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A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

San Diego...
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A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

During my first night on Budapest, I walked on the Vaci Utca aka the Fashion Street. It was lots of fun. There was a decent sized Christmas Market as well. I got women jumped out of nowhere asking for cigarettes. Strange, I thought. There were also guys (hustlers) asking if I want to go to some (naughty) bars. I of course refused and was on my guard about these sorts of things. I was not interested in having naughty fun.

About ten o’clock PM, I wanted some tea and dessert. I strolled around the area for some decent place for that. I thought Gerbeaud would be a good place. Things got interesting from here. Two ladies whose names were Melanie and Sandra came up and asked me if I know where certain street is. Melanie, a blond (dyed) is in her late 20s while Sandra, brunette is in her mid 30s. I said I don’t know. They said that they were looking for a place with some nice music and asked if I can help them look (or want to go with them. I don’t have much recollection about it). From here, you guys can see where the story would end up. Hindsight, why would some Hungarian asked another tourists for some streets? They would have asked they own fellow native country people for directions.

They asked if I want to have some sort of Hungarian drink. I agreed as I thought, “why not, I am in Budapest?” They kept on asking if I wanted to drink. I had only one drink. I was not in the mood to drink. So I did not drink much.They did. They had about two alcoholic drink, 2 energy drinks (something similar to RedBulls). About an hour or 1.5 hours later, I wanted to leave as I need to catch on with my sleep. The bill came up to a whooping $800 for those few drinks. You heard it right folks. Eight hundred dollars! Initially I did not realize how much the bill was because it was in HF. But when I would did not have enough cash to pay, then I realized that it must have been alots. I initially withdrew about $300 dollars when I first got to Budapest. I did not spend much except I bought a 3 day Budapest Card and a late lunch. So there must be around $200 left. I said I have to pay the rest with my credit card but they would not accept it as they machine was broken. I would not be able to withdraw more money from my bank as it exceeded the limit for the day. So they took me to some money exchange place to get cash to pay for them which gave me some really bad exchange (another story). I had to get cash advances of $600 to cover for the bill.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I got screwed. Hindsight, there were lots of “shoulds”. Even then, I still think that there was a 0.05% possibility that those women did not know how expensive the drinks were. I thought it would have been great to talk to some Hungarians. Who knows, some great friendship can come after. And no, I was not looking to get lucky. I got really angry at the outrageous prices of those drinks. They saw that I was getting mad. I even naively took them to the Le Meridien to show them that the most expensive drinks on the menu there were 8000 HF, not 22,000. Anyway, so they said that they did not know about it, blah, blah. They wanted to meet me the next day to go to the Castle area and buy me dinner as they felt bad about it.

Let’s get back to the 0.05% of the possibility that those women were not scam artists. The next night I walked by Vaci Utica, the guys (hustlers) who previously had touted me if I want to go to some bars literally laughed at me and said, “you got f#$%^* last night and you can go m$%^&&*!” Poof! That 0.05% went away just like that. I suppose he saw me with those two women. Unfortunately, using the Vaci utca was one of the more pleasant and easier streets to get to the Marriott, where I was staying. I actually tried to avoid that street at night. Did not want to get laughed at by those guys.

A bit before I left Budapest, I went to Ernst Galeria to buy a prewar movie poster. I chatted with the gallery owner Ernst and he said that he heard the same story before. As a seasoned traveler, I have heard of this many times myself. Some how, my guard was down completely. I suppose because those two women looked very much normal. Nothing screamed call girls. The gallery owner told me that he would be happy to have one of his assistants take me to the police and report the incident. The city mayor has been asking for formal reports of such incident. I did not go to the police for two reasons. First, The prices of the drinks were on the menu. So there was nothing illegal about it. However, I don’t know if they switched the menu though. Second, my flight was in three hours.

I hope that this won’t happen to others. I was so upset at myself for the next 4 nights and could not sleep well because I have read and heard of such stories before. I tried not to let the incident ruin my trip to Budapest. Somehow it did! There you have it folks! I believe that my experience was not the first nor last.

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Hungary
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1. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

Hi,

I feel sorry but it is the most typical scam.

Read this:

hungary.usembassy.gov/tourist_advisory.html

San Diego...
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2. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

I know. I forgot to mention that the restaurant name was Galaxia. I googled "Galaxia Restaurant Budapest scam." and look at what I found.

topix.com/forum/…TGSLAVCGP9D6MUU7U.

Amazing.

Hungary
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3. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

Getting acquainted with pretty girls on the street is not any easier in Budapest than in any other city in the world. You can belive me that normal Hungarian girls will not join a total unknown man on the street for a drink. That is a very unusual behaviour.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

Sorry buddy, I feel bad for ya, but you really shoulda had more wits about you than that. Chalk it up to Jet Lag? :-/

San Diego...
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5. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

I was not looking to get "lucky". Not that there is anything wrong with that. I actually had a good time talking to them about traveling. I love to travel. Therefore, our conversations were all about travel. I actually thought to ask them to meet up with me the next day at the Castle district. That was all before the bill came. I expected nothing more.

Hindsight, I should have known.

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

I feel very sorry for you that you fell for the most common tourist scam in Budapest.

However, and not to add insult to injury, there must be 5 dozen posts on this forum alone - much less other travel forums and official travel books - specifically about this and about the confusion with transportation tickets. If you are posting this information to warn others (a) it already has been and (b) obviously the 50 people who have already posted a similar story here prior to you didn't help *you* avoid it.

I realize you were probably also hoping for outrage and commiseration. I'm sorry that we are all very jaded already about this common, avoidable scam practiced in Budapest and beyond.

I think another poster hot the nail on the head, though, about WHY this keeps happening to reasonable, intelligent, sane folks like yourself. Everyone goes on vacation expecting something different and exciting and lets their gurad down because they want to be open to these new experiences. But the truth is that the world is small these days and you have to keep up the same vigilance you would in NYC or Las Vegas in pretty much any other major city. I also think many people are unconsciously affected by the myriad of stag tours that operate in E Europe and promise easy, beautiful women in this exotic place unconnected to your "real" life.

New York, NY
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7. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

I am sorry for the trouble you had and how it ruined your trip, but in your own words "I realized that I got screwed". Next time you will know better.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

Those women selected the place they took you...my rules of travelling:

1) Never let people you don't know select the place you go.

2) Never go to an empty or sketchy looking bar

3) Never run a tab, pay for each drink as it comes.

San Diego...
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9. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

You know that they say: fool me once, shame on them; fool me twice shame on me.

I am not expecting outpouring sympathy or anything like that. I read the posting in this forum before I left for Budapest as most of you have seen that I had previously asked for suggestions on this BP forum.

What I don't understand is the assumptions people make:

1/ This sort of things happen to guys who are looking for an easy laid.

2/ People do not do their homework regarding the destination they are going to.

Los Angeles...
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10. Re: A Bad, Worse, or Worst experience in Budapest: Scams

1/ Well, consciously or not, the beautiful women lure works exactly because men are easily led by parts other than their heads. I realize you weren't looking at this situation as "score!" but it is always attractive young women who are the lures for this scam - never unattractive or older women, and this scam *rarely* gets attempted with an attractive man baiting a female tourist. In part, that doesn't work because women are naturally vigilant against strange men. But men are not. Men are flattered by attention from strange young women rather than wary.

2/ Like I said, there are dozens of posts here about this same scam... all of which are posted by people who clearly were unaware of it previously. And it is also cited in printed guidebooks, so, yeah, knowing to look out for this scam *is* part of being prepared for a trip.

To compare, when I went to India, I researched scams and safety so when my cab driver asked if I wanted him to take me to his "brother in law's" store, I said no way. Had I gone along and been either royally ripped off or robbed, it really would have been my own fault for not doing at least the due diligence of reading the blurbs about safety in my Lonely Planet.

Which is not to say that you deserved to have this happen to you.. as I could see where you might infer that tone and get rankled... just stating the fact that this is not an unknown phenomenon by any means