Budapest is one of my favourite cities in Europe, but during my short stay I experienced the dangers of travelling alone as young female, even in a city that I deemed as ‘safe’. Out of principle I have to warn people against using Airbnb, as safe as you may think this platform is.
2pm: After I arrived in Budapest I quickly got the M3 into the central area of Budapest to drop off bags at the Airbnb. After checking in I quickly left to try and see as much of the city as I could before it got dark.
3pm-5pm: I decided to just walk around the city with no maps and no guides. I had been to Budapest before so I was a little familiar with the centre and set off down the market street to see if I could nab any small souvenirs in case I didn’t have time the next day.
One thing I quickly noticed was how adapting Budapest was for tourists. In nearly every place both Euros and Hungarian Forints were accepted and English translations were available for almost everything.
5-7pm: I then walked down along the Danube river taking in the amazing view of the Buda Castle and the loud atmosphere as everyone watched the World Cup. As I wandered around I decided to try out some traditional Hungarian food at a restaurant called Restaurant Barri Jueu Kantin. First I started with beef goulash, followed my paprika chicken, and finished with cheese dumplings. Overall, I don’t think that Hungarian food is for me, but I don’t regret at least giving them a try.
8:45-10pm: Luckily I have a friend who lives in Budapest and offered to keep me company for a few hours in the evening. He took me to places that were frequented by locals, showing me where ‘typical students’ living in Budapest would go.
Although there are definite perks to travelling alone, I did enjoy having the company of someone that I knew. Although I didn’t typically spend time with this person at university, it was nice to share some part of my experience with a familiar face. I could connect my experiences abroad to the life I led back in England.
10-10:30pm: After my friend left, I decided to check out the famous Szimpla Ruin Bar before turning in for the night. Going alone was a little daunting and I wouldn’t recommend it. Issues of safety aside, when I was inside Szimpla, I knew that this was the type of place where you would want to go with friends.
10:30-11:30am– The Airbnb was so peaceful and quiet that I couldn’t help but sleep in on Sunday! Luckily I can get ready quickly and was out of the doors by 11am. I decided to check out the Dohány Street Synagogue. As I was pressed for time and had a lot to fit in I didn’t stay for long. However, the building was so ornate and different from the other architecture that I would definitely recommend tourists to visit! If I had enough time I would have definitely stayed longer.
11:30-12:30pm I walked up to the great market to grab lunch where I ran into two very nice people from California who had actually seen me walking around the day before! We ate together and after they invited me to join them in the afternoon.
12:20-1:30pm Together we walked up to the Liberty Statue where we got to see an amazing view of the entirety of Budapest. If you are interested in the history of communism within Budapest, the history behind this statue is definitely something worth looking up! After taking many many pictures, we started to make our way back down, this time passing by many small markets selling souviners.
1:30-3:15pm I then went on my own way to check out the Buda Castle. Seeing the castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Budapest for the first time to check out this area. With its extensive history and distinct architecture, it was something completely different to the buildings on the other side of the river.
3:15-5pm: I made my long walk back to the other side of Budapest, back to my Airbnb, crossing the Széchenyi Chain Bridge where I had the opportunity to see the magnificent Parliament building, which in the sunset was pretty awesome. Back at the Airbnb I packed the rest of my bags up and got ready to check out of the Airbnb.
5-5:30pm: These last thirty minutes changed my whole trip. As I came back to the Airbnb after grabbing a quick bite to eat I encountered the Airbnb host who was preparing the flat for the next guest arriving that evening. As he cleaned and I gathered my things ready to leave we struck up a friendly conversation. I know now that I should have just handed my keys over and left but at that moment I didn’t doubt my safety, I was trying to avoid being too early for my bus back and perceiving my 5* rated host as friendly I allowed the conversation to continue. As a British born Chinese person I have always been sensitive and wary of being marginalised and reduced to a symbol of ‘exoticness’ due to my race. So, when the host then out of the blue asked me what my race was I started to feel slightly uneasy. This unease was then expounded when he then started to excessively comment on my appearance following my response. It was then that my host felt that it was okay to lean over and start stroking my thigh.
As a solo, young, female traveller in a foreign city, to experience unwanted sexual advances by a much older man when we were alone in his flat was so much scarier than being groped in a crowed club (which is still disgusting). Immediately I froze, I was terrified. I was suddenly aware of how dangerous a position I could be in. Luckily I was able to grab my bags and rush out of the door. But not before he continued to proposition me.
As much as I appreciate the perks of travelling alone, for the next 30 minutes it was the first time in my life that I was actually been scared of being alone. I felt sick. Only the day before had he introduced his 8-year-old son to me and his own experiences growing up in Southern England. He was a verified ‘Superhost’ on Airbnb with 74 reviews and an average of 5*. As I sat in the square in Budapest I could still feel his hands on me.
I’m lucky to have the friends that I do who were able to provide verbal support even if they couldn’t be with me physically so that by the time I was on the bus home at 6:45pm I was still shaken but felt much better. Overall I don’t think will stay in an Airbnb by myself for a very long time, if ever. Personally, I no longer find this a safe source of accommodation, especially as this man continued to text me and ring me in the following days (even when I blocked his number) as he had obtained my phone number through Airbnb.
Fortunately, this experience didn’t stop me from wanting to travel but it did make me warier. Despite this experience, I did love Budapest and it still remains to me one of my favourite destinations in Europe.