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Anxious parents concerned about safety in Budapest

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Jun 19th, 2004, 08:38 AM
  #1
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Anxious parents concerned about safety in Budapest

I'm reluctant to ask this queastion to my fellow Fodorites, who have been so generous with their time, answering questions whenever we travel. So, please, understand that I'm asking as a concerned parent.

A close friend's 29 year old son just returned from Budapest. He told a disturbing story- his first evening there, he and a friend he was traveling with met 2 local young women. After a brief chat, one of the girls asked the guys if they would like to go to a noisy club. They agreed and follweed the girls to a club on the third floor of a building. The 4 of them had 5 drinks, and then, finanlly, the boys realized that things might not be legit, and they decided to leave and asked for a check- it was for $800. They told the waiter that they did not have the money, and 3 "goons" came over and surrounded the table, and said, pointing- " ATM". They decided that they had gotten in over their heads and actually withdrew the money and left. When they returned to their hostel, they met 2 other male travelers who had had a similar experience, but had had a gun pointed at them when they refused at first. The young men did not report the incident, because they were told that it was probably the Russian mofia, and that the police were in on it.

My 26 year old daughter is going to Eastern Europe this summer, planning 2 weeks with a female friend- a week or so each in Berlin and Budapest- they have friends in each place. Afterwatds, she is traveling alone for 2 weeks - maybe to Poland and Prague, and then back to Germany ( I can't pin her down on this). She is well traveled in Asia and has never had any problem. I'm concerned after hearing this story, cause the young people tend to be so trusting, and her only foreign language is French.

Any advise you can give me (and her) would be much appreciated. I feel that my friend's son was over trusting- perhaps even rather dumb, but, as I said, kids can be too trusting. I'd like to give my daughter advise to allow her to enjoy new places and still stay safe. Is this a known risk for travelers? Are ther known places and situations she sould avoid? Who is responsible for such scams? What exactly is the danger?

Thank you all in advance.
justretired is offline  
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Jun 19th, 2004, 08:54 AM
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Sorry to be negative - but if these guys are 29 its long past time they became a little less naive.

There are scams everywhere - and if you refuse to - as my father always told me - use your head for something besides a hat rack - you will fall victim to all of them.

Are you sure you;re not underestimating your daughter?

Budapest is not particularly dangerous - and she has nothing to fear - but her own lack of sophistication. And only she can do something about that!
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Jun 19th, 2004, 09:04 AM
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Hi JR,

I am sure that you have brought up your daughter to not buy drinks for men that she has just met.

I wouldn't worry.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 09:05 AM
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I haven't been as yet, but have been doing research as we'll be there in the fall. Apparently this is a well-known scam on eager young men. Even the sites intended to promote tourism warn of this:

http://www.budapesthotels.com/touristguide/dangers.asp

The girls (called 'consume girls') are in on the scam. Thier job is lure the young men into specific bars. The Lonely Planet Hungary guide has a humorous take on it. "Guys please, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust us and the mirror"

Also various warnings about watching your credit cards and about pickpockets - but all advise that would be wise in any large city. I'd recommend picking a guide book with some frank and honest advice.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 09:19 AM
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I just realized that you said your daughter is 26??? And that she's traveled in Asia, etc?

She'll be fine. I'm sure she knows to read up on the places she's going. My wife is 26, runs a fairly decent size business and has a dozen employees who call her when something goes wrong. I think your daughter's going to be fine. You though, should do some reading, so that you feel more comfortable and don't need to "pin her down".

Good luck!


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Jun 19th, 2004, 09:35 AM
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Once again, Fodorites have eased my mind. Clifton, the URL link was great, and I forwarded it.

My daughter is a teacher and has traveled extensively. This info helps. Thanks.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 10:00 AM
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This is a very common scam also in Turkey and Greece. *Never* go out with a stranger that you have just met to a place that he/she suggests.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 10:28 AM
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I've read about the same scam (for male tourists) in the Soho district of London and in the red-light district of Hamburg.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 10:38 AM
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Scam - I just thought the drinks were a little high priced. Good thing I could squeeze out the bathroom window before the final tab was presented to me.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 10:47 AM
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I was in Budapest last Sept. and I fell victim of a scam as well even though I have travelled fairly extensively for about 20 years. I was in the train station with my luggage and I had opened my purse to get something out of it. A man did his best to distract me and another reached into my purse and grabbed my wallet. I reached out and grabbed him and screamed bloody murder. Luckily, he threw down my wallet and ran. Be very aware of people who are trying to talk to you. These guys work in pairs.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 11:25 AM
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Budapest is well-known for those bar-type scams. But you've got to be thinking with some other part of your anatomy than your brain if you fall for it.

The train/metro station thing isn't any worse than, say, Paris -- and it exists.

Another important piece of advice is to ALWAYS validate your metro/bus/tram ticket in the little yellow [I think] machines. The checks by the metro-workers target foreigners. And the fine is fairly large.

Useful phrases:
"nem ertem" = I don't understand
"nem kussenam" [that was phonetic] = no thank you

I never learned "go away" or "scram" in Hungarian.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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That exact same scam exists in Atlanta (and other US cities), and was reported on by Time magazine, several years ago. It can happen anywhere. And at 29, it is high time that your friends 29 year old son 'wised up'. He is not a baby any more.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 01:51 PM
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Listen, we all know that the young man was pretty dumb. He's not inexperienced, just naive- he had been
working in Munich for several months before this trip, and never had a problem. My personal issue was whether this kind of scam was indicative of some larger problem facing tourists in Eastern Europe and and would it cause a problem for my daugter, particularly when she would be traveling alone. She's not nervous- she's cautious, but she's also friendly and trusting , and it scared me a bit to think she would be vulnerable Call me over protective- you'd be right! But, it makes me sad that she would have to be careful while she's trying to bridge cultural gaps.

Last year, before my husband and I went to Spain, everyone said we had to be careful about theft in Madrid and Seville. They warned us about gypsies in Granada. We were warned about the Metro and the AVE. When we were in Italy, we were warned not to leave our car unattended near Naples. Bullet proofed toll booths added to our concerns. Now, we're planning a trip to France and we've begun to get warnigs about Provence.

Is it a more dangerous world? Maybe. And, it certainly is as dangerous in the states as in Europe- maybe more. Still, I know several people who won't go abroad these days. As a family, though, my husband and I and our 2 daughters have chosen to continue to travel and enjoy it. It just seems scary sometimes.

Thanks for your help and thoughts.
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Jun 19th, 2004, 02:24 PM
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I can understand your concerns regarding your child because no matter how old he/she is, you worry.

However, as long as one is aware of one's surroundings and not naive to things then it should be allright.

Sure, anything can happen even at home. But you can't live in 100% fear or you won't be able to function. In fact, I haven't read anything dangerous about Provence. You mean maybe car break-ins or such? I'm not sure but if it is that, it can occur anywhere. Just take precautions as you would when you're home.
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Jun 20th, 2004, 12:05 PM
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For what it's worth - I've spent a fair amount of time in Budapest as a solo traveller over the past five years or so. I, too, had suspicions about Budapest and Hungary based on hearsay, but overall (on my first trip) I found myself almost embarrasssed by my negative preconditioning. In evaluating the dangers for a cautious, reasonably experienced female solo traveller using common sense, I'd put Budapest roughly on a par with Rome or New York for danger level.

RE your friend's son - I don't want to blame the victim, and he WAS the victim of a scam (luckily only one involving money, and not physical safety or life)... but as others have said, a cursory review of the available material regarding tourism in Hungary would have warned him to check or ask for prices if not clearly stated. From what you've written about your daughter, I'm sure she's done her research.
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Jun 28th, 2004, 07:18 PM
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We were in Budapest in May and felt very safe even late at night. We went to places where young people hang out, we saw women by themselves leaving the metro late at night. I felt safer in Budapest than I have in NYC late at night.
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Jun 28th, 2004, 08:04 PM
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I think scram or go away is "tavozzek!" in Hungarian. (TAH-voz-zayk)
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Jul 30th, 2004, 10:34 AM
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My step-son and my Son just returned from budapest. They had to return early as they were assulted by thieves around the metro. The thieves wanted money, and when my son told them no they proceded to stab both my step-son and my son. Both of them recieved life threatening wounds, thank God for the little old woman who showed them to safety. My Son had three hours worth of surgery to repair one of his wounds. And will go through many hours of therapy to regain movement. My step-son had to recieve blood tranfusions and countless stitches. Crime is everywhere, just be aware and never let your guard down. Walk tall and carry a big stick. My boys will recover, and they will have a bond that only the twoo of them can share. They will not let this effect travel in the future, only that they will be more careful next time.
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Jul 30th, 2004, 10:43 AM
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How awful, cpatterson! You must have been horrified being so far away.
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Jul 30th, 2004, 10:50 AM
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Sorry to hear that, cpatterson. My sympathy to you and your spouse, as I can't imagine anything more frightening. I am glad they will recover. Do you know what station they were at and what time? Were there other people around?
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