean or coin or other small gizmo is, you will lose. The game is rigged and everybody who “wins” there are part of the pack. There can be even 7-8 persons in that gang. Yes, even that smart-clothed one with great English accent. They have been operating their “business” since my early childhood at least. Shame.
- Stay in the city centre, especially at night. No, there is nothing romantic or heroic in wandering in bad neighborhoods. Please do not try to prove that everybody is a shining diamond. Some people are just not.
- Don’t drink in public, it is forbidden.
- Don’t smoke in public interior spaces, it is also forbidden.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to your drink, even if it is in your own hands.
- Don’t forget to carry some kind of ID with you.
- Don’t accept drinks from anyone you do not know and trust.
- Don’t pay without double-checking the zeros on your bills. Excessive billing of customers still occasionally happens in some bars and restaurants, so check your bill carefully. Also, 20,000 HUF notes are easily mistaken for 2000 HUF notes.
- Don’t leave anything valuable in the car, especially in a highly visible place.
- Don’t even think of using public transportation without a validated ticket in Budapest – you will be caught and heavily fined
- If unfriendly and suspicious looking people are circling around ticket machines, beware! They might have hacked the machine that will not give you back the change. As you leave they get the money out, and wait for others to steal from them, too. Police officers frequently patrol but unfortunately unable to be everywhere.
If anything happens to you contact the police (call 112) and the Tourist Help Line immediately
Tourist Help line:
(From a Hungarian phone:) 06-1-438-8080
(From an international phone:) +36-1-438-8080
this is the number one official help channel, and you will surely get an English speaking support who will help you find the nearest police station and help you how to report to the police.
Contact your embassy as soon as possible.
While Budapest is a big city with its ups and downs, it is very unlikely that you will be hassled, scammed, ripped-off and approached by anyone. Even during the night you will be safe, so don’t worry.
Budapest is a safe city where you can walk around day and night – but use your common sense.
I wish you a pleasant stay! 😊
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