Jordan’s Tips on Staying Safe in Budapest
Budapest is one of the safest cities in Europe, especially for the people aware of the little tricks and scams that are hanging around. From my personal experience of being a foreigner in this city, I have never really had an issue, I have always felt very safe here. Being aware of your surroundings makes a difference in your likelihood of being scammed in any city. So as a once tourist of this city to another, I wanted to share with you my top tips on staying safe in Budapest during your visit.
Tip 1: Don’t Get Into Any Taxi Off The Street
Gone are the days where you can just jump into any taxi off the street and know that they are indeed a fully licensed taxi driver. This is because there is a minority of drivers throughout the city that try to scam tourists. I thought this was a bit of a myth until one day I unsuspectingly jumped into a cab of the street with a friend.
Somehow the fare clocked up to 5000ft which was quite a lot for such a short journey. I didn’t think much of it and handed over the 5000ft note, within a millisecond before my eyes he switched it to a 500ft note and tried to convince me that was all I had given him. Little did he know this tourist was a local and I knew the colour of the notes and spoke enough Hungarian to tell him. After about 5 minutes he agreed, let us out and sped off.
Moral of the story gets your hotel to call a taxi for you or use the app alternative Bolt (sort of like Uber expect it’s not banned here). Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, is super reliable and at least you have the records of who is driving you. Another alternative is to use Budapest public transport, its amazing at getting you around the city and definitely cheaper in the long run.
Tip 2: Don’t Exchange Money at the First Place You See
If you need to exchange money the local currency is Hungarian forints or HUF the safest and most reliable place to do that is the cash exchange shops. You will find them all over the city. Usually, money exchange booths at the airport and train stations will have a much higher exchange rate and will charge you an extra fee for the transaction, if you don’t have traveller cards then the best option is an exchange shop once you’re in the city. The other option is to get a pre-paid card like Revolut, which automatically allows you to pay in different currencies at the best interbank exchange rates.
Some stores and restaurants in the main part of the city do expect Euros and sometimes US dollar, again the rate will be higher if you pay in those currencies and not forints. For the first time a week ago I had people coming up to me on Vaci street asking if I wanted to exchange money with them in the middle of the street, I didn’t stop to ask what their rates were, but it didn’t sound very legit to me for obvious reasons.
Tip 3: Be Alert to Avoid Pickpockets
Pickpockets are notorious for being in every major city and lurking around major tourist attractions but they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time and becoming paranoid about every person you walk past. I think it’s safe to say they’re pretty easy to spot in Budapest, they may be quick with their hands but they aren’t as smart when it comes to blending in with the crowd.
I would suggest carrying bags with zips always when you’re travelling so they’re not easily accessible and never leave anything of value sitting on the table while having a meal out. Carry only what you need with you for that day, not excessive amounts of cash and important documents like your passport. When you’re in a tourist location with a lot of people around like the Basilica, Fishermen’s Bastion or on Vaci street be aware of your surrounds and keep your valuables close, if you are alert they are less likely to approach you
Tip 4: Check Menu Prices Against Online
My last tip is something I have experienced myself. I wanted to try this one restaurant in the city for quite some time when I finally did they tried to charge me nearly double on every meal. I sort of already knew the prices from their website so when I saw they had all somehow skyrocketed I questioned the waiter and showed him what I had seen online. He came up with some excuse and took our menus away and came back with another one, the prices now miraculously matching the website. I don’t think this is a huge scam in the city but it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about the place you’re eating at before going.
Tip 5: Useful telephone numbers in Budapest
Useful telephone numbers in Budapest. It’s always a good idea to know the emergency telephone numbers of the city you’re travelling to. Here are a few that I hope you won’t have to use but are helpful to know:
Central Emergency Number: 112
Tourist Police (0-24): 06-1-438-8080
If you’re one of those travellers that tend to lose their passport you should report it to:
Immigration and Citizenship Budapest and Pest County
Address: Budafoki út 60., XI. district,
Telephone (round-the-clock): 463 9165 or 463 9181
These are just some of my top tips on staying safe in Budapest, so you can now go ahead and explore the city whilst knowing the scams to avoid. To see what some of my favourite spots are, follow my footprints on the Like Locals app and check out places that won’t be on any tourist map!