US Swim team in Budapest gets taste of Hungary’s way of doing business

I visit Budapest every year and enjoy my stay there although the Hungarian way of doing business bothers me.   Here’s a story about the US Swim Team that illustrates how business is done in Budapest. (Read details here in Hungarian.)

US Swim Team

Small corruption was always part of life in Hungary.   In the old days when I bought produce at the market, I knew when I weighed it at home it will be 10-20% less. (In those days there were no scales at the markets either.)  When I was in a rush and had only a large banknote to pay the cab driver, I expected him to inform me with a smile that he has no change.  In a restaurant, I was not surprised to get a menu without printed prices.   Now things are done differently, tricks are more organized, almost institutionalized.

The US Team is in Budapest at the FINA World Championship and before arriving they hired a local company to take care of their stay, reserving the rooms, meals and transportation. The accommodation at the Marriott in two-bed hotel rooms was offered for 50,000 Ft/night/person (190 USD) and an additional 35,000 Ft (130 USD) for food (full board).   In other words one room (two person sharing) with full board would cost 170,000 Ft/night – that is almost 650 USD!   I assume that the team reserved lots of rooms and the 650 dollar/room/night price already included a volume discount.  (The USA Swimming National Team has 106 members.)

When American officials saw the numbers, they were shocked.  650 USD/night for a room?  They complained and you would expect that the companies involved would present their documentation and explain how the charge was calculated.

This is not what happened.  They simply lowered the price!   The new charge for accommodation 44,800 Ft (170 USD) and full board for 15,040 Ft (57 USD).  Suddenly one room (two person) with full board cost about 120,000 Ft or 450 USD a night!

Two hundred dollars less per room per night is about a 30% discount!   And you just had to ask for it.   They explained that they lowered the price in order to make sure to have successful participation in the competition.   Considering the number of rooms and days this “casual overcharge” amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.  To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the so called discounted price is also a bit of a rip-off.

Welcome to Hungary!

György Lázár


  1. Wauuu. Stated that he traveled there every year, YET he has only discovered this now.
    Like it had been his first trip ever anywhere.

    Yes, some do take advantage of the situation, that is the selfish and evil nature of humans.
    But as pointed out, it is also competition that makes the economies of the world function.

  2. Avatar Nicholas Molnar says:

    This is an ugly and not true story from an ex Hungarian

  3. Avatar Reality Check says:

    I looked to see what booking a room on Expedia for the Marriott would cost for two tonight. Best price for deluxe room is $244 for two persons without board. So, $122 per person versus $177 through the local company. The local company is charging $55 night per person for their booking services. Seems like a lot. 106 x 55 x 14 = Almost 90K for the whole team for two weeks.

  4. It’s in the heart of the city a 5 star hotel not a hostel what did they really expect that it will be cheap because they are booking in bulk that man doesn’t know Budapest at all…

    • Avatar Reality Check says:

      Did you read my post? I checked pricing for the Marriott and they could have saved $55 per person a night by booking with Expedia without a volume discount. $55 x 106 athletes x 14 days = $81,620. That a lot for an athletic organization that relies on donations to function.

      You don’t Budapest at all!

  5. Avatar Curious George says:

    What would one do there ever year??
    Congested Budapest, backwards villages with animal abuse and beaten horses sadly trotting on their unkept streets… even the kave hazak’s pastries are not as tasty as they once were – the piac full of cheap Vietnamese Chinese products.
    The theatre hot and muggy –

    • Avatar Reality Check says:

      Budapest is a beautiful city with many creative and kind people. You need to seek them out and avoid the tourist traps. Many venues for music and the arts. The piacs are not full of cheap Vietnamese/Chinese products but are rather teaming with local vegetables, fruits, cheeses, baked goods, meats, etc.

      I despise the Hungarian government, but your overly negative rants about Budapest and Hungary are nonsense.

  6. Avatar Sick of it all says:

    Of course dodgy practices continue in Budapest, fleecing the gormless is a tourist sport in which Hungary continues to excel although I think with, among other things, the advent of social media and reviews on sites like Tripadvisor have helped greatly in reducing it from what was before.

    The much bigger problem are the mafia-run bars and “gentlemens`” clubs which continue (via a bribe system to the biggest mafia gang in Hungary, the Rogan-controlled 5th District) to extort and threaten tourists despite the large volume of complaints submitted to the police.
    650 USD for a room, ha, you will pay that for a round of beers in one of these state-enabled “entertainment” establishments. Don`t want to pay?
    Then the big boys with no hair will soon show you the errors of your ways.

  7. I would say this is typical (although for small time operators) – the beggar thy neighbour dominates the Hun business practices. Which is closely related with the “Hungarians are special/superior” and “it’s (always) someone else’s fault”.

    In short: Hungarians are cheats (more than most Euros).

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