Travel scams and how to avoid them
Sadly there are people out there who like to take advantage of tourists. From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams exist the world over. Here I have listed some of the most common ones and how to deal with them.
The Broken Taxi Meter
Typically this scam occurs at an airport or train station. When you get into a taxi and start to drive the driver then informs you that the meter is broken and charges you an exorbitant price. To avoid this ensure you either check that the meter is indeed working or negotiate a set rate ahead of time. Call your hotel in advance and ask roughly what you should expect to be paying from the airport to the hotel so you know if you are in the right ball park as you negotiate the fee. If the taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, get out and opt for another driver.
The Hotel is Full
While en route to your hotel, your cab driver tells you your hotel is either closed or overbooked and then kindly offers to take you to another hotel where the driver receives a commission. Again call your hotel in advance and confirm your reservation. Consider using the hotel’s shuttle service if they offer one. If your taxi driver still tells you the hotel is not available, insist that he take you there anyway.
Want to buy a luxury item on a trip…gems or maybe a handwoven carpet? It’s a great idea but remember if you are offered a deal so preposterously lucrative that refusing it is not an option, think again. Legitimate traders that sell high end products don’t act like this. The product is likely a fake. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Just walk away.
Motorbike Rental Damage
You have rented a moped or scooter and it gets damaged overnight. The owner then demands additional payment or expensive repairs as compensation. Sadly in some cases it was the owner or his friends who caused the damage or even stole the bike from you. Take photographs of the bike before you start riding, preferably with the renter in them, to verify the timing. Don't rent from companies that are attached to hotels or guest houses and if damage does occur, take it to a repair shop recommended by someone other than the bike’s owner.
Locals in Bars
You arrive to a new country only to discover that beautiful women pay much more attention to you than back home. One of them invites you out to a nightclub or bar, where you are asked to buy rounds of drinks. The woman or women then disappear and you’re forced to pay an overpriced bill. Be wary of attractive women who are unusually forward or hitting on you aggressively. If you’re not a male model then it’s probably a scam.
Injured or Child Beggars
Usually deaf, blind, or pregnant beggars will ask you for money. Children are also used frequently by begging gangs to collect money because it’s hard to say no to the old, injured or young. It’s practically impossible to distinguish who is legit and who is not, so my advice is to never give cash to street beggars. If you feel bad for someone you meet or see consider buying them food or bring along clothes to give them. Then your money isn’t going to a gang.
While hanging out in a busy tourist location or landmark, a local offers to take a group photo of you and your friends. As you’re getting ready to pose in the fountain a la European Vacation, you look up and realize your new friend has completely disappeared with your expensive camera. Rule of thumb - you ask someone to take your photo, don’t wait to be asked.