Budapest Tram Scam: How To Avoid It As A Tourist

Ok, so it’s pretty minor in reality, but it happens, and this particular Budapest scam probably happens in a lot more places, I’ve just been lucky to have not come across it before!  It annoyed me more than anything that I’d got caught out by something so small.  But I experienced and I feel like I should make others aware of it!  In Budapest there’s a chance you may come across wet tissue stuffed in the money return slot of (tram) transport ticket machines.

Budapest Scam: Tram Ticket Machine

I first discovered this when attempting to by a tram ticket at the Margit Hid, Budai Hidfo stop serviced by tram line 4 and 6 (the stop on the opposite side of the river to the main Hungarian Parliament Building).  I normally buy tickets from inside stations but after walking for ages, I opted just to use the machine on the platform.  Coin return was fine, the machine whirred to spit out the note, but nothing.  I bent down to see if it had just got caught up to be greeted with a whole load of wet tissue completely blocking the slot.

Budapest Parliament Building

Now if I was travelling solo I may have just counted my losses and left it, it was hardly going to break my bank (despite using a larger note typically).  However I was travelling as part of a 4 person group, I had 3 people watching my back while I was on my hands and knees trying to dig the tissue out so at least we could all finish buying tickets.  I had a feeling I could see the guy on the platform that had done it, he was looking a bit shifty and just out of principle I didn’t want to be the idiot tourist that got scammed.  I managed to get the note out using 2 keys like a pair of tweezers.  We all bought our tickets and as we waited for the next tram, the shifty looking guy shuffled backwards towards the machine and stuffed more tissue up the slot, he obviously had a whole pocket full.

He then got on the same tram as us and we watched him get off at the next station, check the slot and do exactly the same again at that station.  He must just ride up and down the line doing it to all the machines, then collecting anything that’d stuck behind the tissue at the end of the night!

Winter in Budapest

My tip (and one that i’ll carry with me to other countries now!) is simple, if a ticket machine is out on a platform rather than in a manned station, if you don’t have the correct money for a ticket, just bend down and check the change return slot to see if it’s clear, it’ll take 2 seconds and might your precious travel budget!

As a reward, I then went and spent the money on a beer at the Szimpla Ruin Bar, which for the record is AMAZING so win win!  And don’t get me wrong, even though I came across this little Budapest scam (I’m pretty sure the taxi metre may have been on double speed too, but hey, can you ever trust taxis??), I loved the city and for the most part the people I met were lovely and I enjoyed my time in Budapest and wouldn’t hesitate to go back!  But like when travelling anywhere in the world, it’s always good to be prepared!

Have you experienced a scam like this one before?  You can read some of the other mishaps I’ve come across in my Travel Mishap Memories post!

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Budapest Scam


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