Thursday, October 31, 2013

How careful should you be going to Hungary

Be cautious in Hungary. Crime rates are higher that in Western Europe and they are getting worse. Hungary's overall crime rate for 2012 increased over 2011 levels. Both property crimes (theft, robbery) and violent crimes increased including an increase in homicides.

Travelers should be especially cautious when using public transportation, visiting tourist sites with large crowds, and being alone around ATM's at night.

Transportation Risks
Trains in and out of Hungary, in particular at Keleti station, have reported higher than normal criminal activity. The most troublesome metro lines are one and three, tram lines two and four, and bus line seven. Keep purses and personal bags closed so the potential thieves can't check out your belongings. This is especially true for Metro Stations where long escalators give thieves at the top, a great view of you and your items as you come up. If you pay attention to your surroundings and use common sense, the public bus system is generally safe. If you plan to use taxis, ask your hotel to order one in advance and to advise you on what fee to expect so that you are not over charged. Be cautious of gypsy cabs which roam the streets and overcharge their riders.

Tourist Site Risks
Pay attention to your belongings at all time; however, be advised that the following areas have especially high rates of thievery:
  • Chain Bridge area on both sides of the Danube
  • Royal Palace Museum
  • Basilica
  • Heroes’ Square
  • Fishermen’s Bastion
  • Matthias Church
American fast food restaurants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut are also danger zones for pick pockets. Remember, they work in groups with one of two distracting you while the ones you don't see are robbing you.

Common Street Scams
Here is a new twists on the old 'money changer' scam. First, someone approaches you and ask if you would like to change your currency? Of course my readers are smart enough to say, "No thank you." You expect that to be the end of it. However, you are then approached by two plain clothed men, posing as the police, and asking to see your wallet under the pretense that you illegally changed money. Once they have finished inspecting the contents of your wallet, you will be quite a few dollars lighter. You should anticipate the used of intimidation tactics such as pressing you about drugs. But, Hungarian police don't deal with tourist money changing issues and normally wear uniforms. If you are targeted by this scam, turn around and walk away. If you can, find a uniformed policeman and report the incident. If they will not let you be, advise them that you want to consult your embassy.

Hungary also has a lot of homeless people on streets.

Car thefts are also on the rise so be extra careful. The favorite among thieves are Audi's and VWs.
So, please "BE CAREFUL"!


Don’t become a victim

The rules are the same everywhere.
  • Don't be alone at night in dark places
  • Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATM's in poorly lit areas
  • Don't carry your wallet in the open and don't leave purses or bags open.
  • Don't carry more cash that you need that day, leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe
  • Don't leave your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas 
  • Don’t buy counterfeit merchandise. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into your home country, but by purchasing them you could also be breaking local law.
Be a smart traveler. Remove the temptation, remove of hide your luggage or personal items when parking, especially near popular tourist sites.

The criminals are getting smarter

Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise worldwide. In this silent crime you may not even know that you have been a victim until much later. The traveler can do a few things to protect themselves:
  • Be observant of your surroundings. If you are using ATM's, public computers, or even your own smart phone or tablet, look to make sure no one can observe your user names and passwords.
  • If you are using a public computer don't get sucked in with an offer to help with the local language and always log off and shut down before leaving.
  • Don't use a debit card connected to your primary checking and savings accounts. If these are lost or stolen, your accounts can be drained. Rather, use a credit card where your exposure is only your credit line.
  • Don't make a public display of your smart phone or tablet. Runners my "hit and flit" and you will not only have lost your gadget, but also all the information you have stored on it.

If you become a victim

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the your nearest embassy or consulate. They can:
  • Replace a stolen passport;
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape;
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want they can contact family members or friends
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
They also maintain information on their website on where to get help in child abuse situations.

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