Scams directed towards tourists happen all over the world, whether it is a third world or first world country. And if you’re extremely unlucky, you might experience multiple scams if you travel unprepared.
Often, it’s easier to be tricked while traveling since you’ll be somewhat out of your comfort zone and be familiarizing yourself with the new surroundings and people. With its many attractions and landmarks, popular travel locations are filled with people who live off scamming unsuspecting tourists.
Research the most common scams. Scams differ based on the city you’re traveling to. Knowing what to look out for will help you avoid being duped. Some of the classics include the following:
Slow money count
Some cashiers who deal with many tourists thrive on this scam. They’ll count your change back with weird pauses hoping that you rush and gather up the money early and without checking.
This scam involves a person approaching you with a ring you supposedly “dropped.” If you say no, they’ll show you that it’s pure gold then try to sell it to you for much more money.
Fake Taxi Services
Be very wary of the unregistered taxis using fake taxi stickers. Most congregate at the bus stations. Taxis are relatively cheap in most countries so you’re likely to use them. If you hail one on the street, agree on a rate before getting in and make sure there is a meter and that it’s running.
Broken and Non-Functioning Taxi Meter
This is one is very obvious. The taxi driver will tell you his meter isn’t working and gives you an approximate price of what he thinks you should be paying. Don’t fall for this. Always tell your destination first and ask how much it is total to get you there.
Flirtatious Local Women
You arrive at a train station or are walking in the city center and a woman or a group of women are overly friendly towards you.
I was exploring Budapest looking for one of the famed Ruin bars when I was approached by a young woman. She randomly started a conversation with me. I knew then something was a bit odd. She was extremely direct, flirtatious and insisted on talking only to me.
Luckily I had done my research beforehand and knew about the common scam of young and attractive women convincing tourists to go to a particular bar for drinks. When the bill is finally settled the drinks turn out to be extremely overpriced! These ladies are hired by the establishment to entice tourists to pay for extremely expensive drinks! –Always Wanderlust (Adonis V.)
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This one involves corrupt border officials who let you into the country without proper documents or without stamping your passport. When you are about to make your exit the official will try to bribe you and hope he can extract money from your desperation. Another one involves exchanging money at the border. Bolivia is notorious for such scams.
I’ve spent hours in Bolivia trying to find a perfect twenty dollar bill to complete the $160 reciprocity fee. They won’t take any bills that have any marks or slight tears in it but took $140 and told me to go find a flawless $20 bill. I was frantically running around looking for an ATM at the border crossing in Puno because my bus was going to leave without me. I would have ended up running back to find an ATM in Peru had it not been for a kind Samaritan who happened to have a perfect twenty dollar bill to exchange for my “flawed” one. –Always Wanderlust (Adonis V.)
A vendor approaches you and will start aggressively asking if you’ll help with his/her “demonstration.” He then proceeds to make a friendship bracelet right on your arm. After finishing, you’ll be asked to pay a premium for the personalized bracelet. Since you can’t easily take it off on the spot, you’ll feel obliged to pay up.
Thieves in uniform posing as “Tourist Police” will stop you on the street, flash their fake badges, and ask to check your wallet for fake bills or even “drug money.” Sometimes you won’t even notice that money is missing until after they’re gone. Never give your wallet to anyone.
Disabled or Helpless Beggars
These parasites use your most basic human emotions and rob you. They guilt-trip you all the way to your wallet. Gangs use children to beg for money or helpless women. Who can refuse to help the old and helpless?
A guide will approach you and offer a supposed cheaper tour or provided you guidance while discouraging you to take the usual tour. They would either say a certain establishment is already closed or there are certain restrictions for you not to take that tour. In the end, you get a lousy tour for double the price.
My journey to Arequipa was marred strange events and debacles. It’s partly due in part to my ignorance. Growing up in a third-world country (Philippines), I should know better. Locals know tourists are an excellent source of money and thus implore different tactics to get a piece of the pie. One such notorious scam is somebody pretending to assist you in finding something.
I fell for one. As soon as I got off my bus at Arica from Tacna I was approached by a dude. He asked if I was catching another bus to Arequipa. That’s where I was going so I mindlessly followed. I was being cautious as to where he was leading me but it was just to another station where you can purchase a bus ticket to Arequipa.
Not soon after I purchased the ticket did I realize what’s going on. The guy extended his hand and murmured something in Spanish. I looked at him and realized I’ve been duped. Basically, it works like this. A person comes up to you and imposes their informational “help” or “service” and once they’ve helped, you “pay” or “tip” them a certain amount.
It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like being forced to receive help when help wasn’t needed and then pay for the help. Weird. I ended up tipping the guy with something equivalent to $6 American Dollars. –Always Wanderlust (Adonis V.)
How To Minimize Your Chances Of Getting Scammed
Your best defense against a scam is common sense. But here are some tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Don’t make eye contact
Never accept solicited “help” from anyone. There will be people offering information that you can easily get yourself. They will charge you for it. There will be non-standard taxi drivers offering to give you a ride. Don’t fall for this. Always go to a certified Taxi vendor to catch a taxi.
Keep asking questions
If something is too good to be true, chances are it probably is. When traveling to another country, be mindful of the offers and deals that seem too fantastic. Don’t be pressured to sign up without verifying it first. Take your time, do your own research and ensure to get as much information as possible before getting on board.
Check the currency
One of the first things you will experience when you arrive at your destination in the currency, and it’s a good idea to get a feel for both the notes and coinage and their values. Even a little research will go a long way. For instance, the €2 coin looks similar to coins that are worth much less. Many cities offer currency exchange, some people may even approach and offer an unsanctioned exchange, so being armed with the knowledge of the local currency will help keep your money where it belongs.
Book and drive your own car
Be very careful at airports and train stations. Dishonest cab drivers lurk at major transport points, ready to take advantage of travelers who are jet-lagged or travel-weary.
One of the best ways to avoid being scammed by taxi/cab drivers is to simply secure your own car when traveling. Take note, only book a car from reputable companies like DriveNow or choose from popular car companies online. Make it a habit to only pick a reliable car for hire that will meet you and your travel companion’s needs and budget without sacrificing safety.
Being scammed is a lot of people’s worst nightmare, and it can turn a supposedly relaxing vacation or a once in a lifetime trip into an experience you’d want to forget. By arming yourself with knowledge on how to avoid scams, you’ll be saving yourself not only from opportunists but also circumstances that may endanger your life.
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