If you visit Budapest as a tourist a couple of dos and don’ts tips may come in handy.
Warning for visitors of Budapest
First of all, if any personal crime happens to you, call this 24 hour number (English speaking personnel): +36-1-438-8080. Here they will help you to file your report to the police and also to find the nearest police station in Budapest. Put down this number in your cell phone and on a piece of paper in your passport too (in case your batteries run down, or your cell phone is taken)
Budapest is a relatively big city with about 2 million people. You need to act with the normal ‘BIG-city’ caution (New York, Rio, Tokyo, right).
Keep an eye on your valuables – day and night
Do not leave your bag unattended, unzipped. Keep your wallet / purse in a safe place. Do not wave bank notes. Don’t take much money with you (neither for walks nor for a spa bath) and keep your bag under your arm in public transport vehicles (as well as escalators). Keep your credit card and wallet in different places.
Night life – party life in Budapest
Go and enjoy Budapest night life, but before plunging in a party, make sure to have friendly people with you- Ideally, not just friendly, but possibly friends or local acquaintances who you can trust.
Check out the night transportation (night owl bus or taxi) opportunities before going out, so that you can still go home safe and sound even if you happen to get ‘chemically inconvenienced’ or just sleepy. For reliable Budapest taxis, use this list (taxis will arrive in about 5-10 minutes).
Trust your instincts: if you have a bad feeling about some faces, places, leave. Do not go to unlit dark streets. Avoid dangerous Budapest night clubs, which have been regularly reported of intimidating and ripping off visitors. Vaci street is a nice shopping street, but it is a real threat to night club goers.
Now, the good news is that Budapest, compared to its size, is quite safe, serious assault crime rates are relatively low. You will be seeing people walking confidently alone or in pairs even late at night. The downtown areas, where most tourists would be expected (around Deak square) are busy and quite safe. For further safety warnings, check out what the US Embassy says about Hungary.
Typical crimes against tourists in Budapest
The most typical crimes against foreigners visiting Budapest Hungary are as follows:
- pick pocketing (keep your bag and wallet in a safe place, if you have a backpack, do not keep valuables in the outer pockets),
- confidence tricks (e.g. police officer impersonators, scams by unreliable currency vendors in the street, or the so called ‘banknote trick’ (when paying in a store or in a taxi cab – make sure you say it out loud what denomination of the banknote has before you hand it over in order to avoid paying 10,000 HUF instead of 1,000 HUF),
- car theft (don’t leave anything of value in the car, especially not in the seat in a highly visible place). Luckily none of these are life-threatening but they could still be very unpleasant.
What should you do if you got into problem in Budapest?
3 things to do:
Contact the Hungarian Police – police officer in sight in the street (hopefully (s)he will be supportive and can speak proper English), and / or via phone. Problem: the police may not clearly understand what your problem is (especially if the English language is a foreign language for both you as a visitor and the police in Hungary). Besides, the Hungarian policemen may run into similar problems to yours by the dozen a week, so they will not take it to their heart so much as your embassy people.
Contact he Tourist Help line immediately, call +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. They can speak your language for sure, so you can describe your problem with all the subtleties needed. Your embassy will take your matters very seriously, and will instantly provide you with a safety net of ‘getting protection’. The embassy (just like you) will also contact the police on behalf of you. They will have experience with the local police, and they may be able to provide a better translation of your case.
As for the number, +36-1-438-8080: the ‘+’ sign or zero-zero means you initiate an international call (not needed if you call from a Hungarian phone) , 36 is Hungary’s country code (if you call from a Hungarian phone, you need to dial the two digit 06 instead of +36 before the Budapest phone number), number ‘1’ is the regional code of Budapest city, after that comes the actual phone number.
Foreign victims of crimes (scams, pick pocketing, overcharging, car thefts) in Hungary must report their incidents to the police. The Hungarian National Tourist Office has a special, day and night phone number for tourists (+36-1-438-8080) – you can get into contact with an English speaking staff member immediately to give help on how you can file a report to the police, and they will also help you to find the nearest police station.
Definitely DO NOT DO: Further Budapest warnings
- Do not have valuables with you. Learn from general Budapest warnings.
- Do not travel unprepared. Save the Budapest crime emergency phone numbers to learn how to contact the Hungarian Police just in case.
- Do not stay near the Parliament and the Heroes’ Square on Hungarian national holidays
- Do not take marijuana, drugs in Budapest. What about alcohol?
- Do not go to dangerous night clubs in Budapest.
- Do not hail down a taxi in Budapest.
- Do not buy HUF / Forint from a street vendor in Budapest.
- Do not board Budapest public transport vehicles without a ticket.
- Do not cross the road without checking the traffic in Budapest.
- Do not expect some cultural conveniences in Budapest
- Do not take valuables with you to Baths in Budapest – or preferably in the city.
- Do not go to Budapest Airport unprepared – there are 2 Budapest terminals – approx. 5 min car travel from each other: even though T1 is getting closed, T2 is a bus stop away from T1 train station.
- Do not go to touristy restaurants in Budapest – to eat pricey food of lower quality.
Check out Budapest FAQ for more useful tips!
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