Tourist Advisory for Hungary
Last Updated on 11/15/2013
U.S. citizens planning to travel to Hungary should acquaint themselves with common tourist scams and areas with a high incidence of theft. Since we would like you to have an enjoyable trip to Hungary, this advisory has been issued in the hope that with advance warning, you can avoid potential theft situations. Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens have had pleasant, incident-free stays in Hungary.
The vast majority of clubs and restaurants in Budapest are legitimate businesses that offer good value and service. However, there are clubs and restaurants in Budapest about which the U.S. Embassy has received numerous complaints from U.S. citizens for engaging in unethical business practices. Victims have filed reports with the Embassy describing the following practices: excessive billing of customers, physical intimidation to force customers to pay exorbitant bills (including holding a member of a party while others in the group pay the bill at ATMs, 24-hour cash facilities), and assault by club/restaurant employees for non-payment of excessive bills. There have been incidents, although rare, where U.S. citizens unknowingly have been drugged.
Further, Do NOT let seemingly helpful taxi drivers or local women lure you to an establishment they recommend - they may receive a commission for bringing victims to the club/restaurant. It is also advised that you not go to clubs/restaurants that do not list prices or provide a menu with prices. Always verify the cost prior to purchase. Be aware that a menu switch may occur at the time of a billing complaint/dispute, and you may be handed a menu that lists higher prices and other hidden charges.
U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid these clubs and restaurants due to multiple reports of victimization received by the Embassy:
This list is not complete, so please use common sense and take note when/where one or more local women approach you. Please note that most of these places are located in Budapest's fifth district, on/near the main tourist street, the Váci utca.
- Night Club - VI district, Andrássy út and Eötvös utca corner
- Restaurant/Bar - V district, Bécsi utca and Fehér Hajó utca corner
- Night Club - VIII district, Kiss József utca at Rákóczi út
- Night Club (accessible by outside elevator) - V district, Váci utca at Régi Posta utca
If you have been the victim of any incident, scam or theft, you should file a police report and report the incident to the U.S. Embassy. (Please see our Contact Information page.) The Incident Report Form (PDF 41KB) can also be downloaded here.
Victims of personal crimes, such as theft, robbery, scams or overcharging while in Hungary are strongly encouraged to report all such incidents to the police. The Hungarian National Tourist Office has a special, 24-hour telephone number for tourists who become the victim of personal crime while in Hungary. Personnel with foreign language capability, including English, are on duty seven days a week to give advice on how to file a police report and to help to find the nearest police station. This telephone number is: 438-8080.
A Tourinform office that provides service in English and in German is located in one of Budapest's busiest tourist areas:
Sütõ u. 2., 1052 Budapest, open daily 8-20.
One common scam usually occurs in tourist areas and involves a "money-changer" and two "undercover policemen." In this scam, a tourist is approached by a man who asks if s/he would like to change money. If the tourist says, "No, thank you," the man will leave. A minute or so later, two men (sometimes of intimidating size and demeanor) in plainclothes will approach the tourist. The two men will openly display their false police badges or "police identification cards," and request to see all of the tourist's money - the money the tourist might have changed with the first man. At this point, the money will be handled by the two men and then replaced in the tourist's wallet. Only, not all the money is replaced - the small bills are put back in the wallet and later, the tourist will learn s/he has been robbed of the larger denomination dollar and/or Forint bills. By the time the loss is discovered, the team of three men will have escaped. There are variations of this scam and one of them involves questioning by these "undercover policemen" of the tourist about drugs and eventually leads to seeing the tourist's wallet.
Hungarian police are generally in uniform and do not deal with tourist money changing issues. Tips on avoiding the above scam are: turn away and head in another direction after being approached by the first man; tell them you'd like to consult with another police officer patrolling the area; or tell them you'd like to call the U.S. Embassy.
Another potential scam may occur while driving on the Motorways. This one involves someone who attracts your attention by saying that there is something wrong with your car (i.e. a smoking hood, or a flat tire) in order to encourage you to pull over to the shoulder of the highway. Once you are pulled over, while you are busy inspecting the aforementioned trouble, these scamsters will take your purse, etc. out of the car, or even the car itself, and drive away. Also, car theft continues to occur; favored cars are VWs and Audis. It is best not to leave any items in the car, use alarms and immobilizers, and not to let others see you put things in the trunk (do this before you arrive at your next destination).
Prime theft areas involve crowds of people, where it is easier to distract the unsuspecting tourist. Train stations, trains, trams and metros are full of people and present many opportunities for thieves and pickpockets. Do not leave purses and luggage unattended at any time - all it takes is one unguarded moment and the thief will have what he is after: your money and/or U.S. passport. The U.S. Embassy has received numerous theft reports from these areas: on trains to/from Hungary; all train stations - in particular, inside and just outside Keleti Station; metro lines #1 and #3; tram lines #2, #4, and #6; bus line #7; and U.S. fast food places like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Burger King. In 2012, the Embassy saw a marked increase in the number of Danube river cruise passengers, mostly women between the ages of 50 and 70, whose wallets were stolen out of their purses while sightseeing in tourist areas of Budapest.
The following English language articles provided by the Hungarian National Police offer useful safety information:
Being safe in Hungary (PDF 12KB)
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