Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Budapest does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUDAPEST AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Hungary-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Hungary's overall crime rate for 2016 decreased compared to 2015 in all major crime categories, except homicide. Non-confrontational crime against property showed a decrease. Property crimes (theft, robbery) decreased, as did violent criminal acts against persons (aggravated assault). Street crimes (pickpocketing, petty thefts, thefts from unattended vehicles, vandalism) are the most frequently reported crimes. Budapest's major train stations, public transportation systems (tram, subway, bus) and most tourist-frequented areas are popular venues of such thefts. Per Hungarian law, property crimes with damages less than HUF 50,000 (approximately U.S.$186) are not reported in the crime statistics, as those cases are considered minor offenses. Crimes committed against Americans are generally crimes of opportunity, not crimes targeting Americans specifically.
Reports of overcharging at some restaurants, clubs, and nightspots, especially in those areas of the city frequented by tourists, are not uncommon. The consumption (or honeypot) scam is a popular practice in which recruiters seek out men to meet women in clubs (or the women themselves approach their victims). Those who choose to buy drinks or spend time with the women are charged exorbitant fees. U.S. citizens have reported that club bouncers are intimidating and have escorted club patrons to ATMs or to their hotels to obtain money.
- In 2009, the owner and the bouncer at a club were charged with assault after they battered two Dutch tourists for not paying their bill.
Police have shut down clubs for this activity. If someone becomes a victim, the police should be called immediately; however, that will not necessarily absolve the customer of paying the bill. Before entering these clubs, customers should always ask about prices. Additional information regarding these scams, as well as other useful security and safety information can be obtained from the Tourist Advisory from U.S. Embassy Budapest.
Violent crime rates are still relatively low in Hungary. There was a minor increase of homicides from 205 (2015) to 224 (2016). A large percentage of homicides are committed as a result of escalated domestic violence; successful investigation rate is high since the suspects are known.
Residential crimes are a significant issue and remain a key public concern, despite the fact their numbers have further decreased between 2015 and 2016. Home alarm monitoring systems continue to serve as the most popular security deterrent for home defense. Elderly people are prime targets because they live either alone or with a similar-aged spouse. Most attacks against the elderly occur in the countryside or in villages/small towns but can also happen in larger cities.
Twice in 2016, police officers were directly targeted in crimes. Both investigations were highly controversial and are ongoing:
- On September 24, an improvised explosive device packed with nails detonated on Teréz Korut, near the intersection of Oktogon and Andrássy Utca in central Budapest. Video footage suggests the blast was directed at two police officers as they passed on foot patrol. The device was hidden in the doorway of a closed down shop while the attacker waited in an adjacent doorway. Both officers were seriously injured in the explosion, and some physical damage was also reported to nearby structures. No civilians were injured, though passersby were in the vicinity. The explosion was not directed at any U.S. interests or private-sector organizations and appeared to have been an isolated incident. The Hungarian government deemed the crime a terrorist attack; however, the motive for the bombing remains unclear. Within weeks of the attack, a 25-year old male was apprehended. Police recovered substantial evidence that proved his guilt. The uncooperative attacker has refused to make any statements to police. He provided no motive and has denied his involvement in the incident.
- On October 26, officers at the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation attempted to serve a search warrant at the home of a leader of far-right extremist group Hungarian National Front. When investigators entered the house, the 76-year old leader pointed a military rifle at investigators that resulted in a shoot-out. A police officer died on scene. The suspect, who was also wounded, was arrested. The Hungarian Police and the Counter-Terrorism Center (TEK) conducted a countrywide raid against members of group. Several suspects were arrested, and illegally-kept firearms and explosive materials were seized. As a result, the Hungarian National Front was eliminated. According to partially-confirmed media reports, the group was founded in the late 1990s and held military trainings on the leader’s private property using airsoft guns to simulate and practice firefights. An online media news portal linked the Russian military intelligence service to the group, but authorities have not issued official confirmation.
Organized crime group activities remained the same and mostly undisturbed by law enforcement in 2016. They control most prostitution operations, stolen car rings, trafficking in human beings, human smuggling, and narcotics/tobacco trafficking. The organized crime division of the Hungarian National Police, in partnership with a U.S. Embassy-supported task force of U.S. law enforcement officers, continues to combat the problem of organized crime.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
In 2016, there were more vehicle accidents causing personal injuries and more people died on the roads compared to 2015. Full year statistics have not been published. However, when the first nine months’ figures of 2015 are compared to those of 2016, the growth in the overall number of accidents (12,214 -> 12,441) is visible. There was a decrease in vehicular fatalities (419 –> 395). The number of accidents caused by drunk drivers showed an increase by 4.1%. Speeding and reckless driving remains a concern.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUDAPEST AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
In 2016, the Hungarian government implemented several security counter-measures at its southern borders -- raising security fences, ordering non-stop patrolling by joint forces of the National Police and military -- to prevent waves of migrants from entering the country illegally. The counter-measures were a success, and migrants, primarily from the Middle and Far East, were stuck in the Balkans (Serbia). Many who circumvented border defenses were captured by Hungarian police and military forces and escorted back to Serbia. Most migrants/refugees crossing the border intend to transit Hungary en route to Germany and Western Europe. Investigative evidence showed terrorists arrived hidden within the large, uncontrollable immigrant wave of 2015. The Hungarian government reported that following the erection of the technical border defense systems and non-stop patrolling at the border no terrorists have entered the Schengen zone through Hungary. Furthermore, the Hungarian government has announced plans to further strengthen the border defense system by erecting a second fence line, installing a heat sensor system, and recruiting/training a-3,000 person independent border guard police force that will be stationed permanently at the borders. The government launched a massive, populist anti-migrant campaign and held a national referendum to amend the constitution (Base Law) to restrict the acceptance of refugees/migrants. Despite major efforts by the government to pass the referendum, voter turnout remained below the required minimum, so the constitution was not amended. However, the vast majority (98%) of those who voted agreed with and supported the government’s efforts.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUDAPEST AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
The only demonstrations that mobilized more than a few thousand people were those of teachers demanding reform to the education system and higher wages. The Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens avoid large public gatherings, especially political rallies and demonstrations, due to the potential for violence.
The Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), established in August 2007 by Jobbik, was an extreme, ethnic, nationalist political group. In December 2008, the Budapest Municipal Court dissolved the Magyar Garda Society because of its anti-Roma activity. Jobbik appealed the ruling, which was sustained by the Metropolitan Court of Appeal. In November 2009, a law was passed fining anyone 50,000 HUF for wearing a Magyar Garda Uniform. After losing Jobbik support, the Hungarian Guard movement slowly died and exists solely on paper. Core members have established their own groups or have joined other parties. In 2016, Jobbik Party’s positions further weakened, as the leadership tried to move from the far-right toward the center to win voters and supporters. The change has given rise to conflicts within the party leadership, which is promoting confusion and dislike among its members. Following the removal of some Jobbik leadership and Parliament Caucus members, party extremists have partially turned against the Jobbik president. Despite all efforts to make the party more moderate and presentable in the political arena, Jobbik is still considered far-right and rejected by democratic parties and most of the public.
In recent years, spring flooding has closed roadways and affected low lying towns and areas along the Danube and Tisza Rivers.
In January 29, 2011, an earthquake near Oroszlány damaged buildings in Komárom-Esztergom county and was felt in Budapest. The earthquake, epicentre 44km west of Budapest, measured 4.8 on the Richter scale. Minor cracks reportedly appeared in buildings, and chimneys were tilted in Komárom, Pest, and Fejér counties. No injuries were reported, and no one was evacuated.
On October 4, 2010, the reservoir at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar alumina factory released a wave of toxic sludge up to three meters (nine feet) high that inundated Kolontar, Devecser, Somlovasarhely, Somlojeno, Apacatorma, Tuskevar, and Kisberzsenyc. Some 600,000-700,000 million cubic meters (158-185 million gallons) of sludge were released, affecting 40 square km (15 square miles) along the path of the flow. At least eight people were killed, and more than 123 others were injured, many with severe chemical burns. According to officials, the released amount represented only about 2-4% of the total amount in the reservoir. Prompt action neutralized the alkalinity of the sludge before it reached the Danube River.
Personal Identity Concerns
Although there is a significant presence of extreme ethnic nationalist groups, they rarely adversely impact foreigners. Their activities (rallies, demonstrations) are strictly limited and monitored by police. As a result of the Hungarian government’s massive campaign against illegal immigrants, which depicted certain nationalities as a prime concerns for local citizens, a small percentage of the public attitude toward foreigners has changed from friendly-neutral to negative, with regards to “Muslim-looking” or “African-looking” visitors and lawful residents. No violent actions have been reported against them; however, reports of derogatory comments made during interactions with locals have increased.
Hungary has been identified as a transit country for drugs from Turkey and Asia to Europe. Police report that Hungary is increasingly becoming a consumer of drugs, particularly among teens, who primarily prefer synthetic drugs.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Report all incidents of police detention or harassment to U.S. Embassy Budapest, American Citizen Services at: (36)-1-475-4164, Monday-Friday during normal working hours or after hours at (36)-1-475-4444.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you are the victim of crime, call the local police at: 107 or 112. It is also recommended that American citizens notify the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit. U.S. citizens are encouraged to report any situations where they are the victims of personal crime to the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.
Additionally, the Hungarian Ministry of National Economy and the Hungarian National Police have a hotline for tourists who are scammed at restaurants and clubs. The hotline number is +36-1/438-8080, and operates 24-hours a day with English and German capability.
There is also a tourism information line, operating 24-hours a day, that is toll free (+36-80-660-044) from Hungary and (+36-1/550-044) from abroad.
Police Response: 107
Ambulance Response: 104
Police and fire emergency assistance: 112
During the peak tourist season, police patrolling major tourist areas are often accompanied by multi-lingual students. Police also have a tourist information office that operates every day from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM. It is located downtown at Suto Street 2, District 5; it is able to receive complaints and render assistance in English and German.
A major reorganization of Hungarian National Police was started in 2012, affecting local, regional, and central levels of police. The independence of the largest central investigative entity, the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation (HNBI), was terminated, and the bureau was attached to the Stand-by Police (Riot Police) as a directorate. The units that investigated organized crime cases at HNBI and the Organized Crime Department of Budapest Metropolitan Police were dismissed. All organized crime cases were assigned for investigation to local police departments.
The largest police force in Hungary is the Stand-by Police (Riot Police). Their officers take part in border patrolling, street patrolling to support local uniformed police, securing public events and gatherings, including political and other demonstrations. The Riot Police have countrywide jurisdiction and can be deployed anywhere for police duties. The police explosive ordnance disposal service, personal, and building protection for high-level foreign protectee and some government ministry facilities fall under their jurisdiction as well.
The Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK), founded in 2010 with the personal trustee of the Prime Minister in charge, remains independent from the Hungarian National Police, having to answer directly to the government through the minister of interior. TEK has primary jurisdiction for carrying out countrywide SWAT operations.
In 2016, border protection was carried out by the Hungarian Police and the Hungarian Defense Forces, as the border police departments were insufficient in manpower and resources to provide non-stop duty along the new fence line. No police departments were exempt from the extra duties, and all uniformed officers participated. This put a heavy burden on police manpower. The lack of proper accommodation, equipment, clothing, and rest/relaxation possibilities at the border led to over-exhaustion and widespread illness among the officers. As a result, the Hungarian government established a directive to hire a 3,000-member fully independent border police force. The hiring process is behind schedule due to insufficient numbers of volunteers and lack of fitness levels for uniformed service. In January 2017, the first group of 532 newly recruited border police officers began service at the border.
For emergency/non-emergency patient transportation: +36-1-311-1666 can be used. SOS Hungary Medical & Assistance Service (a private medical service company) can be used for transportation service: +36-1-240-0475.
Emergency Ambulance Service: 104
Fire Emergency: 105
Police Response: 107
Police, ambulance, and fire emergency assistance: 112
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Hospitals and clinics in Budapest include the AEK/National Health Center, former Military Hospital: +36-1-465-1800 and National Traumatological Institute (Peterfy Sandor utcai Hospital Fiumei Street facility): +36-1-299-77-00. Additional, information is available from the Embassy Doctors and Hospitals web page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
The need to transport via air ambulance will be determined by medical professionals at the scene. A list of medical evacuation companies can be found on the Embassy Doctors and Hospitals web page.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Hungary.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Budapest Country Council currently meets four times a year and has approximately 30 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Embassy of the United States of America
Szabadság tér 12
H-1054 Budapest, Hungary
Embassy operating hours are Mon-Fri 0800-1700, but some sections of the Embassy may have different hours. All offices are closed on Saturday, Sunday, and on American and Hungarian holidays.
Embassy Contact Numbers
Local time: GMT +1
During office hours: (36-1) 475-4400
After-hours emergency calls: (36-1) 475-4703/4924
American Citizen Services during regular business hours: +36-1-475-4164 or +36-1-475-4444 (After-hours and on weekends.)
Fax: (36-1) 475-4764
U.S. citizens traveling in Hungary are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.
Travelers are encouraged to visit the Embassy website for the most current information.
Hungary Country Information Sheet