Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a popular destination for people looking for a weekend break in Central Europe. Each year, about 30 million visitors come to the Hungarian capital.
The city has stunning landmarks for lovers of history and architecture, such as the stunning neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament building and the scenic Fisherman’s Bastion.
Budapest was once a multiethnic city with a thriving Jewish population, and you can see traces of this in the memorial, The Shoes on the Danube Bank, and in the remnants of the Jewish Quarter.
Today, it’s also popular with young visitors as a hedonistic destination. Check that aspect of the city out on a Danube River cruise, in the hot spring baths, or in one of the many ruin bars.
Before gathering your friends for a trip to Budapest, it’s a good idea to check up on the safety of the city first. Here is a detailed travel guide that can help you tell if the city is safe for an upcoming trip or not.
Is Budapest Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Budapest is a very safe city to visit! The crime rate is low, although some petty crime might happen.
The political situation in Budapest and Hungary right now is difficult and the atmosphere might make some travelers feel uncomfortable, but if you are on a short visit, the political situation shouldn’t affect you.
A good place to start researching the safety of the city is the country around it. Hungary is considered a fairly safe place to visit. Most foreign governments, such as the United States, only issue a Level One travel advisory for Hungary.
That means that besides a few basic precautions that you should be taking anywhere, there are few things that you need to worry about in the country.
Most travel advisories for Hungary, such as the one from the UK government, mentions the risk of petty crime in Budapest.
Common crime you might encounter in the city include:
- Bag snatching
- Tourist scams
- Drink spiking
- Verbal harassment
Most incidents in Budapest are petty, non-violent crimes. Although there have been violent crimes affecting foreigners in the past, these are very rare.
Before visiting Budapest, it is a good idea to know something about the political context. Hungary has been ruled by the same prime minister, Victor Orban, for the past 13 years.
His right-wing government has been criticized by organizations such as Human Rights Watch for its treatment of minorities, such as LGBT people, the Roma ethnic minority, and dissidents.
If you go to Hungary, keep this atmosphere in mind and don’t start political conversations with new acquaintances as the society is very divided. Demonstrations and protests often occur in Budapest, as it is the national capital after all.
Most marches are peaceful, but steer clear of them just in case. Some marches, such as an annual gathering of neo-Nazis every February, turn violent as marchers clash with counter-protesters (plus, minorities should probably avoid marches such as this for their own safety).
This political context primarily affects locals, not foreigners. However, due to the political environment, there have been hate crimes against foreigners in the past due to their race, religion, or sexual orientation.
You shouldn’t let this fear affect your trip if you identify as a minority, but it is a good idea to keep this context in mind when planning potential routes home or thinking about how long you will stay out at night.
Crime in Budapest
In most cities, the primary concern about safety is crime. Bigger cities such as national capitals tend to have larger populations, denser crowds, and more conditions that are inviting to potential criminals.
Budapest is no different. Hungary’s capital has a population of 1.77 million, and the same problems you might encounter in any big city around the world. This includes crime.
However, Budapest’s crime rate is fairly low. In fact, the crime rate is much lower than it is for many cities of similar sizes, even other cities in Europe.
Although you should still be on your guard against certain crimes, you don’t have to be very paranoid while in the city. According to Numbeo, Budapest scores a 31.22 out of 100 on the site’s crime index.
This is a low overall value. The crimes people report feeling the most concern about are government corruption and petty property crimes such as vandalism and theft.
Although people are concerned that crime has been rising recently, crime rates are still low, especially when compared to other cities of similar sizes.
The violent crime rate in Budapest is even lower than the overall crime rate. The gun crime rate in the city is 0.95 out of 100,000 people. Budapest has a low rate of gun ownership and gun crimes.
Places that have fewer weapons also experience fewer violent crimes. This checks out as the overall violent crime rate in Hungary is very low.
The annual homicide rate is just 0.83 incidents per 100,000 people. With such a low homicide rate in the whole country, it makes sense that even the capital will have low rates of violent crime.
What does all of this mean for visitors to Budapest? It means that you can visit Budapest with your peace of mind intact. The crime rate is fairly low, so you’re unlikely to experience anything dangerous to your life.
However, petty crimes are prevalent throughout Budapest, just like they are in most European tourist destinations. You should exercise precautions around those potential crimes.
The crime you are most likely to encounter in Budapest is petty theft. Petty thieves are prevalent in many European cities that are popular with tourists, and Budapest is no different.
Most countries actually mention the pickpockets in their travel advisories for Hungary as a whole. The UK mentions that bag snatchers and pickpockets are especially common in Budapest, although they operate at tourist sites throughout the country.
The Canadian government also mentions the prevalence of petty theft. It advises people to be careful around crowded areas that attract a lot of tourists, such as public transportation (the Budapest Metro), inter-city railway stations, and popular tourist attractions.
Pickpocket hot spots in Budapest include Vaci Street, the Budapest Zoo, Fisherman’s Bastion, and around the Parliament.
The same basic precautions that you should be exercising everywhere you go to protect from pickpockets should protect you in Budapest. Make sure that you don’t make yourself look like an attractive target to thieves.
That means not flashing valuables such as expensive jewelry or lots of cash and trying to blend in with the locals. Don’t speak loudly in a foreign language or wear clothing that singles you out as a tourist.
Make sure that your valuables are not easily accessible to a potential thief. Put your things in a front pocket instead of your back pants pocket. Invest in a bag that is hard to steal, such as a cross-body bag or a money belt.
Be sure to move your items to a secure place in high-risk areas, such as the Metro or crowded places.
Finally, staying alert and looking purposeful can deter a lot of pickpockets. They like to target people that look distracted, so avoid looking lost or spending too much time on your phone.
Staying alert can also help you pick up on common distraction tactics that pickpockets use, such as bumping into you or striking up a conversation in the street.
Budapest receives a lot of tourists, which also means that there are a lot of people ready to take advantage of tourists by scamming them. Staying alert to common tourist scams can help you stay safe and leave with your money (and dignity) intact.
The Australian government mentions common tourist scams in its travel advisory for Hungary. The most common one is the bar or restaurant overcharging scam, which often occurs in the more bohemian Pest side of the city.
A bar or restaurant will offer you a menu with no prices, then bring out an exorbitant bill, threatening you with violence if you don’t pay. Some even escalate into violence.
Before entering a restaurant, always make sure that their menu has prices listed and that the waiters don’t try to switch out a menu with higher prices. Try to look up reviews ahead of time.
Never enter a restaurant or club that has touts in front as those often run similar scams. Taxi drivers are also common scammers. Some try to overcharge tourists, although that is harder now that most Budapest taxis are metered.
Others partner with restaurants and clubs that run the scam mentioned above and bring tourists to them. Never ask your taxi driver for recommendations on where to go as they often get a cut of the pay if they help with scamming a tourist.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Budapest doesn’t really have any no-go areas. However, there are a few parts of the city that are sketchier, especially at night. Budapest is divided into numbered districts.
Experts say that parts of the 7th, 8th, and 9th districts get more dangerous after dark. The 8th district, Jozsefvaros, particularly has a bad reputation for crime. Parts of the district, such as Corvin, are fine, but avoid the rest.
Kobanya in District 10 is also a sketchier area.
District 10 used to be home to a slum on Hos Street, and although the slum was demolished, the conditions that led to its formation are still present. Use your common sense and avoid underpasses and unlit side streets at night.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional things to consider in Budapest:
- Keep a close eye on your drinks. Budapest is a popular destination for partying because it has affordable alcohol, but the atmosphere can get rowdy. Drink spiking has happened at popular bars and clubs. Never accept drinks from strangers.
- Be careful where you change money. There are scam moneychangers on the street that claim to offer better rates but will rip you off or even pass counterfeit bills. Only exchange money at official exchange bureaus or banks.
- Be careful on the metro. The metro is a hot spot for pickpocketing and bag snatching. Scammers also operate on the metro by posing as fake inspectors and collecting fines. Always validate your ticket to avoid paying a fine. If someone asks to see your ticket, ask to see their photo ID.
- Be careful of people approaching you in the street. Men are sometimes targeted by female thieves who ask for directions then rob them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions that you might want to ask before going to Budapest:
Is it safe to walk in Budapest at night?
Most central areas of Budapest are safe to walk at night, and you’ll see plenty of other visitors enjoying the night air. However, be careful if you are staying in a place far away from the center, or if you have to go into poorly lit areas.
Is it safe to visit Budapest now?
Budapest is perfectly safe to visit now. The crime rate is as low as it’s ever been, and any COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
Is Budapest safe for foreigners?
Budapest is mostly safe for foreigners. However, foreigners have been targeted for hate crimes before, and pickpockets often target tourists.
What cautions should be taken in Budapest?
In Budapest, you mostly have to be careful of petty theft such as pickpocketing and bag snatching. Hold on to your valuables in crowded places. Use your common sense and don’t be too trusting of strangers as the city has a lot of scams.
Are police strict in Budapest?
Yes, the police are strict in Budapest, and are often extra strict with foreigners. That is why you should avoid landing on their radar by doing things such as getting excessively drunk in public or not paying your transport ticket.
So, Should You Travel to Budapest?
Budapest is a safe city for a city break! You will need to be on your guard against petty theft, like in most places in Europe, but the risk of something serious happening is low.
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to experience for yourself all that this bustling city destination has to offer. Happy travels!