I felt my cheeks burn red as I started to panic…. I remembered reading about a scam a few years ago before I visited Riga… This couldn’t be happening to me… I wasn’t looking for that kind of thing.

***

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not the kind of guy that goes around chatting up women on the street. I’ve got a girlfriend. We’ve been together for three years and this was our third holiday together.

Sarah and I arrived in Budapest at around midday and used the refreshingly spacious public transport system to get to our hotel. Following the obligatory period of exploration, adulation and excitement we left the room to try and get to grips with the city.

We were based on Andrassy Avenue, a majestic tree-lined straight of exquisite design. The city park, complete with mammoth ice rink, Notre Dame-esque castle and palatial spa complex, was just a five-minute stroll from the hotel. We quickly found a small restaurant serving traditional Hungarian cuisine. The frugal traveller inside me threw a double backflip as I looked through the menu. A pint of beer cost around 450 forints (£1.30) and pork stew with gnocchi was only 120 forints (less than £3).

N.b. We had both originally ordered mashed potato with our stews, but the motherly waitress told us that we weren’t allowed. Why? Because that’s what baby dogs eat.

The talkative girl let out an outrageous roar of laughter. With an incredulous look in her eye she put her hands on her forehead and rocked forward and back on her chair. I looked to the quieter one for an explanation but all I received was a nervous shrug.

Needless to say the beer was superb and the food was delicious.

Back at the hotel Sarah was feeling fatigued from all the travelling. Getting up at 4am isn’t especially conducive to consciousness it seemed.

With Sarah asleep, I decided to walk into the town centre on my own. I gazed at the House of Terror museum, took photos of the Opera house and the resplendent St Stephens Basilica before finding my way to the riverfront. Fluorescent beams of light bounced across the Danube and melted into the cliff face. The Citadel shone like a fire lantern atop of Gellert ‘hill’, oozing brilliance as if a bolt of ancient lightning had lit its fuse many years ago and refused to go out.

Transfixed by the wonderful view, my legs grew stiff as the cold spread from my ears to my ankles like a water pipe freezing up over Christmas. I decided to head back with a mind to getting a slice of cake or maybe a coffee.

Vaguely lost, map in hand, two women approached me and asked if I knew the area, if I could help them with something. They were looking for a bar that had been recommended to them by their hotel concierge, they had a voucher for 10% off if only they could locate ‘Club Zeitt’.

I explained that I had only just arrived in Budapest and handed over my map. It turned out the establishment they were looking for was just around the corner. They told me that they were from the Netherlands. Had I ever been? Yes I had. To Amsterdam? Yes. Everybody’s been to Amsterdam, one of them announced cheerfully.

It turned out they were from Eindhoven and were in Budapest to watch their friends play a semi-professional handball match.

They asked me, seeing as I was alone, whether I’d like to join them for a drink. I hesitated for a second as I was craving a coffee not a beer, but I thought it would be against the spirit of travel to turn down an opportunity to socialize with fellow tourists.

On the way to the bar we talked about Queen’s Day; painting the town orange and how much of a rip-off Amsterdam is when it comes to drinking alcohol.

When we arrived Club Zeitt looked fairly empty. It was styled like the kind of West End glossy bar that I rarely frequent. I waited outside to look at the menu. They went on in. The prices seemed fair, if not a little bit more expensive than I was expecting. I contemplated scuttling off into the night but I decided that that was a weird thing to do, and besides it could be fun to find out a little bit more about my new friends.

When we sat down one of them engaged me in deep conversation. I felt a little uncomfortable with the amount of eye contact, but having read that positive body language leads to positive relationships I tried my best to keep up.

When the waitress took our order the talkative woman asked for a round of something typical to Hungary.

The waitress promptly brought over a tray with three small glasses of peach brandy, known as Palinka, and three flutes of sparkling fruit wine. My new friends knocked back the Palinka as if it were a shot of Sambuca and, in attempt to appear adventurous, I followed tentatively.

As they beamed, excited to be tasting the fruits of Hungary’s labour, I grimaced. I felt like I had just bitten into a lemon stuffed with chili powder.

The talkative woman told me that she was a sports organizer for the handball team and that she loved her job, even though it didn’t pay very well. I told her that I was a freelance writer, aspiring to write about travel but currently working for a financial services company.

I assumed that the words ‘freelance’ and ‘finance’ had been lost in translation as she kept repeating an apparently profound statement:

“You do something you don’t like for lots of money. I do something I love, for not much money. Which one of us is winning?”

I told her that she was. She repeated the chorus and added the compelling point that, whereas she can’t go on holiday whenever she wants, I can. I corrected her and made it clear that I was not a rich man. I felt it was important to win this battle of self-deprecation: One, to remain humble in new company. And two, to ensure that I wasn’t expected to pick up the bill later on.

“So, why do you travel alone?”

“I’m not. I’m with my girlfriend, she’s in bed at our hotel”.

The talkative girl let out an outrageous roar of laughter. With an incredulous look in her eye she put her hands on her forehead and rocked forward and back on her chair. I looked to the quieter one for an explanation but all I received was a nervous shrug.

“I would never let my boyfriend out in the city alone,” the talkative one exclaimed. “I would kill him first.”

I was very confused. Did she think I was trying to chat her up? Was I wrong to go with them to the bar? Would Sarah kill me when she found out?

I explained that my girlfriend was tired from the traveling and that cities aren’t intrinsically dangerous places. What did she think was going to happen to me in the city ‘alone’?

She asked me how long we’d been together and passed judgement on our relationship. Trying not to be rude I laughed at her criticism but secretly I was thinking about getting up and walking out.

Sensing my discomfort she changed the subject and offered to buy me another drink. My feeble protestations were ignored and another three glasses of Palinka turned up shortly.

The mood was notably sombre during the third and final drink and conversation petered out expeditiously. The table stank of awkwardness.

Mutually, we decided it was time to head home and the bill was requested.

The waitress handed me a padded case. I opened it and tried to make sense of the foreign words. Something seemed to be wrong. The numbers didn’t really add up and the final total at the bottom read 58,000 forints.

Slightly inebriated and new to the large denominations of money, I attempted to do the maths over and over again. No, there was definitely a mistake. Every time the total came to something in the region of £200.

I looked up and the waitress was still standing there, leaning towards me, obstructing my end of the table. I looked to the Dutch women for support, but they were both sitting back in their seats looking up at the ceiling like confused students avoiding eye contact with an inquisitive teacher.

I felt my cheeks burn red as I started to panic. I remembered reading about a scam a few years ago before I visited Riga. It involved English men being led into strange bars by pretty local girls under the pretense of courtship. The men get charged extortionate fees at the end of the night. If at first they don’t pay up then aggressive Russian Mafioso knock them about until they do.

This couldn’t be happening to me. I wasn’t looking for that kind of thing. These women were noticeably older than me and were dressed in jeans and jackets. The scam girls were supposed to resemble Barbie dolls and be outrageously flirty. These women weren’t even local. They were travelers like me.

Aware that all three women were waiting on me, and that a significant amount of time had already elapsed whilst we played out this increasingly hostile tableaux, my eyes darted across the bar. Where would the Hungarian gangsters come from? What kind of crime syndicates did they have in Budapest? I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen to me.

Recognizing that I didn’t know where I was, or who would be waiting for me outside, I decided that doing a runner was not a feasible option.

I tried to hide the fact that I knew I was being conned. I didn’t want things to get forceful.

“This is very expensive, I can’t afford this,” I said.

The talkative one jumped in: “Oh, we’ll go 50/50.”

Panic spilling out of my eyes and mouth, I repeated that I didn’t have enough.

The waitress asked what I did have and carefully watched me empty my wallet. With around 17,000 forints (£50) on the table I placed my wallet back into my pocket to hide my bankcard.

They demanded I pay more. I scanned the room again to make sure that there were no gangsters coming to get me. I was scared for my life.

“You don’t have any Euros?” asked the waitress.

“No. No Euros. No Pounds. That’s all I’ve got. I’m really sorry.”

This duplicitous conversation lasted for a few minutes, looping around on itself like a recurring nightmare.

Finally, the talkative woman agreed to ‘pay’ the rest of the bill. She walked with her credit card to the back of the bar, just far enough that I could no longer see what was going on. She maintained a thin veil of deceit when she returned, attempting to inspire me with guilt for supposedly making her pay the remaining 41,000 forints (£150) on the vindictive bill.

Still horrifically shaken up, I apologized liberally before making a byline for the door.

Once outside I did an unintentional lap of the square and ended up outside the bar again for a brief moment of despair before catching an underground train towards my hotel. I spent the entire journey staring accusingly at three men in black hats that had gotten onto the train at the same station as me.

After around ten minutes I breathed a sigh of relief as the potential gangsters exited the train. Finally, I was safe.

The train was taking a long time to get going though and the panic began to build up inside me again. I looked up at the map on the carriage ceiling and at the station signage; I had stayed on for too long. I was at the end of the line.

______

Photo: Ashtography

Summary
I got scammed in Budapest | Hungary
Article Name
I got scammed in Budapest | Hungary
Description
Ever got robbed while traveling on vacation? Tricked by female tourists who take you to club and rack up a bill that you have to pay! Travel scams, thieves.
Author
Publisher Name
On A Junket
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17 COMMENTS

    • Yeah there are some terrible things that people will try to pull on you abroad…

      Having said that I must admit that the rest of our stay in Budapest was amazing. Planning to visit again in summer to make the most of the ruin pub scene.

  1. Thanks for sharing your story! Your article was well-written and very enjoyable to read. I’d like to think that those girls messed with the wrong guy, a travel writer who can at least is able to reach many others afterwards.

    It sounds very much like the situation I found myself in ( http://www.tripadvisor.de/ShowUserReviews-g274887-d5970845-r201297256-Club_Zeitt-Budapest_Central_Hungary.html#REVIEWS ).

    I fancy myself to be a little street-smart, but they really are good at manipulating and guiding people. During my encounter, there were many little things that I registered as suspicious subconsciously, but somehow the circumstances at the time let me brush them away, and it’s only afterwards that I realise what was going on, why they felt out of place etc.

    Anyway, hope they will pay for that some day…

  2. Club Zeitt has changed its name to Club YORXUN, but the scam remains the same.

    I don’t know why the Budapest authorities tolerate them, given the damage this does to its reputation as tourist friendly.

    These low life scum bags ought to be put in jail.

  3. Hey guy, a similar story happened to me in the same place. Now the name of the club is changed (Yorxun club). The quietly older woman than me (of course good looking) produced a story that she is from North Chezch. She kept me busy in a conversation about her ex-, seven years old baby…… They poduced a bill of 40, 000 Forints.

    I was fortunate enough that I paid only 7000. That was what I had in my pocket.

  4. The same story happens to me at the Yorxum Club in Budapest in Oktober 2014.
    Two girls with a good looking from the north of the country, in fact not beauties but very talkative met me in the street.
    I can’t write so precisely than the previous writer the complete story but it was very similar, and of course I was not at all concerned but an affair but wanted to taste the mood of the town and why not taste an Hungarian liquor called Palinka.
    In fact the two girls were crooks and the club of course employ them for that.
    It costed me 28000 FT that I paid, being aware that I was totally responsable of my acts and unfortunately I had cash in my pocket and I don’t realize on the moment that I wasn’t obliged to pay.
    Palinka will be graved in my mind like a life-lesson and I prefer laughing about my credulity (about human-Beeing ) than crying.
    But I agree that this kind of restaurant (Yorxum club)should be forbidden to employ such tourists-trick.
    Yorxum

  5. This happened to us on October 30th, again, at Yorxun. We were strolling around the main square when three Czech girls asked if we could take a picture of them. We small talked a bit and they offered to go to a bar.

    They weren’t too attractive or dressed provocative, and seemed quite innocent. It was a strange dynamic though, one older woman (said she was 42) and two younger girls in their 23. They were a little flirty but not really. Said they worked in a hair/cosmetics salon, and seen a nice little bar just next to a salon round the corner.

    We went to YORXUN bar, which was pretty nondescript. They ordered a round of sparkling wine + shot, supposedly a Hungarian tradition which they received free from their hotel.

    Aaaand another round, feeling a little drunk now. Conversation was pretty boring and my friend goes up to pay so we can leave. He comes back with a 450 euro bill!!!! We got them to “pay” some of it to bring the price down, but still my friend was escorted to ATM to take out abut 350 euros.

    The girls still kept pretending they were surprised and innocent and that they would give us more money and this instilled a weird and crazy doubt in our heads. We weren’t sure if we had all been cheated by the bar or if the czech girls + the bar had cheated us. Looking back it seems obvious but at the time it wasn’t!

    We went back to the bar later and the bartenders looked in our eyes and completely lied about the whole thing, saying we could come back with police, they had cameras we could check…

    Next morning we read all these stories, wow these girls are good, they continue to do this every weekend, fucking tourists over. But this type of thing only happens to gullible idiots right??! Well…

    Anyway we didn’t let it ruin our trip. Chin up, turn it into a joke, save a bit of money back home, and it’s all good.

    All I can say is don’t let it make you less trusting of people. Most people are good and friendly and would never do this. Just ALWAYS check the price list before you order, and think twice if you get chatted up by foreign girls!

    And if you ever get yourself in a sticky situation, don’t pay, run!

  6. You have to uderstand that Hungarians are thieves and all the Hungarian girls are prostitutes, now that you know that it won’t happen again.

  7. @Tom

    Tom, you are right, hungarians are huns , they came from Mongolia 1000 years ago, so they are immigrants in Europe. They are still uncivilized.

  8. @Tom & @Alex, no need to be racist cunts now you gents. The author of the piece didn’t even get scammed by the Hungarians but by the Dutch. Calling “all Hungarians” thieves and whores is a bit much, don’t you think?

  9. yeah exactly I am sure not all Hungarians are bad but I do have to admit some of them act like they are blood sucking vampires!!!!!!!!

  10. Very enjoyable read, even though it was a scam.

    I went to Hungary recently and was lucky enough to not be approached. To be honest, i would never have expected to be scammed there, so if two girls had approached me and asked me to go with them, i probably would have. I guess I was a bit naive, but after reading all these scam stories, i’ll do some research about the places i go before i visit.

  11. Nice to read stories. I appreciate it and i hope that you get compensated for your losses as you have halped many by writing this. Thanks.

  12. Very good writing. It happened to me last year but I escaped paying 0. I didn’t had enough cash of course and i offered to pay with card, but they didn’t had card at the bar (I guess this is a part time job so if the money go into the bar account they can’t get it out) so we went out to an ATM. After withdrawing the money in a moment of inspiration i didn’t gave them to them, they wanted to call the police and i insisted, then they spread. I was also afraid I can’t get out of the bar or something.
    This was last year, this year i was approached in the train station by a croatian guy that lost his train and needed more money for another ticket, it was almost crying. I don’t know if was a scam but the thought that i didn’t helped him is haunting me, It was only 30eur. I was searching for scams on the internet now and can’t find his story, so probably was indeed in trouble.

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