SUNDAY, MARCH 08, 2020
Coming on holiday means adopting some streets smarts. The whole new place, new people, new culture thing means you’re out of your comfort zone and potentially easy pickings for some of the more unscrupulous members of society. Yep, Budapest is an amazingly safe place with some truly awesome people - but like anywhere, there are a few arseholes keen to part you from your cash.
Of course, we don’t want that to happen, so here’s a heads up on some of the scams to watch out for:
This is the one you're most likely to fall for. It’s been a banging night out and you just to get home. Oh look, there is a taxi right there waiting for you. “How convenient!” you say. And, it just so happens that the driver is real friendly, telling you he’ll take you wherever. His reassurance that you “don’t have to worry about the price right now” is what convinces you. What a nice lad you think.
Well, mate, you’d better worry, because when you arrive at your destination you’re going to find the price a lot higher than expected, and the driver’s friendly exterior will turn somewhat more aggressive as he bats away any attempts on your part to plead down the bill. Pay up if you want to avoid violence.
How to avoid this one? Only take taxis with a tag from a taxi company, or better yet, call one to pick you up and avoid flagging off the street. You can also use an app like Bolt, to order a cab. There are no Uber's in Budapest, so make sure you download any apps you need before you head out.
Picture the scene, you and your handsome lad friend are strolling the street (don’t worry ladies, this scam won’t happen to you), and out of nowhere one or two beautiful ladies pop out of nowhere looking to start a chat. Funnily enough, they happen to like whatever you like and, even more coincidentally, have wonderful things to say about [insert your home country here].
Things get flirty, you and your mate are starting to think you might be getting lucky tonight. There’s talk of drinks, and, low and behold they “know this great place”. You’ll arrive to find it’s a basement bar or somewhere quite secluded. There will be two huge bouncers by the door - but they’re just there to keep the riff raff out right?
Don’t worry about the menu the barman says. He knows what the ladies like and he thinks he knows what you’ll like as well. Drinks are poured, shots are had and the girls will do anything to keep you in the room. Then, when you come to settle up you’ll find the bill somewhere in the 500 - 2,000 Euros range. Oh shit, that’s not good, is it? Don’t have the cash anyway? Don’t worry, those two tank-like gentlemen from earlier know a great ATM they can forcibly march you to.
How to avoid this one? If two beautiful girls come up to you anywhere on Vaci Street - you’re the mark. And, if you want to make sure, when they suggest a place, tell them you know a better one and start walking - scammers will quickly bounce at this point.
We feel like this one should be obvious, but you’ll always find some seedy looking folk outside money exchange places offering to “beat their rate”. And how exactly are they doing to do that? Well, they’re going either a) fudge the maths hoping you don’t really know what a good rate is b) hand you less than you need and then shoo you away before you have time to count c) hand you some worthless money from a foreign country - again hoping you don’t really know what Hungarian money looks like or d) hand you the cash in 200 HUF notes - a bill that’s long stopped being accepted.
How to avoid this one? Just go inside the damn exchange place and cross-check the rates on the board with Google.
From iPhones to drugs, petitions for signing, and even sprigs of parsley - you might be approached by all sorts of hustlers on your trip.
Let us be clear about what to expect if you happen to take one of them up on their offer. With electronics and drugs, you’ll be getting fakes, with petitions, you’ll be getting distracted while an accomplice has a crack at picking your pockets, and with any sort of charm or flower you get handed on the streets ‘for free’, will come with an eventual high-pressure tactic to try and get some cash from you.
How to avoid all of these? Be friendly, but firm with anyone that approaches you on the street. They’ll all take no for an answer if you’re brave enough to give it.