Hungary is generally a safe country. People in Hungary are hospitable and are welcoming of visitors. Hungary and Budapest in particular share similar issues with other countries and major cities frequented by visitors. We bring you this brief to provide you with relevant information to help you ensure your safety, and avoid uncomfortable and costly experiences. Our goal is that all visitors in Hungary and Budapest enjoy a completely problem free stay, which upon their return home can share with friends, colleagues and family. We take pride in all treasures Hungary has to offer, and would like to avoid the negativity caused by some opportunists, who target visitors to earn quick and easy money. Many of their actions are questionable and some are illegal. Examples: more expensive taxis, more expensive money exchange, unjust public transportation fi nes, and misleading references out of interest. As in most highly populated areas, you should take sensible precautions against petty crime such as bag snatching and pick-pocketing. Be particularly careful on busy public transport, in train stations, markets and other places frequented by foreign visitors.
Hungary shares similar taxi issues as most countries and areas frequented by travelers. Be informed about the local taxi culture in order to avoid unpleasant situations. Railway Stations: BE CAREFUL when you arrive at the East and West railway stations (Keleti Pályaudvar or Nyugati Pályaudvar). „Hiena” Taxis will charge as much as 3 – 5 times more to take you to your location. Call a taxi for your arrival while you’re on the train! Budapest Airport has a contracted taxi company, which offers fixed rates between the airport and the city. During your stay is always safer and cheaper to phone for a taxi from one of the reputable local companies, than to get into one random off the street. Some taxi drivers often recommend certain bars, clubs and restaurants to passengers – they receive a commission to do so, and the money is then recovered by these establishments charging extortionate prices. If a driver offers to take you to one, or you are approached on the street with an invitation to enter a club, you should ignore such advice! Hungary has an excellent visitors’ information network which you can utilize. You can also ask for the recommendation of the concierge at your hotel.
Travel by City Taxi at a discounted pirce with Budapest Card: www.citytaxi.hu
Exchanging cash at the arrival location (airport, railway station) is usually more expensive in most countries. Railway stations are some of the MOST EXPENSIVE places to exchange money in Budapest. Hungary has a competitive money exchange industry. Know the offi cial exchange rate of the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Rates are always displayed in front of the exchange offi ces. NEVER exchange money on the street!
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION (BKV)
Hungary has an excellent public transportation system. Budapest in particular has one of the fi nest public transportation in Europe. Be informed about the ticket procedures. Foreign visitors to Budapest are often confused by the ticket system, then targeted and fi ned by ticket controllers. The controllers do NOT have the right to detain you. However, in some cases they are accompanied with security offi cials who have the right to ask for identifi cation and to detain you until the police arrives. Once you have left the bus, tram, trolley or the metro area, you are completely removed from the situation. Validate your ticket before starting your journey (i.e. before you get to the platform if travelling by Metro; and immediately after boarding buses, trams or trolley buses). Keep your ticket until the end of your journey and show it to inspectors on request. You have to validate another ticket every time you change lines except on direct metro to metro transfers. You may utilize the “Budapest Card” or purchase a period based ticket which offers unlimited trips during your stay.
Hungary takes less drastic measures than some of its western European counterparts to deal with beggar mafi as, which operate in the downtown and tourist areas. Beggars many times are imported from eastern countries and dress as very old women or as one with a severe injury or disability. Hungary has an excellent social and medical system, and such situations of neglect would never occur! We ask all visitors to Budapest to cooperate in helping to solve this situation. When deciding to be generous with your money, be careful to whom you donate. If you have spare change or money to donate, donate to your favorite charity who will effectively disburse the money to the needy.
FALSE POLICE OFFICERS
When traveling in several countries, it is practically impossible to validate who is and who is not a police offi cer. Many scams are built on the “police intimidation” factor, where false ID’s and uniforms are used. The most important detail that you should know is that police offi cers are NOT allowed to take over cash as a fi ne in Hungary!
Take sensible precaution when making “new friends” especially in SMALL bars. Some visitors are targeted under false pretences. Many times in these establishments, the bartenders are also in on the scam! These scams of friendship are built on a false sense of security, when after a night of drinking, missing wallets, passports and possibly a robbed hotel room remains.
You should take extra care when receiving bank notes as some banknotes that are no longer valid are still in circulation. Some taxi drivers deliberately passing these notes to tourists - as well as notes from neighboring countries that are not valid here. Be aware especially when paying with a 10 000 or a 20 000 bank notes.
RESTAURANTS, BARS AND CLUBS
Hungary offers a wide range of excellent culinary entertainment. Its traditions are far reaching into its history and place in Europe. Unfortunately, the reputation of this industry is also being damaged by few opportunists targeting visitors. Near some large hotels in the business district (V district) of central Pest, you can be charged exorbitant prices in certain bars, clubs and restaurants. Common scams include adding a 20,000 HUF (€80,00) surcharge per drink to the fi nal bill or charging up to 100,000 HUF (€300,00) for a meal. Individuals who have been unable to settle their bills have frequently been accompanied by the establishment’s security guards to a cash machine and made to withdraw funds under threats of violence. You should avoid all establishments where menus do not properly display prices. Even when prices appear to be properly displayed, if you have any doubts about a bar, restaurant or club – do NOT go in. Use the American Embassy’s list of places on which multiple reports of victimization was received by the Embassy: http://hungary.usembassy.gov/tourist_advisory.html#clubs For a list of recommended restaurants, please visit www.safetyinhungary.info/restaurants
Paying with credit cards and tipping Visitors arriving in Hungary are sometimes confused about its tipping culture. We hope you fi nd the information below helpful. Tipping: Some restaurants include the service charge in their bill. This is stated on the bill! If it is not clear to you, it is perfectly acceptable to ask your server if tip is included. However, to ensure maximum service quality, most restaurants do not include gratuity in the bill. The servers’ salary depends on their service quality, thus their tips. Therefore, unless you are unhappy with your server, it is customary to tip 10% of the total bill. Leaving the tip in cash: Unlike in some other countries, in Hungary it is not customary to leave the tip on the table. Instead, when you get the bill, you should add your tip to the bill’s total and tell your server the total amount which you would like to pay in cash.
Leaving the tip on Credit Card: If you’re paying with a credit card, and would like to leave the tip on the card, please tell your server the total amount (including the tip), which should be charged on your credit card. In Hungary, it is NOT customary to write the tip on the credit card receipt post payment. NEVER let your card out of sight! The waiter/manager must bring a portable credit card machine to the table. If they claim the portable machine is broken, accompany them to the machine at the register!
Looking for the best overview of sights and programs? Read the official Budapest Guide or download for later use!