Budapest is a beautiful city that resides along the Danube River. It is home to 1.7 million people and has a thriving tourism industry. Budapest is one of the 15 most popular tourist cities in the world, because it has so many fascinating attractions and a very hospitable culture.
Budapest is also safer than most other metropolitan tourist cities. However, it’s still important for guests to stay on their guard, because pickpockets and other criminals still take advantage of vulnerable tourists.
Here are some tips to keep yourself safe during your trip to Budapest.
Avoid Transportation Scams
You need to choose transport companies carefully when riding in Budapest. Some are run by unscrupulous people that don’t think twice about exploiting tourists. You need to be particularly careful when working with taxi companies. In 2013, the government passed new regulations that require taxi companies to advertise their rates and company logo.
However, some unlicensed cabbies still offer their services. They charge steep fees to tourists and may even rob you at knife-point. Never enter a taxi that doesn’t have the company’s name and logo on it.
Look Out for Street Crimes
Pickpockets and muggers tend to congregate near popular tourist areas. You should be particularly cautious near major attractions, the metro, food marts, coffee shops and other areas with a lot of people. Try to be alert and guard your valuables if you are near anyone that looks suspicious.
It’s also a good idea to keep as little cash and valuables on you as possible. You should keep your visa and other important documents safely in your hotel, unless you are going somewhere that requires them.
You should also familiarize yourself with common tourist scams. Pickpockets often work in teams. One person will try to distract you, while the other will try to purloin you. Here are some common schemes they use:
- The pickpocket may collude with a local street merchant. The merchant will try to distract you with an attractive deal, while the pickpocket sneaks up and steals your purse or wallet.
- One of the crooks may be a beautiful woman. She will try to flirt with male tourists, while her partner steals their money.
- One of the crooks may pretend to be in distress. They may feign an injury or claim that they are lost and need directions. Meanwhile, their associate will rob the good Samaritans that stop to help them.
- They may pretend to be tourist guides offering their services at a nice discount. They may coax you into entering their vehicle, so they can rob you.
Of course, many criminals aren’t nearly this sophisticated. They will merely lift the wallets of unsuspecting tourists that are sipping on their coffee or stopping to look at spectacular tourist sites, such as Buda Castle.
You don’t need to be paranoid, but you should always be open to the possibility that a pickpocket may be nearby. Be wary of people around you and don’t let your guard down.
Avoid Sketchy Areas
You need to be aware of areas with high crime rates. While criminals often target people in tourist areas, there are usually enough other people around to assist you if there is a problem. There are more dangerous areas that should be avoided altogether, particularly the 8th and 9th districts. Here is a warning from someone that was robbed there last year.
“Particularly the down at heel Pest districts (8th, 9th) are full of shifty individuals. Two days after warning a collagues getting on a tram at Mester utca to look out for his bags, my own laptop was stolen in a little restaurant (Etkezde) on Bakats ter. The security cameras took perfect pictures of the thief, but the police were unwilling or unable to take things further. Don’t they have computer software that can match peoples’ ID card photos and security camera footage?”
Use a VPN to Access Wi-Fi
Most people are aware of the risk of being pick-pocketed or mugged. However, they rarely think about the risk of being targeted by a cyber criminal.
The risk of online identity theft can’t be ignored. Between 2009 and 2015, identity thieves stole $112 billion from their victims. Most of these victims are being targeted online. Hackers often use create hotspots and steal data from people that access them.
You must be especially careful using public Wi-Fi. The best way to precaution you can take is to use a VPN for online privacy protection. About 25% of people around the world use a VPN, which protects them from hackers that may be spoofing their data.