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Beware at Keleti train station

Asia
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Beware at Keleti train station

As my partner and I sat on the bench waiting for the train to Salzburg to come into station this past Wednesday, a man wearing a neon light vest looking like a train station worker approached us and asked to see our tickets. I was a bit hesitant to comply, but I thought since we were in the public area and the man was wearing a staff badge (the badge was showing a name of N Porter), we should be ok. After he looked at our tickets, he returned them to us. Then he half forcibly grabbed our two luggages and told us to follow him. I tried to reach for the luggage, but he put out a hand gesture that refused to hand them over. My partner and I then followed him to platform 9 where we were joined by his other colleague, or partner-in-crime.

We tried to give the two men 2 euros and the 210 forints we have left from the trip as tips. Both refused to take our money and acted very friendly to us, as we waited for the train to arrive. After we boarded, the two men then started to act a bit hostile and said they needed to collect money from us, "only euros, and only paper money." While I was still in shock and trying to process the situation in my head, my partner took out 10 euros and handed the money to the lead guy. I then gave him the 2 euros and 210 forints I had in my hand. That was when I realized we did not owe them anything! The man kept on telling me to give him the money he needs to collect and he only take euros, and in paper. I basically shrugged my shoulders and told him that's all I had. I was not going to hand him any more money. After about half a minute of standoff, the two men left.

I was very upset over the whole thing. I blame myself for not being alert enough and my partner for handing over the money too quickly. After the men left, I went through in my head the things I would have done differently in handling the situation, but...all was too late. I just want to share this experience with those planning to visit Budapest and be aware of these "hustlers" that try to trick/intimidate you in giving them money. Please don't be stupid and too slow to react like me, and allow these mean to take advantage of you. Lessons learned: Don't ever let your hands off your luggage. Even if someone that pretends to help you, always grab it back and refuse their "service." And even if they managed to get a hold of your luggage and demand money for their luggage handling service, do not pay!

86 replies to this topic
luton
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1. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

sorry to hear that,sometimes in strange environments your natural awareness can desert you, I know its no consolation but it sounds like you got off relatively lightly and there was no physical harm done

I know mentally it is very frustrating but remember it was nothing personal these guys are just petty criminals

good luck

tony

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Yes, there are plenty of scams of similar style around Keleti. Very sorry to hear of your bad experience.

I thought I'd add my recent observation for the benefit of any other would-be visitors to Budapest reading this thread: there are also people hanging around inside Keleti wearing vests, caps and shonky/clearly homemade name tags pretending to be "Official Tourist Information" staff. They get talking to you then when you ask for directions, they try to e.g. direct you to a guy who's wearing a "taxi" badge. Chances are, you'll be charged an exorbitant price for the ride. I told the "staff" lady to get lost, and I recommend anyone finding themselves in the same situation to do the same.

Dayton, Ohio
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3. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Leaving for Budapest in 3 days, arriving in Keleti. Kinda sucks that you have to watch your six when you're on vacation...

Phoenix, Arizona
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4. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

It never hurts to yell "Police" when you are in a public place and being abused...especially now that the Hungarians are adopting the Police, Polizei, Policia, etc. There are plenty of them at Keleti and they know who the bad guys are!

nyc, usa
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5. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Keleti is not a bad train station as these things go ... surely not a great one though, more or less a C+ in my grade book; personally, I'd avoid talking to anyone who came up to me, no matter how insistent or seemingly official ... just keep walking straight ahead -- the same strategy I use in Penn Station in NYC where i live -- and I'd avoid the taxis at the curb ... public transit from the station is good, or call a taxi using a mobile phone, or prearrange to be met by a taxi or a car and driver

nyc, usa
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6. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

oh, an exception in NYC and Paris, likely elsewhere (though not an issue in keleti): it's ok to speak to someone in a uniform who has a machine gun and a german shepherd

Asia
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7. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Thanks Tony and geigerin91 for the thoughtful comments/feedback.

I do not recall seeing police at the Keleti station. However, the only place I could count on consistent police presence is at metro entrances, checking travelers' metro tickets. In my humble opinion, police resources can be better allocated to foster a more tourist-friendly environment and better promote tourism for the city.

The unpleasant incidence did do a slight damage to our vacation initially, but luckily we enjoyed our visits to Salzburg and Vienna especially. We are going home tomorrow with happy memories.

Phoenix, Arizona
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8. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

I don't know what John is talking about machine guns and German Shephards. I haven't seen those since the Soviets went home.

Trust me, the police are there at Keleti, and will be there to assist you in a moment if they sense there is trouble.

Asia
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9. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Donbacsi, those two men were clever, pretending to be friendly until they were ready to "collect" on the train. They had the whole process well thought/planned out. We were amongst the first to board the train, and therefore no use even if we had yelled out "police" at our seats.

The purpose of the thread is to make visitors aware and better prepared if similar incidences were to take place. Always good to be alert and mentally prepared for self-protection.

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10. Re: Beware at Keleti train station

Something like that happened with me.

On April 20th, my wife and I went do the Keleti Station to take the train to Vienna.

When we arrived at the station, 2 men showed us the badge "MAV - Porter" and asked us about our train and tryied to carry our luggage.

Well, thanks to this post at Tripadvisor, which I´ve read days before (THANK YOU AGIABEBEI!), I did not let they carry our luggage - they really tried!!. They were very "friendly" and said that we should stay at MAV´s waiting room until the departure hour, when they will call us.

As they have a MAV identification, we entered into the room - there was another passengers there - but we thought this situation very strange.

After 5 minutes, I thought that 2 men could be the same which I´ve read about at this post, despite of the MAV badge (they could be kind MAV´s employees).

As I´ve never had traveled by train, I did not know if it was a regular procedure - waiting at the company´s room until the departure hour.

So, we left the waiting room and walked away to the plataform.

I saw a train stopped at platform 9 and asked for a man (55 years old, i think) with MAV budge - who many people were asking - about the train to Vienna. I thought he was the responsible for information

Well, I just asked if it was the correct train. He said "yes" and helped to put the luggage inside the train. I said "it´s ok" but he insisted to carry our luggage until our seats.

He appointed our seats, put the luggage at the apropriate place and said, showing the budge: "I am a porter".

In my country, If someone do something without you asking, you don´t have to pay.

But, as he really showed the place, I gave him my a coin of 200 forints.

He got angry and said "I am a porter" and other words in Hungarian which I did not understand, and gave me back the coin. I said him I had no obligation of give money for anyone. He turned around and left the train.

I saw through the window, the same man talking to other "porters" and the train staff. I saw police cops at Keleti Station walking around. I think they really don´t care about the porters´ acts.

So, do not accept anyone carry your luggage at Keleti Station and do not give money for this kind of person, even they try to intimidate you.

And, If you need information - believe it or not - do not ask to personell with MAV budget!!

Sorry about my terrible English.

Edited: 27 April 2012, 19:32
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