No matter if you’re travelling short term, or living somewhere on a holiday visa, you may at some point come into contact with a scam. You may even be in a country where you wouldn’t expect to find a scam, but trust us: they exist. And we’ve been done by them.
Without any further ado, here are some of the most common travel scams that we’ve come across – detailed below so you know how best to avoid them.
This one is a popular one in big European cities such as Paris, and is one that you could easily get taken in by. Picture this: a group of rag-tag children approach you with a clipboard, asking you to sign a petition. They may pretend to be deaf. You take the clipboard, go to sign your name (what harm could it do, right?), while others in the group swiftly dip their hands into your pockets.
You can avoid this happening by simply ignoring the group and moving on. If it doesn’t look official (i.e. there’s a sizable group of children involved), then it probably isn’t.
Broken taxi metre
An absolute classic. You’re in a new city, you hail a taxi, jump in, say where you want to go, and off you go. You’ll either see the metre go up way higher than it should be, or else it won’t actually be on at all, and the driver will simply say it’s broken and try to charge you an extortionate amount for the ride.
Not all countries or cities have taxis with metres in them, but the best way to avoid being overcharged is to do some research on how much taxi fares should cost beforehand. Another good way around is to ask your accommodation to call an official cab for you.
An over-friendly local
When you’re wandering around exploring a new place, your guard is bound to be down a little bit. You’re on holiday, you’re feeling carefree. But then somebody from nowhere comes up to you and starts talking to you. They’re friendly and amiable, asking you if you like the city, where you’re from, and other normal sorts of stuff.
But you should beware of this sort of flirty friendliness – usually from a woman to a man. Soon enough they’ll be saying they know where to get some bargain jewellery, or where to find the best drinks in town. Wherever they’re trying to take you is either overpriced or scammy. Just consider: people in cities don’t just start talking to people. That’s not how cities work. Kindly decline any offer and get out of there.
The accidental spill
Another classic distraction scam. One scammer will try to spill something on or in front of you “by accident”, and in the ensuing commotion, another scammer will proceed to pinch whatever goods you have left unattended as you deal with the mess.
While you may not be able to avoid the dreaded spill itself, you can avoid your bags or belongings getting taken. Just keep them close to you, ideally attached to you or in close visual range, so they can’t be easily yoinked.
The restaurant recommendation
“I know a great restaurant, come with me.” Or maybe, “My cousin has a restaurant, we’ll go there.” These are words uttered by tuk-tuk drivers or taxi drivers, or sometimes people in shops who may have otherwise befriended you.
The eateries they are recommending are just part of a scam. You’ll be totally ripped off, it will be low quality, and the recommender will most likely be getting a kick-back for their hard work in getting you there. Just say you’ve eaten, or you’re not hungry yet, or just ignore them.
Damaged hire car
Hiring a car may seem straightforward, but it can be a minefield if you’re somehow embroiled in a scammy situation – and one that could potentially cost you a lot of money. Basically, what this scam entails is you taking a hire car out for the day, or however long, then bringing it back and you then being accused of doing some damage you weren’t responsible for.
A good way around this is to, well, firstly research car rental places. Only go to the most highly rated places with the best reviews. That’s a good way to avoid any dodginess. Secondly, take pictures or a video of any pre-existing damage on the car (or bike, if that’s what you’re going for). You should also insist that the staff member follow you around and note down any damage.
As we said, we are talking about travel scams we’ve seen so you don’t have to experience it.
What travel scams have you encountered or fell for that aren’t included here? Comment below!