Travel scams are real.
When I started traveling, I fell for them too.
On my first big non-tour trip, I got scammed twice on the same day.
My friend Scott and I had just arrived in Thailand. We were in Bangkok trying to find a boat cruise to take us up and down the Chao Phraya River. A taxi driver suggested this one company; we went there and found out that an hour-long tour was only $30 USD. Not even thinking about whether that was a deal or not, we agreed. To us — still thinking about prices back home — that offer seemed like a fair price. It was only as the boat tour ended early that we realized we might have been ripped off (later on, we found out that we paid double the price).
Then, after lunch, we wandered over to the Grand Palace. When we got there, we didn’t see any crowds. We looked down the left side of the palace, then over to the right. “Where is everyone?” I asked. An enterprising tuk-tuk driver came over to us and told us the palace was closed for lunch. Scott and I looked at each other. Maybe that was right. After all, many museums sometimes do that, plus we didn’t see anyone around. It seemed feasible. He offered to take us to a few that were open.
“Sure,” we replied — and found ourselves visiting not only a few temples but also a suit shop, a gem shop, and a souvenir shop.
Afterward, as he took us to the palace (which was unsurprisingly open). It was then we realized that it had never been closed — we had just been on the wrong side of the building.
We had been scammed.
So, today, I want to give you a list of travel scams to avoid.
Avoiding travel scams requires a lot of common sense and a healthy dose of suspicion. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
(Additionally, if you are carrying a travel guidebook, they usually list the most common scams in that country.) Here are some of the more universal ones to avoid:
1. The taxi overcharge
This is one of the most common travel scams out there. Either the driver will tell you the meter is broken and try to charge you a huge rate or you’ll see the meter go higher and faster than Superman!
To avoid this scam, first, you need to know how much a ride should cost. I always ask the hostel or hotel staff what a ride should be so I have a frame of reference. Next, if the cabbie tries to negotiate the rate with me, I offer him the correct rate. If he refuses, I find someone who will put the meter on. If the meter seems to be going up too quickly, I have them pull over and I get out. Many tourism boards let you report bad cab drivers, so be sure to always make a mental note of their ID number when you get in the cab.
And never get in an unlicensed cab — no matter how amazing the deal is!
2. Your accommodation is “closed”
Another cab driver scam: your driver will try to tell you your hotel or hostel is overbooked or even closed. It’s not. I mean, you wouldn’t have booked it if it was, right? Just ignore them and insist on going there. If they keep trying, continue to insist. They will usually shut up about it.
And while this seems like a scam no one could possibly fall for, people do. I’ve been in many cabs where they insist my hostel has been closed for months.
A note on taxis: In this smartphone era, we have our power back. We’re no longer helpless because we can look on a map and see the actual correct route. I like to look at Google Maps and see what the best route is. If it looks like they aren’t taking it, I’ll usually point to the map and insist they go that way. (I left a taxicab in Bangkok recently because he tried to pull a fast one on me by taking a longer route.) If I’m going to a country where I won’t have phone access, I preload the map onto my phone. Your phone’s GPS will work even if you don’t have a connection. Additionally, ride services like Uber place accountability on drivers, which greatly reduces the likelihood of you being cheated.
3. The shell game
I see this one all the time — how people fall for it I’ll never know. It’s such an old and obvious scam. It’s in movies, for heaven’s sake! You’ll see people on the street playing a card game (sometimes known as three-card Monte) or hiding a ball in a cup and someone guessing where it is and winning money. Then you decide to play — and you win! Thinking this is great, you bet more money… and then you lose — and lose again and again.
Don’t get suckered into this con. Remember, the house always wins!
4. “Come in for tea and help me write a letter!”
While in Morocco, someone tried this travel scam on me. I was walking out of a convenience store when a guy struck up a conversation. Finding I was from NYC, he said he had a cousin who lived there (the first giveaway) and wanted to know if I could come to his shop to write a postcard for him (the second giveaway). The goal here was to get me in the shop, maybe give me some tea, and then pressure me into buying something. This uses the psychological principle of reciprocity: he gave me tea, he was nice to me, so soon I’ll feel socially obliged to buy something.
To avoid this, don’t follow people to a second location or believe they suddenly have a cousin who happens to live exactly where you do!
5. Free bracelets/rosemary/anything they can put on you
In this scam, common in Europe, a friendly person will approach you for a quick chat, then place a bracelet around your wrist or hat on your head, or give you a little sprig of rosemary. Once you have it on your person, they will demand money. When you refuse, they will begin to cause a scene in the hopes you would rather give them some money than be embarrassed.
Don’t allow anyone to put anything on your body, and be extremely wary of accepting anything for free. If they put something on you, simply take it off, give it back to them, and be firm about it. Then walk away and move on with your day. They won’t chase you. Read More…
14 MAJOR TRAVEL SCAMS TO AVOID by MATThttps://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/avoid-travel-scams/