Budapest, Hungary

Budapest-tourist-scamsBudapest is the picturesque capital of Hungary and the country’s economical and cultural center. The city is an amalgamation of two cities, Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube river that runs through the middle. Budapest is a popular tourist destination thanks to its great architecture and plenty of nightlife.

With more than 4 million visitors a year, Budapest is by far the most important tourist destination in Hungary. Budapest-tourist-rip_offIt attracts as many travelers as cities like Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Moscow and more than renowned tourist hotspots Prague, Berlin and Vienna.

Budapest has something to offer for everyone, with its dozens of attractive museums, the Budapest State Opera, a lively nightlife and of course: shopping. Shoppers will enjoy the Vaci Utca and the aptly named Fashion Street, while fans of good food have plenty of choice in Hungarian cuisine as well as a variety of international cuisines. For wellness lovers, Budapest offers perhaps the best spas in Europe.

Budapest tourist scams

However, as in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • Be cautious when a couple of good-looking girls who want to take you to for a drink, they are most likely paid a commission on the extraordinary high prices of the bar.
  • Regardless of the rates offered, don’t change money on the streets, but go into an official money exchange office. Scammers are likely to give you worthless foreign money.
  • Don’t buy electronics on the streets, criminal organizations use street vendors to sell counterfeit phones other devices.
  • You’ll see many beggars on the streets of Budapest, most of them appear to be handicapped, but only a few of them really are. They are just hoping to get your compassion. And your money.
  • Like in any large city, beware of pickpockets, especially in trams or other crowded areas.

Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Forints, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

tourist-scams-BudapestBe on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Budapest is unsafe. It is just as safe as any other large city, most of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, especially away from the tourist hotspots, just be mindful of these tricks and you won’t feel uncomfortable for a second.

Did you get in trouble anyways? The Hungarian police has a special hotline for tourists: +361-4388080 with an English speaking officer available 24 hours a day. And the same applies to the police office at Vigado Utca 4 in the fifth district.

  • Overpriced drinks scam


    The basics of the Budapest bar scam are similar to those in Thailand (read the Bangkok bar scam) and Istanbul (read the Istanbul overpriced drinks scam), while each has its local twist. In Budapest, this scam is most popular in the area around the busy shopping- and nightlife street Vaci Utca, where (mostly male solo-traveling) […]

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  • Money change scam


    Money change scams are omnipresent (check also the Istanbul money change scam and the Jamaica money change scam), and in Budapest it’s a very sophisticated play. The scammers usually wait outside an official money change office, to approach tourists who have the intention to enter the office. They ask the tourist if he wants to […]

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  • Counterfeit electronics scam


    In many cities around the world, counterfeit luxury brand merchandise is sold on the streets to unsuspecting tourists looking for a great deal. Perfumes, jeans, cigarettes and similar goods are the most popular items to reproduce cheaply and are easily sold by street vendors. But in Budapest, a new trend has arisen: fake iPhone’s and […]

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  • Handicapped beggars scam


    The streets of Budapest are swarmed with beggars, asking passersby for some small change. Most of them are, or at least appear, heavily disabled. However, with the exception of a few unfortunate and pitiable cases, most of them are just plain scammers, trying to trick people into giving them money because of their assumed disability. […]

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  • Pickpockets


    As in most big cities that attract many tourists, like Barcelona or Paris, be on guard for pickpockets in Budapest, especially in the tourist hotspots and busy locations. On tramline 4-6 and the yellow metro line, both widely used by tourists, the police warns often to beware of pickpockets, also on the escalators leading down […]

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  • Taxi scams


    Despite recent attempts by the Budapest municipality to regulate taxi services in the city, some taxi swindlers still manage to rip off unsuspecting tourists, especially at the East and West railway stations (Keleti Pályaudvar or Nyugati Pályaudvar). No need to worry at the airport, as the rogue taxi drivers are literally not allowed to set […]

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  • Fake police


    Part of this scam is also shortly described in the Budapest money change scam, beware of fake police officers targeting tourists and intimidating them into handing over their wallets or bags. They are in plain clothes and may shortly show some kind of identification that an uninformed tourist may believe to be an official police […]

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  1. Hello!

    i just returned from Budapest where i was with my sister and a brother. As walking from a station through Jokai utca ,close to a dodgy looking “Ilaria” restaurant, we were stopped by the fake tourist asking for non existing hotel directions and right after two fake policeman, telling us to watch out from the tourist who is a “drugs dealer.”

    As i have huge experience with fake people, i immediately noticed that something is wrong, and that they all work together. Then i asked a fake tourist to ask fake police for the directions, and they just did not know how to respond. then i told them that i don’t believe that they are police and i demanded an ID. when i told them that i want to take their picture, they started walking away fast.

    First, they were really dodgy looking people, but i understand that naive people would totally fall for this organized crime. I could not stop but wondering, if they had courage to stop three people, what if you are walking alone?!
    The Hungarian Government has to seriously work harder to minimize such crimes, as the tourist flow will be less if this kind of bad reputation continues.
    As i have intention to return, i will be more than happy to help in identifying the fake police, as i remembered their stupid faces. I just need to return to the “crime scene” as they probably always operate in this area.

  2. We were also stopped by someone asking for directions and then immediately after by a ‘policeman’. The policeman asked for id. I realized that the setup as a scam so we immediately walked away. My husband did take out his phone as if to take a picture and they two individuals did immediately walk away. This scam is alive and well and must work as they are still out there trying.

  3. Bill Anderson says

    My ” Hotel ” was adjacent to the Keleti RailwayStation. An area that was less than pleasant. Between there and what I thought was the centrum part of the city was “Scary” So many derelict shops offices, beggars and rough sleepers. Walking under the under passes of the metro stations was extremely frightening. Rough sleepers being able to consume alcohol, where do they get the Forints, smoking, where do they get the Forints. Sadly I witnessed an elderly woman fighting
    with an elderly man. It was just awful to see. Do not think I will return to Budapest. Or was Just unlucky to see the worst of the City

    • Janos Imre Adam says

      Yeah that’s right. Near the Keleti railway station is one of the worst part of the city. There are some hotels there, because of the location, but it’s much better to book somewhere closer to the center or on the Buda side. Walking around however is not more dangerous, than Amsterdam, just don’t talk to strangers as a general rule everywhere.

  4. It is an awful city full of scammers.I will never return and dissuade others from visiting.

  5. Maria ivanova says

    Be very aware of the exchange rates of the “official” exchange offices and avoid “Interchange” which though part of an international chain offers a FRAUD rate 20% less than the official exchange rate. We exchanged 200 euro LOOSING 40 euro because of the bad rate….

    • Janos Imre Adam says

      Yes that’s true. Don’t change money at the airport and around the railway stations. There are good exchange offices around the Great Boulevard (Nagykörút), where the Nr. 6 tram is going around.(e.g. Correct change, József krt. 40.) Otherwise you can always take money at an ATM at a large bank (OTP is the largest Hungarian bank), where you only loose the bank fee. You can also use your creditcard to pay almost everywhere. Also don’t use the blue ATMs around the city (and in some pubs) without any bank-name on it, I think they rip you off with an extra fee…

  6. mike peters says

    Keep well aware from Hungary. The scammers have arrangements with the police who take a cut as they have for decades. Tourists are seen as fair game who can afford it. Disgraceful country. What’s the point in lists of blacklisted bars that the US embassy have listed for 20 years? Why aren’t they closed down?. The Hungarian government is complicit and laugh at the naivety of people from other countries. One of the most corrupt countries on earth.

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