8 Popular Travel Scams You Need to Avoid!
Whenever we plan for our trips, we often dream of fun-filled new adventures. Imagining ourselves as Anthony Bourdain or Samantha Brown, exploring foreign countries and experiencing local colorful cultures and cuisines; meeting friendly new faces who so willingly offer themselves as tour guides to ensure our fullest enjoyment while in their lovely country. In short, we only anticipate all the fun and exciting things.
Sadly, reality does not always turn out like the dreamy travel shows we often watch on TV. The truth is, there are shady people everywhere. And they often take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.
Why are tourists easy targets?
1. They are usually distracted by their new and unfamiliar surroundings. Let’s admit it, there’s so many new and exciting things to see and there’s Instagram worthy pictures at every single corner! So while being distracted, they become easy preys to the slick and quick hands of the pickpocket.
2. We generally put our guards down when we are having fun, making us more trusting of strangers. This can expose us to all sorts of danger that can be quite costly.
Hey there’s really no way to tell if we’re being watched by those who are masters at their crafts (of scamming unsuspecting tourists) unless we stay alert and cautious of our surroundings at all times. And this isn’t easy to do. So to help you out, here is a list of some popular travel scams around the world that you need to watch out for.
1. Gifts from the most innocent looking gift bearers
This scam is becoming so widespread that we even have them here, at roadside eateries and food courts. Little children, monks and even those with a certain disability coming and bearing pretty gifts such as key-chains or bracelets. They don’t utter a single word to you making communication difficult – and that is their intention. The moment you accept the item offered to you, these innocent gift bearers who at first appeared to want nothing more than your smile suddenly turn aggressive and start to demand money for the apparently ‘not a gift’ gift. So, don’t accept anything from strangers. There are no free lunches after all.
2. The friendly tuk-tuk drivers
Somehow these tuk-tuk drivers could just pick out the newly arrived tourists from those who are already familiar with the place and have a good sense of how much things should cost. These friendly tuk-tuk drivers would pull over next to you and offer a tour around the city or island promising the lowest deal you can not refuse – just because he likes you and is grateful that you have chosen to have your vacation in his beautiful country. They will even persuade you to visit certain attractions while on your little ride, such as a famous jewelry shop or elephant sanctuary.
Often you will realize later that these deals are no deal at all, they are in fact daylight robberies. And the reason why they were so persistent on you visiting certain tourist attractions is because they get a kick back out of it. So, just say no to these friendly tuk-tuk drivers, at least until you have done some research and price comparison.
In places like Bangkok, tuk-tuks are known to outright scam you by charging ridiculous rates. So best to avoid them altogether.
3. Pickpockets and their sidekicks
How is it that pickpockets just know where you hide your money and wallet? Well usually these guys don’t work alone. They have their buddies that stand around in busy malls or train stations just preying on tourists. They may tap you on your shoulder, looking genuinely concern for your safety and let you know to be careful of pickpockets in the area. And your reaction?
Most people would immediately reach into their pocket to make sure that whatever they are looking for, be it cash, wallet or mobile phone is safe. Phew! What they don’t know is that there are eyes watching them, and now these careful observers know where valuables are kept. So if you’ve been warned by a friendly local of pickpockets in the area, be extra, EXTRA vigilant.
4. Selfies (or wefies) with elegant drag queens
Have you been on a holiday an found a group of beautiful drag queens, dressed in the most extravagant show costumes, just standing by the curb eager to have their pictures taken with you? And you think to yourself, what lovely Instagram photos this will make! It is usually for a price. So if you don’t mind paying, go ahead and strike a pose! If not, just walk away.
5. Free WiFi
You may think you’ve it the jackpot when you locate free WiFi at a public place. Just because you’re sitting at a reputable place like a certain popular international coffee chain and there’s a free WiFi network with the same name does not mean it is safe. It could belong to hackers near by just waiting for you to connect your laptop to it. These hackers are extremely skillful, the moment you connect your laptop to their network, your bank account is immediately at risk. So be extra careful guys.
6. Lost jewelries
This is apparently very common in France. You may be happily strolling the streets of Paris when suddenly a passerby taps you on your arm pointing to a piece of jewelry that you have accidentally dropped on the ground. When you kindly inform her that it isn’t yours,she’ll (it is usually a woman) pick it up and inspect it and tells you that it is gold and very valuable. At this point, a few sidekicks may also stop and agree with her and tell you how lucky you are to find it. She will offer it to you only if you pay her a small finder’s fee. If you fall for this scam, you’ll be a few Euro poorer. If you are smarter than this and try to walk away, the most you’d suffer is some verbal abuse. Oh and the jewelry? A piece of cheap brass that only looks like gold.
7. The helpful fortune teller
Ladies, imagine having a mysterious looking stranger coming up to you and telling you that there are two men who are madly in love with you. What would your reaction be? Most girls would fall for this scam as they get excited over the idea of being desired by two men and they cannot wait to find out who those men are. If these con artist fortune tellers ask for money upfront, that should be your red flag right there.
8. Taxi drivers. Everywhere
Finally, just be extra vigilant of taxi drivers everywhere. They will scam you with all sorts of tricks, from broken meters to dried up fuel tank. Some taxi drivers may overcharge your rides after you’ve taken them. Some will say they do not have small change after you have given them a big note. So make sure you exercise caution when dealing with these cabbies. negotiate price before you get into the car. Have small change with you. And never allow another the driver to pick up additional passenger!
Travelers, here’s what you need to do
If you are traveling soon, other than warning you to stay alert, we’d also give you one piece of valuable advice most people miss. And that is to protect yourself with travel insurance. More often than not, people see travel insurance as a luxury that not only they cannot afford but also completely unnecessary. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Travel insurance isn’t only cheap, especially compared to how much flight ticket alone can cost you, the many benefits that it offers make them an absolute must-have. It covers you against pickpockets and scams, it compensates your lost of luggage and flight delays, and even refund your deposits lost for cancelled trips.
But don’t take our word for it, calculate for yourself how cheap travel insurance can be for you here. And also, read some of the articles in above links to find out more about travel insurance and we assure you, you’d never want to leave the country without one ever again.
Stay safe folks. And remember, travel scams are everywhere, a bit of caution will go a long way!