First - it is very important to buy a metro - tram pass for the entire time of your visit, and even pay for an extra day or two if needed. The ticket offices in the metro stations seemed to open and close without rhyme or reason. At 10 AM the office at the tourist - heavy Vorosmarty ter station was inexplicably closed, yet another was open at 10 PM on the same line at Heroe's Square. Even busy stations like Oktagon had closed kiosks at midday when we passed through there. And - - - The ticket machines are confusing and often don't work. It is very difficult to figure out which single ticket is the one you need due to limited English translation and even local users couldn't get some machines to work. Be forewarned.
Second - don't ride anything without a validated ticket at any time. We saw many more ticket inspectors here than in Prague, and often at stations most likely to be used by tourists. Ticket inspectors are often not on the subway or bus itself but waiting at the exit from the station. We once had our tickets inspected at the foot of the stairway leaving a station at 11 PM, believe it or not. Keep your ticket with you if you buy single tickets until at street level. Smart move - buy the pass.
Cab's without company label
There aren't many dangers in Budapest (at least not more than in any other big city) but there are some things good to know about so you can...well...save some money! :)
Don't never use a taxi which is not belonging to one of the bigger companies (6x6, Fõtaxi, Tele5, etc.).
To independently working ones are usually the so called "hienas", who settle down near railway stations and so, and overcharge the foreign customers.
The best is to order a cab by phone or to wait for one which is belonging to a company. Don't let the people at the stations with "Taxi" sign on a paper lure you to a "No label cab".
It may also be a good idea to ask the cab driver about a price. Between any central railway station and any hotel in the central districts (unless You arrive to the Buda side and go to a hotel in southern Pest) the price shouldn't be more then 5000 forints or even less.
(Picture taken from the website of Rádió Taxi)
Budapest dangerous ?
After all the warnings I read about Budapest, much more than I read for any other EU town, I felt somewhat worried about dangers when I arrived at Budapest airport.
I staid 5 days and had no bad experience of any kind.
I suppose I was never in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nobody tried to steal, aggress, cheat or rip me. I had only one, quite normal, control on the metro.
Of course I was watchful, like always in towns, did only visit museums, castles, monuments and did stay out of Vaci utca and limited my nightlife to a walk on the Chain Bridge after sunset (the views on the illuminated monuments are beautiful). Really dangerous on that bridge are the bicycles riding on the sidewalk!
The people of Budapest seemed peaceful; I saw no aggressive groups of youngsters, nor drug addicts or drunkards on the public way, only a few beggars around the central market.
Many people did understand some English or German and when not, my few words of Hungarian did establish a friendly contact.
Rather sad are the many tags or graffiti on buildings and even monuments such as the "chain bridge". With the exception of monuments most buildings are dusty and sad looking.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
- Museum Visits
Like every big city, Budapest also has them...take good care of your valuables, don't leave your backpack on your back when you get on the tram or bus.
Take extra care on the tram number 4 and 6, because they are really crowded in peek hours, and thus they are quite "attended" by pickpockets. Take good care on the escalators as well!
Have your ID with you
Please take either your passport or any ID that contains photo with you.
The heart of Budapest, most districts are very safe to walk even during the night (even though the lapms on the streets are not too strong somewhere), but avoid some parts of the VIII, IX districts.
Be very careful when using the numerous cashpoints in and around Budapest.
A favourite trick is to insert a strip of metal into the slot where the money is dispensed. This stops your money from coming out. You go into the shop to report the fault, they quickly remove the strip and your money!!
I was lucky, I managed to ram my hand into the slot before it closed and grab hold of my cash but other friends of mine have not been so lucky.
My tip, if you are near to a bank use their machines which are often inside and protected by security cameras. Avoid the cashpoints attached to shops and petrol stations as well as the stand alone machines.
There aren't any real dangers in Budapest - it's very safe for a big city. But a few places have a bad reputation, and probably warrant a little concern on that basis.
Although you may hear district 8 (the Nyocker) being called a ghetto, it's only really bad past Joszef Korut, a street most tourists won't visit. Just be aware of where you are going if you find yourself at Keleti Station or Blaha Lujza ter, as both of these are on the edge of the "ghetto". Even these areas aren't so bad, but may feel a bit hairy at night.
Other problem areas, especially for tourists, are Vaci Utca and the pedestrianised streets leading off from Deak Ter. These areas get so crowded with tourists at peak season that it attracts the worst elements, mostly bums, beggars, hustlers and pickpockets. Most of the big transport hubs, especially Nyugati (underground), Moscow Square and Keleti station attract prostitutes, bums, petty thieves and drug addicts, and are probably best avoided late at night if you are alone.
I've heard reports from the embassy that the 49/47 trams are prone to pickpockets, but I travel on this route every day to and from work and have never seen any problems. The 4/6 tram line had a spate of late night robberies, but this was a gang who picked on drunks who had fallen asleep on the last tram. This is typical of most Hungarian crime: opportunistic and non-confrontational. Violent crime is rare.
Driving around in Budapest is not that easy. The insanity of some drivers can be a danger for other travellers, passangers, etc...
Do take care of anyone who seems to have an agressive driving style. They won't let you in the line, they won't give you the way even if according to the signs you would be granted...
Driving here is not the most dangerous in Europe, but it can cause you hard times. Just take extra care and be very patient! :)
And watch for the holes in the road...due to the weather changes and the lack of proper road building and maintenance, roads around here are full of the so called "Katyu's", which can give a hard time to your car's suspension...
Buy Metro Tickets!
If you get caught using the subway without a valid ticket, you will be fined on the spot. Security uses surveillance and has personnel at many stations looking for people. Playing "stupid tourist" or pretending not to know English doesn't work.
If you don't pay your fine on the spot, it will cost you more to pay it at the main office.
Do yourself a favor and buy a 1, 3, or 7 day pass.
Some Problems, but Generally Safe
According to the US department of state travel advisory, Budapest is rated as a city with relatively low levels of violent crime, but relatively high levels of petty crime, like pick pocketing.
For me Budapest feels generally safe, but the huge numbers of drunks, drug addicts and homeless people can make people uncomfortable. It's a city with possibly the worst problem like this that I've seen anywhere in Europe. They are never aggressive towards me, and are often either sleeping or stumbling out of my way with an embarrassed look on their face. I've seen them urinating in public and bothering people on the metro begging aggressively for money. Many areas of the city, especially around the main public transport terminals can stink strongly of urine.
In general Buda, especially the Castle District, is very safe, although Moscow Square is a bit of a dive. Pest is also generally safe, but there are rougher parts, and one district with a very bad reputation. Most of the train stations are a bit grotty, and the underground section near Nyugati doesn't feel 100% safe at night. Keleti also gets bad reports. According to the locals, the worst place to be is district VIII, especially around Blaha Lujza Ter and Rakoczi Ter.
Despite that, I often go drinking in these areas and have never experienced any problems, even in the early hours walking about on my own. But I have heard tales of people getting mugged and beaten in the dark side streets when they are drunk, so if you don't know what you are going stick to the well lit areas and get a cab home. But in general, Budapest is one of the safest cities in Europe, so you don't need to take special precautions.
The metro has a bad reputation for pick pocketing, so keep your hands in your pockets when the crowds gather around you. I've never had any problems on the trams or metro, though, and I have never seen anyone acting suspiciously. Taxis also have a bad reputation for ripping off tourists, and I've had experience of this, so stick to reputable taxi companies like City (2111111) and Fo (2222222). These are very cheap, and the call centers generally speak English.
Whatever you do, don't get into an unmarked cab. These mafia cabs hang around, especially at night, and usually have nothing on them except the word "taxi" on the side and lit up on the roof. You'll probably get home alive, but the price you'll pay will be extortionate.
Jet lag, or there is a morning in the evening
If you are flying across three or more time zones, it is necessary to calculate with the jet lag syndrome.
There is a disturbance of our internal clock, which comes forward more strongly, if we fly from the West to the East when you gain time, and less if towards West, when you lose time.
Switch your clock to the local time as soon as the plane landed, and do not think what is the time now at home. If may be, let us travel by plane, which lands late afternoon. If you arrive in the morning try to stay awake and wait until the local bedtime to sleep even if you are sleepy because this makes the conversion easier.
- Luxury Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
No (valid) tickets = fine
Well the title says it. If the controllers catch you without a valid ticket, you'll get a fine on site and no questions asked. During my trip I saw from the subway a backpacker's family (including 2 children) and a foreign couple getting fined. We were almost going to get fined because the machines where you validate the tickets are basically at the entrance of this station (can't remember which one) and the clerk who sells the tickets was inside, so what "saved" us was that I asked the controllers where to buy tickets and they let us in.
Some of the ticket machines only accept coins and there aren't any bill-to-coin machines as far as we could see.
The controllers speak limited English so not speaking Hungarian won't save you. And then again, the tickets are so cheap so why even bother. I saw a sign saying that fines are to be paid on site and they start at 5000 HUF.
- Budget Travel
Just as in any other big cities I have visited in Europe, we also have lots of pigeons here. Maybe not as much as in London or Venice, but still...
They can be quite embarrassing sometimes, eg. if you are crossing a square and they start to fly inches over your head.
They are quiet used to the people otherwise, so if you just walk past them, they wont really bother :)
Driving by car in Hungary
Speed limit: in cities 50 km/h, in out of cities 80 km/h, on motorway 130 km/h.
You should pay a 1200 Eu of traffic fine if your speed is more then: in built-up areas 125 km/h, outside built-up areas 200 km/h, on motorways 260 km/h.
Documents: driver's license, car registration card and Green Card (proof of car insurance)
The max. permitted level of alcohol in the blood is 0.00‰, it means you are not allowed any alcohol in the blood while driving.
Using a mobile phone while driving is forbidden, but the use of hands-free devices is tolerated.
Hungary is a safe place to travel but even so, you still should avoid poorly lit and/or deserted streets, buildings and parking lots.
- Road Trip
Food on the Table
Just FYI - in Budapest, if there is bread or anything else placed on your table and you eat it or use it you will be charged.
Often at restaurants they will come by with a break basket - if you eat any of the bread you will be charged by the piece. Just be heads up about your bill to be sure that you're being charged correctly.